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With License Ambiguous, Patent Exhaustion Heads to Jury

In Audio MPEG, Inc. v. Dell Inc., the Eastern District of Virginia denied summary judgment of patent exhaustion because it was ambiguous whether a license between Audio MPEG and Dell’s supplier Microsoft covered the allegedly infringing software, leaving the issue to the jury. Audio MPEG asserted that Dell’s sales of computers infringed three of its patents on encoding and decoding digital audio signals. Dell sold computers with both Microsoft Windows and third-party audio software preinstalled. The parties primarily disagreed on two factual questions: (1) Did Audio MPEG’s license agreement with Microsoft cover Windows codecs called by the third-party software? (2) Did the preinstalled third-party software only call the codecs or does it contain infringing programming? (According to the expert witness quoted by the court, “A codec is a piece of software that encodes and/or decodes a digital data stream. Codecs typically exist as a part of a shared library, such…

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