See how it feels to be TomTom'd
Microsoft has been ordered to pay at least $200m to i4i, a Canadian software firm for infringing patents in the way that Microsoft Word handles documents. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a jurisdiction famous - or infamous- for its patent-friendly decisions. The jury found …
Please will someone with knowledge about US law educate me. How can anyone appeal straight after a verdict unless there is new evidence?
In the UK, sometimes the judge grants a leave to appeal based on the particular case.
In the US, it seems this is not required and therefore cases can go on and on. Microsoft have big pockets and could win through bankrupting their smaller Canadian rival in a drawn out legal process.
I've checked other sources to try and find which patent this is about. In several stories that quote one of the lawfirms involved they mention US Patent No. 5787499 - the US Patent and Trademark Office list it as a "withdrawn" number.
I don't know what it officially means that the number was "withdrawn", but I think this means is that the patent was filed for but never granted. If it is such - that the patent was not granted - then how can there be a suit over infringing it ?
After a bit of Googling I have to correct myself (partially). A "withdrawn" patent is, in fact, one that was filed for but not issued. There are several situations where a patent may be withdrawn prior to issue - but according to the USPTO, a patent can only be overturned but not withdrawn after issue.
What this means, seriously, is that this lawsuit was complete BS. If a patent is withdrawn it is not issued - if it is not issued, then it cannot be infringed because nobody holds it. If the patent in question - reported as being number 5787499 - does carry that number, then there was no possibility of infringement because the act of filing to withdraw the application preempts the USPTO from issuing the patent.
So either this is some elaborate hoax or MS and the US Court system just got played.
East Texas has turned the controversial issue of software patents into a glorious inter-state protection racket. It's a serious drain on the West Coast's tech industries, and the federal government needs to step in and act. This problem isn't going away, and the fact that East Texas is "sympathetic" to patent holders is no longer a cute joke.
If you're a tech company, DO NOT DO BUSINESS IN TEXAS. They can't get you if you don't do business there. Let the Texans choose between sorting this corruption out or going without any software technology.
RE: "Microsoft have big pockets". Actually the operative "corporate friendly" phrase is "deep pockets". And yes, "deep pockets" utilization is a definite corporate tactic.
And generally in the good old USofA anybody can sue anybody any time for any reason..... generally. There are protections concerning "frivolous" lawsuits, but they get "thrown out" not "denied entry". The judge can throw the case out based on his definition of "frivolity". Of course it's not that simple in reality, but that's the meat of the issue. It's the old adaqe about probability versus possibility. And when it comes to law suits, pretty much anything is possible. Probability of success, at various levels, is open to debate.
Check this out: http://trouble.iotashan.com/jokes/stupid-lawsuits.cfm
As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us".
The problem is that as long as a company has "business presence" in a particular state, they can choose to try a Federal case there. The Eastern District Court of Texas has become notorious for providing a "plaintiff-friendly" venue for patent & copyright cases, purportedly from an aging jury pool obsessed with property rights, and a set of local procedures that expedite such cases. Many "patent troll" operations look to have their cases heard there for this reason.
Sorry, forgot to say, yes you can appeal on new evidence. But you can also appeal on such nebulous and non specific things like: the judge was biased, the judge acted improperly and etc. All it really takes is the will, and the money, to keep going. If after the appeals court does its thing the case can be sent to the US Supreme court. The Supreme court can basically either hear the case and make a ruling or simply not hear the case letting the last ruling stand. So the process does eventually stop, but it can be very, very long. Hence people on death row for twenty-three years before being executed.
Actually, the problem with the US patent system as I understand it is that you're not sure 100% of any patent until you have defended and won it in court. Or, inversly, if you don't defend it, people can argue that you let others use it without suing, hence giving it away implicitely...
(see robert crumb and the keep on walkin' drawings/logos etc that he lost because of that)
I asked a successful real estate developer what it takes to succeed in business. He replied: "Balls and Bullshit, and Bullshit Baffles Brains." I think maybe if he wasn't from east Texas he was, at least in spirit, a resident of that wayward place where recently police have come under investigation for confiscating large sums of money and valuables from motorists passing through and let go only after signing a release form stating they freely gave up their belongings rather than be charged. In at least one case the police and prosecutor threatened to take away a couples children and place them in state care if they didn't hand over their valuables.
Nice place Texas
Well they might be patent trolls, or maybe they had a clever idea BUT isn't it nice when the runners of the biggest cross licencing patent protection racket get bitten too. One has to remember that most IT industry cross licencing is to avoid litigation that would either cripple you financially or reveal the flimsy basis of your patents. If one adds to this the US Patent Office's default stance of allowing you to patent "breathing" or "walking down the road" if it involves software then the reasons become clearer.
Compare what happened in the Creative vs (any other soundcard maker) stakes. Often even if the other maker won the case it had spent so much money and lost so much business to FUD that it would implode AND get bought cheap by creative. The strongest example I can recall was Aureal. So this one of the times I'd cheer a troll.
In the ability to sue over nothing with no proper evidence one need only look at the whole sorry SCO unix/linux lawsuit fiasco. That's still trudging towards the destruction of SCO while enriching its officers AFTER how many years.
as some have noted, law is not as cut and dry as many of us would like. Because it is so open to interpritation, different laws may be in conflict, indeed some laws (under the US system) take precidence over others (the constitution and it's ammendments, as well as state constitutions).
Sorting all this out becomes vary complex, and because of this complexity, it is not assumed that some back-woods judge will have an understanding of the finer complexities of the case, this allows you to apeal to district, state and national level. At each level the courts can refuse to hear a case (which happens to a significat percentage of the cases) and the low court's ruling stands.
If appeals were only allowed for new evidence, there would be little need to take it to a higher court.
IANALAEIIWALIANYL (I Am Not A Lawyer And Even If I Were A Lawyer I Am Not Your Lawyer)
<<The problem is that as long as a company has "business presence" in a particular state, they can choose to try a Federal case there>>
So, if you've got a consultant* in East Texas, you have a presence there?!
So, set up a 'consultancy' in E. Tex, and pay the fuc*ker commission on the results of the lawsuits!
*Consultant(British English):- Has-been, unemployed boring old fart with leather patches on his Tweed jacket, using an ancient old Amstrad from his kitchen table.
@greg, these are held in this district in Texas because goods are sold there. So I LOVE the ACs solution, refuse to sell product there until the patent-troll-supporting judges cut it out. Turn Texas into at least twice the technological backwater it already is.
@mindbrane, sounds like typical texas to me. I went there on vacation about 10 years ago, and was kicked out by the texas rangers, and advised (at gunpoint) "Turn around and leave, don't stop in the state park.. people get accidentally shot there.. *heh heh heh*". They just assumed since I had long hair and was driving a 1972 Caddy that I was a drug runner and were pissed when (after illegally searching my car) they found I wasn't. What a friendly bunch. They did restrain themselves from stealing my cash though.
"How can anyone appeal straight after a verdict unless there is new evidence?"
They go up one level.. there's several layers of courts.. in general it's like a local/county level, then maybe a district level court, then a state appeals court, then maybe state supreme court and federal supreme court. At least as supreme court level, the courts can simply decline to hear a case though.