What's half a billion dollars between friends? Just as the European Commission slapped a fine of this magnitude on Microsoft for bundling in the last chance saloon - for a music player that most people know well enough not to use- The Redmond giant, hardly strapped for cash, will not have to pay Eolas Technologies any damages in the dispute over internet browser code.

Eolas claimed the patent for the code was infringed and a jury agreed two years ago in Illinois, handing down the fine. Microsoft contested the payment - and the original patent - from the outset. On appeal the original ruling has been overturned by the federal appeals court.

The twin ironies of the case are that the version of the browser in contention will be long out of date and when v7 arrives, you'll be able to uninstall it. This feat wasn't possible by the end of the ofiginal long-running American class action lawsuit against Microsoft, which reached Department of Justice level.

Secondly, it's usually Microsoft accused of pulling in other people's code and stamping its own standards on the market, good or bad. If a case fought by MS resulted in less software patent restrictions, it may generate some grudging goodwill for Microsoft. It would be the first time in a long time that anyone sang its praises.