Monday, August 31, 2009

Microsoft's appeal brief in Microsoft Word injunction matter

Dennis Crouch at Patently-O has acquired and posted Microsoft's 101-page opening appellate brief in i4i v. Microsoft. Microsoft's argument reads as a who's who in many of patent law's latest major decisions, including
  • KSR v. Teleflex -- obviousness of inventions
  • Cardiac Pacemakers v. St. Jude Med -- 35 U.S.C. § 271(f) does not apply to method claims (although Microsoft argues in terms of § 271(c))
  • In re Seagate -- willful infringement
  • eBay v. MercExchange -- injunctions in patent cases

As you will recall, a Texas judge entered an injunction preventing Microsoft from selling versions of Word which can handle custom XML, and ordering Microsoft to pay $290 million in damages. Read my earlier posts here, here, and here.

Microsoft expressed its clear discontent with the proceedings below:
In patent cases, even more than most, the trial judge’s role as a gatekeeper is crucial. As gatekeeper, the judge must define the metes and bounds of a patent through claim construction and then ensure that the evidence presented by the parties’ numerous experts is both reliable and rooted in the facts of the case at hand. And after the jury has rendered its verdict, it is the judge who, before allowing that verdict to become an enforceable judgment, must ensure that the verdict is adequately supported by the evidence and supportable under the law. This gatekeeping function is especially important in patent cases because of the delicate balance struck by patent law to achieve its objective of promoting, rather than stifling, innovation. That balance can be lost if the district court does not protect the process, and patent litigation then becomes a tax on innovation rather than its guardian.

This case stands as a stark example of what can happen in a patent case when a judge abdicates those gatekeeping functions.
* * *
By the time the plaintiffs presented their damages case, the district court had abandoned even the semblance of gatekeeping. ...
* * *
At this point, if the district court had been more faithful to its role as gatekeeper, it should have recognized a trial run amok and interceded to prevent a miscarriage of justice ...
In sum, justice was denied, and the Constitution violated:
This is not justice. If district courts are free to admit theories of infringement that nullify a patent’s claim terms, specification, prosecution history, and title; if they will allow an inventor to validate his patent by testifying without corroboration that he lied about the date of conception; if they will not intercede to preclude manifestly unreliable—indeed, concededly manipulated—surveys of infringing use, or Georgia-Pacific analyses based on “benchmarks” bearing no rational relationship to the accused product, then patent litigation will be reduced to a free-for-all, unbounded by the requirements of the substantive law or the rules of evidence or trial procedure. While that mode of dispute resolution might enrich some plaintiffs and their investors, it hardly can be said to “promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.
Microsoft then presents a 5-pronged attack on the proceedings below:
  1. Improper claim construction read a key limitation -- the word "distinct" out of the claims
  2. The claims are invalid
  3. Insufficient evidence to support indirect infringement finding
  4. The $200 million damage award is not "reasonable"
  5. Awarding an injunction here is improper
HP and Dell Amicus Briefs

HP and Dell also weighed in. HP and Dell both argued that enjoining sales of Word would impose large hardships, as both of these companies distribute Word. Both companies explained their process for creating images, which are then copied onto new computes. For those computers that include enjoined copies of Word (presumably this number is large, but the amicus briefs are redacted to protect this confidential information), HP and Dell would need to create and test new images, which would cost time and money.

We'll see how i4i responds....

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