Microsoft and i4i argued over patent law before the U.S. Supreme Court, in the final act of a long-running intellectual property case.
and Canadian firm i4i have had their day in the nation's highest court, with
the software giant arguing that longstanding standards for patent infringement
should be lowered. In doing so, Microsoft hopes to end a years-long battle
against i4i over patents related to custom XML.
Justice John Roberts, who
apparently owns Microsoft stock
, recused himself from the case. Out of the
remaining eight court members, Microsoft must win five votes in order to
succeed in its appeal, which seeks to overturn earlier rulings that Word 2003
and 2007 violated i4i's patents for custom XML.
legal counsel argued that the overwhelming evidence needed to invalidate
patents makes it too difficult for companies to beat back frivolous
patent-infringement suits, and that the standard of proof needs to be lowered.
"When the Patent Office didn't even consider the evidence, it makes absolutely
no sense," Microsoft attorney Thomas Hungar told the court, according to an
April 18 Bloomberg report
i4i is arguing that the precedent is a sound one.
is abundantly clear that the fundamental change in the law, which Microsoft
seeks, would result in an enormous decrease in innovation," i4i chairman Loudon
Owen wrote in an April 18 statement. "Microsoft did not present either policy nor
legal reasons that would justify any changes to the law, particularly the
sweeping change they now apparently seek."
first asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal in August, seeking to overturn
earlier rulings concerning i4i's patents. The previous April, a federal appeals
court had rejected Microsoft's request for a multiple-judge review of the
lawsuit, which resulted in a nearly $300 million judgment.
from i4i have repeatedly announced their intention to fight the case to the
bitter end. That makes the case stand out somewhat from the bulk of
intellectual-property suits, which have a tendency to be settled behind closed
doors for undisclosed amounts of money.
in-depth breakdown of i4i's patent by eWEEK
can be found here
The bulk of Microsoft's troubles extend back to August 2009, when the federal
judge in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas ordered that all copies of
Word 2003 and 2007 be removed from retail channels within 90 days. Microsoft's
attorneys managed to argue a delay, only to have the U.S. Court of Appeals
uphold the verdict four months later.
upheld verdict came with the court order that all offending copies of Word be
yanked from store shelves by early January 2010. Microsoft responded by asking
for the review by all 11 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit, on top of issuing a patch for Word that it insisted would sidestep the
The Supreme Court case
under Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership and
Infrastructures for Information, No. 10-290. The judges could hand down a
decision by the end of June.