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$338M Patent Ruling Against Microsoft Overturned

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the courts-just-like-making-work-for-themselves dept.

Microsoft 238

some_guy_88 writes "The $338 million verdict against Microsoft for violating a patent held by Uniloc has now been overturned. 'Ric Richardson ... is the founder of Uniloc, which sued Microsoft in 2003 for violating its patent relating to technology designed to deter software piracy. The company alleged Microsoft earned billions of dollars by using the technology in its Windows XP and Office programs. In April, a Rhode Island jury found Microsoft had violated the patent and told Microsoft to pay the company $388 million, one of the largest patent jury awards in US history. But on Tuesday ... US District Judge William Smith "vacated" the jury's verdict and ruled in favor of Microsoft.' In his ruling, Smith said the jury 'lacked a grasp of the issues before it and reached a finding without a legally sufficient basis (PDF).'"

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Patent (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592031)

"It was never about the money. It was about the ethics of it ... winning a court case is not winning the lottery."

I bet the $388 million had nothing to do with it.

This is the actual patent description:

A registration system allows digital data or software to run in a use mode on a platform if and only if an appropriate licensing procedure has been followed. Preferably, the system detects when part of the platform on which the digital data has been loaded has changed in part or in entirety, as compared with the platform parameters, when the software or digital data to be protected was last booted or run. 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. The algorithm in the code portion is duplicated at a remote location on a platform under the control of the licensor or its agents, and communication between the intending licensee and the licensor or its agent is required so that a matching registration number can be generated at the remote location for subsequent communication to the intending licensee as a permit to licensed operation of the digital data in a use mode. The code portion can be identical for all copies of the digital data. The algorithm provides a registration number which can be "unique" if the details provided by the intending licenses upon which the algorithm relies when executed upon the platform are themselves "unique."

Sounds like the usual serial key algorithm with an online check, used in many online games too.

Re:Patent (3, Informative)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592167)

Yep, exactly like games have been using http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2000_Nov_10/ai_66803777/ [findarticles.com]

And you quoted the abstract, which is always pretty boring. Read the claims to really figure out what was novel... http://news.google.com/patents/about?id=K7MoAAAAEBAJ [google.com]

Suprisingly, this doesn't seem like a patent troll.

Re:Patent (0)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592703)

Uhm, yes it is a patent troll, it describes the way most online registrations work. It also doesn't describe the way the applications gets locked out of the full version is implemented. This is just another example of common sense put into a patent.

Re:Patent (2, Insightful)

fatboy (6851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592985)

I don't know of any copy protection in the late 80's or early 90's that "the system detects when part of the platform on which the digital data has been loaded has changed in part or in entirety, as compared with the platform parameters, when the software or digital data to be protected was last booted or run". I am no fan of this kind of thing, but it seems novel for the time. Then again, I wasn't working with state of the art software at the time, either :D

Re:Patent (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593139)

Uhm, yes it is a patent troll, it describes the way most online registrations work.

In 1993. When did Bill Gates say the internet was just a passing fad?

Re:Patent (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592189)

This is the actual patent description:

No, it isn't. That's the abstract. The description is 20 pages long.

Re:Patent (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592311)

You shouldn't have to slog through 20 pages to find the nifty new invention.

The abstract should be enough and should not make every CIS graduate in the
room say "Oh, I can do that. Let me show you how". The abstract should give
the patent examiner some good reason to read the rest of the patent rather
than summarily rejecting it.

Re:Patent (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592877)

The abstract should be enough and should not make every CIS graduate in the room say "Oh, I can do that. Let me show you how". The abstract should give the patent examiner some good reason to read the rest of the patent rather than summarily rejecting it.

And if the patent examiner does that, they're breaking the law and should be fired. The abstract is a short, 150-word maximum statement that briefly identifies the patent's subject matter. For example, if the patent is titled "Bridge", the abstract lets you figure out if you're dealing with a network bridge, a PCI bridge, a suspension bridge, a wheatstone bridge, a dental bridge, etc. It has no legal weight whatsoever, and is only used to help identify which patents you should read more carefully because they might relate to your search.

Re:Patent (2, Informative)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593067)

You shouldn't have to slog through 20 pages to find the nifty new invention.

You don't. You just have to read the claims. The abstract has nothing to do with whether the examiner allows or rejects the application. If an examiner rejected one of my applications based on the abstract, I would immediately contact his supervisor and request a real office action from a competent examiner with at least a basic grasp of patent law.

Re:Patent (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592307)

You say "usual" but it's only usual TODAY.
It was not usual back in the 80s when it was invented.
Quoting the article:

"Once users buy the software, they get a registration key that unlocks the full featured version of the software. Uniloc claimed Richardson showed a copy of his software to Microsoft in 1993 but Microsoft did not license it, instead developing its own almost identical version and incorporating it into its products from 1997 or 1998."

Re:Patent (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592425)

I'm not talking just about Microsoft - there we're games and shareware programs that used the same kind of system back then too.

Re:Patent (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592867)

I grew-up in the 70s and played many many games throughout the 80s, and I'm not aware of any program that used this method. They all used a mechanical dongle, or other physical method, to verify a program's validity.

Can you please provide us a list of the games/programs, pre-patent, that allowed for *online* registration using a key? (or else defaulted to a trialware mode)

Re:Patent (2, Interesting)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593367)

Does adding the "online" feature really make it novel? Can I file this same thing and put in "bit torrent" or "TOR" and have a novel idea? What about this but using the cellular network? I am just curious if simply adding the latest medium makes anything novel?

Re:Patent (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593015)

Games and shareware programs that generated a local authentication key based on what hardware it was running on, and stopped working if you changed a major hardware component? I don't remember any of those.

Re:Patent (2, Interesting)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592755)

The patent was filed in September 1993, by which time the popular shareware BBS software, door games and their extensions already used external (to the program) hardware (e.g. modem and hard disk characteristics) and software (host/controller versions and their registrations) information in the environment for licensing/serial number purposes. The elder FL/1911/DOD etc. could probably provide comprehensive lists of prior art...

Wait... that sounds familiar. (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592923)

I know I've heard this story before. Over and over. As though there was a company that did that exact thing to companies all the time. And a whole bunch of companies, too. Partnered, then broke the partnership and came out with a clone of the original software. And mostly in the late 80's and through the 90's. Ummm. Umm... who was that?

Bill Gates and his sticky fingers.

If I recall, the file on his arrest has disappeared. [mugshots.org]

Re:Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592711)

Sounds like the usual [...]

Many "now usual" devices and algorithms were invented in the past. Unluckily, if someone had a patent for it, they deserve to be paid royalties. That's they way Microsoft works, that's the way everyone else should work.

The way things work, however, is that people see an algorithm, check the patent, and if the patent has some loose end, they use it to build something identical, and only changing that end to avoid paying, patent it, and even get profit out of it.

That's the way the system works.

Re:Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592963)

Many "now usual" devices and algorithms were invented in the past. Unluckily, if someone had a patent for it, they deserve to be paid royalties.

No. They are merely legally entitled to royalties, not necessarily deserving of them.

Re:Patent (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592729)

The opinions of those who haven't heard or read the evidence and have no knowledge of the applicable laws are totally worthless.

One of the accepted fictions of the legal system is that jury verdicts in highly technical cases like patent disputes, anti-trust violations, medical malpractice, etc. are meaningful. In fact the only purpose of the jury trial is to gather material for the higher courts to base their decisions on.
While this might not be the most efficient legal system its the one we have.

Three words: (0, Offtopic)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592035)

Free Gary McKinnon.

Re:Three words: (1, Offtopic)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592333)

Judge decides that the jury didn't understand the technical nature of the issues involved.

Yes, very ontopic.

"cheaper" judge (1, Troll)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592057)

Must have cost MS less than 388 Million, I guess. I "love" it when a judge vacates a jury by basically saying: "They're idiots."

Re:"cheaper" judge (5, Insightful)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592229)

For balance then we need a system where by we, the public, can vacate a judge on the same grounds...

The idiots who hand out prison sentances for missing a council tax payment but give muggers a slap on the wrist need vacating from their benches (or ideally the gene pool).

(And yes, I know this is a US case but jury's and judges do share certain common traits with the UK ... phrases like two short planks act as the link)

Re:"cheaper" judge (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592367)

>>>For balance then we need a system where by we, the public, can vacate a judge on the same grounds...

We have one. (cocks gun). Or if you want something less messy, you could hire a private investigator to hack the judge's accounts, find the evidence of bribes from Microsoft, and then have the judge removed and the original verdict restored. There was a similar instance in Pennsylvania, resulting in the freedom of many wrongfully-convicted citizens and a judge who is heading towards jail on bribery/corruption charges.

Re:"cheaper" judge (2, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592477)

If you did any of those things, you you be the one going to jail.

The judge may get investigated. We're talking about real life here. Although, your idea would make a half way decent script for a direct to video movie. You would need a lot more violence (gun fights and move martial arts) and gratuitous sex - plenty of babes running around naked. It doesn't even have to make sense in the story - just have some hot chick taking off her clothes.

Re:"cheaper" judge (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592393)

Technically, they have this in the USA; judges are elected. In practice, this means that judges are subject to the same pressures as the legislature and executive (i.e. needing bribes, uh, campaign contributions, to get reelected) so it doesn't actually solve the problem.

Re:"cheaper" judge (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592473)

Federal judges are appointed, not elected. Some state judges are elected, but not all of them.

Legislators fault. (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592427)

The idiots who hand out prison sentances for missing a council tax payment but give muggers a slap on the wrist need vacating from their benches (or ideally the gene pool).

That's the legislators fault - not the judges. Sure, the judges have discretion when sentencing, but it has to be within the law. I think it's ridiculous that there are so many folks in jail for life because they got caught a couple of times with a joint. But that's what the legislators wrote in the law to be tough in "The War on Drugs" (TM).

Re:"cheaper" judge (2, Informative)

Strangely Familiar (1071648) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592505)

There is also an appeal possible. The appeals court already told this judge not to decide the case (by summary judgment), and allow a jury trial. Something tells me that the appeals court is going to be slightly perturbed with the behavior of this judge.

Mixed feelings (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592257)

I always have mixed feelings when I hear that a judge vacated a verdict.

On the one hand, a lot of people are idiots, and I imagine that it's not that unusual to get seven idiots on a given jury at the same time. I kind of like the thought that there's a "fail safe" that has veto power over a bad jury.

On the other, I don't like the thought that one person has absolute power over the process like that. One guy (or gal) can basically overrule everything a jury deliberates on. I've known judges that are idiots, too, and when I see something like this, I can't help but wonder why we even bother to have the trial.

In the end, I suppose I lean more towards taking the power to vacate verdicts or awards from judges. After all, that's what the appeals process is there for, to be that fail safe, and to be honest, I think the odds are more likely that you'd get one idiot judge than seven idiot jurors if I'm the one in the courtroom. Plus, jurors are more likely to account for the human element in such cases than a judge who looks at everything in terms of the black-and-white letter of the law; they're more likely to come up with a right (i.e. moral and ethical) decision, even if it isn't the Right (i.e. legally correct) decision.

And it's not just because it's Microsoft. I'd feel the same way if this happened in the Jamie Thomas case and the judge had smacked down the RIAA. In theory, it shouldn't make a difference, but in reality, I always try to imagine how I'd feel if the tables were turned and the same thing happened.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592371)

But how many people in a jury actually have the knowledge about this specific computer systems and algorithms AND about the mess that patent system is.

The patent itself is really broad and lots of companies, games and software use the like of the system they claim as a patent (software registration with an online check with a short demo period until registered).

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592977)

There is a better change that 1 person on a Jury has knowledge of the technology than judges.

Most judges are stupid as hell outside their little world.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593109)

And the main purpose of a judge, during a trial, is to make sure that everybody plays by the same rules and so gets an equal chance for success. A judge is more like an umpire than a player. Sure a bad umpire ruins the game with bad calls. But the umpire doesn't just say: "The runner is an idiot and so can't have his base run."

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592415)

Plus all legitimate authority comes from the People. The jury is as close to that ultimate authority as you're gonna get, and as you said there's the appeals process which allows judges to order secondary trials if the original case was somehow flawed. Hopefully this inventor will get a second chance to stand before a jury and plead his case to protect his invention.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Insightful)

PapaBoojum (232247) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592523)

Having served on two juries in my lifetime (one civil, one criminal) I can attest that in both cases the idiot ratio was definitely > 50%. At least in the criminal trial, what the jury could do was strictly limited by the judges instructions. In the civil case, most of the jurors wanted to vote based on factors that had NOTHING to do with the case we heard. It was a medical malpractice suit and most jurors let their personal experiences with various doctors (good or bad) dictate how they were going to vote, pretty much ignoring the evidence binders and testimony.

Of course one could easily argue I was one of the idiots since I couldn't B.S. my way out of jury duty....

Re:Mixed feelings (1, Insightful)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592869)

So this explains the healthcare/insurance problem.
Step 1: Idiot jurors award malpractice patient tons of money unjustly.
Step 2: Lawyer takes most of it.
Step 3: Doctors 'malpractice' insurance becomes nearly unaffordable.
Step 4: Medical prices increase.
Step 5: Medical insurance price increases.
Step 6: Lawyers (politicians) say we need to stop run away spending in healthcare industry.

6+ months from now:

Step 7: The plan to fix everything doesn't involve killing all the scumbag lawyers and politicians so it doesn't work.

Who caused the problem: Idiot people. Who benefits: Lawyers. Who get's screwed: Everyone. Why we allow this system to continue: The lawyers are in charge of changing it.

Re:Mixed feelings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593291)

Malpractice is a drop in the ocean, tort reform would, at best, reduce the cost of US healthcare by about 10%, probably more 5 considering malpractice exists elsewhere too, it's just not as heavy.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

colonslash (544210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593355)

Do you have any specific cases where malpractice awards weren't justified? And what percentage of the awards do you think are unjustified?

As a patient, I want my doctors held accountable. I'm not sure how well the current system works. Do you have an alternative to offer?

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592537)

Using JMOL for these cases involving a megacorp and a little company is troubling. JMOL is supposed to be used to limit excessive penalties, it can only be used to overturn guilty findings, not acquittals. The problem is that little companies normally have one shot. When a judge overturns the verdict, the company is probably going bankrupt.

Also interesting, JMOL was revised on March 1, 2008. http://www.ndcourts.com/Court/rules/civil/Rule50.htm [ndcourts.com]

Subdivision (b) was amended, effective March 1, 2008, to allow a party to renew a motion for judgment as a matter of law post-verdict without first renewing the motion at the close of the evidence. Under the amended language, a party who makes a motion that complies with subdivision (a) is allowed to renew the motion after the verdict. A 15-day time limit for renewing a motion addressing a jury issue not decided by the verdict was also added to subdivision (b).

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Drunken Buddhist (467947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592541)

Here's my problem with this whole line of reasoning. It's not like the judge heard the ruling and immediately said, "Yeah, no, I think you all suck, we're doing it this way." This is several years later. I'm assuming there's been a couple of eyes this case has passed in front of since then, and despite the glacial pace of the judicial system, it may be that cooler heads have prevailed for once, and your average slashdotter is pissed because M$ happens to have won for once in a case where they might have actually been justified winning.

(To borrow from someone else's sig: "-1, Disagree" does not exist. Flamebait, offtopic and troll are not acceptable substitutes.)

Re:"cheaper" judge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592315)

Wrong Issue.

Many Justice systems are build on 'wrong' jury verdicts.
Now if we have well fianced players getting a review - then the concept of fair justice becomes a farce or 'OJ'. In criminal trials, juries often come out with outrageous verdicts.

And if he had to look at the verdict, why not question validity -IF the Patent office had the 'right to issue a software patent' in the first place - and invalidate it. There are *LOTS* of pre 1992 products with serial numbers on the box.

It sure looks like variant of PKI, and a formula - another unpatentable thing.

Re:"cheaper" judge (1)

madeye the younger (318275) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592413)

Why the hell do we bother with jury trials when the damned Judge can simply throw out any verdict he/she/it doesn't like?

Translation (4, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592063)

Translation = it's cheaper to bribe one judge than 12 jurors.

I joke! I joke!

kinda...

Re:Translation (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592121)

Of course when it's about Microsoft winning a patent troll, it's because they "bribed judge".

This is why Microsoft and other big companies have to patent everything they can. Not to patent troll other companies with them, but to protect themself from said trolls. Actually I haven't still heard any case where MS has gone patent trolling - and before someone comes with the TomTom case, they actually made an aggressive movement against MS first and MS couldn't do anything else than sue them.

Re:Translation (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592139)

Except Microsoft DIDN'T win. According to the jury, they lost. Then the judge said "The jury is made of dumbasses. It didn't count."

Note how they never do that when the loser isn't big and rich...

Re:Translation (2, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592247)

For me it seems like the judge was right and the jury didn't understand computer systems.

The Patent Claims [patentstorm.us]

It is basically a serial key registration system that uses online check aswell to validate the key, and that before registering the program runs in demo mode. Surely there we're games/shareware apps that did that before this patent too.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592343)

While that is certainly likely, the jury is there for a reason. They
aren't there just to be ingored later. There is supposed to be a
process in place here and the judge seems to be just ignoring it in
favor of his own personal biases.

This sort of haphazard outcome should bother anyone who ever held a
patent application or is likely to be sued by someone that does.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592397)

...in 1993, some month before windows had internet support?

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592699)

yeah, windows was the first and only OS.....

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592717)

yes, 'cause there were lots of shareware on non dos platform, which was famous for its networking stack, not.

Re:Translation (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592643)

>>>Surely there we're games/shareware apps that did that before this patent too.

Please name them. I'm not aware of any that predate 1993 (when the inventor originally tried to sell his idea to MS). Most of the software of that time used the following methods to enable trialware: Let you play a level and then type in a "code" from a book or wheel. -or- Allow software to be used but disabled if you did not have the mechanical dongle on the rear of the machine.

This inventor's idea was different in that it allowed online registration via phoneline dialup or internet connection.

Re:Translation (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593057)

It is basically a serial key registration system that uses online check as well to validate the key, and that before registering the program runs in demo mode. Surely there we're games/shareware apps that did that before this patent too.

I'm not too sure, since the patent was filed in 1993. I think they actually might BE the first company to have thought of this.

Re:Translation (1)

quatin (1589389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592335)

Uniloc needs to bring this to a higher appeals court and have the higher judge rule that the US District Judge William S is a dumbass and Uniloc wins again.

Re:Translation (2, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592507)

Note how they never do that when the loser isn't big and rich...

Where on earth did you get that idea? I never understand how slashdotters come up with these grand pronouncements. Judges vacate jury decisions plenty of times, and plenty of them are where the loser is small and poor (or even destitute).

Re:Translation (-1, Troll)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592245)

Right....it's not like Microsoft threatened Linux with patent infringement but never sued.

No they would never do that.

Dumbass

Re:Translation (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592491)

Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms [slashdot.org]

move of some patents originally held by Microsoft to the Open Invention Network, where they will join a portfolio whose purpose is to inoculate open source companies against patent trolls.

Doesn't seem a lot like patent trolling from MS. They've pretty much always just cared about protecting their own ass from patent trolls - and now moving the patents to Open Invention Network, that does it for them and keep the technologies open to everyone else too.

Re:Translation (1, Troll)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592275)

Patents won't protect you against a troll, they'll only protect you against people who actually make software. Stop astroturfing.

Re:Translation (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592693)

>>>Stop astroturfing.

This isn't astroturfing. This is some guy making a point and expressing an opinion - a true grassroots person.

Re:Translation (1)

Eirenarch (1099517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592317)

The problem is that companies like MS (Oracle, Apple, Google too) do not do anything to initiate a patent reform. I perfectly understand why they patent like mad. I don't understand why they don't do anything to stop the cold patent war.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592387)

Simple, It's not their job to transform the patent system.

Re:Translation (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592683)

I don't understand why they don't do anything to stop the cold patent war.

'better the devil you know than the devil you don't'

Funny thing about change. You may have started it. You may have even been heavily involved in steering the entire process. At the end of the day you may still find that the new regime is much worse for you than the previous. If you know the current system and how to maneuver it why risk losing ground to "fix" it.

Re:Translation (0)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592361)

Of course when it's about Microsoft winning a patent troll, it's because they "bribed judge".

Nobody else than you said that in this thread. Why are you so quick to jump to Microsofts defense all the time? I've seen many of your posts and you always tend to point your finger at everybody else saying that they hate Microsoft thus Microsoft is innocent. Can't you just look at things objectively for once? Besides it doesn't matter what is said here anyway, if you want to show the truth behind the story and "prove everybody wrong" you have to provide information why this was or wasn't a correct verdict. And your half-assed attempt to try to prove anything by saying:

Actually I haven't still heard any case where MS has gone patent trolling...

if true means nothing to this case in particular. By that logic nobody is ever guilty of anything because they were once innocent. Really -- your tendency of making a holy war out of everything regarding Microsoft is getting fucking tiresome.

There is no justice in hte capitalist courts! (-1, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592067)

For workers revolution!

Mobilize the power of organized labor to free Mumia Abu-Jamal now! Smash the racist death penalty!

Re:There is no justice in hte capitalist courts! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592269)

So, you racist niggers should be allowed to kill white people or officers of the law? Fuck YOU, you racist nigger!

Well which is it? 338 or 388? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592081)

Or are the Slashdot editors working for Wall Street these days?

Re:Well which is it? 338 or 388? (1)

Gandalf_Greyhame (44144) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592355)

$388M was the original figure that was awarded
$388M minus *cough* court costs *wink*
means that Microsoft are getting $338M back

I'm kidding

Yay! (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592141)

For Microsoft!

Re:Yay! (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592495)

Hey! This is Slashdot! What are you doing cheering for Microsoft? You be cheering for...software patents? STOP CHEERING!

Re:Yay! (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592945)

Hey! This is Slashdot! What are you doing cheering for Microsoft? You be cheering for...software patents? STOP CHEERING!

I had a double-shot cappuccino this morning instead of my usual single-shot, and I felt the urge to ripple the waters!

Jury problems (3, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592207)

He said the jury "lacked a grasp of the issues". But the traditional jury selection process rejects people with critical thinking skills - engineers in particular. So why didn't he say to start over with a qualified jury, rather than change the decision to his own? This suggests that ALL trials with highly technical issues will be decided by a judge alone - and we know they aren't always up on such things either.

Re:Jury problems (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592609)

But the traditional jury selection process rejects people with critical thinking skills - engineers in particular.

Well, first of all when I think engineers I tend not to think "critical thinking skills"; I mean, I think "quantitative skills" and "analytical skills", but considering how many of the leading creationists are engineers, how many subscribe zealously to weird political views, and how many are so prone to adopt conspiracy theories (zomg the judge was bribed), "critical thinking skills" doesn't come to mind.

Also do you have any data to back up the idea that engineers are excluded more than other professions?

Re:Jury problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592653)

the traditional jury selection process rejects people with critical thinking skills

Could you please explain this statement?

Re:Jury problems (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593087)

He said the jury "lacked a grasp of the issues". But the traditional jury selection process rejects people with critical thinking skills - engineers in particular. So why didn't he say to start over with a qualified jury, rather than change the decision to his own? This suggests that ALL trials with highly technical issues will be decided by a judge alone - and we know they aren't always up on such things either.

Because the issue the jury was lacking a grasp of was a legal one, not a highly technical one. Specifically, Uniloc argued on two theories - direct infringement, and indirect infringement... but when it came time for the closing statement and jury instructions, they dropped indirect infringement. As a matter of law, however, they failed to prove direct infringement. As a result, no jury, even one that completely understood all technical issues involved, could reasonably find Microsoft guilty of direct infringement.

The jury found them guilty, however... and the judge believes that was because after listening to weeks of expert testimony on indirect infringement, they ruled based on that, but not on direct infringement.

Jury of peers? (1, Flamebait)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592231)

How do you get a jury of peers when the 2 parties are a convicted monopolist and a patent troll?

Re:Jury of peers? (1)

mg127 (1074701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592261)

In the world of US finance, that shouldn't be too hard.

Re:Jury of peers? (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592305)

How do you get a jury of peers when the 2 parties are a convicted monopolist and a patent troll?

Satan?

Re:Jury of peers? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592421)

The plaintiff is not guaranteed a jury of his peers, so you only need to find 12 monopolists. This should be relatively easy in the USA...

Tech/financial issues should not go before juries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592235)

Finally some sense. It is just ridiculous to put such cases in front of a jury.

Having a jury for trials of a "personal" nature (theft, assault, etc) is very important, to prevent the kind of bias that comes from having just one type of person (rich educated judges) making moral calls. But trials about complicated financial and technical issues? Most lay people are completely unequipped to deal with this, and generally uninterested; better to leave those to professionals. Particularly if judges are just going to overthrow jury verdicts they don't find satisfactory anyway.

Problem is this only works here (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592281)

where the loser is wealthy.

How many cases of "computer trespass" have been decided on ridiculous reasoning from the jury and allowed without murmur from the judges WHEN THE DEFENDANT WASN'T RICH?

Privilege used to mean "private law".

Rule of law was supposed to remove that and we would all be equal under it.

But judges vacating juries and judges disallowing nullification and judges disallowing people who know what they are talking about ensures that privilege lives on.

Patent is obvious, and rubbish (3, Interesting)

AbbeyRoad (198852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592291)

From the judgment "...fair to describe Microsoftâ(TM)s evidence as more or less
conclusory on this point." I.e. that the patent was an obvious modification to
prior work.

I am glad about this. It shows that the patent system is not so broke as some think.
This patent basically is merely the means by which one can type in a license key
after downloading some free-trial software. Much free-trial software has some kind
of typing-in-of-a-license-key, and if Microsoft lost it would mean no one could do
this in their own products without fear of a law suite - a ridiculous situation.

This guy was just gold-digging. Well done to the judge.

Re:Patent is obvious, and rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592567)

This guy was just gold-digging. Well done to the judge.

Except the patent dates back to 1992. I believe Win95 with product keys was 1995-ish?...

According to an Australian T.V program, the inventor approached Microsoft wanting to license said invention and APIs to do it. MS turned them down, a couple of years later MS products ship with a similar feature.

I think there is more to the story than simply "patent troll" going after MS...

Re:Patent is obvious, and rubbish (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592783)

>>>it would mean no one could do this in their own products without fear of a law suite

Is a "law suite" where lawyers and hookers go to get their freak on? Sorry. I couldn't resist. ;-) No what it means is that every time somebody uses an online registration key, then they have to pay a royalty to the inventor, just the same as a royalty has to be paid to use MPEG2 or AAC or Dolby Surround. This is no big deal, and entirely fair for the smalltime inventor.

Jury? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592299)

Why on earth would you have a jury in complex technical cases like patent cases? I'm pretty sure that In Australia such cases would be heard by a judge only in the Federal Court. Perhaps a lawyer can confirm?

Mixed feelings about judges overturning a jury (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592363)

When judges essentially nullify a jury decision, I find it worrisome as it appears to circumvent the system established by the constitution as I understand it. The whole concept of jury nullification then becomes endangered should a judge decide the jury's actions were inappropriate. There should have to be a much more difficult process involved to have a judge overturn a jury's decision.

My feelings are mixed because it is indeed the case that juries are indeed quite stupid people. There was a new story recently describing a situation that has been ongoing for more than 3 years where a young female became pregnant and never informed the father until just prior to giving birth. (She was probably compelled or otherwise pressured to do so due to legal requirements.) The baby was planned to be offered for adoption by one of the girl's relatives. They asked him to sign the documents and he refused and stated he wanted to keep the baby. The adoption agency proceeded with the adoption process anyway which was a mistake for which they paid a rather large settlement to the father in this case. But the father continues his struggle against this illegal adoption. It was at one point decided by a jury that the child would be better off with the adoptive parents and that the needs of the child outweighed the rights of the father.

This is a seriously questionable decision and one that, off hand, I tend to disagree with. A judge also disagreed with the jury and overturned some of the jury's decisions opening the door for the father of the child to claim him and bring him back home. The law, as it turns out, favors the rights of the natural parents and also favors the law and recognized that procedure and law was broken during the adoption process resulting in extreme injustice. The judge also ruled that there was no evidence that this single father was not capable of raising and supporting this child and that the jury's decision was wrong.

I agree with the judge's actions in this case as it seems to match with my own understanding of justice in this case. However, the ability of a judge to overturn a decision by jury still bothers me.

As to the case with Microsoft? I can't say as I agree one way or the other except on one point -- there should be no software patents. And while this is not a strike against software patents directly, it serves as another example of how they are used and abused and why they are simply bad.

Re:Mixed feelings about judges overturning a jury (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592665)

The whole concept of jury nullification then becomes endangered should a judge decide the jury's actions were inappropriate. There should have to be a much more difficult process involved to have a judge overturn a jury's decision.

Jury nullification is more of an issue in criminal cases. And in those cases a judge cannot vacate a jury decision of "not guilty," though they can vacate guilty verdicts (which I think is a good thing.)

I thought I misread this... (1)

chrismiceli (1639623) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592365)

For sure I thought Microsoft was going to be forced to pay some ridiculous amount of money for doing something obvious. Now be glad they didn't use this technology to protect a web browser, because those are sacred!

Excellent news! (3, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592373)

I'm no Microsoft fan, but I rather watch them beat a stupid patent than see anyone stuck with such a stupid verdict. At least this establishes recent precedent for judges overturning lunacy.

Yeah, I know we all hoped it would be the straw that broke the camel's back and Microsoft would say, "wow, this is idiocy and we need to see the light!" This wouldn't have been that straw. This straw would've left them saying, "wow, I'm glad we can afford it! Too bad for our poorer competitors who can't!"

Re:Excellent news! (2, Insightful)

Bonzoli (932939) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592793)

This wasn't a stupid patent. I'd actually say it was one of the better ones ever created. Remember 1993 fast modems were not in around. Someone willing to do something like this was really thinking ahead for that time. The internet wasn't around. This latest judge process is suspect for reasons that do not appear logical.

Re:Excellent news! (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593009)

This wasn't a stupid patent.

It's a software patent, and by definition stupid.

Re:Excellent news! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593217)

The Internet wasn't around? I had my first home Internet connection in 1993. Commercial entities had been allowed to connect to the Internet for two years at that point and the big online service providers (AOL, Compuserve and the like) had been providing bridges to the Internet for a little while.

Re:Excellent news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592955)

Actually Microsoft along with Google and IBM are some of the biggest voices for patent reform. Microsoft files a lot of preventative patents to block some other idiot, plus its been mutually assured destruction for the big players and they spend millions and millions to defend their technology.

At least he's consistent (3, Interesting)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592407)

The judge finds for Microsoft and then on appeal the higher court says "ah no this needed to go to a jury you idiot".

So it goes to a jury, and the same judge then rules the opposite of the jury verdict and finds for Microsoft again.

Surely that's going to make for an interesting appeal...

Jury system doesn't work anymore (5, Interesting)

Grashnak (1003791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592409)

The jury system was great back when the most complicated thing they had to make judgements on was whether or not a stolen horse had an altered brand - and they all worked with horses.

Today we are asking 12 average joes to make life and death decisions about evidence that even highly trained people would find difficult to follow. The Enron finances, DNA evidence, whether or not some highly technical piece of code is "obvious". This is why juries ignore mountains of technical evidence in favour of bullshit like "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit".

I don't know what the solution is, but I do know I don't want Tom, Dick and Harry sitting in judgement on my patent lawsuit.

Re:Jury system doesn't work anymore (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593259)

Possibly the solution is to have 'a jury of your peers,' you know, the sort of people who will be familiar with the issues at hand. Of course, if you want competent people to actually do jury service rather than trying hard to get out of it, you need to compensate them accordingly.

Re:Jury system doesn't work anymore (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593375)

The jury system wasn't born with the lower class, it was born from trials for people who had to and were aware of how pretty much everything in their country worked, since it was family matters anyway. It was not about average people, it was about being judged by peers, and the people who initially had that right were the aristocracy.

US District Judge William Smith (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592439)

Was he born and raised in West Philadelphia?

How to get out of Jury Duty (3, Funny)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592475)

Kinda on topic ... I was once called to sit on a Jury in a civil case. When asked by the judge if I had any objections to being a juror I honestly told him "I believe there are too many lawsuits in this country." It was like I had the plague. They had me out of there within 30 seconds. What was funny is as I was being lead out of the room the defendants counsel objected to my dismissal. Of course the judge did not agree.

Nothing like... (0, Offtopic)

iCantSpell (1162581) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592621)

lobbying.

A method comprising: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593151)

1. A method comprising:
          receiving a patent comprising claims to protect an invention under law;
          trolling with the patent; and
          ???
          profiting from the trolling.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein profiting enables early retirement.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the trolling is acting like an irresponsible jack-ass.

3. A computer-readable storage medium storing instructions that when executed on a processor to perform the following:
          receiving a patent comprising claims to protect an invention under law;
          trolling with the patent; and
          ???
          profiting from the trolling. ...

MOney$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593273)

Yeeeeaaaah when you have Billions of $$$ you can overturn anything in this fucking world......

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