Alcatel Is French for 'Jackpot!'
Oh la la! Quel coup!
It's champagne and caviar all around for struggling
French equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent. Last week, a federal jury in sunny San
Diego (where we'll be attending Microsoft's Convergence show in March, we note
as we watch the snow fall outside) ruled that Microsoft had violated patents
on MP3 technology held by the French firm. The ruling? Microsoft
owes Alcatel-Lucent $1.5 billion dollars
Granted, that's a lot less than the $4.5 billion Alcatel-Lucent wanted, but
still, for Redmond, that's got to sting. In fact, it could be the biggest patent
infringement ruling...ever. So much for Microsoft's legal team getting the company
out of jam after jam with relatively minimal damage. This is, of course, all
pending appeal and lots
of other legal wrangling already underway, and, oddly enough, Alcatel-Lucent
might have sued itself right
out of some potentially profitable partnering opportunities with Microsoft.
Still, for Alcatel-Lucent, the ruling could be a nice little shot in the arm
for a company that's had some hard times lately . (And trust us, any company
that's laying people off
in France en masse is in some pretty serious trouble. Big layoffs
are not easy to pull off over there.) It's also, as about
a billion reporters have already written, potentially an invitation for
Alcatel-Lucent to sue -- or, at least, bully into paying exorbitant license
fees -- anybody and everybody
involved with MP3 technology, including the ultimate
merchant of music-player cool, Apple. Jackpot!
The details of the patent dispute are full of twists and turns (for a good
summary, check out this
article), but the point, as we've told you in
this space before, everybody has to be vigilant about patents. This means
you, if you develop just about anything. Seriously. Do your due diligence, get
a good patent lawyer on retainer, read the news (we love this topic in RCPU,
actually), talk to experts -- do whatever it takes to avoid a patent dispute.
They can be expensive, nasty and very hard-fought. Quel horreur! Just
ask Research in Motion or Microsoft...or maybe Apple in a few months.
What do you think of the proliferation of huge patent lawsuits in the technology
industry? Do you worry about patent lawsuits yourself? Tell me at email@example.com.
Coming Thursday, reader e-mails on Vista and bunches of other stuff. And coming
in March -- hang on, you're not ready for this -- RCPU
four times a week. Oh, yes.
Posted by Lee Pender on 02/27/2007 at 1:20 PM