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."
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.
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.