On Monday, a federal court judge rendered a verdict ordering Microsoft to pay $388 Million in damages for violating a patent held by Uniloc, a California maker of software that prevents people from illegally installing software on multiple computers. Uniloc claim was that Microsoft’s Windows XP and some Office programs infringe on a related patent they hold.
Back in the days of Windows 2000, one needed just a simple serial number to install Windows and you were good to go. When XP was introduced, however, the serial number was still required, but it was also required to either register online in 30 days or get an authorization code on the phone or Windows would stop working.
This added precaution prevented people from having multiple computers, buying one copy of Windows and installing the same copy on all the PC. This new scheme was well known for its problems however. If one didn’t register, then found themselves outside the reach of a phone, their computer would become useless. Many people, who happened to use multiple computers by themselves (like me!), were forced to buy additional copies of Windows. I use and recommend Linux for PCs for many people which only need that free operating system Windows XP also required re-registration if one changed certain types of hardware, such a upgrading their CPU.
So far this is all a civil matter and not a criminal one. The law does provide for criminal penalties in addition to any civil judgement that this case may render.