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A US jury on Monday ordered Microsoft to pay $520 Million to a software start-up and the University of California after finding that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser infringed a patent.

MS said that it would appeal the finding, which is only the second but biggest-ever patent-dispute loss for the software giant. An appeal would likey take years, and the judgement may not survive. "Microsoft will settle for an undisclosed sum, probably quite a bit less," says independent computer analyst Rob Enderle.

The lawsuit, filed in 1999 by Chicago-based Eolas Technologies and the university, said Internet Explorer violates a 1998 patent of inventor Michael Doyle, who worked for both entities.

The technology in question allows computer programs to be included in web pages, usually making them interactive and thus playing a crucial role in the growth of e-commerce.

The plaintiffs' lawyers alleged that MS made Doyle's technology part of Internet Explorer, helping MS grab market share from Netscape Communications. MS and Netscape competed fiercely for Internet space in the 1990s.

Microsoft said in a statement that Internet Explorer "was developed by our own engineers based on pre-existing MS technology". mS has also argued that similar technologies existed before Doyle's patent.

Eolas and the university originally asked for $1.2 billion. Though their award is half that, lawyer Martin Lueck of Robins Kaplan Miller & Cirsel said he was "very satisfied" with the verdict.

More : ZDNet