Thursday, June 9, 2011

Victory for Inventors!: Supreme Court of the United States Upholds the Higher Burden of Proof for Patent Invalidity

Today the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in the Microsoft v. i4i case. There, Microsoft challenged the long-standing standard of proof for patent invalidity requiring "clear and convincing" evidence to invalidate a patent, in favor of a lower "preponderance of evidence" standard. There, Microsoft argues that the heightened standard insulated "bad patents" from invalidity challenges and stifled competition.

The Court rejected the arguments and upheld the higher standard deferring to Congress' role to write and mandate laws. The Supreme Court opinion also noted that Congress had made many changes to the patent laws recently, but chose not to change the standard of proof." Congress specified the applicable standard of proof in 1952 when it codified the common-law presumption of patent validity," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the Court. "Since then, it has allowed the Federal Circuit's correct interpretation of §282 to stand. Any recalibration of the standard of proof remains in its hands."

At last, the Supreme Court has empowered "the little guy" a bit with this decision, after years of eroding patent rights. As powerful companies flouted the patent rights of small inventors often believing they take their technology because they can out-spend them in court, at least now, the "little guy" has a fighting chance, helping creative inventors realize value out of their inventions and stop wholesale stealing of their property.

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