Byron Bay inventor Ric Richardson
Byron Bay inventor Ric Richardson Cathy Adams

$440m out the 'windows'

IT was the ultimate David and Goliath victory when Byron Bay inventor Ric Richardson won a massive $440m damages award against Microsoft in April.

But celebrations have turned to disappointment after a US Appeals Court judge overturned the jury's decision.

US District Judge William Smith on Wednesday (Tuesday, US time) ruled there was not enough evidence to prove Mr Richardson's claim Microsoft used an anti-piracy program he developed for his company's operating systems.

“It was obvious Microsoft would appeal, but this decision by the judge was a complete surprise,” Mr Richardson said at his Byron Bay home yesterday.

“At the moment I'm waiting for the lawyers' assessment so we can formulate a new strategy. My projects here are at a critical stage, but I imagine I'll head back over soon.

“It's been 16 years of business and six years of legal battling getting past a summary judgment, an appeal and a jury win, and now this. You don't come this far to just hang up the gloves.”

Mr Richardson's Singapore-based software company Uniloc originally sued Microsoft in 2003, saying it had ripped-off patented anti-piracy software technology he designed when working as a sound programmer for major bands like INXS in the 1980s.

The April ruling was the fifth highest patent jury award in US history, although it represents a mere eight days' profit for the global giant behind the ubiquitous Windows programs.

Uniloc argued the software, which is designed to prevent the 'casual copying' of programs on to unauthorised computers, was patented in the 1990s, before Mr Richardson demonstrated it to Microsoft in 1993.

He did so on the condition Microsoft would not try to break the code or duplicate it. Uniloc alleges Microsoft breached this agreement around 1997 and began using the program in its operating systems.

Throughout the case Microsoft denied this, saying it had deemed Uniloc's software of no use and had developed a different system.

“I'm waiting to hear from the US legal team to know what options we have to move forward, but move forward we shall,” Mr Richardson said.

He returned to Byron last December for health reasons.

“Ten years as a corporate executive was very demanding. Here I get to surf and ride dirt bikes three times a week and take days off, which is important for a big guy like me,” he said.

“It's so much responsibility that your health deteriorates and you put on weight and you can't enjoy life.

“I'm much better physically now and ready to return to the water.”

Mr Richardson will return to the US shortly.

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