Microsoft Asks Supreme Court to Overturn i4i Ruling

Microsoft is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to examine and overturn a patent-infringement lawsuit filed against it by Canadian firm i4i, which has won a series of lower-court rulings.

Microsoft has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in its long-running patent-infringement battle against small Canadian firm i4i.

Specifically, Microsoft wants to overturn earlier rulings that both Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 violated i4i's patents for custom XML. In April, a federal appeals court rejected Microsoft's request for a multiple-judge review of the lawsuit, which resulted in a nearly $300 million judgment.

"We continue to be confident that i4i will prevail," Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, wrote in an Aug. 27 statement to Reuters.

The original i4i patent details the use of custom XML formatting in a word-processing program, specifically the use of algorithms in creating a data structure known as a metacode map, which in turn contains formatting information. An in-depth breakdown of i4i's patent by eWEEK can be found here.

In August 2009, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas ordered Microsoft to remove Word 2003 and 2007 from retail channels within 90 days, or else pay i4i damages for allegedly violating its patent. Four months later, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided to uphold the verdict, ordering that the offending copies of Word be yanked from store shelves by Jan. 11.

Microsoft responded by asking for a review by all 11 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, while also issuing a patch for Word that it claimed would sidestep the alleged infringement.

"With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products," Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz wrote in a Dec. 22, 2009, statement. "Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date."

The 12.9 patch, made available on Microsoft's OEM Partner Center Website, removed custom XML elements from documents with those file types. However, the patch failed to end the legal saga. In May, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office confirmed the validity of i4i's patent.

"This is a very material step in our litigation against Microsoft," Owen wrote in a May 11 statement. "Put simply: i4i's patent is clearly and unequivocally valid. Even though Microsoft attacked i4i's patent claims with its full arsenal, the Patent Office agreed with i4i and confirmed the validity of [U.S. Patent 5,787,499]."

In a statement issued that day, Kutz described Microsoft as "disappointed" with the Patent and Trademark Office's decision.

Throughout the case's many twists and turns, i4i executives have publically expressed a willingness to fight Microsoft to the bitter end. "Where we come from, if someone tries to take something that belongs to you, you stand up to them; you don't just reach for the calculator," Owen told eWEEK Aug. 17, 2009. "We're not in a position to guess or second-guess or speculate as to what the court is going to do."