Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

Summary: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft to change the ground rules over how patent infringement is determined.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Legal
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The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft to change the ground rules over how patent infringement is determined.

On June 9, the Supreme Court upheld the nearly $300 million verdict in favor of Toronto-based i4i against Microsoft. The justices were unanimous in their decision, according to a Reuters report.

Here's a copy of the Court's verdict against Microsoft (PDF).

Microsoft was attempting to get the court to change what constitutes the proper legal standard for determining a patent’s validity. Microsoft and a number of companies backing its play — including Apple, Google, Intel, Verizon, a number of auto makers, drug companies and financial services companies — were in favor of the Court to make it easier for companies facing infringement suits to prove a patent is invalid.

The Supreme Court agreed in November 2010 to hear the case. News.com reported in April of this year on the arguments in court and provided a transcript of the Supreme Court hearing.

i4i Inc. sued Microsoft for infringement over a patent for custom XML. i4i won the case in the summer of 2009. In December 2009, Microsoft lost its appeal of the case, heard by an East Texas District Court, and was ordered to pay i4i more than $290 million and remove the custom XML technology from certain versions of Microsoft Word.

Microsoft officials said they'd have a statement on today's loss coming soon. Update: And here it is from a company spokesperson:

“This case raised an important issue of law which the Supreme Court itself had questioned in an earlier decision and which we believed needed resolution.  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.“

Topics: Microsoft, Legal

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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88 comments
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  • While I hate Microsoft

    I think they should have won his suit. The patent system needs reform very badly.
    itguy08
    • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

      @itguy08 <br>Your statement should read "very bad", not "very badly", there is a grammatical difference. Maybe you should have stopped at "The patent system needs reform" perhaps. To that we all agree.
      BubbaJones_
      • Hmmmm....are you sure?

        @RicD_ As I see it, in the above sentence "needs" is used as a verb. How or how much something "needs" would be an adverb, so I think "badly" is correct after all. Try changing the word order. Would you say "The patent system bad needs reform" or "The patent system badly needs reform"?

        But hey, exchanges like this demonstrate that the ZDNet talkbacks sometimes serve as a kind of goofball social networking tool rather than as a way to exchange real information.
        FeralUrchin
      • I agree, BUT

        @FeralUrchin

        maybe correct English would be: The BAD patent system needs reform. ;-)
        Economister
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @FeralUrchin
        I understand your comment. My thought is the OP was using 'badly' the same as when someone says "I feel badly". That means it is physical thing, maybe with their hands, not their emotions. So, I read the OP using 'badly' in the incorrect context. Thus, when one feels badly it is a physical thing they cannot do well.

        @Economister
        You may be most correct of us all.

        Thank you both for your comments.
        BubbaJones_
      • ZDNet: Fix you damned comment system

        @RicD_

        "... the same as when someone says "I feel badly". That means it is physical thing, maybe with their hands, not their emotions."

        FYI, that is not the distinction here. In "I feel badly," "feel" is operating as a copula, and therefore can NOT have an adverb. Similarly, the proper answer to "How are you doing?" is "I'm doing good," or some such.
        FTR, the OP was correct.
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @RicD_ I love it when a grammar nazi uses poor diction while correcting someone else!

        "Maybe you should have stopped at "The patent system needs reform" perhaps" is redundant and improper.

        One should not start a sentence with "maybe", then end it with "perhaps"... they mean exactly the same thing.

        Checkmate!
        ddferrari
    • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

      @itguy08,

      Funny, this wouldn't be the first time I disagree with you. However, it would be the first time we switch sides on an issue. I do agree the patent system needs reform. However, the custom XML patent violation, in my opinion, isn't one of those frivilous lawsuits. i4i had created an add in to Word that allowed you to create custom XML documents that would allow you to integrate your business processes. To protect their revenues from Microsoft, they went to the patent office and was granted a patent for an idea that was unique at the time. Microsoft created the same functionality in Word and it was released in Office 2007 as a base feature (i.e. for free). This violated i4i' patent and caused considerable harm to their business. Microsoft should just pay the settlement and leave it alone.
      bmonsterman
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @bmonsterman
        You can't have it both ways?? Either patents are friviously or they are not. It has been my opinion that the holder of the patent should be given lattitude, since they created the thing patented. But some linux people ssaid that should not be so, because it gives microsoft too much lattitude. Which is it???
        eargasm
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @bmonsterman Can you explain what is original about what i4i did? Everybody was getting into XML for just about everything back in the early 2000's.

        Is the i4i idea something that another company or person would have not come have been able to come up with in a timely manner? Would i4i not have bothered to create their idea if they could not patent it?

        I'm very skeptical of software patents because good software is going to be created whether or not a patent system exists. Instead, what we're currently stuck with is a patent minefield that keeps companies and people from developing new ideas for fear of infringement.
        K B
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @windozefreak,
        "You can't have it both ways?? Either patents are friviously or they are not."

        Nonsense. There is definitely a difference between someone who thinks of something, runs down to the patent office and patents it...and then wait to sue someone, and someone who actually creates the product, markets, sells and builds their business around it.
        bmonsterman
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @K B,<br>I thought I did. This patent doesn't simply cover the use of XML in work documents...that would be stupid. It's the ability to create custom xml schemas in Word (via a plug-in) which allows you to integrate your work documents into a i4i's collaboration suite of products. When Microsoft released the new version of word, not only did it cannabalize their business, it also automatically removed the custom xml extensions when ever documents that used the plugins were opened. This caused loss of data for their customers. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of Microsoft. But when they're wrong, they're wrong.
        bmonsterman
    • All this from the same company (MS) that bankrolled....

      @itguy08
      ...the fake patent/copyright attack against Linux?
      Small world!
      kd5auq
      • Except they didn't

        @ kd5auq

        Microsoft bought a Unix licence from Sco. So did Sun Microsystems, amongst others. Microsoft later recommended Sco to a private equity firm called BayStar, who, along with Royal Bank of Canada, ended up investing in Sco. The money that BayStar and RBC invested, however, was their own, not Microsoft's.

        BayStar and RBC apparently thought Sco had a case, and they certainly weren't alone in that. What killed Sco's case was the fact that, contrary to their claims, they didn't actually own the Unix source code copyrights (or the Unix patents), so it was all rubbish from start to finish. That only came out later, however, and if BayStar/RBC had known it at the time, it's unlikely they'd have invested in Sco in the first place.

        Obviously both Microsoft and Sun had ulterior motives in agreeing to buy Unix licences from Sco, and both would have benefited if Sco's claims had been valid. That may even be why they agreed to buy Unix licences from Sco (instead of fighting, as IBM did). In any case, the matter has been investigated, and it's clear that Caldera/Sco were acting on their own, and weren't puppets of Microsoft (or Sun). There was no conspiracy (except in the minds of the aluminium foil deflector beanie brigade).
        WilErz
      • WilErz: MS and SCO

        But there are also the long standing allegations made by MS itself (including in Steve Ballmer's public speeches) that Linux violates undisclosed patents held by MS. MS management may or may not have had anything to do with the SCO litigation (I think they covertly supported it, but it was ultimately Darl McBride's show), but their own public statements demonstrate that they regard the strategy as a legitimate one, and it should be noted that MS did not initiate it's own "intellectual property" campaign until after SCO's efforts were seen to be hopeless.

        BTW: I've never worn a tinfoil hat.
        John L. Ries
    • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infring

      I agree. It's too bad Google or Apple weren't arguing this. No one likes Microsoft. I'm sure even supreme court justices aren't immune to this vibe.
      xyzzxy
    • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

      @itguy08
      What do you expect from political appointees who never can be fired.
      rparker009
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @rparker009
        Amen to that!!!
        eargasm
      • At least if they were elected...

        @rparker009
        ...they might be persuaded to do favors for large campaign contributors.
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Supreme Court rules against Microsoft's attempt to alter patent-infringement rules

        @rparker009

        [i]What do you expect from political appointees who never can be fired.[/i]

        Agreed. This would have turned out very different if justice could have been bought like legislation is.


        :)
        none none