Uniloc Patent that Cost Microsoft Millions Finally Gets Invalidated
Alexander Neil / 3 years ago
A major patent employed by the patent trolling company, Uniloc, has finally been dismissed. The US Patent No. 5,490,216, which outlines ownership of the concept of “product activation” for software had all of its claims rendered invalid in a ruling by the Patent Trademark and Appeals Board (PTAB). While the sums that Microsoft and other companies have paid to Uniloc for this patent over the years are unknown, Uniloc has sued about 75 companies with the ‘216 patent, according to the KC Business Journal, with one-third settling out of court.
The patent was wiped out as part of an “inter partes review,” or IPR, where defendants are able to challenge patent claims without taking the issue to a federal court. The companies that filed the IPR case against Uniloc’s patent was the collective of Sega of America, Ubisoft, Cambium Learning Group, and Perfect World Entertainment. The PTAB found that every claim that makes up Uniloc’s patent was anticipated or rendered obvious by earlier patents.
Ever since their original court win against Microsoft for an undisclosed sum, Uniloc has focused on collecting an ever-increasing number of patents and ruthlessly enforcing them on as many parties as possible in a technique known as ‘patent trolling’. While the ‘216 patent alone has generated dozens of lawsuits and the associated sums of money for them being upheld, other parties sued by Uniloc over the years for other patents include Mojang, creators of Minecraft, and Electronic Arts back in 2012.
Uniloc’s ‘216 patent officially expired in 2013, however, it has still been in use in court cases throughout 2014, due to patent holders being permitted to sue for up to six years of back damages even after the patent ends. Whether Uniloc will contest the decision is yet to be announced, but many companies that rely on serial key activation for the software may breathe a sigh of relief at this ruling.