In the tech sector, patent litigation is just part of business. Monday, a federal judge put Apple's infringement case against Nokia on hold to give the International Trade Commission time to investigate the matter. Tuesday, BusinessWeek reports Hewlett-Packard is suing MicroJet and three other companies for infringing patents related to their ink cartridges. Wednesday, I'm sure some other company will be suing for infringement of its patents.
What's more, big players like Microsoft usually have several going at once. For a long time now, IBM has maintained the largest patent portfolio of the bunch, so its lawyers stay busy in Armonk, too. Patent litigation and patent settlements really are a dime a dozen. Even so, there are a cases that stand out as landmark for the tech space -- even before Apple threw down the gauntlet for HTC.
In a fun read at CIO.com, Bill Snyder summarizes five. How many do you remember?
- Apple v. Microsoft, then Xerox v. Apple. Apple argued Microsoft stole its ideas regarding the graphical user interface, or GUI. Then Xerox said Apple had stolen its ideas. Snyder says, "After six years of litigation and appeals that went all the [way] to the United States Supreme Court, both suits were dismissed..."
- SCO v. IBM, SCO v. Novell. SCO alleged that part of the UNIX code to which it held the copyrights had been used in the Linux operating system. (This one was the bane of my existence for awhile.) Snyder says, "For a while, there was fear that third party customers who used Linux could be liable for huge damages to SCO.... Ultimately, though, the cases fell apart."
- NTP v. Research In Motion. NTP argued that RIM's BlackBerry smartphones and continued operation of the BlackBerry data network violated its patents. Much to the chagrin of BlackBerry users everywhere, a jury found that NTP's patents were valid and that RIM was liable for damages. Though the court could have enjoined RIM from continuing to operate the network, it did not. Snyder says, "Ultimately RIM settled for $615 million, one of the largest ever settlements in a technology patent case."
- Integraph v. Intel. Integraph sued Intel for infringing patents involving its chip memory design and a microprocessor instruction known as VLIW. The series of lawsuits began in 1997 and were eventually settled for a total of $525 million, which Snyder says is the "largest set of damages ever won against Intel."
- i4i v. Microsoft. The privately-held Canadian company sued Microsoft for infringing its patent on a method of "manipulating a document's content and architecture separately" with the XML capabilities that were built into the latest versions of Microsoft Word. The court sided with i4i and ordered Microsoft to stop selling the versions of Word that boasted those capabilities. Snyder says, "Microsoft never stopped selling Word, but it has removed the features from Word 2007 and the upcoming Office 2010 and paid $290 million in damages."