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$1.5b judgment against Microsoft reversed

updated 12:35 am EDT, Tue August 7, 2007

MP3 patent suit denied

Apple, RealNetworks and other companies who license MP3 encoding technology from Fraunhofer Gesellschaft breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as U.S. District Court Judge Rudi M. Brewster ruled against an earlier jury decision that would hold Microsoft accountable for $1.53 billion in damages payable to Alcatel-Lucent SA, a co-owner of the Fraunhofer patents. In a San Diego courtroom, Brewester said that Microsoft's Windows Media Player software does not infringe upon one of two patents, which cover the encoding and decoding of audio into the MP3 format. The decision allays fears on the part of Apple, RealNetworks and others that they would be future targets of Alcatel-Lucent litigation.

Essentially, Brewster ruled that since Fraunhofer did not sue Microsoft in conjunction with Alcatel, Microsoft would not be held accountable. The Redmond software giant paid Fraunhofer $16 million for rights to use the technology in question. Reuters quotes Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, who called Judge Brewster's ruling a "victory for consumers of digital music and a triumph for common sense in the patent system."

Alcatel-Lucent, of course, sees things differently. Mary Lou Ambrus, a spokeswoman for Alcatel, said "This reversal of the judge's own pretrial and post-trial rulings is shocking and disturbing, especially since -- after a three-week trial and four days of careful deliberation -- the jury unanimously agreed with us, and we believe their decision should stand. We still have a strong case and we believe we will prevail on appeal."

Even if Alcatel-Lucent were to win an appeal, Brewester says he would only grant a new a trial, not reverse his ruling.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. MiMiC

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007

    0

    Very Disturbing

    Not that i've been following this trial, but the fact the Judge can just throw out a jury ruling due to his personal feelings is very disturbing. How can our court system function properly if the judge is allowed to do what he wants anyway?

    Rich

    ------------------------ RichGetz.com

  1. LouZer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2000

    0

    Re: very distrubing

    but the fact the Judge can just throw out a jury ruling due to his personal feelings is very disturbing. How can our court system function properly if the judge is allowed to do what he wants anyway?

    Its his job. Juries don't necessarily understand the nuances of law, or the fine print of who can and can't sue and under what circumstances. Or, worse, rule based on emotion more than facts presented in a case. And, in case you didn't realize, once you get past the first round of courts, all appeals and such are ruled by judges alone.

    But I can't believe this! How dare someone sue MS for patent infringement? Don't they know you've got to sue Apple in all Patent infringement cases??? Its a new law, I understand.

    Oh, and you do realize that this is the kind of jurist you hope gets the patent cases apple faces. And the fact that Apple was next in line on this lawsuit.

  1. dynsight

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2005

    0

    $$

    one can buy off a single judge, buying off a jury is a bit more difficult. (just in theory)

  1. Jonaziz

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2006

    0

    Isn't this good?

    Wasn't this the case that was going to come back and bite Apple too if Microsoft lost?

  1. migs647

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2005

    0

    Wow

    I'm actually thrilled this happened. Apple's music is MUCH MUCH larger than M$'s. Apple could have been paying more than 1.5 billion in penalties and royalties had this spun out of control.

    This is the one time I'm happy M$ won their lawsuit. This could have got really ugly really fast. (This is why we should be using LAME ;))

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    Re: wow

    I'm actually thrilled this happened. Apple's music is MUCH MUCH larger than M$'s. Apple could have been paying more than 1.5 billion in penalties and royalties had this spun out of control.

    Actually, it would have been less. I don't think the number of iPods + OS X sales + iTunes downloads is greater then the number of copies of Windows sold. Remember, all of Apple's on-line music is in AAC format.

    This is the one time I'm happy M$ won their lawsuit. This could have got really ugly really fast. (This is why we should be using LAME ;))

    Maybe this is why we shouldn't be using MP3. But I think LAME has some of the same issues (since MP3 isn't an 'open' standard, there's technically the point that LAME uses it is in violation. The problem, of course, is that since no one's selling the software, there's no one to sue.

  1. lordarka

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2005

    0

    RIch

    Rich:

    Setting aside a jury verdict (Judgement NOtwithstanding Verdict, or JNOV) is not a procedure taken lightly, and is itself subject to appellate review. Jury verdicts are not etched in stone, and though their findings on fact are hard to contest, they may be set aside if a judge feels that no reasonable jury could have arrived at the conclusions that jury arrived at. In complex litigation like the Lucent v. MS, it is entirely possible that a jury or 12 ordinary people may have arrived at a verdict that a judge learned in the law (and Federal judges are VERY learned in the law) may have held to be unreasonable.

    It's not something that happens often, and it's hard to get a JNOV procedurally, especially if prior motions to get a judgment direct from the bench are denied, and the jury arguments are allowed to proceed. A JNOV motion is an attempt to get judgment from the bench AFTER the jury has found on the facts.

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