updated 4/19/2006 4:53:24 PM ET 2006-04-19T20:53:24

A federal jury in East Texas returned a $133 million verdict against Microsoft Corp. and Autodesk Inc. for infringing on two software patents owned by a Michigan technology company.

The lawsuit, filed in 2004 by z4 Technologies of Commerce Township, Mich., claimed Microsoft and Autodesk used two z4 patents in their Office and AutoCad software programs without paying royalty fees.

After deliberating for 19 consecutive hours, jurors agreed Wednesday, ordering Microsoft to pay $115 million and San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk $18 million.

The patents were created and owned by David Colvin, owner of privately held z4. U.S. patent 6,044,471 refers to a method and apparatus for securing software to reduce unauthorized use, while patent 6,785,825 involves a method for securing software to decrease software piracy.

Autodesk and Microsoft had argued during the six-day trial in federal district court in Tyler that the patents were invalid. But the jury said Autodesk and Microsoft were never able to clearly show that was the case. (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was disappointed in the jury's decision, which could be appealed. Separately, Microsoft is appealing a $521 million judgment in a case involving patents owned by Eolas Technologies Inc. and the University of California.

"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 spokesman Jack Evans wrote in an e-mail.

Evans said Microsoft believes z4 knowingly withheld information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when the patents were submitted and is waiting for the court to rule on the issue.

Ernie Brooks, lead attorney for z4, declined to comment on the verdict.

Telephone messages left with an Autodesk spokeswoman weren't immediately returned.

Jurors began deliberating about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday and continued through the night before returning a verdict at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Companies often file patent cases in federal courts in East Texas because they are known for handling patent cases quickly.

Last week, a federal jury in nearby Marshall, Texas, awarded TiVo Inc. nearly $74 million after deciding that EchoStar Communication Corp. had copied key technologies from the digital video recording pioneer.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments