Monday, April 18, 2011

i4i chairman speaks candidly about Microsoft patent infringement case

There's a strange irony about i4i's patent case against Microsoft.  Yesterday, lawyers representing both companies pled their different positions before the U.S. Supreme Court -- in one of the most important, and potentially precedent-setting, patent cases in recent memory. Microsoft' defense is essentially an indictment of the patent system, including operations of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Strangest coincidence: The agency was one of i4i's earliest and largest customers for the patented technology in dispute.

"The USPTO itself was the organization that realized the potential of the innovation of what we were doing," says i4i Chairman Loudon Owen. "They were our biggest customer, and the biggest rollout in history. It's a pretty cruel joke to turn around now and say that the patent office didn't understand the industry, considering they were investing an enormous amount trying to manage the whole patent process through our technology."

The significance of this irony cannot be understated because of Microsoft's objectives in the case. A win for Microsoft could fundamentally change the U.S. patent process. But Owen is confident of a different outcome. "I think we will prevail."

I spoke with Owen late yesterday while he waited at Washington-metro airport to fly back to Toronto. His patent battle with Microsoft has been a string of victories that ends -- win or lose -- with the Court's decision, which is expected within a few months.

Many Opposing Parties, One Court


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