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Microsoft Gets $70M Penalty in Alcatel-Lucent Patent Case

A jury on Friday awarded Alcatel-Lucent $70 million in a long-running dispute over Microsoft's use of patented Alcatel software technology.

The dispute concerned the so-called "Day" patent, which Microsoft was found to have infringed in certain versions of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Money (a now discontinued product) and Windows Mobile. The Day patent describes a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen, such as the date picker that's used in Outlook's calendar.

Lucent had originally sued Gateway over use of the technology in 2002, and Microsoft later joined as a defendant the case. Paris-based Alcatel agreed to merge with Lucent Technologies in 2006 and the litigation against Microsoft continued. In recent years, the dispute had settled on reassessing damages after a $358 million jury award to Alcatel-Lucent was thrown out on appeal. The $70 million award is the result of further legal wrangling over reassessed damages.

The Day patent originally had been filed by three computer engineers at AT&T in 1986.  Lucent, later acquired by Alcatel, was an AT&T spin-off company formed in 1996.

Microsoft had argued in the case that the Day patent was invalid for being obvious or anticipated. Additionally, Microsoft had argued that its products did not infringe, even should the patent be considered valid. However, these arguments did not prevail, and in May of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Microsoft's request to review a lower court's finding of patent infringement.

Other Alcatel-Lucent disputes with Microsoft have included the use of MP3 technology in Windows Media Player, in which Alcatel-Lucent was awarded $1.5 billion in damages, although the award was thrown out on appeal. There have also been legal disputes over digital speech technology and a terminal device communications protocol. The two companies reportedly settled many of their intellectual property disputes for an undisclosed amount back in November of 2008.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Wed, Aug 3, 2011

Why bother inventing anything? With the current intellectual property laws, if you're successful, some big company with big lawyers will sue you into oblivion. Do you really have time to research all the possible nonsense patents that could be applied to your invention?

Tue, Aug 2, 2011

I'll admit I do not know the specifics of this, but it sounds like a ridiculous thing to grant a patent for. And doesn't this mean LOTS of other companies can be sued as well for the same thing (i.e. a method of entering text on the screen w/o using a keyboard)?

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