Jury Tells Microsoft To Pay $1.5 Billion To Alcatel-Lucent Over MP3 Patents

from the mp3-tech-to-get-more-expensive dept

Jury trials over patent disputes quite often turn out in favor of the patent holder, so it's no surprise to see that a jury in San Diego hasn't just sided with Alcatel-Lucent in its patent dispute with Microsoft, but also has ordered that Microsoft pay $1.5 billion for supposedly violating patents having to do with MP3 technology. The details of the case are a little bit complex. Back in the late 80s, AT&T's Bell Labs teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop the MP3 standard. Fraunhofer ended up with a bunch of patents, and most companies that make use of MP3 technology pay Fraunhofer for the privilege. However, AT&T's Bell Labs claimed some patents related to the standard as well. Microsoft, however, claims the company had a patent reissued and backdated to make it look like it came before the Fraunhofer patents and that the two patents in question are invalid. Of course, since then, Bell Labs was spun off to become Lucent, which later merged with Alcatel. Somewhere along the line, Lucent's management realized how much money people were making off these patent things, and decided to make a big splash demanding that everyone using MP3 technology shouldn't just be paying Fraunhofer, but Lucent as well. Lucent went after Microsoft, but if it wins this suit (and the subsequent appeals), you can bet that just about everyone else who uses MP3 technology will be subject to similar claims as well -- perhaps making MP3 technology a lot more expensive. About the only good thing in the ruling is that the award of $1.5 billion is that it's less than the $4.6 billion Alcatel-Lucent has mentioned in the past. Microsoft will obviously appeal, and it will take some time to get this all sorted out -- but it seems like MP3 technology may be getting a bit more expensive thanks to patents. In the meantime, if all of this sounds familiar, perhaps that's because it mirrors the situation with JPEG patents, where companies suddenly showed up well after the standard was popular to claim patent rights.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Doug Robb, 22 Feb 2007 @ 4:32pm

    Patent will be worthless soon

    Well if the patent dates back to the late 80's and patents last for 20 years or so then in 2010 the patents run out do they not?

    So by the time this is sorted out in court MS and others will be free to use them so I think it's a bit of a storm ina tea cup and as someone has pointed out the lawyers are just making a meal of this for themselves.

    In anycase it won' t take too much tweaking of codecs to avoid infringments I would think if they haven't done that already.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.