Update see previous post – April 19, 2011 U.S. Patent Law – David (i4i) versus Goliath (Microsoft Corporation)
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided in a small Toronto company’s ” i4i’s” favour, over the giant Microsoft on June 9, 2011.
All too often large corporations infringe upon a small company’s patent rights and get away with it. Why? Because small company’s do not have, in some instances, $20-50 million dollars in their “defend the company patent budget” and as a result, cannot pursue a large corporation with 50 billion dollars in assets (ie-microsoft) who infringe upon their patent.
A small Toronto company (Michel J.M.G Vulpe; Stephen P. Owens, Infrastructures for Information Incorporated., Toronto, Ontario, Canada – i4i) filed a patent with the U.S. Patent Office on June 2, 1994 regarding a “Method and System for Manipulating the Architecture and the Content of a document separately from each other” . A U.S. Patent (Vulpe et al) – Patent Number: 5,787,449 – Date of Patent: July 28, 1998.
In 2007 i4i launched a civil suit against Microsoft for infringing upon its’ XML editor patent. In Texas, a District Court in Texas awarded i4i $290 million from Microsoft and ordered Microsoft to remove its’ Word (Microsoft Word 2003 & 2007) product from the market within 60 days.
In response to this decision, Microsoft appealed and lost in 2009.
Microsoft appealed the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously sided with i4i and ordered Microsoft to pay the outstanding damages of $290 million (USD) and to stop selling versions of its’ Word software that contains the i4i system.
Many believe that Microsoft knew of the probable outcome, but pushed it anyway, sending a message to small patent owners that if they want to defend their patents, they better have deep pockets and plenty of patience for the long haul.
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the current patent system in the U.S., where those who attempt to have a patent declared invalid must present to the courts “clear and convincing” evidence, as to why the patent should be declared invalid.