A federal jury in Chicago today concluded that Microsoft infringed a patented method for accessing interactive programs with an Internet browser. The university and Eolas Technologies Inc. had sought as much as $1.2 billion, claiming the invention enabled Microsoft to compete with the Netscape Navigator browser, now owned by AOL Time Warner Inc.
Eolas lawyer Martin Lueck said his client will seek hundreds of millions more in royalties. Internet Explorer controls 96 percent of the browser market after Microsoft successfully crippled Netscape. A U.S. appeals court in 2001 upheld findings that Microsoft had bundled Internet Explorer into its Windows operating system as part of a strategy to thwart competition from Netscape.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said that “regardless of the outcome of this case, Microsoft will work hard to ensure that there is very little, if any, impact to its customers.”
Lueck said no decision has been made on whether to ask U.S. District Judge James Zagel to order Microsoft to change how it operates the browser.
Today’s $521 million award is the largest U.S. jury verdict this year, according to Bloomberg data. Microsoft has $49 billion in cash and short-term investments, and no debt. The European Union is considering a fine against the Redmond, Washington-based company because of antitrust allegations.
“Every little bit hurts, with the EU last week and now this,” said Alan Davis, an analyst at McAdams Wright Ragen, which manages $2 billion and owns Microsoft shares. “But they can pay this 100 times over with their cash and there’s the appeals process. It’s a minor negative. It adds up to about 4.5 to 5 cents a share, but it does add up after a while.”
“We plan to appeal this decision, and we are confident the facts will support our position,” Desler said.