Seattle: Microsoft Corp does not have to pay $1.53 billion in damages to Alcatel-Lucent SA, a federal judge has ruled, reversing a March jury decision that Microsoft programmes infringe on Alcatel-Lucent’s digital music patents.
US District Court Judge Rudi M Brewster in San Diego said Microsoft’s Windows Media Player software does not infringe on one of the two patents in question.
Brewster also said the second patent is owned by both Alcatel-Lucent and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, a German company Microsoft paid $16 million for rights to use the technology. Since Fraunhofer did not also sue Microsoft, the software maker is in the clear, the judge decided.
Both patents cover the encoding and decoding of audio into the digital MP3 format, a popular way to convert music from a CD into a file on a personal computer and vice versa.
Brewster’s decision seems to ease fears that Alcatel-Lucent would launch legal attacks against the hundreds of other companies that license technology from Fraunhofer, including Apple Inc. and RealNetworks Inc.
In a May court filing, the judge seemed to support the jury’s decisions, and yesterday’s turnabout dismayed Alcatel-Lucent.
“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,” said Mary Lou Ambrus, a spokeswoman for Alcatel-Lucent, in an e-mail.