Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

Summary: At the very end of last week, there were a couple of Microsoft-related IP news nuggets worth noting, including the finalization of the Nortel patent sale; a damages award in the Alcatel-Lucent vs. Microsoft IP case; and Google's purchase of 1,000 IBM patents.

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TOPICS: Legal, Google, Microsoft
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Keeping up with all the patent licensing and litigation deals is a full-time occupation (just ask FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller). I occasionally post about intellectual property deals involving Microsoft whenever they seem significant.

At the very end of last week, there were a couple of Microsoft-related IP news nuggets worth noting:

The Nortel patent sell-off deal was finalized on July 29. Microsoft is part of a consortium that purchased for $4.5 billion about 6,000 patents from the bankrupt Nortel (which, at one time, was a Microsoft strategic partner). Comprised of Microsoft, Apple, Ericsson, EMC, Sony and RIM, the consortium beat out Google for the bundle of Nortel telecommunications-focused patents. Apple contributed the lion's share ($2.6 billion) to the consortium's patent pool. Microsoft originally signaled it wasn't going to bid on the Nortel patents, as it had a comprehensive patent cross-licensing deal in place which officials said covered the patents that were on the block. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that while the purchase is final, antitrust scrutiny of the deal is not yet done. There's concern that the consortium members may use the patents to hobble unfairly the Android operating system, according to the Journal.

Microsoft is going to have to pay Alcatel-Lucent $70 million for a patent infringement claim dating back to 2003. On July 29, a U.S. District Court jury in San Diego issued its final damages ruling on the matter. The patent in question was for touch-screen technology for entering forms information. Before last week's ruling, Microsoft was going to have to pay over $500 million to Alcatel-Lucent (counting interest and additional patent-infringement damages).

Does this mean Alcatel-Lucent vs. Microsoft is finally over? Maybe not. Microsoft issued a statement from David Howard, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Litigation:

“This trial came about after the Federal Circuit ordered a new trial on damages, overturning an original judgment of over $500 million for the same patent. Today’s verdict reflects a positive trend in the law of patent damages stemming from the Federal Circuit’s earlier opinion in this and other cases. However, we continue to maintain that current law requires a genuine apportionment of damages when the infringement is directed to a small feature of a feature-rich product, and we are reviewing the verdict in that light and considering next steps.” Google has purchased a boatload of patents from IBM; to be more exact, Google was "assigned 1,030 granted patents from IBM in a variety of areas ranging from chips and object oriented programming to relational databases and business processes," as Mueller explained in a FOSS Patents blog post on July 29. Prior to this, Google had only an estimated 700 granted patents, Mueller noted. What does Google want with these kinds of patents? Its attempted purchase of Nortel's telco- and wireless-focused patents made more obvious sense, in terms of giving Google a leg to stand on in the various Android-related patent front, where its partners are coming under increasing attack.

Mueller has a few theories. He said Google might "pick some (of its newly acquired patent stash) that may read on important Oracle products and propose to Oracle a cross-license that would resolve the Android IP dispute on more favorable terms than Google could negotiate without such leverage." Or Google could sell some of those patents to Android device makers like HTC, Mueller says. "HTC could then, for example, use them in countersuits or counterclaims against Apple, possibly with an obligation to sell the patents back to Google after the dispute," he explains.

Topics: Legal, Google, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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29 comments
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  • Patent arms race

    About the only good thing that can be said about it is that it really is possible to do away with the weapons by legislation or even a judicial decision invalidating them (no cheating).

    This has never been true with nuclear weapons.
    John L. Ries
    • A humble suggestion for Google

      @John L. Ries
      Given all of the patent grief Google has been getting of late and given that software patents really aren't in their interest anyway, I suggest the nuclear option: challenge the validity of Oracle's Java patents on the grounds that they are non-patentable mathematical algorithms (ie. try to get the Federal Circuit precedent allowing software patents completely overturned). It would take years to work up the appeal chain, but Google's pockets are deep enough to see it through, and if the effort is successful, not only Oracle would be disarmed, but MS and Apple as well (and every patent troll in the country). Given the Bilski decision, software patents are on rather shaky ground right now anyway. A firm push in the right direction might well kill this monster once and for all, allowing software vendors to go back to competing in the marketplace, instead of in court.
      John L. Ries
      • There is an equally likely chance it could backfire.

        @John L. Ries

        And devastate Google's profit for years to come.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

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      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

        Google a leg to stand on in the various Android-related patent front, where its partners are coming under increasing attack. <a href="http://twitter.com/ashwooduni">Ashwood University</a> | <a href="http://www.study-online.net/schools/rochville-university/28595.htm">Rochville University</a>
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      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

        I occasionally post about intellectual property deals involving Microsoft whenever they seem significant.<a href="http://articlezones.com/society/education/accredited-high-school-diploma-nation-high-school-review.html">Nation High School</a>
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      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

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      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

        @John L. Ries I won't worry about Google. He will dominate market for next years.<br>
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      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

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  • Florian's full-time employers ?

    Mary Jo,<br><br>I think you're right that keeping up with Microsoft patent issues is Florian's full time job. Before you quote him again though, don't you think it would be interesting to find out who are his full-time employers that allow him to spend all this time on that job ?<br><br>I think many people would be interested to know the answer to that, and is a worthy journalistic question. Rather better than merely quoting and linking to Florian's blog whenever patent issues come up.<br><br>Jeremy.<br><br>(Who works full-time for Google, if anyone cares :-).
    JeremyAllison
    • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

      @JeremyAllison
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florian_M%C3%BCller#Campaign_against_EU_software_patents

      You are welcome.
      :D
      Ram U
      • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

        @Rama.NET

        That link shows what Florian *used* to do. Not what he's doing now. What he does now is significantly different from that campaign, and many people (I'm not alone in asking this) would like to know who he is actually working for now.

        Jeremy.
        JeremyAllison
    • Have you thought of simply asking him?

      @JeremyAllison

      If it is that important to you, simply ask.
      Bruizer
  • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

    I am not sure about how these Patents from IBM to Google to HTC would save "Android", but I feel they are going to cover their bases for ChromeOS before Oracle or some other sue them, because IBM also shares some of the Java patents and if tomorrow Oracle comes after ChromeOS if they (Oracle) win over Android with Patents or at least part of those claims, Google will put IBM as their Vest to prevent the bullets and further damage, IMO.
    Ram U
  • Is that legal?

    [i]HTC could then, for example, use them in countersuits or counterclaims against Apple, possibly with an obligation to sell the patents back to Google after the dispute[/i]

    Isn't that like changing a law to stay out of jail, then changing it back to make it ilegal again? It would be kind of obvious to what they're trying to do.

    But then without the patents, they'd be right back where they started if they sold them back to Google.
    William Farrell
    • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

      @William Farrell
      +1
      Ram U
  • Message has been deleted.

    FourLeaf1
  • RE: Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

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  • Patents

    At the very end of last week, there were a couple of Microsoft-related IP news nuggets worth noting, including the finalization of the Nortel patent sale; a damages award in the Alcatel-Lucent vs. Microsoft IP case; and Google???s purchase of 1,000 IBM patents, it tell us importance of patents. <a href="http://www.answer-to-question.com">answers to questions</a> <a href="http://www.answer-to-question.com">ask questions</a> <a href="http://www.answer-to-question.com">answers</a>
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