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Jury orders MS and Autodesk to pay up

Companies 'disappointed' by patent verdict

A jury in Texas on Wednesday awarded z4 Technologies. $115m (about £65m) from Microsoft and $18m (£10m) from Autodesk to settle a patent-infringment suit filed in September 2004.

A verdict in the US District Court in Tyler, Texas, found that both Microsoft and Autodesk infringed on two patents held by z4 Technologies - US Patent Number 6,044,471 and US Patent Number 6,785,825. The patents are for product-activation technology aimed at preventing unauthorised use or piracy of software.

Z4 Technologies, a private company founded by David Colvin and based in Commerce Township, Michigan, develops DRM (digital rights management) technology. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Both Autodesk and Microsoft 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 email statement through its PR firm Waggener Edstrom.

Furthermore, Microsoft said that the court has yet to rule on whether z4 withheld information from the US 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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