Today’s $1.3 billion jury verdict against SAP was the largest damage award ever for a copyright infringement case, according to Bloomberg. So is SAP really going to pay Oracle an amount equal to double its last quarterly earnings?Not any time soon, and maybe never. Juries are known for occasionally levying huge fines in intellectual property cases, but a lot of those verdicts are later reversed or the fines reduced, or the companies end up reaching a separate settlement out of court.
By way of example, here are several big patent infringement fines against Microsoft that made headlines when they were levied, but ended up being far less dramatic:
Uniloc. Jury award: $388 million in April 2009 for software activation patents. Less than six months later, a judge vacated the award and ordered a retrial.
Alcatel-Lucent. Jury awards: more than $1.8 billion in two separate verdicts. A judge threw out one verdict related to MP3 technology and the related $1.52 billion fine in 2007. In 2008, the US Patent Office invalidated the patents (related to touch screen technology) in the other case, which had resulted in a $358 million fine.
Eolas. Jury award: $521 million in 2005 over browser technology. An appeals court later vacated the award and ordered a retrial, and in 2007 Microsoft paid Eolas an unknown amount–probably less than $50 million–to go away.
Microsoft has also lost a few: it paid $200 million to licence virtual private networking technology from VirnetX earlier this year after a big jury verdict in the smaller company’s favour, and paid digital rights management inventors Z4 $140 million for patent infringement in 2007. It’s also probably going to be on the hook for $290 million to i4i for a feature in Word 2007–the jury awarded i4i more than $200 million in early 2009, and so far all of Microsoft’s appeals have failed.
But it’s absurd that Oracle’s stock rose, and SAP’s fell, after hours on this news. Today’s award is the beginning, not the end. Nothing’s final until appeals have been exhausted and the money actually changes hands.
SAP certainly isn’t expecting to pay $1.3 billion: the company has put aside only $160 million for the case, according to Bloomberg.