Microsoft loses U.S. Supreme Court case on patent

Thu Jun 9, 2011 7:38pm EDT
 
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By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp suffered a defeat on Thursday when the Supreme Court upheld a record $290 million jury verdict against the software giant for infringing a small Canadian company's patent.

The justices unanimously agreed with a U.S. appeals court ruling that went against the world's largest software company in its legal battle with Toronto-based i4i.

The high court refused to adopt Microsoft's lower standard to replace the long-standing requirement that a defendant in a patent infringement case prove by clear and convincing evidence that a plaintiff's patent is invalid.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft had argued that a lower standard of proof involving a "preponderance of the evidence" would make some "bad" patents easier to invalidate while promoting innovation and competition.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the opinion, said the court rejected Microsoft's contention that a defendant need only persuade a jury of a patent's invalidity by a preponderance of the evidence.

When Congress has prescribed the governing standard of proof, its choice generally controls, she said.

The Obama administration and i4i opposed Microsoft's position and said Congress had accepted the standard in effect for the past 28 years and the Supreme Court should uphold it.

The legal battle began in 2007 when i4i sued Microsoft. A federal jury awarded $290 million to i4i after finding that Microsoft, in 2003 and 2007 versions of Word, its word processing application, had infringed i4i's patent relating to text manipulation software.   Continued...

 
<p>i4i Chairman Loudon F. McLean Owen (L) and Chief Technology Officer and Founder Michel Vulpe pose for a portrait in Toronto, July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>