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Microsoft fails to overturn $7M verdict in database patent case

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February 10, 2021

A New York judge on Jan. 25 struck down a bid from Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, to overturn a $7 million jury verdict in a patent infringement case.

In 2016, Michael Kaufman, an inventor and vice president at Deutsche Bank, sued Microsoft for allegedly infringing on his patent for a user-friendly way to interact with raw, complex databases. Kaufman accused the Washington-based tech giant of using his technology in Dynamic Data, a web development program released in 2008.

The jury ruled in favor of Kaufman, as Microsoft failed to invalidate the relevant claims in his patent. Microsoft was ordered to pay $7 million in damages, based mainly on the estimated royalties Kaufman would have received had both partners negotiated a license.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, in his recent order, maintained that arguments against the jury verdict have no merit, and denied Microsoft’s motion for a new trial. He addressed each of the company’s claims, including its reasoning that Kaufman’s patent is anticipated or obvious in light of prior art.

The alleged anticipated product was Microsoft Access 2000, an older program of the company that performed some similar functions. Judge Hellerstein cited distinctions inferred by jurors, such as Access 2000’s manual lookup function against the “automatic” form of managing relationships across tables taught by Kaufman’s patent. Kaufman himself had argued that his invention came about due to Access 2000’s shortcomings.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is fending off a similar patent case in Delaware. The company is accused of infringing upon 11 patents by Texas-based SynKloud Technologies, all pertaining to cloud storage technology.

The lawsuit cites Microsoft’s OneDrive offering as the offender, but SynKloud has also sued the company’s cloud competitors Dropbox and Adobe, along with HP for its inclusion of OneDrive in its products.

Microsoft called out this “litigation campaign” as SynKloud’s attempt to enforce its patent portfolio broadly and generically against the entire cloud storage industry.

Like in the Kaufman case, Microsoft denies infringement with its OneDrive software, and seeks to invalidate the 11 SynKloud patents in question.

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