Microsoft Loses US Supreme Court Appeal Over $290Mil Patent Judgement
i4i claimed Microsoft Word infringed a patented method for editing documents. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Microsoft has lost an appeal to the US supreme court over a $290m (£178m) award made against it in a patent dispute with the Canadian company i4i, which claimed a version of Microsoft Word infringed a patented method for editing documents.
The decision means companies challenging patents being used in court battles will have to provide convincing proof that a patent is invalid if they want to have it set aside. Microsoft had sought to weaken the level of proof needed.
i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, claiming infringement of a patent relating to XML in documents by Word 2007 (and products that included it, such as Office 2007). At a subsequent jury trial, Microsoft had argued the patent was invalid; the jury rejected that claim. It then appealed to the supreme court, saying the trial court’s requirements had put an “overly demanding” standard to its invalidity defence: it had had to prove its defence by “clear and convincing” evidence, rather than the more relaxed “preponderance of evidence”. The difference would be similar to a criminal v civil standard of proof, between “beyond all reasonable doubt” and “balance of probability”.
The decision will have repercussions in cases where patents are the key element of the case – which will affect everyone from smartphone manufacturers to app developers.