Microsoft, i4i patent dispute set to be heard by Supreme Court

A four-year old patent dispute is about to be put to rest. In a complaint originally filed in 2007, Toronto-based firm i4i alleged that Microsoft used proprietary code to display XML files in its Microsoft Word 2003 product. A Texas jury ruled in favor of i4i in August of 2009, and awarded the company a $290 million settlement — Microsoft was also barred from selling Word 2003 until i4i’s code was removed. The U.S. software giant has excavated the bits in question, but Microsoft is looking to the country’s highest court for a more preferable decision. After several failed attempts to have i4i’s patents reviewed and invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Both Microsoft and i4i will be given 30 minutes to explain to the eight Justices — Chief Justice John Roberts has recused himself — why the patent is valid. But the case will take on a greater meaning, going well beyond this one piece of intellectual property. Microsoft will argue that patent law, as it currently stands, is stifling innovation, whilst i4i will argue the contrary. The court began hearing arguments this Monday, and its decision is expected to have a significant, and potentially far reaching, impact on patent cases currently in waiting.

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