Court says Microsoft must pay in patent case

Jun 09, 2011 By JESSE J. HOLLAND , Associated Press

(AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Microsoft Corp. must pay a $290 million judgment awarded to a small Toronto software company for infringing on one of its patents inside its popular Microsoft Word program.

The high court unanimously refused to throw out the judgment against the world's largest software maker.

Toronto-based i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool used in Microsoft Word. The technology in question gave Word 2003 and Word 2007 users an improved way to edit XML, which is computer code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document's contents.

The lower courts say Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft willfully infringed on the patent, and ordered the world's largest software maker to pay i4i $290 million and stop selling versions of Word containing the infringing technology.

Microsoft wanted the multimillion dollar judgment against it erased because it claims a judge used the wrong standard in instructing the jury that came up with the award.

The software company said a jury should determine whether a patent is invalid by a "preponderance" of the evidence instead of the more heightened "clear and convincing" evidence standard instructed by the judge.

The Supreme Court said the "clear and convincing" standard was the correct one.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the court's opinion, said the courts have interpreted the law the same way for 30 years. During this period, Congress has often amended the patent law, she said.

"Not once, so far as we (and Microsoft) are aware, has it even considered a proposal to lower the standard of proof," Sotomayor said.

Microsoft now sells versions of Word that do not contain the technology in question.

"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," the company said in a statement.

Officials at i4i cheered the ruling.

"Microsoft tried to gut the value of patents by introducing a lower standard for invalidating patents," said Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i. "It is now 100 percent clear that you can only invalidate a patent based on `clear and convincing' evidence."

Chief Justice John Roberts did not take part in the consideration or judgment in this case because he owns Microsoft Corp. stock.

The case is Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership, 10-290.

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not rated yet Jun 09, 2011
Same old M$ Corp(se)
You will need to fill in the missing letters, but the content on this site is correct:
MS paid Wang Computer Company about $194 M for infringement. Wang (bankrupt at the time) then bought a Honeywell division and used the bankrupt laws to destroy the pension plan. Business is no place for decent people.
5 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2011
I am not particularly a Microsoft fan, but the software patent system is horridly broken.

Patent cases arise and are decided by people who don't know what is obvious in software engineering. Let alone what is generally obvious, like Amazon patenting "One Click" to purchase.

Soon only big companies will be able to "afford" to write software, as they will own patents on basic math operations that a jury wouldn't understand with just a high school education.

Example: The binary math joke about the 10 types of people in the world, those who know binary and those who don't.
not rated yet Jun 09, 2011

Agreed. Patents will be the death of software development. Not even small time developers are safe. There's a company going around suing individual iPhone and Android developers now for "in app purchases". There needs to be an easier way to challenge these ridiculous patents and we need to move the people that issue these patents to another department (I'm thinking, the janitorial wing) and replace them with specialists from each field that wants to file a patent. They'll need a whole floor of software experts for the software patents. They also need to go through and review the existing patents and throw most of them out.
not rated yet Jun 09, 2011
Microsoft does not like people to use illegal copies of its windows operating systems yet was caught red handed stealing a software piece written by a programer working for a much smaller company.
Microsoft wants to establish a new rule: you can steal from smaller companies only. Amazingly Apple and Google sided with Microsoft.
not rated yet Jun 10, 2011
Amazingly Apple and Google sided with Microsoft.

Because they are basically the same? I've been watching Mycrap$oft getting away with stealing from smaller companies and putting others out of business with crooked business practices since its inception. Even in their beginning they sold IBM a bill of goods (DOS) that they didn't even own at the time. Crooked from day one and now days people admire and celebrate Billy-G as if he's some role model because he's giving away a bit of his stolen booty.
not rated yet Jun 13, 2011
I'm quite pleased that the Justices defied pundits' predictions and issued this ruling -- I always thought i4i had the stronger arguments, not to mention many years of tradition and precedent on its side. Moreover, I think there's a decent argument that a strong presumption of validity is indicated in the Constitution; and, on a policy note, in countries with weaker patent rights, there lurks always the danger that well-funded entities can use that lesser standard to bankrupt patentees, or even to deprive them of their IP altogether. Thank you, SCOTUS; well done.

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