Microsoft down to final option in i4i case

Toronto company i4i Inc. has won another legal battle against Microsoft Corp. in an ongoing war over XML patents. And Microsoft may have to make its last stand before the Supreme Court of the United States after three years before the courts.

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied Microsoft’s request for an en banc hearing before the full 12-member court, appealing a jury verdict that Redmond had willfully violated i4i’s intellectual property. Microsoft made the request in early March, after a three-judge panel upheld a $240-million judgment against the company over custom XML technology in Microsoft Word.

Microsoft then asked for a re-examination of the i4i patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. On Tuesday, the PTO certified the validity of the patents.

(Coincidentally, the PTO was one of i4i’s first customers. In 2000, i4i completed a 30,000 unit custom XML deployment for the PTO, which was i4i’s largest single deployment at the time. They no longer have a working relationship, according to a company spokesperson.)Microsoft’s last avenue of appeal is the Supreme Court. Microsoft has until Aug. 27 to have its appeal certified by the court.

I4i filed suite against Microsoft in May 2007. In May 2009, a Texas jury ruled in favour of i4i.

Reached in Shanghai, i4i chairman Loudon Owen said he’s not frustrated by the ongoing legal maneuvering.

“It’s a process,” Owen said. “We’re well aware what the process is … ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends.’ It’s the nature of the beast.”

The process of defending intellectual property rights is “not for the faint of heart … this type of process takes time and it takes money.” Microsoft is reviewing its options. “We continue to believe that there are important matters of patent law that still need to be properly addressed,” said Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs for Microsoft, in a written statement that matched, word for word, Microsoft’s reaction to the April decision by the Court of Appeals.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
A journalist of 20 years experience in newspapers and magazines. He has followed technology exclusively since 1998 and was the winner of the Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in the eEconomy category in 2000. (The category was eliminated in 2001, leaving Webb as the only winner ever.) He has held senior editorial positions with publications including Computing Canada, eBusiness Journal, InfoSystems Executive, Canadian Smart Living and Network World. He is currently the editor of ComputerWorld Canada and the IT World Canada newswire.

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