Not any more

Microsoft v. i4i may head to top U.S. court – The Globe and Mail

In Canada on September 2, 2010 at 03:48

The patent battle between small Canadian tech company i4i and software giant Microsoft Corp. (MSFT-Q23.900.431.85%) was always expected to be a legal fight to the finish.

But after several rounds in the lower courts and a big damage claim awarded to the Canadian company by a Texas jury, the dispute could be going all the way to the United States Supreme Court if Microsoft

gets its way.

“We’re in this to assert and enforce our patent rights,” i4i chief technology officer Michel Vulpe said Monday, responding to Microsoft’s move late last week to get the U.S. Supreme Court

to hear the case.

Loudon Owen and Michel Vulpe, of software firm i4i LP.

“We see that not only as an issue for us but as an issue all patent holders to have their rights enforced and to make it clear that companies . . . like Microsoft, despite their resources, simply can’t walk over small patent holders,” said Mr. Vulpe, of Toronto-based i4i.

Microsoft wants the U.S. high court to hear the case, involving some versions of Microsoft’s Word software program.

“Our petition to the Supreme Court focuses on proper standards of proof to determine the validity of a patent, which is a crucial issue for the proper functioning of the patent system,” Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz said in a statement on Monday.

The patent infringement case involves some versions of Microsoft Word dating back to 2003 that use i4i’s technology to process electronic documents.

If the U.S. high court decides not to hear the case, it’s the end of the legal road for Microsoft and it will have pay a total of $290-million (U.S.) in damages that was awarded to i4i at a jury trial in Texas last August.

Patent lawyer Victor Krichker said there hasn’t been a settlement in the case because it’s about more than Microsoft believing it hasn’t infringed on i4i’s patent.

“A large company does not want to be known as an easy target for patent infringement claims,” said Mr. Krichker, partner and head of the high technology practice at Bereskin and Parr in Toronto.

“You definitely want to be known in the industry as somebody that doesn’t roll over when these kinds of claims happen,” he said.

Mr. Krichker said the case is notable because it involves a small Canadian company that has been successful so far against Microsoft.

“It’s an interesting story, especially for Canadian companies, but it’s not necessarily a terribly important legal precedent,” he said. “I would be somewhat surprised if the Supreme Court would take on this case.”

But Mr. Krichker said how the damages, based on a royalty rate, were calculated was somewhat controversial and it has started to have people in the industry take another look at how damages are determined.

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