Court To Review Patent Judgment Against Microsoft

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Microsoft's appeal in a major patent infringement case. The issue: What is the proper legal standard to determine if a patent is valid.


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Microsoft's appeal in a major patent infringement case. The issue before the court is this: What is the proper legal standard for determining if a patent is valid?

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: If Microsoft prevails in this case, it could become easier to challenge the validity of some patents. The case stems from a dispute between Microsoft and a Toronto company, i4i, which claimed that a particular editing feature in Microsoft Word infringed on its patent. Microsoft countered that the patent was invalid. Company lawyer Andy Culbert says it should never have been issued in the first place.

Mr. ANDY CULBERT (Attorney, Microsoft): It wasn't new. It had already been done, and you only get a patent on things that are new and inventive.

KAUFMAN: But a Texas jury and then a federal appeals court said Microsoft didn't prove that. Microsoft, however, said the standard of proof required by the court was too stringent.

Microsoft isn't alone. Many major companies - including Google, Apple, Wal-Mart and Ford - are supporting the company's legal challenge. But i4i's chairman said the change Microsoft was proposing would deal a devastating blow to any U.S. patent holder, large or small. The High Court plans to hear oral arguments early next year.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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