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US Supreme Court Upholds Patent Decision Against Microsoft

Jim Gates

Microsoft has 15 days to pay a $300 million court settlement. That's according to i4i, a small Canadian software company that sued Microsoft for patent infringement. On Thursday, the US Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold a Federal Circuit Court decision against Microsoft. Reporter Jim Gates has more.


The patent in question centers on software code. The software company i4i created the code to make it easier to search for information in Word documents. I4i claims that Microsoft started using i4i's patented code in the 2003 version of Microsoft Word.

Louden Owen is the chairman of i4i. His Toronto–based company has 30 employees. Owen says the multi–year court battle was like David verses Goliath.

Owen: "There were so many people telling us not to proceed, not to go ahead, that it was impossible to win, and it feels like the right decision was made, justice was done. We're not all jumping up and down with excitement. We're simply saying, Ok, we had to do it, we did it, we didn't want to and now we move ahead."

I4i spent over $10 million to defend their patent. Owen says the $300 million award is for past damages and what Microsoft should have paid i4i had they licensed the technology.

Microsoft has argued that there are flaws in the way that patents are issued, especially in the area of technology. Other companies agree, including Apple, Google and L.L.Bean. They argue that bad patents are hard to overturn and as a result, more and more companies are being dragged into court.

Microsoft would not make anyone available for comment regarding the Supreme Court decision, but in a statement a spokesperson said, "While the outcome is not what we had hoped for, we will continue to advocate for changes to the law that will prevent abuse of the patent system and protect inventors who hold patents representing true innovation."

In the meantime, Louden Owen says his company will continue to build their business, but he does have some advice for inventors.

Owen: "I think inventors, I don't think that they should sleep soundly, they should sleep with one eye open and be ever vigilant and make sure their property is protected and that they can enforce it."

Owen would not comment on the possibility of other patent infringement lawsuits his company might file, however he said i4i is committed to enforcing their intellectual property.

I'm Jim Gates for KUOW.

KUOW's Deborah Wang contributed to this report.

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