The US Supreme Court has told Microsoft where to put an appeal which would have toughened the standards for patent infringement lawsuits.
The cuddly multi-national had been appealing a case that at one point produced a $358 million verdict for Alcatel-Lucent.
The supremes were looking at a federal appeals-court decision upholding a jury finding that Microsoft infringed an Alcatel patent for a method for computer users to enter information into online forms and tools.
Microsoft claimed that the verdict was based on speculative testimony and arguments by lawyers for Paris-based Alcatel.
If you believed Ballmer’s boys, the jury concluded Microsoft’s Outlook program infringed the patent without a shred of concrete evidence.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit set aside a $358 million verdict against Microsoft and ordered a new trial on damages. This will take place around Yuletide.
The damage award had gotten out of control and swelled to more than a half-billion dollars before it was thrown out on appeal.
However, the case has been seen as one of those which indicates that the US patent system is completely barking and needs major reform. At the moment it is standard policy for outfits to sue competition claiming that they have nicked their ideas. Cash which could be spent on developing new products is wasted defending against patent trolls.
It looks like the supremes do not see it as their job to reform the patent system without some form of law change. Unfortunately, that will require Washington to get out of big business drinks’ cabinets and anger their financial backers by coming up with laws that might be unpopular with them.