The Supreme Court Argument in Microsoft v. i4i: Will the Court Lower the Burden for Proving Patent Invalidity in Infringement Litigation?

The much anticipated oral arguments in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd. took place at the Supreme Court yesterday, April 18, 2011.  The question on all of our minds is whether the Supreme Court will change the burden of proof for parties alleging patent invalidity in infringement litigation from a clear and convincing standard to a preponderance of the evidence standard?   Did yesterday’s proceedings bring us one step closer to the answer?  Jeanne Gills, Partner at Foley & Lardner and Practice Center Contributor, sent in this alert she wrote with her colleagues wherein they highlight the key points from the oral argument and provide some insight as to what the outcome of this important case may be.

For nearly three decades, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has required litigants defending a claim of patent infringement to prove invalidity by clear and convincing evidence. On April 18, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd. P’ship, No. 10-290, the first case to squarely address whether the presumption of validity codified in the 1952 Patent Act mandates a heightened burden of proof for defendants challenging validity in a patent infringement action, e.g., where the prior art was never considered by USPTO. Microsoft contends that the burden should be no greater than a preponderance of the evidence when the USPTO did not consider the most relevant prior art during patent examination. i4i is one of the most significant patent cases in years, and one of the most significant business cases of the Court’s term. Beyond reducing the burden on accused infringers to prove invalidity in patent litigation, a lowering of the standard of proof could widely impact the value of patents. (more…)

Microsoft v. i4i: The Amici Have Spoken

On April 18, 2011, the Supreme Court will hear the much anticipated oral arguments on the Microsoft v. i4i case. This case is being hailed as one of the most important patent cases to reach the Supreme Court in the last 10 years as it has the potential to change long standing precedent in patent law. The Supreme Court is being asked to determine how much proof must be provided when an accused infringer alleges that a patent is invalid.  As the law stands now, in order to invalidate a patent, a defendant must prove that the patent is invalid by “clear and convincing evidence.”  Microsoft is now asking the Court to lower the burden of proof for an invalidity defense to a preponderance of the evidence standard.

To date, 20 amicus briefs were submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Microsoft and as of last Friday, 22 amicus briefs were filed on behalf of i4i (including one filed by the U.S. solicitor general).  As you can imagine, the patent community has been furiously writing about the numerous amici briefs that have been filed on behalf of both parties.  Here’s a sample of what the patent world is saying about this potentially landmark case……..

1.  US government sides against Microsoft in Supreme Court patent case (Computerworld)

2.  BIO’s Amicus Brief: Microsoft v. i4i (Patently BIOtech) (more…)

Solo Cup Decision: False Marking Requires Proof Of Intent to Deceive


I recently read that more than 100 plaintiffs have filed false marking suits in 2010, on the heels of the Forest Group Inc. v. Bon Tool Co. decision.  In that case, the Federal Circuit interpreted the language in the false marking statute to mean that penalties for false marking must be calculated on the basis of each article marked with an incorrect patent number for the purpose of deceiving the public, rather than on the basis of each decision to mark any number of articles.  In a nutshell, the decision had the potential of a penalty increase from $500 per offense to $500 per article marked.

While the Forest Group case left unresolved issues regarding false marking, the Federal Circuit did answer some of the open questions in last weeks Pequignot v. Solo Cup Co. decision,  No. 2009-1547, slip op. (Fed. Cir. June 10, 2010) .

Jeanne M. Gills (Contributor on the Practice Center) and George C. Best, both partners with Foley & Lardner, LLP, published an article in their firm’s newsletter analyzing the Solo Cup decision.  In the article called “False Marking Liability Requires Proof Of An Intent To Deceive Public” Gills and Best write “While this decision provides additional guidance for companies on how to avoid false marking liability, including what evidence may be sufficient to rebut the presumption of an intent to deceive, it does leave open questions to be resolved by future decisions or legislative action.” (more…)