Microsoft and i4i L.P., a small Canadian tech company, are squaring off this morning in oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court — the climax in a 4-year-old patent-infringement battle between the companies.
At issue in the case is a $290 million verdict against Microsoft for violating i4i’s U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449 through the use of custom XML technologies in Microsoft Word. But the broader question — and the reason the case has generated so much outside interest — is whether to lower the standard that defendants in patent cases need to meet to prove patents invalid in court.
Under the current standard, the evidence to prove a patent invalid needs to be “clear and convincing.” Microsoft argues that the standard should be a “preponderance of the evidence” — the traditional requirement in civil cases, meaning more likely than not. At trial, the company failed in its effort to prove the i4i patent invalid under the “clear and convincing” standard.
Companies including Google, Zynga, Linkedin, Time Warner, Wal-Mart and others have gone on record with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Microsoft’s position. General Electric, Procter & Gamble, 3M, Boston Scientific and many others support i4i in the case — including the U.S. government, representing the interests of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.