QuoteApple Inc. is challenging a jury verdict last week in which the computer maker was ordered to pay as much as $625.5 million to Mirror Worlds LLC for infringing patents related to how documents are displayed digitally.
Apple asked U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis for an emergency stay of the Oct. 1 verdict, saying there are outstanding issues on two of the three patents. Apple said patent owner Mirror Worlds would also be “triple dipping” if it were able to collect $208.5 million on each of the patents.
QuoteA more likely scenario appears to be a payday for the plaintiff. "It looks like Polaris IP is in the business of licensing patent rights and has no desire to enforce its requested injunction," said Dennis Crouch, associate professor of law at University of Missouri School of Law and the author of the law blog Patently-O, in an e-mail. "I expect that Polaris IP will be willing to settle these cases for what it believes is a reasonable six- or seven-digit figure." Crouch pointed out that the message routing patent at issue has been involved in litigation many times. "There are no published opinions associated with these cases and they have all been settled," he said. Polaris IP, Crouch observed, "appears to be part of a web of IP-related companies associated with attorney David Pridham." These companies include Orion IP, Constellation IP, IP Navigation Group, Cushion Technologies, CT IP Holdings, Triton, Circinus IP, and Firepond.
QuoteJudge Rudi Brewster ruled that Microsoft had not breached patent laws because Microsoft had already paid German firm Fraunhofer $16m to use one of the patents in question. Given that Fraunhofer had not sued, Microsoft was not deemed to have broken any laws, the judge decided. In reversing the decision, the judge also rejected the argument given to justify the fine - that it amounted to 0.5% of Microsoft's global personal computer sales since 2003.
QuoteIn general, searching for potential software patent violations isn't practical, given the number, breadth and opacity of patents in the United States. Not only that, but it's at odds with Microsoft's own policy to wait for patent holders to get in touch with it if they think there's infringement. In fact, searching for potential patent problems can actually leave a company financially exposed: if a lawsuit concludes a patent was infringed, a company or individual that knew about the potential infringement must pay triple the financial damages compared with an unknowing infringement.
QuoteVonage sought the stay following an April 6 decision by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. enjoining the company from using certain VoIP technology to add new customers. The court ruled that the VoIP technology Vonage was using infringed on three patents awarded to Verizon. The permanent stay enables Vonage to add new customers as the company pursues an appeal to that ruling. Existing customers remain unaffected by the company's ongoing patent litigation, Vonage said.
QuoteThe threat of an injunction and a long legal battle could adversely impact the company's sales, as new customers may be reluctant to sign up for a service that could be shut down. That's what happened to Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry email devices and service. In 2002, a jury found that RIM had infringed on patents held by the patent holding company NTP. A judge then imposed an injunction, which was stayed pending RIM's appeals. The situation came to a head some three and a half years later when the judge in the case was about to impose the injunction. In the eleventh hour, RIM and NTP settled the case. But the ongoing threat of a shutdown spooked potential customers, causing RIM's sales to dip during the quarter preceding the settlement, RIM said after the case was settled.
Quote"It's go to Canada, go to wherever you're going to go, so that your conduct--shipping software around the world in a global economy--is not being subjected to this United States rule," said Joseph Miller, a law professor at Lewis and Clark College who filed a brief in support of Microsoft at an earlier stage of the litigation. Microsoft petitioned the Supreme Court to weigh the issue after a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit both found the company liable not only for violating AT&T's patent in U.S.-assembled computers but also in those abroad. The software giant has conceded that Windows software object code, after being supplied to manufacturers and installed on computers, gave users the ability to record, store and play back speech in a way that violated AT&T's patent.
QuoteThe SFLC explains in its brief that its unlikely championing of Microsoft's cause in this case is because the "SFLC has an interest in this matter because the decision of this Court will have a significant effect on the rights of the Free and Open Source Software developers and users." In its brief, SFLC argues that software copied and distributed outside the U.S. cannot infringe U.S. patents. The brief also argues that the Federal Circuit's decisions declaring software to be patentable subject matter conflict with Supreme Court precedent, and thus should be overruled.
QuoteSome hardware and software makers have argued they're especially threatened by the standard because their products frequently include thousands of pre-existing components that they would like to be able to rearrange at will. Some say the lax rules have fueled the rise of patent speculators--disparagingly known as "patent trolls"--who make a living off predicting those incremental changes to existing high-tech inventions, landing patents and then going after companies for infringement.
QuoteThe suit, filed in Virginia on Monday, seeks cash compensation. Donald Stout, co-founder of closely held NTP, said in a statement that the company sued after licensing talks failed. Palm shares tumbled following the announcement. The lawsuit may prove expensive and time-consuming for Palm management, based on the BlackBerry litigation. NTP sued RIM in 2001, claiming the BlackBerry e-mail devices infringed on NTP patents. After a trial, appeals and a failed initial settlement, the case was finally resolved in March when RIM agreed to pay NTP.
QuoteMicrosoft irrevocably promises not to assert any Microsoft Necessary Claims against you for making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or distributing any implementation to the extent it conforms to a Covered Specification ("Covered Implementation"), subject to the following. This is a personal promise directly from Microsoft to you, and you acknowledge as a condition of benefiting from it that no Microsoft rights are received from suppliers, distributors, or otherwise in connection with this promise. If you file, maintain or voluntarily participate in a patent infringement lawsuit against a Microsoft implementation of such Covered Specification, then this personal promise does not apply with respect to any Covered Implementation of the same Covered Specification made or used by you. To clarify,"Microsoft Necessary Claims" are those claims of Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement only the required portions of the Covered Specification that are described in detail and not merely referenced in such Specification. "Covered Specifications" are listed below.
QuoteU.S. District Judge Leonard Davis upped a jury's award against Microsoft by $25 million, plus nearly $2 million in legal costs. He cited several instances of misconduct and "ample circumstantial evidence" that Microsoft viewed the patent-holder, closely held z4 Technologies, as "a small and irrelevant company that was not worthy of Microsoft's time and attention, even if Microsoft was potentially infringing its patents." The case centers on patents held by z4 founder and President David Colvin for "product activation" technology, designed to limit software piracy. z4 alleged Microsoft Office products infringed on its patents beginning in 2000; the alleged Windows operating system infringement began in 2001. z4 sued in September 2004 and won a jury verdict of $115 million from Microsoft and $18 million from another defendant, Autodesk, the computer-aided design software maker. The judge added $322,000 in z4 legal costs to Autodesk's penalty.
QuoteCalled the Patent Reform Act of 2006, the measure followed two years of hearings, meetings and debate, the senators said. It bears a number of similarities to a bill offered last summer by Texas Republican Lamar Smith in the House of Representatives. Specifically, it would shift to a "first to file" method of awarding patents, which is already used in most foreign countries, instead of the existing "first to invent" standard, which has been criticized as complicated to prove. Such a change has already earned backing from Jon Dudas, chief of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
QuoteIn accordance with these and other objects, provided is a system for providing to a community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising a plurality of user computers and a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network. Each user computer is associated with a user of the system having predefined characteristics indicative of a predetermined role in the system. Each role provides a level of access to data files associated with a course, and a level of control over data files associated with a course. The server computer has means for storing data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to each file, wherein the level of access is associated with the ability of a user to access the file, means for determining an access level of a user requesting access to a file, and means for allowing access to a file associated with a course as a function of the access level of the user.