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Patent ruling costs Microsoft $8.9 million

A Guatemalan inventor wins an infringement suit over his 1994 patent on technology linking Microsoft's Access and Excel programs.

SANTA ANA, Calif.--A jury in U.S. federal court found that Microsoft infringed on a Guatemalan inventor's 1994 patent on technology linking the company's Access and Excel programs, and ordered the world's largest software maker to pay $8.9 million in damages.

A jury in the U.S. District Court of Central California told Microsoft to pay the award to Carlos Armando Amado for software that uses a single spreadsheet to link Excel, a spreadsheet and calculation program, with the Access database application.

The jury award takes into account Microsoft software sold between March 1997 and July 2003. U.S. District Judge David Carter will review the case to determine how much, if any, additional damages should be awarded for programs sold to date, plaintiff's attorney Vincent Belusko said.

"Mr. Amado has pursued this for many years now, but while it's been a difficult effort, he's happy that he has some recognition," Belusko said.

In his lawsuit, Amado said he filed for a patent in 1990 for the software linking the two Microsoft programs and that he unsuccessfully tried to sell it to Microsoft two years later, while the patent was pending.

The jury awarded one out of a total of 10 counts filed and dismissed the other nine, which could have led to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

"While today's verdict is disappointing, we are pleased the jury rejected Mr. Amado's large damages claims. We do not believe today's verdict will have any impact on our customers," said Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., began using his software without permission in various versions of Access, such as Access 95, 97, 2000 and 2002, according to Amado, who said he created the technology while he was a graduate student at Stanford University.