Microsoft settles over Aussie-invented patent

By James Hutchinson on Mar 9, 2012 8:25 AM
Filed under Strategy

'Its over'.

The Australian inventor behind an eight-year patent battle with Microsoft has welcomed the software giant’s settlement with the Singapore company he founded.

After countless court battles in the US and several overturned judgments, Microsoft and Uniloc this week reached a “final and mutually agreeable resolution”, according to a spokesman for the company.

The settlement marks the end of the long-spanning battle between Australian inventor Ric Richardson, his company and Microsoft over a patent granted to Richardson in 1996.

The companies had been locked in US courts since 2003 when Uniloc sought damages from Microsoft for infringing the patent to create software worth up to US$19 billion in market value.

It was alleged the software giant had infringed Richardson’s patent (number 5,490,216) in developing its product activation systems, including those used in Microsoft Word, Windows XP and the Clearinghouse facility used to maintain licensing for its Remote Desktop Service.

Uniloc had initially sought up to US$564 million in damages for the patent infringement but was awarded $388 million by a jury in April 2009.

However, that penalty decision was overturned by an appeals judge later that year, sending the companies into further legal battles. US District Court judges reinstated Uniloc’s eligibility for damages on the patent case earlier this year.

Any resulting penalties awarded appears to have been waylaid by Microsoft’s settlement.

“Its over!” Richardson said on his blog this morning.

“At some stage, what this means for Uniloc and Microsoft will become more apparent, but for me as the inventor it means the question mark hanging over my patent is no longer in question.”

He  today said he was relieved the case had been finished.

“You can’t ignore it, even though I’m an inventor and moving onto other things and trying to use everything I learned getting Uniloc going, it’s still a big thing by any standards,” he said.

“It’s great for it to have been resolved amicably.”

Richardson, who left Uniloc to pursue other interests in 2007, would not reveal his personal gain or the company’s financial settlement but said it would “be as valuable as I could expect”.

"That means more resources to do other things and it legitimises the whole Uniloc business," he said.

Richardson said on his blog this morning that “having a large powerful corporation as a detractor is not an easy thing to deal with”.

He has since spent time mentoring other Australian inventors and aiding their patent efforts.

The Singapore company he founded has launched similar cases for patent infringement against Sony and McAfee.

A spokesman for Microsoft Australia did not return request for comment at time of writing.

 
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