Talk about a group of strange allies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apache Foundation, Apple, Facebook, Google and a cast of others are backing Microsoft's attempt to make it easier to invalidate an issued U.S. patent.
Microsoft's ultimate goal, company officials have said, is to make it easier for companies to fight bad patents. By lowering the requirements for proving a patent invalid -- to the same standard as the one required to prove patent infringement -- Microsoft and its backers say would be more fair to those defending themselves in patent-infringement cases. (The EFF, for its part, is claiming that the patent-invalidation change would especially benefit open-source companies.)
The eleven backers filed amicus briefs on Septemer 29, which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case where Microsoft is trying to push through this patent-invalidation idea. The specific case around which this battle is occurring is the Microsoft vs. i4i case involving custom XML. Microsoft lost that case and subsequent appeals of it, resulting in Microsoft having to pull the custom XML feature from Word and pay i4i more than $200 million.
Law.com has a good explanation of the ins and outs of what's happening from a legal standpoint, plus links to the various briefs.
"A decision by the court to take the case could lead to a historic realignment in the patent litigation arena," Law.com said.