While the Supreme Court has taken a more active interest in patents lately, it hasn't worked out to Microsoft's benefit lately. Just as the court is about to finally hear arguments on the patent obviousness case we've all been waiting for for years, the court has turned down Microsoft's appeal of a patent infringement suit that went against them. This isn't really all that surprising, given that there's no major compelling issue in the case to pique the court's interest. However, the case of Guatemalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado certainly has received plenty of attention among folks interested in patent litigation. In many ways, the case is similar to Microsoft's losing effort to fight the Eolas patent. Both involve what's basically an embedding feature in software, that was patented by a small group (or, in this case, an individual), on a minor feature that many people feel was obvious already. The patent holder then forced Microsoft to spend millions defending adding a basic feature (in this case, linking Access databases to Excel spreadsheets). The Supreme Court also turned down the appeal of the Eolas case, so this new decision represents nothing new, other than another person getting money for putting something quite obvious on paper. For a good explanation of why the patent should never have been granted, read Tim Lee's review of the patent. Unfortunately, the Amado patents and case have been held up by individual patent holders as an example of what's right about the patent system, in that it has allowed this single inventor to score millions of dollars from a big company. But, of course, all of that assumes the patents should have been granted in the first place. About the only good news was that Amado only won a small portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars he was asking for.
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