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Microsoft and Autodesk infringed patents, jury rules

z4 Technologies awarded $133m

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An entrepreneur has been awarded $133m by a jury in a Texas courtroom after winning his claim that two of his anti-piracy software patents were infringed by Microsoft's Office and Windows XP, and Autodesk's AutoCAD programs.

David Colvin is founder of z4 Technologies Inc, a digital rights management company based in "Automation Alley", the high-tech centre of Michigan. The company exists to prevent infringement – and on a page of its website includes quotes from both Microsoft and Autodesk about the pest of piracy.

Colvin obtained patents for methods of assigning passwords and codes to individual copies of software to prevent unauthorised use. This week, Microsoft was ordered to pay him $115m and Autodesk $18m. The impact on their respective products is unknown.

Microsoft spokesperson Rachel Wayne told OUT-LAW.COM: "While we are disappointed with this verdict, we continue to contend that there was no infringement of any kind and that the facts in this case show that Microsoft developed its own product activation technologies well before z4 Technologies filed for its patent.

"We will await resolution of all issues by the trial court before we make any decisions."

According to Reuters, Microsoft awaits the court's decision on another point: whether z4 Technologies knowingly withheld information from the US Patent and Trademark Office about other companies' product activation technologies when submitting its patent applications.

In a separate decision earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that customers who bought computers with Microsoft's software preinstalled, or who bought its programs through a reseller, can't sue the Redmond company for anti-trust violations. Twenty-six plaintiffs were seeking up to $10bn in damages, but lost because they were indirect purchasers.

See: z4 patents

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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