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Originally published December 28, 2010 at 5:41 PM | Page modified December 29, 2010 at 6:23 AM

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Companies lining up behind i4i in Supreme Court case against Microsoft

Microsoft has already made permanent changes in its Word software, but the company has appealed a patent case with software-development company i4i to the U.S. Supreme Court. Several large corporations sided with Microsoft in amicus briefs, including Google, Apple, Wal-Mart and Toyota.

Seattle Times technology reporter

More than 100 companies signed a letter supporting software-development firm i4i in a patent case against Microsoft that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear.

i4i sued Microsoft for patent infringement in a $290 million case over an XML editing feature in Microsoft Word.

Microsoft has already made permanent changes removing the feature in Word, but the company has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Several large corporations sided with Microsoft in amicus briefs, including Google, Apple, Wal-Mart and Toyota.

On Dec. 22, 141 companies signed a letter to the Department of Justice in support of i4i's position, including Amgen, Eli Lilly, Genentech, DuPont and Monsanto.

The letter said, "We are greatly concerned that a reversal of the lower court's decision in this case could seriously weaken the presumption of validity that attaches to millions of patents in force in the United States today, thereby undermining long-standing investment-backed reliance interests that are critical for domestic job creation and economic growth, and for U.S. technological leadership internationally."

i4i declined to comment on the letter, which is addressed to the U.S. attorney general and the acting solicitor general. The solicitor general would represent the U.S. government in the Supreme Court case.

Microsoft's appeal questions the standard of proof the jury used in a lower court to decide if Microsoft had infringed on i4i's intellectual property. The case is expected to be heard in spring 2011.

In response to the letter of support for i4i's case, Microsoft said the case is about innovation.

"This case is certainly about protecting innovation. Innovation is harmed by bad patents," said Kevin Kutz, a company spokesman. "When bad patents can't be challenged effectively, that's when innovation is significantly at risk."

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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