Court overturns $358m verdict against Microsoft

Court: Damages for a patent infringement on one little widget in Microsoft Outlook should not be based on the value of the whole software package.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor
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.

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