The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a patent infringement case against Microsoft but said the $358 million a jury awarded Alcatel-Lucent was not supported. The case will go back to the district court for a new trial on damages, Dow Jones reports.
Microsoft said - and the appeals court agreed - that the value of the infringement shouldn't be based on the full value of Outlook, which was the basis for the jury's number. The infringement involved a date-picker in Outlook's calendar - ""but a tiny feature of one part of a much larger software program," in the court's words - so it seems a stretch to say that the penalty should be the full price of the software. Microsoft argued the infringement was worth no more than $6.5 million.
The spin: Microsoft is "pleased that the court vacated the damages award, and we look forward to taking the next step in the judicial process." Alcatel-Lucent "looks forward to an upcoming proceeding to determine the compensation to which Alcatel-Lucent is entitled based on the court's finding that Microsoft did use our patented invention."
The amicus line-up was pretty logical. Apple, Intel and Oracle backing up Microsoft; GE, Johnson & Johnson and Exxon Mobil backing up Alcatel-Lucent.
The decision is a welcome sign that courts may stop regarding any little patent infringement as the end of the world. Patent holders should get compensated for their damages - unless there's something really egregious justifiying punitives; they shouldn't get killer awards as a matter of course.