Microsoft has finally reached the very end of the road in its battle with i4i over U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449. According to FT.com, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Microsoft's argument that it should be able overcome the presumption of a patent's validity by a mere "preponderance of the evidence" rather than the currently required "clear and convincing evidence." The court indicated that only Congress could modify the standard.
If you'll recall, the patent covers "manipulating a document's content and architecture separately," and in May 2009, a U.S. district court agreed that versions of Microsoft Word that included XML functionality did infringe i4i's patent. The court ordered Microsoft to stop selling those versions of Word until they could be modified to remove the functionality. The court also awarded the small Canadian company a record $290 million in damages.
Microsoft pulled out all the stops in the appeal process. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision and then denied rehearing en banc, or a rehearing before the entire court, Microsoft asked the Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine the patent. The PTO did so and reaffirmed the patent's validity.
That's when Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to hear its case. The decision in i4i's favor means Microsoft will have to pay up on the trial court's original damage award. And according to some observers, it could make the way easier for small patent holders against what FT.com calls "deep-pocketed defendants."