Microsoft is heading for the Supreme Court later this year in its ongoing battle with i4i, Inc., a Canadian technology company. The case started in 2009 when i4i sued Microsoft for infringing on its Patent No. 5,787,449 for Microsoft's use of a method to make Microsoft Word products capable of processing or editing custom XML. Since the original filing, i4i has been successful against Microsoft in both the District Court and the Court of Appeals. The USPTO has refused to invalidate i4i's patent and the courts have awarded i4i $290 million in damages and a permanent injunction against Microsoft. As Microsoft attempts to overturn the lower courts' devastating decisions, the usually pro-patent company is finding some unlikely allies in the open source world.
Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Apache Software Foundation, usually critics of Microsoft for its vast portfolio of patents, have filed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft. . In the brief, the groups support Microsoft's suggestions for alterations to the present patent system when it comes to software patents. For instance, Microsoft advocates for stricter standards that would lower the bar to invalidate patents. The current test to throw out a patent is that the infringer must show "clear and convincing" evidence that the patent is invalid. Microsoft instead believes the standard should be lowered to a "preponderance" of evidence.
In addition to the above mentioned amicus brief, several other big players filed an amicus brief for Microsoft this week. This newest group of unexpected Microsoft supporters includes . The massive support from Microsoft's former foes may convince the Supreme Court that the software patent system is broken, or at least in need of some careful tweaking. In addition to suggesting a lower standard to invalidate patents, Microsoft is also behind various such as switching from a first to invent to a first to file standard. Admittedly, this will not affect their present case but reflects their attitude to the present patent system. Look for more on this case as potentially more parties get involved and to see how the Supreme Court handles the issue of software patents.