Court denies Microsoft's appeal in i4i patent case

An appeals court has refused to rehear the case that ultimately forced Microsoft to remove a feature from Office 2007, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as the software maker's most likely next step.

Microsoft had asked that all 12 appeals court judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reconsider the case. But on Thursday they declined the request.

The appeals court has already upheld a jury verdict that the software giant willfully infringed on an i4i patent and required Microsoft to pay more than $240 million in damages. Starting in January, Microsoft also had to remove a feature in Word 2007 for creating custom XML documents. The company has said that Office 2010 will not include the offending technology.

Microsoft can now ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, but it's not saying yet if it will. "We're disappointed with the decision," said Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs at Microsoft, in a statement. "As far as next steps, we continue to believe there are important matters of patent law that still need to be properly addressed, and we are considering our options for going forward."

Microsoft has another option as well. In March, three judges in the court expanded on their earlier decision to uphold the jury's willful infringement verdict. That means Microsoft could now ask the full court to review that willfulness decision.

I4i said it was "delighted" with Thursday's ruling. "This has been a long and arduous process, but this decision is a powerful reinforcement of the message that smaller enterprises and inventors who own intellectual property can and will be protected," Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, said in a statement.

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