Supreme Court rules against Microsoft in landmark i4i patent case: What it means

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected Microsoft’s appeal in a long-running patent dispute with Canadian technology company i4i, turning away an attempt by Microsoft and its industry allies to lower the standard for challenging patents at trial.

Read the Supreme Court’s decision here: PDF.

The decision upholds a $290 million judgment against Microsoft. But more broadly, it means that companies sued for patent infringement will still be required to meet a high bar to prove the patents invalid in their attempts to wiggle out of the suits.

Microsoft’s case against i4i, involving custom XML technology in Microsoft Word, had been closely watched across the industry. The groundrules for intellectual property litigation are becoming increasingly important as technology giants target each other with patent lawsuits in an effort to extract royalties from each other, or to gain competitive advantage.

Under the current legal standard, the evidence to prove a patent invalid needs to be “clear and convincing.” Microsoft had argued that the standard should be a “preponderance of the evidence” — the traditional requirement in civil cases, meaning more likely than not. At trial, the company failed in its effort to prove the i4i patent invalid under the “clear and convincing” standard.

Microsoft released this statement: “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. 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.”

We’re awaiting comment from i4i.

Update: Q&A: i4i chairman adds up a $290M verdict vs. Microsoft

  • http://twitter.com/duane_moody Duane Moody

    In 1989 Nisus released a word processor for Mac whose file format was specifically built around the separation of text and formatting, in a fashion completely consistent with the specification of the i4i patent filed years later. There is no reason to believe that it was not a valid argument for prior art.

    Nisus in its current incarnation doesn’t do this, and its developers refuse to answer questions about the patent.

    • Guest

      Don’t argue logic when you’re dealing with court patent rulings.

  • Guest

    if they’ll take Ballmer with them, make it an even 300M.

  • BlueCollarCritic

    “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.”

    Translated this reads as ..

    “While the outcome is not what we expected, we will continue to send lobbyists to Congress to make promises and fulfill wishes until we get enough congressmen to sign onto changes to the law that will prevent justice of the patent system by those outside the corporate elite and protect the assets of stockholders and corporations who hold the true power in this world.”

    • David Aronchick

      I’m surprised you think that i4i were the good guys here.

      • Ifallyouhaveisahammer

        He’s a troll. Therefore anyone on the opposite side of MS is automatically deemed “the good guys”.

    • David Aronchick

      I’m surprised you think that i4i were the good guys here.

    • David Aronchick

      I’m surprised you think that i4i were the good guys here.

  • Richst

    I am torn. The court has ruled for a little guy over a big guy and it is always reassuring to hear that that can still happen. On the other hand I don’t like software patents as a concept because it means you have to know what has been patented in order to write code.