Microsoft's legal battle with i4i over XML patents has taken another turn after i4i filed 22 amicus curae briefs for the final appeal to the Supreme Court, including one from the US government.
The four-year legal case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court next month, and hinges around an i4i patent issued in 1998 for tools to allow the reading of XML to customise document formats.
The company contends that Microsoft wilfully used the same technology in the word processing software included in the Office suite.
"As you can see from the amicus briefs, and from a letter previously sent to the Attorney General by over 260 signatories, this is an absolutely pivotal case that threatens the ability of inventors and innovative organisations to survive," said Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i.
"Patent protection and the practical ability to enforce a patent are the lifeblood of innovation. Inventions are publicly disclosed in exchange for patent rights and protection. This social contract has enabled the development of the most innovative country in history."
The case began in March 2007 and, nearly two years later, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas fined Microsoft $200m (subsequently increased) and ordered the company to stop selling its Word and Office 2007 software.
"Having a bunch of people file on your behalf is nice for this, but I'm not sure how important it is from a legal perspective," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told V3.co.uk.
"The fact is i4i has won the first three important cases, and the chances of a company pulling something out of the big at this stage are astronomical. The payout looks to be significant for Microsoft at this stage."
Enderle suggested that one of the reasons Microsoft had fought this case to the bitter end was the size of the payout involved. With a case lasting this long the hope in Redmond may have been that i4i would run low on funds and settle for a lesser sum.
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