Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Janet I. Tu.
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September 5, 2013 at 1:44 PM
Among the interesting tidbits to come out of the recently concluded Microsoft-Motorola patent trial is this fact: The presiding juror was Mary-Claire King, a University of Washington professor and a renowned geneticist who played a leading role in the identification of breast cancer genes.
King, who declined to comment on the trial, led the jury that on Wednesday delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of Microsoft. The jury had decided that Motorola had breached its agreements to two standards-setting organizations to license certain of its patents to Microsoft on fair and reasonable terms. It awarded Microsoft about $14.5 million in damages. (See the jury verdict form here.)
King, who is currently a professor in the UW School of Medicine’s departments of medicine and genome sciences, discovered the BRCA1 gene. Mutations in that gene, as well as in the BRCA2 gene, can lead to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
She’s also the subject of an upcoming movie called “Decoding Annie Parker,” in which she is portrayed by actress Helen Hunt. The film screened at the Seattle International Film Festival this summer.
It is unknown if King led the jury’s “theme day” efforts, in which the jury dressed in different themes each day. On Tuesday, the theme was green. On Wednesday, it was sports shirts.
September 4, 2013 at 4:04 PM
The jury in a long-running patent trial between Microsoft and Motorola has decided in Microsoft’s favor, saying that Motorola breached its agreements to provide licenses to certain of its patents on fair and reasonable terms.
The U.S. District Court jury in Seattle, which deliberated for about three hours, awarded Microsoft about $15 million in damages — about half of what Microsoft had sought.
This means that Microsoft has won both rounds of a patent battle in which the court decided that Motorola’s patents in the case were worth far less than Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, had initially asked Microsoft for.
July 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM
Steven Sinofsky, the former president of Windows who left the company in November, has agreed to not compete with the company by accepting employment at certain competitors or by encouraging certain Microsoft customers to choose competing products.
April 26, 2013 at 5:30 AM
A federal judge in Seattle, in a case that has potentially wide-reaching ramifications for tech companies worldwide, has issued a ruling favorable to Microsoft in its ongoing patent battle with Google’s Motorola.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart on Thursday made public his ruling determining how much would be fair for Motorola to ask Microsoft to pay for using certain patented Motorola technologies in its products.
The resulting amount, based on the rates set by Robart, is very close to what Microsoft had proposed as reasonable, and is far less than what Motorola had asked for.
Motorola had asked initially for 2.25 percent of the sale price of each Xbox and Windows — a rate that Microsoft said would amount to paying Motorola $4 billion annually.
Microsoft had said that $1.2 million annually might be a reasonable amount to pay Motorola.
Judge Robart set royalty rates that, according to Microsoft, would amount to the company paying about $1.8 million annually to Motorola.
“This decision is good for consumers because it ensures patented technology committed to standards remains affordable for everyone,” David Howard, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, said in a statement.
A Google spokesman issued a statement saying that: “Motorola has licensed its substantial patent portfolio on reasonable rates consistent with those set by others in the industry.”
March 28, 2013 at 11:03 AM
Microsoft today made good on a pledge from earlier this year that it would publish by April 1, on the Web, information that would allow anyone to determine which patents the company owns.
The company today is launching its “patent tracker tool,” which allows users to download the entire list of patents owned by Microsoft or its subsidiaries, or to search by region, patent number or patent title.
For more details of any particular patent, the user will then have to turn to tools provided by the issuing government. For instance, for patents issued in the U.S., people can use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web-based search tool.
The company plans to update the tracker tool regularly, though a schedule for the updates hasn’t been set yet.
Microsoft’s patent tracker tool fulfills a pledge made by the company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, last month. He had said that Microsoft would make clear its own patent holdings, while urging other companies to do the same.
It’s part of a push the company is making toward reforms in the U.S. patent system. Microsoft is calling for increased transparency in the current system, a loser-pays rule in patent litigation as a way of curbing what it calls frivolous lawsuits, and improved quality on patents by raising the bar on how patents are examined for approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“Transparency around patent ownership will help prevent gamesmanship by companies that seek to lie in wait and ‘hold up’ companies rather than enable a well-functioning secondary market,” Smith wrote in a blog post about the tracker tool. “Of equal importance, transparency is a prerequisite to enforceability of patent licensing pledges, whether to standards bodies or to the world at large. Quite simply, without transparency it is impossible to determine if a company is in fact abiding by those commitments.”
Microsoft and other tech companies are currently embroiled in patent battles that span the globe — some of them involving whether companies are living up to licensing pledges — even as many of the companies and government officials talk of a need for further patent reforms.
In recent years, there’s also been a marked increase in the number of patent lawsuits filed by patent-assertion entities — sometimes referred to as “patent trolls” — companies that don’t manufacture or produce products but instead assert patents as a business model, according to a Reuters report.
March 14, 2013 at 3:44 PM
Judge James Robart has set Aug. 26 as the start date for what’s essentially Part 2 of a U.S. District Court patent trial battle between Microsoft and Motorola.
Microsoft, which filed the initial lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, contends that Motorola asked Microsoft to pay too much in licensing fees for some of its patents, breaching an agreement to provide such patent licenses on fair and reasonable terms.
A trial in November was held in which each side presented its case for what a fair and reasonable rate would be for such patents. The patents in question are “standards-essential patents” — patents for technologies deemed so essential that they have become standard use in the industry. In this case, the patents involve technologies used in the H.264 standard for video compression and the 802.11 standard for wireless connectivity. Microsoft uses those technologies in producing Windows and Xbox products.
Judge Robart is expected to issue a ruling any day now on what a reasonable royalty rate, or rate range, would be for Motorola’s standards-essential patents used for the H.264 and 802.11 standards. It would be the first time a federal judge issues a decision on what a reasonable royalty is for a standards-essential patent.
The second trial in August would be to decide, based on what Judge Robart has deemed to be a reasonable rate, whether Motorola breached its contract to license its patents on reasonable terms.
It has not yet been decided whether the trial in August would be a jury trial or a bench trial (one that’s conducted before a judge, without a jury).
Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, had asked for 2.25 percent of the sale price of each Xbox and Windows — an amount that Microsoft said would amount to $4 billion annually. Motorola said the 2.25 percent was an opening figure, subject to further negotiation.
February 21, 2013 at 4:13 PM
Add Nikon to the list of companies who’ve agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for using Android.
Microsoft says that certain technologies used in the Android platform, which Google offers for free, infringe on patents held by Microsoft. A number of companies that manufacture devices running on Android, including Samsung, HTC and LG, have signed patent agreements with Microsoft.
The agreement announced today covers certain Nikon cameras that run Android. Details of the agreement weren’t disclosed.
In other Microsoft-and-patents developments, the company today called for increased transparency in the current patent system and a loser-pays rule in patent litigation as a way of curbing what it calls frivolous lawsuit, as part of a reform of the U.S. patent system.
Microsoft pledged to make clear its own patent holdings and urged other companies to do the same. Microsoft said it would publish by April 1, on the Web, information that would allow anyone to determine which patents the company owns, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post. Smith had participated earlier today on a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on software patents and the patent system sponsored by BSA | The Software Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers.
“One of the main functions of patents is to provide notice both of the invention and who owns it. Disclosure of the real party in interest for a particular patent reduces the likelihood of opportunistic behavior and gamesmanship, helping to facilitate licensing,” Smith said in his blog post.
Microsoft also called for a “loser pays” system in patent cases as a way of deterring frivolous lawsuits, particularly from “patent assertion entities” — firms that acquire patents but most often do not use those patents to manufacture products of their own.
The company also advocated for improved quality on patents by raising the bar on how patents are examined for approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
And it called on other companies to join its pledge, made last year, to not seek injunctions based on standards-essential patents, which involve technologies considered essential to industry standards. (Google, earlier this year as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, had agreed to not seek injunctions against companies willing to license its standards-essential patents.)
Microsoft has been on both sides of patent battles. It has pursued licensing deals or litigation with companies that it said infringed on its patents. But it’s also taken out licenses to other companies’ patents, or been sued for allegedly infringing on them. Currently, its most high profile patent battles involve those with Google and Google subsidiary Motorola. This spring, a federal judge in Seattle is expected to decide on a reasonable rate for certain standards-essential patents at the center of Microsoft and Motorola’s battle. That decision is expected to have wider ramifications for the tech industry.