Supreme Court to hear Microsoft appeal of patent judgment

Redmond challenging $290 million verdict in favor of Canadian tech company

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From the "It's Not Over Until It's Over" Department, Microsoft has successfully persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a $290 million judgment won by a Canadian technology company which claimed that the software giant infringed on one of its patents.

From the Associated Press:

Toronto-based i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool used in Microsoft Word. The technology in question gave Word 2003 and Word 2007 users an improved way to edit XML, which is computer code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document's contents.

Lower courts had ruled in 2009 that Microsoft was guilty of willfully infringing on i4i's patent. Redmond was ordered to pay the Canadian company $290 million and to cease selling versions of Word that include the technology at issue. Microsoft complied with the latter, but has been holding out on paying i4i until its legal options were exhausted.

David Howard, Microsoft's deputy general counsel for litigation, said the Supreme Court's decision is "a clear affirmation that the issues raised in this case are critical to the integrity of our patent system," according to the Associated Press. Or maybe it's a clear indication that Microsoft has the legal guns to take the case all the way to the high court. I'm just sayin'.

Litigation Fun Fact: Chief Justice John Roberts was not involved in the court's decision to hear the appeal because he owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Microsoft shares, according to his 2009 annual disclosure report. I bet he wishes he sold them and invested the money in Apple.

The court is expected to hear the appeal sometime in 2011.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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