Microsoft plans to appeal the $105.7 million legal judgment leveled against it in a patent-infringement suit brought by VirnetX, which develops secure real-time communication links using secure domain names. VirnetX alleges that Microsoft infringed on two of its patents. Microsoft has battled a number of small IT companies in East Texas courts over the years, most recently in a 2009 case in which small Toronto-based IT company i4i alleged that certain editions of Microsoft Word infringed on its custom XML patent.
Microsoft will appeal a $105.7 million legal judgment in a
patent-infringement case involving VirnetX Holding, a small communications and
collaboration technology company.
A Texas jury found March
16 that Microsoft had infringed on two U.S.
patents held by VirnetX: No. 6,502,135 B1, titled, "Agile Network Protocol
for Secure Communications with Assured System Availability," and No.
7,188,180 B2, "Method for Establishing Secure Communication Link Between
Computers of Virtual Private Network." VirnetX's stated aim is to design
ways to build secure real-time communication links using secure domain names
and technology that can be integrated into network infrastructure, operating
systems or even processor chips.
The case is VirnetX inc. versus Microsoft Corp., 07cv80, U.S. District
Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler). It was presided over by U.S.
District Judge Leonard Davis, in the same legal venue where Microsoft came to
grief in a 2009 patent-infringement suit leveled against it by small Toronto-based
IT company i4i.
"We are extremely pleased with the jury's decision," VirnetX
President and CEO Kendall Larsen wrote in a
March 16 statement. "Receiving a nine-figure award is tremendous and
verifies our belief that our patents are foundational and important. We look
forward to the appeals process as further validation of our patents."
Microsoft announced plans to appeal.
"We are disappointed by the jury's verdict," Kevin Kutz,
Microsoft's director of public affairs, wrote in a statement to
eWEEK March 17. "We respect others' intellectual property, and we
believe the evidence demonstrated that we do not infringe and the patents are
invalid. We believe the award of damages is legally and factually unsupported,
so we will ask the court to overturn the verdict."
Microsoft has encountered patent-related difficulties in East
Texas courts, which have a reputation as a good place for smaller
IT companies to pursue intellectual property suits against larger corporations.
In August 2009, the U.S. District Court in East Texas ruled that Microsoft
had violated an XML-related patent
held by i4i
and ordered that Microsoft Word 2003 and Word 2007-both of
which it ruled contained patent-violating code-be pulled from store shelves and
other sales channels within 60 days.
That original verdict segued into months of complicated legal maneuvering.
On Dec. 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided to uphold
the i4i verdict, which would have seen the copies of Word yanked from
distribution by Jan. 11. Less than a day after, Microsoft
issued a patch that seemed to allow Word to sidestep the alleged infringement,
even as it asked for a review of the decision by all 11 judges on the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Many patent-infringement lawsuits by small companies against massive ones tend
to be settled out of court or else are quickly ejected from the system. With a
$105.7 million judgment involved, though, the VirnetX case may continue for
some time to come.