Microsoft to pay Alcatel-Lucent $367 million in patent dispute
A jury of the US district court in San Diego has found Microsoft guilty of infringing on two patents held by Alcatel-Lucent and ordered it to pay $367.4m in damages. According to the ruling – which the software giant plans to appeal against – Redmond's handwriting recognition technology infringed on a patent held by the French network supplier. The jury also decided that the menu structure for selecting calendar dates included in Microsoft programs like the Outlook email client and the Windows Mobile operating system infringed on another patent held by Alcatel-Lucent. The jury also concluded that Dell infringed on a patent held by the French supplier and ordered Dell to pay $51,000 in damages. However, the jury didn't confirm all of Alcatel-Lucent's claims. According to Microsoft, the supplier hoped to receive $1.75 billion in damages for lost license revenue. The damages granted were probably also considerably lower because the jury cleared Redmond of an alleged further patent infringement concerning MPEG-2 video encoding technologies. Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel Tom Burt, however, thinks that his employer didn't even infringe on the two patents on user interfaces. He said that measures will be taken to appeal against the decision immediately.
The controversial patents are based on material which originated from Bell Labs, the research and development centre financed by Lucent Technologies. Following the takeover of Lucent by Alcatel in 2006, the patent rights were transferred to the French mother company. Lucent had initially sued PC vendors Dell and Gateway for damages for 15 patent infringements in 2003. Alcatel reached an out-of-court settlement with computer manufacturers Gateway, who have since been taken over by Taiwanese vendor Acer, in February. Microsoft filed a counter-complaint to have 13 of the 15 patent claims declared void in 2003. Dell and Gateway had previously stated that the controversial technologies were created by Microsoft.
District judge Rudi Brewster split the entire case into a series of individual hearings. The next one is scheduled for 22nd April, when Microsoft intends to line up nine of its own patents against Alcatel-Lucent. However, the patent feud between the two opponents also continues on different levels. In summer 2007 Brewster ruled that Microsoft didn't infringe on two MP3 patents held by the French. Another jury had previously reached a different verdict: They ordered the software giant to pay $1.52 billion. Alcatel-Lucent has launched an appeal in this case. (Stefan Krempl)