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Supreme Court Rules Against Microsoft In i4i Case 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the done-and-done dept.
CWmike writes "The US Supreme Court has let stand a $300 million patent infringement ruling against Microsoft, granting a victory Thursday to i4i (PDF), which filed the lawsuit back in 2007. The legal battle already forced Microsoft to modify certain functionality in its Word application in 2009, when the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled in favor of Toronto-based i4i and told Microsoft to stop selling Word in the US. At issue was an i4i patent that covers technology that lets users manipulate the architecture and content of a document, which i4i alleged Microsoft infringed upon by letting Word users create custom XML documents. Microsoft removed the feature. '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,' Microsoft said in a statement."
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Supreme Court Rules Against Microsoft In i4i Case

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  • So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by errandum (2014454) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:25PM (#36389588)

    One of the patent hoggers got what they deserved.

    The whole patent system needs a revamp but it is to protect us from companies like Microsoft, Apple and whatnot. They are the ones stiffing innovation.

  • by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:26PM (#36389606) Homepage Journal

    I know it's popular to portray Microsoft as the Evil Empire, but this totally sucks. While you all are laughing at the irony, keep in mind that this is only going to convince big companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Cisco, etc. that they need to hunker down even more in developing extensive patent portfolios and vigorously defending them. It's the only way to survive as a business these days, to have enough goods to establish a mutually assured destruction scenario if someone sues you. Unfortunately, it also looks like patent trolls are going to be encouraged from now on. As a society, we've completely missed the narrow window of opportunity we had to change the system to prevent this kind of abuse. I guess we were too busy watching Snooki, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, I hope it was worth it.

    This system is so hideously broken, so apparently messed up with no will or way to change it, that it sometimes makes me want to get out of the IT industry altogether.

  • by Tsingi (870990) <graham DOT rick AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:37PM (#36389754)

    I guess we should all be patenting the obvious use cases of all standards.

    Same story, different day. What a joke. i4i should go around suing every company using XML with predefined tags.

    Yes, this is a joke. Microsoft is using XML to do something XML was designed to do, how can someone patent that?

    It hurts a little to say this, but Microsoft is in the right.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:39PM (#36389788)

    Mutual Assured Destruction cannot be used to defend against patent trolls. They create no products, therefore cannot possibly infringe on any patents, which means no matter how many patents you have, you can't counter sue them. Their whole business plan consist of buying patent on the cheap, and suing anybody who makes a profit in any area remotely related to the patent.

  • by cozzbp (1845636) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:40PM (#36389804)

    I know it's popular to portray Microsoft as the Evil Empire, but this totally sucks.

    I totally agree, and I also think it's totally asinine to celebrate this as a victory, regardless of what you think about Microsoft.

    Patent No. 5,787,449 [google.com] is the most broad-ass patent I've ever read in my entire life. The only person this is a victory for, is that dumbass Loudon Owen [cnet.com].

  • Re:So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:42PM (#36389826)

    Shame that, if there is any patent reform legislation, it will be written by Microsoft, Apple and whatnot.

  • Re:Too funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:42PM (#36389834)

    "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", Microsoft said in a statement.

    Someone needs to let Paul Allen [slashdot.org] know about MS's change in attitude about patents.

  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:43PM (#36389848) Journal

    "We want our cake and eat it too."

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:58PM (#36390126)

    This specific Supreme Court review didn't really touch on the technology issue, though, just the legal standard of proof, since the question they were reviewing was a pretty narrow one of statutory construction. Section 282 of the patent code specifies that, when a patent is challenged in court:

    1. "A patent shall be presumed valid."

    and

    2. "The burden of establishing invalidity of a patent or any claim thereof shall rest on the party asserting such invalidity."

    I disagree with that as a matter of policy, but that's what the Patent Act says, and absent any claim that it's unconstitutional, the only thing the Court was asked to decide here is what "burden" means, legally.

    The Federal Circuit (a lower appeals court) has held for some years now that "burden of establishing invalidity" means that the party bringing a challenge must show "clear and convincing evidence" of the patent's invalidity. Microsoft argued that, for prior art that the patent office had not already considered in its review record, the burden of establishing invalidity should be lower, with a "preponderance of the evidence" standard.

    I'd prefer the lower burden of proof, but this question isn't really at the heart of why we have a patent mess; at best it's a symptom.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @01:01PM (#36390180) Journal

    "We want our cake and lie about it too."

    FTFY

  • Re:Too funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @01:10PM (#36390362)

    So now they have a good reason to change the system they've been abusing for the last decade.

    Maybe it was second nature, or just the context of your point, but what you said is corporations changing the system they have been abusing.

    What is tragic to me is that it is not the citizens being represented here. The whole system does not work at all for the consumer or society. We need major reform of the entire copyright/patent/trademark system starting with the fundamentals...... that public domain is the most valuable thing we own and that it needs to be protected first.

    The way corporations want it, and that includes MS (and especially Disney), is that the public domain does not exist at all. They keep pushing for permanent ownership of ideas and expressions without the possibility of being put *back* into the public domain.

  • Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @01:15PM (#36390452)

    As it also makes clear, the responsibility for fixing the broken patent system lies entirely with Congress.

    Well, then we are truly and fully fucked.

  • Re:Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamchou (993073) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:28PM (#36391656)
    On the contrary, maybe this is a good thing. Its good that it happened to the 800 lb gorilla Microsoft instead of the little companies that can't afford to do anything about it. Microsoft has the money and political clout to lobby congress into getting something like this fixed. The little software companies would be rendered completely ineffective at trying to change something. I just hopes this means Microsoft is going to get this fixed
  • by jmcvetta (153563) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @03:04PM (#36392196)

    this is such a brain dead obvious thing to do that the fact that it is patented and worth 300 million dollars is fucking ridiculous!

    When it comes to monopolizing ideas, the most brain dead obvious ones are the most valuable, because everybody uses them.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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