The US Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Microsoft/i4i patent-infringement case and unanimously upheld a lower court finding against the software giant. This was Microsoft's final appeal in the case, which dates back to 2007 and will require the company to pay at least $290 million in damages and other fees.
The Supreme Court noted that Microsoft didn't provide "clear and cogent evidence" that it didn't infringe on i4i's patent, which involves XML document editing, a feature Microsoft added to its Word software when it changed that application's document format to one based on XML. Microsoft has since removed the offending technology from Word but has resisted the charges repeatedly, appealing each time it has lost in court.
Microsoft didn't just lose the infringement ruling. It had also petitioned the court to examine the process that the US Patent and Trademark Office uses to award patents, arguing that the standards were too vague, resulting in patent trolls that never used the technology they supposedly invented but also aggressively pursued those that did, for financial gain. Microsoft feels that improperly awarded patents should be more easily challenged when new evidence arises.
Fair enough, right? Unfortunately for Microsoft, the Supreme Court felt that the software giant's arguments along this line were a last-minute desperation play." That argument comes far too late," the ruling reads. "And we therefore refuse to consider it."
Microsoft tried to maintain a sense of decorum in the face of this bitter loss.
"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," the company noted in a statement. "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."