Microsoft Patent Case Sees i4i File with U.S. Supreme Court

Microsoft's patent-infringement case with i4i moved another step forward, with the latter's submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Canadian firm i4i has submitted its brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a long-running patent-infringement suit with Microsoft. The case, Microsoft vs. i4i Limited Partnership, 10-290, is expected to be heard in April 2011.

"We continue to be confident that i4i will prevail," Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, wrote in a March 14 statement. "Our position from the outset has been clear-this attack on patent holders and the adverse implications from the change proposed by Microsoft are unprecedented and would deal a devastating blow to any U.S. patent holder, large or small."

According to i4i, its new brief explains "that Microsoft's request to lower the standard of proof, for challenges to the validity of a properly issued patent, conflicts with over a century of judicial precedent and would have a host of deleterious consequences." Those consequences apparently include a weakening of patent rights, a discouragement of innovation, and the "marginalizing" of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Microsoft first asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal in August, seeking to overturn earlier rulings that both Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 violated i4i's patents for custom X M L. In 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.

Executives from i4i have repeatedly announced their intention to fight the case to the bitter end. "We continue to be confident that i4i will prevail," Owen told Reuters in August. That already makes the case stand out from the bulk of intellectual-property suits, which have a tendency to be settled behind closed doors for undisclosed amounts of money.

An in-depth breakdown of i4i's patent by eWEEK can be found here. The case has already caused a fair bit of legal trouble for Microsoft, starting in 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.

That 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 a 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 alleged infringement. The 12.9MB patch, made available on Microsoft's OEM Partner Center Website, removed custom X M L elements from documents with those file types.

In May 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office confirmed the validity of i4i's patent, something that Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz termed "disappointing."