SOFTWARE GIANT Microsoft's patent battle against the Canadian company i4i will see oral arguments at the US Supreme Court today.
In this long running legal case, Microsoft has taken its defence against patent infringement claims by i4i to the US Supreme Court because it wants US patent laws to be more fairly balanced.
Microsoft wants to see US patent law changed to lower the burden of evidence needed to invalidate patents. That would shift the burden of proof required by patent defendants, making it easier to invalidate patents and harder for patent plaintiffs to prevail. At the moment, defendants need to show clear and convincing evidence of prior art to invalidate wrongly issued patents, which is a high bar.
The patent battle started in 2007 when I4i filed a claim that Microsoft had infringed its custom XML patent. Then in 2009, i4i got won an injunction in the US that stopped Microsoft from selling copies of Word 2003 that contained the custom XML feature at issue. The US courts said Microsoft infringed i4i's custom XML patent and assessed damages of $290 million.
According to the Guardian, both companies have warned that a ruling against them will stifle innovation.
"If you have a really bad patent that shouldn't have been issued, what happens? It stops innovation," said associate general counsel for Microsoft Andy Culbert. But i4i contended that shifting the burden of proof required in evidence would stop technology companies from being innovative.
After losing at trial, Microsoft tried to rally the industry to change the law and filed an appeal at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009, where it lost. Microsoft's lawyers appealed again and lost in 2010. But the company pressed on undeterred by its appellate losses and finally landed today's US Supreme Court hearing. µ
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