Burst Case Scenarios
Burst has added another notch to its patent-infringement settlement belt. The scrappy three-man company, which once beat a $60 million settlement out of Microsoft over charges that the software giant had stolen its streaming media technology, has managed to squeeze a few million out of Apple as well.
Bringing an end to an often contentious legal battle that began about two years ago, Apple on Wednesday agreed to pay Burst.com $10 million to settle charges that it illegally incorporated the company’s audio and video-on-demand media delivery solutions into the iTunes ecosystem. In return, Burst agreed to grant Apple a nonexclusive license to its patent portfolio–with certain eyebrow-raising exceptions and caveats. The settlement specifically excludes from Apple’s license one issued and three pending Burst patents on digital video-recorder technology. But it also precludes Burst from suing Apple for any future infringement of the those patents. Now that’s an odd twist, isn’t it? Especially since a patent license is often little more than a covenant not to sue the licensee.
Why promise not to sue for infringement, but refuse to license? Why accept a settlement of just $10 million ($4.6 million after court and attorney fees), when a damages award might have been many, many times greater? And why announce the settlement of a bitter legal battle on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday when so few people will pay attention to the news? Why do all that, unless there’s something more here? An acquisition in the works, perhaps. Or something else entirely.