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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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  • by mooingyak (720677) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:40PM (#36389802)

    I agreed with you completely until right here:

    As a society, we've completely missed the narrow window of opportunity we had to change the system to prevent this kind of abuse.

    Maybe I'm an optimist, but I believe that software patents are doomed. The major corporations all have little to nothing to gain from them and waste time and resources acquiring them defensively.

  • RTFO (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spiritu (8757) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:48PM (#36389942)

    I realize that this is Slashdot, &tc... but please read the full opinion. As it makes clear, the Supreme Court (in an 8-0 decision, with the Chief recused) agrees that this aspect of the patent system is broken. As it also makes clear, the responsibility for fixing the broken patent system lies entirely with Congress.

    This opinion is a good example of the Supreme Court essentially telling Congress to get its act together and fix the broken patent system. In the meantime, the Court reiterates what the problem is with the patent system in this case, and provides a solution for Congress to implement. But the Court is not empowered to fix the broken statute by itself, so it has to essentially settle for restating what the current broken statute says, and enforcing the law that's on the books.

    Since the broken statute is not unconstitutional - Congress was empowered by the Constitution to act, and it did, poorly - the Court can only point out the flaw and hope the Congress fixes it.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 09, 2011 @12:57PM (#36390096) Homepage Journal

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

    While it totally sucks, Microsoft is the Evil Empire. to wit, from the summary:

    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."

    So when you say:

    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.

    You actually miss the point about why Microsoft is evil. Instead of talking about how software patents are ridiculous, they publicly announce their intention to manipulate the system such that big corporations like them will be able to crush small players (of ill repute or not) like i4i. Got to love that name, huh? Of course, you have to do a little translation. "prevent abuse of the patent system" means "avoid Microsoft and its ilk being harmed by the patent system" and "true innovation" means "strong market position". To Microsoft, it is only justified to wield such a portfolio if you actually use the patents, because they do. There is at least a certain logic to this position.

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