As the US Supreme Court prepares to hear yet another appeal in the seemingly unending patent dispute between Microsoft and XML specialists i4i next month, some pretty influential folks are starting to take sides -- officially. Perhaps most notably, Acting Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal filed an amicus brief backing i4i and a previous US Court of Appeals decision to uphold the $290 million judgement against the software giant. Other big guns backing i4i with amicus briefs include DuPont, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and GE. Of course, Microsoft's getting a little help from its friends with official I-got-you-bro statements coming from Google, Apple, Toyota, and Walmart. The appeal is expected to hit the Supreme Court in April and has big implications for patent litigation -- specifically, it could give tech giants like Microsoft more guts to go after patents held by little guys like i4i.

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Government says it's got i4i's back in Word patent dispute