With all of the Five Years Since the Bubble Burst reminiscence articles today, I almost missed the other headline with “Burst” in the title–apparently Microsoft settled their long-running patent suit with Burst.com. Burst alleged that Microsoft stole their streaming-video technology, thinking that they could force Burst out of business for less money then it’d take to license the patent. Cringely has some details on the suit from years ago.
This was one of the two big patent suits that Microsoft has been involved in recently. The other suit was basically a submarine patent from Eolas, claiming that they owned the concept of embedding things into browsers. From where I sit, the Eolas case is a textbook example of why we need patent reform. The Burst case was different, though–it really looked like Microsoft sat down with Burst years ago, saw what they had, and then decided that the cheapest way to get their hands on Burst’s technology was to stall until Burst ran out of cash without actually ever paying them a dime. There were allegations that Microsoft had “lost” most of the email from their executives who had dealt with Burst. In general, published reports made Microsoft look about as slimy as they appeared at the height of their big Justice Department case.
I assume that the terms of the Burst settlement will be sealed, but since they’re both public companies, most of the financial details will show up in SEC reports sooner or later.