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Microsoft Hit With $388 Million Piracy Patent Charge

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 42 comments

Microsoft has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to software company Uniloc Inc, which specializes in the protection of infrastructure as well as software and games.

A jury in Providence, Rhode Island, deliberated for over a day before delivering the $388 million that will see the end of a six year long case. Filed in October 2003, Uniloc targeted Windows XP as well as a number of Office programs. The company claimed that Mircosoft had infringed on a patent registered to Uniloc that generates unique identities for licensed users and prevents unauthorized use or pirating programs.

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft argued that it used a different method for registering software and that Uniloc’s patent was obvious. “We are very disappointed in the jury verdict,” David Bowermaster, a Microsoft spokesman told Bloomberg in an email. “We believe that we do not infringe, that the patent is invalid and that this award of damages is legally and factually unsupported. We will ask the court to overturn the verdict.”

That said, while Microsoft is clearly unhappy with the ruling, the worst could still be ahead of them. Bloomberg reports that because the jurors found Microsoft’s infringement to be willful, or intentional, the judge could increase the amount of damages by as much as three times. Yikes.

According to Uniloc's site the patent on the "System for Software Registration" was filed in 1993 and issued in 1996. Uniloc describes the system as follows:

"The system relies on a portion of digital data or code which is integral to the digital data to be protected by the system. This integral portion is termed the code portion and may include an algorithm that generates a registration number unique to an intending licensee of the digital data based on information supplied by the licensee which characterizes the licensee."


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Uniloc
Uniloc’s Patent
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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    average joe , April 9, 2009 1:34 PM
    Just reading the patent it doesn't seem fair for Microsoft to get bitten by this.

    How do you patent the concept that a user has to enter a software key which is used to establish the software is valid?

    Who are they going to sue next... Star Dock, Atari, Blizzard?

    "May or May not include an algorithm that generates a registration number.. "

    These guys are clearly patent trolls. Dropping vague patents into the system and filing for extensions until a product comes out the looks like it might match the description. Then filing the patent and suing everyone on the planet.
  • 16 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 1:33 PM
    im not sure, the us patent system is broken, needs major reform
  • 15 Hide
    pile , April 9, 2009 1:11 PM
    That is what is wrong with this country. Stupid high judgments like that. Everybody wants to take what they dont deserve. I hope it is overturned. Microsoft wont have to pay for it. we wil. They will just raise their prices.
Other Comments
    Display all 42 comments.
  • -4 Hide
    tester3000 , April 9, 2009 12:59 PM
    sucks of microsoft. Their own anti-piracy stuff came back to bite them. That's what you call karma
  • 0 Hide
    tester3000 , April 9, 2009 1:00 PM
    Sucks to be microsoft*
  • 1 Hide
    christop , April 9, 2009 1:04 PM
    I'm sure that's pocket change for them..
  • -7 Hide
    christop , April 9, 2009 1:04 PM
    I'm sure that's pocket change for them..
  • 2 Hide
    JMcEntegart , April 9, 2009 1:10 PM
    christopI'm sure that's pocket change for them..


    It's apparently 8 days of profit for MSFT but these days, money is money, right? And if the judge triples it? That's a big chunk of change.
  • 15 Hide
    pile , April 9, 2009 1:11 PM
    That is what is wrong with this country. Stupid high judgments like that. Everybody wants to take what they dont deserve. I hope it is overturned. Microsoft wont have to pay for it. we wil. They will just raise their prices.
  • -5 Hide
    jj463rd , April 9, 2009 1:20 PM
    Microsoft should go back to using Safedisk like they did with Windows 95,98,ME,NT,2000 etc.(like EA is planning on doing now) and abandon viscous DRM schemes.Just get rid of the activation crap.
  • 16 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 1:33 PM
    im not sure, the us patent system is broken, needs major reform
  • 17 Hide
    average joe , April 9, 2009 1:34 PM
    Just reading the patent it doesn't seem fair for Microsoft to get bitten by this.

    How do you patent the concept that a user has to enter a software key which is used to establish the software is valid?

    Who are they going to sue next... Star Dock, Atari, Blizzard?

    "May or May not include an algorithm that generates a registration number.. "

    These guys are clearly patent trolls. Dropping vague patents into the system and filing for extensions until a product comes out the looks like it might match the description. Then filing the patent and suing everyone on the planet.
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , April 9, 2009 1:37 PM
    MS gets a taste of its own medicine. They are the leader in bunk generalized patents & suits.
  • 10 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 1:41 PM
    ok ive read the patent, its bogus as far as im concerned, such systems existed way before this one. so if something existed in lets say dos days does this mean if someone then patents the same thing for windows they have a valid patent, this is nonsense, infortunately the jury is made up of morons and the patent system is one major legal nightmare.

    what ive noticed is that patents are being issued to opportunistic individuals for ideas that previously existed, but where not patented.
  • 9 Hide
    martin0642 , April 9, 2009 1:46 PM
    This is just stupid, patenting software is tantamount to parenting the process by one spreads butter on a cracker. You can't parent an idea or a concept without linking it to a specific implementation, and unless someone copies your specific implementation it's not infringement.

    Ideas make the world go round, we really need a new patent system.
  • 1 Hide
    martin0642 , April 9, 2009 1:50 PM
    I have a basic issue with this patenting method, because an OS is simply instructions. Just like a recipe for cooking, someone took time to develop the method and the process, but the actual work is carried out at the individuals home, by the individuals equipment, and the cost of replication of said instructions is 0.

    Trying to apply physical laws to non-physical objects is doomed to failure.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 9, 2009 2:04 PM
    I think it's just plain stupid to have patents.
    It's perfectly possible to come up with a valid idea, that,unknowingly has already been patented somewhere.
    Especially with stupid companies like apple and sony, patenting hundreds,perhaps even thousands of items per year; they don't even use!

    I could ask for a patent today that, if anyone uses a crayon and holds it before the sun to see it's colors it's beautiful!
    Let's patent that, so everyone can pay me royalties if they use this methode!

    the amount and especially type of patents are insane. I mean a while ago I read a company patenting a double layer of wall in notebooks!
    Are you serious? If my processor is giving off too much heat to eg: the palmrest, and my hand gets too warm,it's only natural to put an extra conductor and perhaps isolator layer in between!
    It's like a car going to patent wheelplugs, or convertible, or perhaps a turbo.
  • 1 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 2:36 PM
    software, like music and books, should be limited to copyright. that's how it used to be. now with all these patents for things its a legal and financial nightmare. doesn't xerox parc then have patent for windowing systems, gui, object oriented languages, mouse, ect... if so we are all toast. what about ibm for os, computer languages. see the problem... its like someone writes a rap song and then noone else can without paying the first rap song author.
  • 1 Hide
    trinix , April 9, 2009 2:37 PM
    yeah, it's getting out of hand. Sure I'd like M$ to suffer a bit and feel the other side of those patents, but at the moment there are more patent lawsuits than their are good things invented. At this time, patents are destroying the market and that was never the intention of the idea of protecting ideas.

    Maybe I need to patent a way to access your folders from a GUI interface with a mouse. Who cares everyone has done it, maybe one or two fools will pay me money and maybe I can make the jury agree it's very important that I get the money so I can remain in my bed and think of more stupid things to patent.
  • 1 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 2:42 PM
    arent patents for storage, retrieval, indexing, sorting, you know b-tree, quick sort, ect valid and we better start paying them for use or stop using them? if so we are in for a world of hurt.
  • 5 Hide
    jsloan , April 9, 2009 2:45 PM
    the problems with jury is that they are computer illiterate, if the jury was full of professional systems programmers who knew about the internals of operating systems, computer languages, algorithms, ect then no problem, but the jury if full of joe six pack and socker moms, i guess a jury of your peers is like worthless, what does it mean to be a peer, one would think microsoft with all the cash could better defend themselves, maybe they need to fire some of their lawyers and get new ones.
  • -6 Hide
    deuce271 , April 9, 2009 3:23 PM
    Wow. Lot of M$ fanbois on this site. I never realized it.
  • 1 Hide
    tenor77 , April 9, 2009 3:24 PM
    I hate vauge patents. They offer nothing and the filer does not have the skill or intention to actually use it. That for me is the important difference between a patent troll and someone protecting their ideas. I hope this is overturned or else they could take this "may or may not" crap to so many other companies.

    As a sidenote I do support patents for software. Anyone who does not has never written a program. It takes a lot of work and creativity to write an OO program. To me a well written program is like a good song or story.
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