back to article Court must reconsider Microsoft Excel patent damages

A US appeals court has ordered a reconsideration of the damages that Microsoft must pay to a Guatemalan inventor who successfully sued it for patent infringement. Carlos Armando Amado won a case in 2006 against the software giant. The court accepted that Microsoft had infringed a patent he held for software that connects …

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  1. Phil Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    Greedy bastard!

    He won $8.9 million and now he wants more? He's from Guatamala, what the hell is there to spend that much money on? He should be grateful for what he got, have a coke and a smile then move on with life, geez!

    Paris because she never knows when to quit either.

  2. Graham Bartlett

    Greedy bugger

    What, $8.96million isn't enough...?

  3. Matt

    Right Phil

    Microsoft should keep as much money as possible after all they're so short of it!

  4. Morely Dotes
    Jobs Horns

    Greedy? Hardly

    Microsoft - arguably the wealthiest corporation on Earth - stole his invention. Since the least-expensive Office bundle containing his patented invention sells for US$30 (and goes up to something like $800 if memory serves), a royalty fee of $2 per copy is extremely reasonable. Excel comprises between 12.5% to 25% of the bundles in which it is found, and the inventor is reasonably entitled to that percentage of net sales. He's demanding far less.

    Microsoft would have done well to have settled out of court for the $2 per copy he wants.

  5. Jay
    Gates Horns

    @Greedy Bastard

    So... you create a spreadsheet style program and feel it's pretty solid. You pitch the program to a HUGE business in the hopes of pocketing some sweet green. They turn you down. Fair enough, can't win them all, you patent the program yourself to sell it to someone else. THEN the huge business STEALS your patent and makes an ungodly emount of money off of this program in an office suite.

    Bleed 'em dry I say.

  6. Joel
    Go

    No, it's not enough.

    I hope he gets the $2.00 a copy!

  7. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Flame

    How much is enough?

    If every copy of XL costs about 10 cents per disk to print and say another 10 to 40 cents to install it on a computer, the inventor certainly is overpaid. But how much profit is Microsoft getting?

  8. Chris Green
    Coat

    Pay-Up, Applogise and Show Code

    Could this be another reason MS wont show it's code.

    Do they fear litigation from others?

    If I remember right, the 'see it and not buy', followed by 'copy it' method has been used before by MS and isn't that something for which others have sued and won (or got an out-of-court $)?

    If true, such dirty tricks from the richest software company, should be be met with the highest penalties. After all, you don't give an armed bank robber, his immediate freedom if there is a promise not to do it again, again, again, again.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greed?

    I'm sure both Phil and Graham would pass up the opportunity to bump 8.96 million up to 50 or a 100 million. Right? For work you did, right?

  10. Keith Williams
    Gates Horns

    @greedy whatever

    Microsoft hasn't decided to give Excel away for free, why should he not expect to continue to receive payment for his patents?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Nutz!

    M$ stiffed him, the courts said "Pay up, Gates" and so they should.

    Pirate; should be obvious.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Greedy

    When a multi-billion dollar firm steels an idea and makes even more billions of dollars then it is only fair that the guy that came up with the original idea (and had the patient for it) should reap the benefit. It does not matter where he currently lives - maybe he wishes to improve the area - or move out LOL.

    Give him his money !!!!!

  13. JimC

    Good luck to him...

    WTF shouldn't Microsoft pay...They could have stopped using it...

  14. gareth

    wouldn't you

    carry on the case if all your court fees where being paid for you

    how many copies of office do you think have been sold since the verdict even at 4 cents a copy i bet its easily another $1million copies worth and if it aint costing you anything why not

    its not like he is SCO and suing every bugger under the sun he is just milking his future possibilities

    and if you could you would leave Guatamala as well and £4 million doesn't get you that far any more you wouldn't need to work but it isn't going to let you live the high life for the next 50 years

  15. Ben Schofield
    Gates Horns

    RE: Greedy etc

    Greedy, yes, but no more than Microsoft. Microsoft have been up in arms about people illegally using their software. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Microsoft deserve all that's coming to them.

    B

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I hope He gets his $2/copy

    I hope He gets his $2 per copy and then some... I think he should get $20 per copy!

    Microsoft whines about IP and Patents to the press on a weekly basis (to FUD Linux and Open Source) and how you have to pay for software or it will kill the software industry. They should have to pay an exorbitant amount for wilful infringement.

  17. Colin Wilson

    It's not so much what he gains...

    It's what Microsoft gained from their unlawful use of his software, and in turn should pay punitive damages on top of the yet-to-be-agreed fees for abusing their position of "trust".

    It's all well and good teaching kids about copyrights, but when they themselves blatantly ignore copyrights of others, they should pay a fair market rate.

    They were happy enough to sell licences for others to use "their" goods without lawful authority, now it's time to pay.

    Let's face it, what they're paying him is chump change compared to the profits made from their illegal use of HIS software - it's probably not even a single days' interest on Bill's billions, a significant proportion of which is directly attributable to sales of Office.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why didn't he sue until 2003?

    If MS released their product in 1995, why didn't he sue until 2003?

  19. Graham Wood
    Thumb Up

    @"Greedy"

    Do you blame him?

    Also, if this was IBM suing Microsoft it would be deemed an unreasonably small payout - why should an individual get less for exactly the same "damages"?

    Good luck to him, even though that's a lot of cash ;)

  20. DrewHew
    Alert

    U little bigots are unbelievable!!

    What?? Only Americans and Brits have use for money??

    You asses!

    Microsoft has made Billions (with a B idiots!!!!) from underhanded practices EXACTLY like this. Which is why they have so many cases currently pending in various courts.

    Amado went as far as to approach them with an offer to sell his work to them. They refused, then promptly start to develop and sell Excel with HIS feature included!!!! $8.96m is a drop in the bucket of Billions they have made from selling Office software with HIS work included in it. I hope he gets enough money to by the bloody Coke empire!

    Somebody from a third world nation does some honest work and is ripped off, he should be happy to get your damn pocket change, but if this were any of you guys you'd be looking to buy houses for all your family members and (rightly) think your claims are justified.

    Assholes!!!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Greedy? Bizarre reasoning

    Graham, Phill,

    What a weird reaction if I may say so.

    So do you think that "I don't think the inventor needs the money" is a legitimate reason for not paying royalties? Maybe he's setting himself up as a VC fund - who knows? If the law give him a likely chance of spending 1million on lawyers and substantially increasing his money, he'd be a fool not to try. Given that MS is an entirely amoral entity, I don't see where the notion of greed can come into it.

    The real fool here is the patent system of course. But given that it exists and that it is massively in favor of organizations that are already rich, anybody from what is normally the loosing end (ie, real developers) who makes it work for them should be applauded!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    M$ have based their royalty offer...

    ..on the functionality of the version of this guy's software they came up with. My guess it is "Microsoft Query" - quite possibily the worst piece of cr*p you will ever use to query a database.

    They should give him his money, and then a bit more to bundle his program with Office. It can't be any worse than Query, and is probably a damn sight better!

  23. Steve Welsh
    Coat

    RIAA

    He should have let RIAA represent him - he could have gone for $10000 a copy ;)

    No anti-RIAA icon?

    Mine's the moleskin coat, and guinea pig fur hat

  24. Chris C

    Am I the only one?

    Am I really the only one thinks that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft did *NOT* "steal" his idea? They had already developed Excel, a spreadsheet application. They (and everybody with a brain) knew very well that a lot of information is kept in databases. Therefore, allowing your spreadsheet application to pull data from a database is a natural progression. Just because this guy pitched his idea to them doesn't mean they weren't already planning it.

    Also, why did it take him 8 years to sue them? Could it possibly be because he *WANTED* them to sell many copies in the hopes of a large payout? After all, if he sued them immediately, the payout (if any) would be a lot smaller, and they may have found a workaround. This way he gets rich. I hate Microsoft as much as the next person, but this guy doesn't look to be much better.

  25. F Seiler

    maybe he's not the only one...

    Without knowing what exactly his invention was and how much of office that makes, i guess it is quite safe to bet that he is not the only one microsoft is licensing IP from. Maybe it's 10 parties MS pays to for office IP, but more likely it's 100 or more.

    So for regular license (not punitive payments) of a smaller part of the package, asking for 2$ i a bit ummm - much?

    I'm really not into that business, the only figures i have floating somewhere in my head are MP3 and AAC, with AAC being regarded as expensive, and there it is *major* technology you license, not only some single maybe clever but probably not all to innovative idea this guy holds the rights to. AAC decoder is 50 cent in the low numbers and goes down to 12 cent with larger volumes.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @Chris C

    The court has ruled that Microsoft infringed the patent. That's all that matters. Besides, the fact that Microsoft isn't challenging *that* ruling should tell you enough. What they are challenging is the level of compensation.

    Not sure what the patent holder asked for when he first pitched the idea to Microsoft, but I believe the money he gets should be a multiple of that.

  27. Daniel Wilkie
    Flame

    @Chris C

    No, you're not, I agree with you entirely...

    I bet people would feel differently if it was Google :p

    I mean its not like only one person can have the same idea - I've had ideas before that someone else either has already had, or later has, that doesn't mean they're stealing my idea.

    But lets be honest, who really cares?

    Ah, the flames, they burn!

  28. Ally
    Paris Hilton

    Chris

    If he got 4c before,and 12c after, what benefit would waiting to sue bring?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny

    If you compare the thread on Microsoft's kiddie IP rights indoctrination, and then this, El Reg commenters seems to have a rather schizophrenic attitude to IP rights. Apparently IP infringement by individuals = good, IP infringement by megacorps = bad.

    This gives me an idea. If big business wants to turn the populace against, say, music downloading, what they need to do is to employ about a hundred people full time to do nothing but download music. Downloading music will be seen as "evil big business screwing over the struggling artists" quicker than you can say "hypocrisy".

  30. Chris Bradshaw
    Gates Horns

    Just for comparison

    When MS was required by the EU to license some of their IP (their server interoperability API), they (MS) chose to charge a royalty of 3.87% of the licensee's sales.

    I know that the EU said this was too high and MS subsequently lowered it, but given the Excel pricing of $30 - $800 mentioned above, the average price paid for Excel is probably in the range of $100 and a royalty of $2 per copy is well under what MS thought was reasonable to charge.

    Can't have it both ways, guys...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Software Patents are Evil

    This is a clear reason why software patents are fundamentally evil and should be killed at every opportunity. Usually software patents are a method for the big companies to shut down or steal software from small companies. In this case a small company is getting back at a big one, and I say "fill your boots". The ideal situation would be if Microsoft get stuck with a bill for a few Billion dollars. Yes, some guy who doesn't deserve it gets very rich, but that's not much different from winning the lottery, where someone who doesn't deserve it gets rich. On the other hand, it might stop the big companies from fighting so hard for software patents.

  32. Mark

    @Daniel Wilkie

    Well if asking for more money when you're already loaded, why should we pay for MS Office? They have 50Bn in the bank, so it's not like that development effort (and the effort for the next umpty releases) hasn't already been paid for by the customers of Microsoft.

    Or, since Disney already made bucketloads of cash (several buttloads) from Snow White, it should be Public Domain, yes?

  33. Mark
    Thumb Down

    Re: Funny

    funny how you don't mention that the "You thieves!!!!" side in those other conversations are now strangely absent or saying "Oi! Leave Microsoft alone!".

    Isn't that funny too?

  34. Graham Allsop
    Gates Horns

    it may be greed...

    ... but greed is better than stealing.

    i hope he gets $2 a copy

  35. Geoff Mackenzie

    Hypocrisy, sure. But it's still great stuff.

    Hope he gets $2 a copy. I am opposed to software patents and personally think he should have released such a piddling little piece of software (if it's anything like MS Query) under the GPL, but since this is at least a small thorn in Microsoft's side I think it's riotously funny. Good luck to him!

    I hope someone has a similar suit pending for CP/M. :-)

    I don't think it's such an inexplicable double standard to be honest. I have similarly mixed views about assault. If it happens to good people, I think it's bad. If it happens to a bunch of arseholes on the other hand ...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    I bet the MS re-write of his code had added bugs though

    (Mandatory comment)

  37. mike brockington
    Alert

    Double Standards

    It is amazing how many people on this list are prepared to support a dodgy bit of patent trolling when it goes against M$, but not when it is the other way around.

    I see nothing in the ruling that states they stole code from him, only that they infringed his patent. I am all in favour of M$ being fined for anti-competitive behaviour, but please don't go giving them any more precedant for their own patent wars against Linux etc. Good luck to this guy in getting every penny he can, as long as it is then used for the greater good, somehow, like giving his tool away for free?

  38. James StewartNewman
    Coat

    its hardly trolling when..

    the inventor is the one bringing the suit. ... its not like the patent changed hands 20 times.....

  39. Mark
    Gates Halo

    @mike brockington

    Why is it OK to demand money for copyright but not for patent?

    *I* think software patents are a load of cack, but the US courts and Microsoft love them. Take a look at all their menacing tones regarding "Linux ought to pay us for using our patents" (conveniently leaving out the assertion that there ARE any patents MS own in Linux...).

    So MS like patents, they are paying to get heard over here saying that software patents are great.

    So MS should be shafted for every penny the court deems acceptable for licensing the fellas' patent.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Software Patents

    Bad silly idea. There's only a finite number of ways to do something.

    QED sooner or later all programmers are going to find themselves in breach of something.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Software patents ARE wrong!

    Maybe if Microsoft were forced to drink their own poison enough times they may learn the lesson.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software patents

    Software patents are bad and wrong, and prevent programmers from using/reusing basic ideas.

    The patent in this article should never have been granted, as a spreadsheet and a database are two different interfaces to the same data structure- rows and columns. conversion from one to the other is a trivial problem, and one that had almost certainly been solved before, many times.

    Patent checkers who are unfamiliar with the technology they are checking could just check that a patent dosn't already exist for something similar, and grant it, without realizing that it isn't in any way novel. Similarly, a wide ranging patent could be granted for an idea, rather than an implementation...

    Edison spent a lot of time working on a telephone that worked in a fundamentally different way from Bell's, (even though it was no where near as good) so he could patent it and get into the telephone market without having to pay royalties. There were three patents on steam locomotives that worked in different ways, four on steam powered car/truck engines. Patents are there to protect specific implementations of technology from being copied and used for profit, not to lock off whole areas and prevent anyone else from solving the same problem in a different way, which is how software (and biotech) patents tend to be written these days...

  43. Walter Brown
    Paris Hilton

    has anyone bothered to do the math?

    seriously, if he was awarded $8.96m at $0.04 per copy, the royalties at $2 per copy would be $448,000,000 or $448m, for software that connects excel to a database, not for excel itself, its for a database connector, that is all, a connector... $8.96m is probably a bit on the light side considering the depth of microsofts pockets, but $448m is also a bit over the top for a database connector...

    i say give him $30m and send him packing...

    Paris for the example of someone makin way too much money from one small, over glorified piece of work, a long time ago...

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