Jury orders Microsoft, Autodesk to pay in patent case

A Texas jury has awarded z4 Technologies US$115 million from Microsoft and $18 million from Autodesk to settle a 2004 patent-infringment suit.

A jury in Texas on Wednesday awarded z4 Technologies $US115 million from Microsoft and $US18 million from Autodesk to settle a patent-infringment suit filed in September 2004.

A verdict in the U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, found that both Microsoft and Autodesk infringed on two patents held by z4 Technologies -- U.S. Patent No. 6,044,471 and U.S. Patent No. 6,785,825. The patents are for product-activation technology aimed at preventing unauthorized use or piracy of software.

Z4 Technologies, a private company founded by David Colvin, develops digital rights management technology. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Both Autodesk and Microsoft continue to contend that neither company infringed on z4's patents.

Caroline Kawashima, a spokeswoman for Autodesk, said the company is "disappointed" with the verdict. "We developed our own product-activation technology before z4 filed the patent," she said.

"While we are disappointed with this verdict, we continue to contend that there was no infringement of any kind and that the facts in this case show that Microsoft developed its own product activation technologies well before z4 Technologies filed for its patent," Microsoft said in an e-mail statement through its public relations firm Waggener Edstrom.

Furthermore, Microsoft said that the court has yet to rule on whether z4 withheld information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about other companies' product-activation technologies when it submitted its own applications for the patents. If this is found to be true, it would render its patent claims unenforceable, the company said.

"We will await resolution of all issues by the trial court before we make any decisions," Microsoft said.

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