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Microsoft Wins 'Other' Patent Battle

Given that most of the talk about patents in the last eight or nine months has revolved around Microsoft and Linux, you might have forgotten about the patent case that was going to completely reshape the world as we knew it: Alcatel-Lucent's "successful" MP3 patent case versus Microsoft.

Well, it was successful -- until this week, that is. A U.S. District Court judge in San Diego this week laid a big "I don't think so" on a ruling that would have required Microsoft to fork $1.5 billion over to Alcatel-Lucent for patent infringement. And just like that, the French company's dreams of suing everybody who ever released an MP3 or made a portable-music player -- as well as of filling its coffers with a billion-plus of Microsoft's dollars -- came to an end.

The judge's ruling -- never mind the jury's ruling, we suppose, which he seems to pretty much have overturned -- is partly based on technicalities and partly based on his opinion that Microsoft, in fact, did not infringe on one of the patents in question. But we wonder (on rather a hazy and lazy summer afternoon when we should probably be thinking about something else) whether Microsoft has in any way shown the open source folks the path to quashing patent-infringement claims.

Or maybe, if nothing else, Redmond has shown how hard it actually is to win a patent case as the plaintiff, despite some relatively recent and, in the famous BlackBerry case, high-profile decisions. Maybe the Alcatel-Lucent case has nothing to do with anything at all, but we'd be at least amused by the coincidence if Microsoft took some of the bite out of its Linux patent racketeering by winning a high-profile patent case as a defendant.

Tomorrow we'll run some reader feedback, so if you want to comment on this or any other recent entry, shoot me an e-mail at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 08/08/2007 at 1:21 PM


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