BIO Joins 261 Business, Research Institutions and Organizations to Urge Caution in Microsoft v. i4i Case*
January 11, 2011
*UPDATE - 90 more organizations have decided to add their names to the letter sent to the Department of Justice. Please find the new letter.
Please find attached an open letter to Attorney General Holder and Acting Solicitor General Katyal, signed by 171 businesses, research institutions and organizations of all sizes, representing U.S. innovation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The signatories include leading innovators in agriculture, biotechnology, consumer products, electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering, green energy, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, software, telecommunication and other sectors.
In signing this letter, BIO calls on the U.S. Department of Justice to proceed cautiously in developing the U.S. Government’s position in the ongoing high-profile patent litigation between Microsoft and i4i, a small software company. This case has recently been accepted for review by the United States Supreme Court and is being closely watched by domestic and foreign businesses from every technology sector, including biotechnology.
In this case, the Supreme Court is being asked to reconsider a longstanding rule of patent law, according to which those who challenge a patent before a lay jury or judge must carry a heightened burden of proof. Under the current law, infringers who seek to overturn a patent must prove the facts of their case to a high degree of probability, by “clear and convincing evidence.” The rule ensures that patents that have been examined and issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and that have been relied on by patentees and the public, can only be overturned on strong, reliable, and convincing evidence.
In Microsoft v. i4i, the U.S. Supreme Court is now being asked to lower this burden of proof. As now proposed, patents could be invalidated more easily in district court litigation by using evidence that was not noted in the USPTO’s patent examination file. Effectively, patents that are challenged on such evidence would carry only the weakest possible presumption of validity – a “preponderance” standard according to which courts could overturn patents even if the facts of the case are established only to a 51% likelihood. This would be a big change in longstanding law that could make it significantly more difficult to rely on strong patent rights for licensing, partnering, investment, and product development decisions in all industry sectors.
We believe this case to be of critical importance to U.S. innovation policy, and are greatly concerned about its potentially negative consequences for domestic innovation, job growth, and U.S. technological leadership internationally. Because the U.S. Government’s position is likely to be very influential in this Supreme Court case, we ask that the Department of Justice weigh these implications carefully, and arrive at any official position only after consulting a broad range of stakeholders whose perspectives differ from those of a narrow group of big companies who would benefit from such a shift in the law.
A comprehensive collection of documents in this case can be found at http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/microsoft-v-i4i-limited-partnership/ and http://www.i4ilp.com/papers.php .