Injunction on Microsoft Word unlikely to halt sales

A judge said the software giant can't sell Word if it allows custom XML tagging

A judge on Tuesday ordered Microsoft to stop selling Microsoft Word products in their current form in the U.S., but legal appeals or technical work-arounds make an actual halt of sales unlikely.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas gave Microsoft 60 days to comply with the injunction, which forbids Microsoft from selling Word products that let people create custom XML documents, according to i4i. The ruling, which also includes additional damages Microsoft must pay, are related to a patent infringement suit filed by i4i.

The most common versions of Word on the market now, 2003 and 2007, both allow users to create custom XML documents.

Microsoft did not reply to questions about the affect the injunction will have on it and its ability to sell Word in the U.S. In a statement it said it planned to appeal the verdict.

An appeal could stay the injunction but even if the injunction stands, Microsoft could potentially strip the functionality from Word or possibly build a work-around.

The ruling is unlikely to affect anyone any time soon, said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "It's going to take a long time for this kind of thing to get sorted out," he said.

Custom XML allows people to create forms or templates such that words in certain fields are tagged and then can be managed in a database, said Loudon Owen, a spokesman for i4i. Large companies and government agencies, for example, might create such templates.

I4i's patent covers technology that lets end users manipulate document architecture and content.

In a March 2007 suit, i4i charged Microsoft with willfully infringing its patent. Earlier this year, a jury in the Texas court ordered Microsoft to pay i4i US$200 million for infringing the patent.

Owen said that if the injunction stands, end users who use custom XML in Word will have to find another way to create templates. "Hopefully you're going to call us because our intention is to support custom XML," he said.

The judge also ruled that Microsoft should pay an additional $40 million for willful infringement of the patents and over $37 million in prejudgment interest. That brings total damages to more than $290 million.

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10 Comments

Anonymous

1

At it again

If Microsoft played the rules we would have had a lot more choices in the software we purchase.

Novell would have been a great company and we wouldn't be forced to REINSTALL everything when new operating systems come out like Windows 7.

Anonymous

2

funny how they are getting sued for XML patent infringement while they are currently patenting XML

good

take all their money, burn them to the ground

Carter Cole

3

This is so stupid

I would really like to see the patent XML is an idea for a data structure and its point is to encourage openness applications pass xml snippets between each other for all kinds of things even clipboard data the idea that we can come up with and manipulate text files with some extra <tags> in it is so lame

<opinion>microsoft im with you on this one</opinion>

Anonymous

4

This is outragious

This is outrageous. I too would like to see the patent and specific details of how Microsoft violated it. XML is designed for this type of feature. I hope MS comes out with a work-around soon. I too am in support of MS.

Chris W

5

Maybe its a good thing

Maybe this is a good thing. It's obviously ridiculous but so aren't most law suits involving software patents. If big companies like Microsoft start getting hurt by patens as well as the little guys it could help create the momentum necessary to abolish the granting of patents for computer software.

Anonymous

6

I hate Microsoft, but this is ridiculous. It really highlights how broken the US software patent system is.

Anonymous

7

Ridiculous!

I'm with Microsoft on this one.

The software industry really needs a patent revolution. And yes, unfortunately, I understand how hard that would be.

There should be no reason why different companies can't do whatever they want with XML. If two businesses happen to use XML for the same purpose then good on them! Each company will have found a solution to their problem independently and hence didn't steal anything.

It totally inhibits progress by allowing a single company with a fraction of the worlds brain power to control the way in which XML was used in this instance. Microsoft certainly has its faults (!!!) but if I just happen to find the same solution as someone else then that shouldn't be patentable.

Say I broke into a software company's building and stole their actual source code files ... THAT's called stealing. Or if an employee was hired by another company and they copied the code ... that's stealing.

Anyway, random rant.

Anonymous

8

agreed

yup MS have at least 3 XML patents that are quite in depth on what you can do with XML as well.. "systems that translate xml to another datasource and back to xml" is one such type of patent they have.

I'm all for patent reform.. the fact MS is getting sued over one is irrelevant - they are just another statistic on the software patent abuse front.

Besides, I'm sure we could find an example or two of MS sueing for breach of patents they have (patents, which are equally stupid)

Anonymous

9

What an irony

I am actually happy that this happened to Microsoft. Maybe they will learn something (I guess not).

They bark about their IP being infringed in many open source projects, but now the same happened to them. Of course they will come up with some workaround, but wait, isn't it the same thing that open source projects do to avoid infringing M$ patents? What an ironical situation. Good move i4i, way to go.

Burn M$, burn...

10

Finally some penalty for their business practice... maybe they will think harder next time.

...
For those who don't know what is the EEE business model:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend_and_extinguish

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