The U.S. Supreme Court today pressed lawyers representing Microsoft about changing existing patent law as the software giant argued to overturn lower court rulings that it infringed on patents held by i4i, a tiny Toronto company.
The case has become one of the most important in patent law in years. Microsoft is hoping to create a precedent that would make it harder for companies with patent claims to prove infringement. Several large technology companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Cisco, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Microsoft's arguments. At the same time, i4i's case has drawn support from big pharmaceutical companies, venture capitalists, universities, and the U.S. government.
As the heart of the case is the degree to which companies accused of infringing have to prove that a patent is invalid. In the i4i case, the district court ruled that Microsoft had to provide "clear and convincing evidence" that i4i's patent--covering the way XML, or Extensible Markup Language, is used in Microsoft Word--is invalid. Microsoft wants the court to lower the standard, requiring defendants to offer only a "preponderance of the evidence" to invalidate a patent.
For more on this story, read Supreme Court queries Microsoft on patent law on CNET News.