U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Strong Presumption of Patent Validity in Microsoft v. i4i LP


Washington, D.C. – The United States Supreme Court  has issued a decision in Microsoft v. i4i LP, against Microsoft and unanimously reaffirming that patents are presumed to be valid at the standard of clear and convincing. 

SCOTUS.gifMicrosoft had argued for a lower standard of the presumption of validity. The decision will require Microsoft to pay i4i over $290 million in damages.

Patent attorneys for i4i brought this suit against microsoft[1].pngMicrosoft alleging that Microsoft infringed i4i’s patent for a method of editing computer documents. Microsoft used the patented technology in  its Microsoft Word  program.                                                            

The decision affirmed the Federal Circuit Court‘s decision below.  Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion, which Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, Breyer, Ginsberg and Kagan joined.  Justice Thomas concurred with a separate opinion.  Justice Roberts recused himself. The case has been widely reported and commented on.  See, e.g. Reuters, Seattle Times, and The Financial Times.  Legal blogs have also extensively covered the case.  Dennis Crouch’s Patently-O commentedthe court acknowledged policy arguments both for and against a strong presumption of validity (Citing Lemley & Lichtman), but in the end decided that it was bound to follow Congress and the common law precedent.”  The SCOTUS blog commented:

The Court offered a nice summary of the policy arguments on the two sides of the case, but it firmly abjured any willingness accord those relevance in the decision: the contrast to the grand style of the policy-laden discourse in eBay and Bilski could not be more obvious.  To the i4i Court, Congress’s frequent attention to patent law in recent decades strongly suggested that the Court should not step in to reject the Federal Circuit’s settled rule.  This part of the opinion was particularly remarkable not only for the stylistic contrast to the Court’s pre-2011 patent cases, but also because of the Court’s frequent suggestions that little about the proper meaning of a statute can be gleaned from Congress’s failure to amend it.

A large number of amicus curiae briefs were filed on behalf of both sides. Indiana’s Eli Lilly & Co. joined an amicus curiae brief in support of i4i.   An audio recording of the oral argument is available hereThe merits briefs, including the amicus briefs, are available online on the American Bar Association‘s website.  The docket number in the U.S. Supreme Court is 10-290.

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