Patent wars punctuated the technology landscape in 2010. Lawsuits were filed with myriad motivations, some seeking permanent injunction, some monetary compensation and some bullying others to accept licensing agreements. The parties involved represented behemoth IT firms, patent trolls and smaller technology development firms. However, the outcomes revealed that big money was at the root of all these filings. There was no clear winner with the keel tilting equally between big IT firms, small companies and patent trolls. Here is a snapshot of major resolved lawsuits from the technology industry in 2010:
Samsung vs. Rambus
In January, Samsung Electronics and Rambus, a company that develops and licenses memory technology, entered into an agreement under which Samsung paid Rambus $900 million, settling all antitrust claims filed against each other. Also, Samsung agreed to license Rambus's patent portfolio covering semiconductor products. The settlement came just when Rambus was gearing to go to trial against Samsung, Hynix Semiconductor and Micron Technology.
Microsoft vs. VirnetX
In May, Microsoft agreed to pay $200 million to VirnetX, a company that filed a networking patent infringement case against Microsoft in 2007. VirnetX alleged that Microsoft had used its VPN technologies in Windows Server 2003, XP, Vista, Live Communications server, Windows Messenger, XP, Vista, Office Communicator and Office. Earlier on March 16, Microsoft was asked to pay VirnetX $106 million in settlement. However, emboldened by the win VirnetX filed a second patent infringement case against Microsoft just two days later.
Nintendo vs. Anascape
In April, Nintendo won the patent infringement case filed by Anascape, under which it alleged that Nintendo had used its six-axis control technology in its Wii and GameCude controllers. The US Court of Appeals absolved Nintendo of patent infringement charges. The case was filed by Anascape against Nintendo and Microsoft in 2006. Microsoft decided to settle the issue out-of-court.
Microsoft vs. Salesforce
In August, Microsoft and Saleforce settled patent related litigation filed by them against each other. The companies settled for a patent-licensing deal. However, Microsoft confirmed that it is being compensated by Salesforce.com based on the strength of Microsoft's leading patent portfolio in the areas of operating systems, cloud services and customer relationship management software. Microsoft had filed a patent suit against Salesforce in May, citing nine of its patents related to creating websites. Saleforce retorted by filing patent lawsuit against Microsoft citing five patents covering Windows Azure and Windows 7.
Nvidia vs. Rambus
Nvidia and Rambus partially resolved patent litigation between them by signing a patent license agreement in August. Under the agreement Nvidia gains license for certain memory controllers for one percent royalty and a two percent royalty per unit on other memory controllers. However, the agreement does not resolve the pending patent case under which Rambus sued Nvidia in 2008 for infringing on 17 of its patents.
Oracle vs. NetApp
Oracle and NetApp agreed to dismiss their patent litigation against each other. The terms of dismissal were not divulged. NetApp had filed a case against Sun concerning its Zettabyte File System in 2007. Sun retorted by suing NetApp for patent infringement in Oct. 2007.
Red Hat vs. Acacia
In October, Red Hat settled an alleged patent infringement case with Acacia Research Corporation. The patent in question covered Red Hat's open source JBoss middleware software. The case was filed in 2009 by Acacia's Software Tree LLC. However the details of the settlement were not divulged. In April, Red Hat and Novell won a patent infringement case brought by a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation in 2007. The case cited three patents that covered a GUI technology.
Apple vs. Mirror Worlds
A jury verdict in October required Apple to pay $625.5 million in settlement over a patent infringement case filed by Mirror Worlds. The patents cover Spotlight, Time Machine and Cover Flow parts of Mac OS. However, Apple challenged the verdict and requested an immediate stay on the judgment.
Oracle vs. SAP
Oracle wins $1.3 billion in damages from SAP in relation to a corporate theft lawsuit filed by Oracle against TomorrowNow, which SAP acquired in 2005. TomorrowNow was accused of downloading software and support materials illegally from an Oracle website.