Does a third of a billion dollars sound like a large amount of money to you? Well, Microsoft is in the completely unenviable position of having to think about a fine that’s actually even larger than that after just losing a drawn-out patent battle over security software.
The total sum is $388,000,000, and its just been awarded as damages for “willful patent violation” to Uniloc USA Inc. and Uniloc Singapore Private Ltd., a company that makes anti-piracy technology for software events like activation, ensuring “licensing rights and security.” It seems that Microsoft had been happily stealing the principle coding ideas for protecting some of its software against being installed on multiple machines, and when challenged in court attempted to argue that the Uniloc patent was actually invalid so it should be free to code its software how it chooses.
Except that a federal court jury in Rhode Island decided that the case, which dates back to 2003, should finally go to Uniloc, and came up with the punitive $388 million figure. Microsoft’s net imcome for the quarter ending December 31, 2008 was recently reported as $4.7 billion–11% down on the previous year’s figure–so although the award sounds gargantuan, the fine represents only 8% of the company’s income for just a single quarter. For the smaller Uniloc however, it must represent a windfall of gigantic proportions. That’s if it gets awarded–Microsoft can now appeal, and apparently plans to do just that.
Microsoft is still facing an ongoing monopoly case in the E.U. concerning its browser technology, and just yesterday reported that the rate of virus attacks on PCs running Windows software may be in a vicious circle–but the company doesn’t seem to be financially damaged by any of this news, at least as far as the stock market is concerned: after the announcement yesterday its shares actually were up 0.2% in after-hours trading, not down somewhat as you may have expected.