Microsoft Open To $300m Claim As Court Appeal Fails

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US court rejects Microsoft’s appeal in an IP suit with i4i, makes it vulnerable to a $300 million judgement

The US Supreme Court has rejected Microsoft’s appeal in its long-running patent-infringement suit with Canadian firm i4i. This renders Microsoft vulnerable to the nearly $300 million judgement delivered by the lower courts.

Chief Justice John Roberts, apparently an owner of Microsoft stock, recused himself from hearing the April arguments in the case. Of the remaining eight court members, Microsoft needed to win five votes to succeed in its appeal, which sought to overturn earlier rulings that Word 2003 and 2007 violated i4i’s rights for custom XML.

Unanimous Rejection

As it turned out, the justices voted unanimously in favour of the US Appeals Court’s earlier ruling, in the process rejecting the core argument of Microsoft’s legal counsel, which argued that the overwhelming standard of evidence needed to invalidate patents made it too difficult for companies to beat back frivolous patent-infringement suits.

“This case raised an important issue of law which the Supreme Court itself had questioned in an earlier decision and which we believed needed resolution,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a June 9 email to eWEEK. “While the outcome is not what we had hoped for, we will continue to advocate for changes to the law that will prevent abuse of the patent system and protect inventors who hold patents representing true innovation.”

Executives from i4i had repeatedly announced their intention to fight the case to the bitter end. That made the conflict stand out from the majority of intellectual-property suits, which have a tendency to be settled behind closed doors for undisclosed amounts of money.

Two Years Of Litigation

Microsoft’s troubles with i4i extend back to August 2009, when a federal judge 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 Court of Appeals uphold the verdict four months later.

This upheld verdict came with the court order that all offending copies of Word be removed from store shelves by early January 2010. In April, a federal appeals court rejected Microsoft’s request for a multiple-judge review of the lawsuit, which resulted in the multimillion-dollar judgement.

The company responded by asking for a review by all 11 judges on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, on top of issuing a patch for Word that it insisted would sidestep the alleged infringement. The review was refused so Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal last August, seeking to overturn the earlier rulings concerning i4i’s patents.

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