Microsoft: Word patent ruling, injunction 'miscarriage of justice'
Lower court judge let trial 'run amok,' company argues in appeal of $290M award
Computerworld - Microsoft Corp.'s lawyers late yesterday said the verdict that awarded a Canadian developer nearly $300 million in damages and resulted in an impending ban on sales of the company's popular Word software was a "miscarriage of justice."
In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Microsoft asked the three-judge panel to overthrow a Texas court's verdict and quash the injunction that prohibits the company from selling current versions of Word 2003 and Word 2007 in the U.S. after Oct. 10.
Software development company i4i Inc., which first accused Microsoft of patent infringement in 2007, wasted no time in firing back.
"The appeal brief filed by Microsoft is an extraordinary document," said i4i's chairman, Loudon Owen, in an e-mailed statement. "It captures the hostile attitude of Microsoft toward inventors who dare to enforce patents against them. It is also blatantly derogatory about the Court system."
Microsoft's brief is the first step in a fast-track process approved last week after Microsoft appealed the May jury verdict that found the company guilty of patent infringement. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis, who oversaw the case, awarded i4i more than $290 million in damages and interest, and blocked Microsoft from selling Word in its current form.
An oral hearing for the appeal is slated for Sept. 23, after i4i files its response and Microsoft is given a chance to rebut.
Yesterday, Microsoft castigated Davis for the way he handled the trial. "This case stands as a stark example of what can happen in a patent case when a judge abdicates [his] gatekeeping functions," Microsoft said. "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."
The 84-page brief, thick with legal citations of prior cases, continued to attack Davis' judgment during the case, saying that he failed to properly instruct the jury, awarded "enhanced" damages of $40 million -- which was $15 million more than i4i had asked for -- and added the injunction against selling Word.
"This is not justice," Microsoft said. "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 & then patent litigation will be reduced to a free-for-all."
Attorneys for Microsoft also argued that Davis should not have issued the injunction that bars Word sales. Citing a Supreme Court ruling from 2006 that set aside a lower court's injunction against eBay in a patent dispute over its "Buy It Now" auction feature, the lawyers said i4i had failed to present evidence that justified Davis' injunction.
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