supreme_court.jpgSan Diego – A patent infringement case between Microsoft and i4i argued before the Supreme Court may cause a domino effect in the technology industry.  Washington-based Microsoft is seeking to change the legal criteria for invalidating patents.

At the core of the Microsoft vs. i4i dispute is a design patent that i4i applied for in 1994 which would allow formatting to be separated from text in word processing documents.  The Toronto, Canada-based tech company sued Microsoft for patent infringement and was awarded damages of $290 million.  Microsoft has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Typically in patent infringement cases, a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence is in play to invalidate a patent.  Such a high standard can make it difficult to invalidate patents once they are granted.  Microsoft is now asking the high court to lower the clear and convincing standard thus making it easier to defend in patent litigation.  Undoubtedly, Microsoft’s efforts to change the legal standard would affect the entire technology industry which depends heavily on patent protection.

The technology industry is no stranger to patent infringement lawsuits for both hardware and software.  Apple recently filed a complaint against Samsung for alleged trademark, patent, and trade dress violations.  The “clear and convincing” standard has been the legal standard since the 1950’s and a departure from that standard could make it much more difficult for companies like Apple and i4i to defend their patents.

A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in June.  If the Court rules in favor of Microsoft, it only means that it will get a new trial.  Under the new standards, it will still have to convince a jury that i4i’s patent is invalid.