Microsoft $290M Patent Loss Likely to Affect Apple, Google

Dennis Faas's picture

Last week the Supreme Court put an end to Microsoft's long-running attempt to avoid paying a hefty $290 million decision over its use of XML technology found in Microsoft Word, which also affects the Microsoft Office Suite.

The court ruling marks the end of a long journey for the Redmond-based software giant, which has been trying desperately to overturn the decision since last year. (Source:

This decision is said to have a major impact on future cases involving similar conflicts.

Microsoft Supported by Apple, Google

Surprisingly, both Apple and Google supported Microsoft in this case.

That's because the technology industry is currently flooded with patents, often from small companies like i4i, which don't have the capital to properly market their ideas but can make millions in patent infringement cases like this one.

Compare i4i, for example, with Microsoft. The former, which is based in Toronto, has 30 employees. By contrast, the Redmond-based software giant boasts a workforce of almost 90,000.

Court Ruling "Disappointing for the IT Industry"

"It's disappointing for the IT industry," said Michael Barclay, an attorney with the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).

"There are a lot of marginal patents out there, and the opposite ruling would have made it a more level playing field for IT companies in dealing with marginal patents ... There are probably at least 100,000 patents that cover a personal computer," Barclay added.

Researching All Patents Virtually Impossible

"There's no way to get patents to sell a product because you can't research all the possible patents. It can't be done. And if a lot of the patents are marginal and sketchy, you have a big problem." (Source:

Still, give credit where credit is due. In unanimously rejecting Microsoft's position, the Supreme Court sent a clear message: patents will stand, no matter the dynamics of the industry in which it is filed.

For his part, i4i president Lowden Owen is relieved the case is over. "It's hard to build a business when you're operating under the cloud of uncertainty," he said.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet