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I4i Chairman Loudon Owen quips, "Microsoft is too big for us to buy at this point." He says however, that the goal of his company's lawsuit against Microsoft is not to kill Microsoft Word.  (Source: McLean Watson)
The move is pure legal maneuvering, says firm

Early this week, a Texas judge handed down a painful injunction to Microsoft, banning the U.S. sales of copies of Word that can open .docx files, Microsoft's primary format used in the software.  Microsoft has 60 days to comply with the injunction and cease sales.

The injunction stemmed from a case against Microsoft over its use of XML in its Office Open XML document standard.  The use reportedly violated a patent by Toronto-based i4i, granted in 1998.  I4I pursued the case in Texas federal court, a state known for its aggressive protection of patents.  Indeed, a Texas judge had found that Microsoft had infringed upon the patent and order it to pay $200M USD, prior to the new injunction.

Now i4i's Chairman Loudon Owen is speaking up and says he isn't looking to kill Word with the injunction or start a legal war with Microsoft.  He says the injunction is all about his company getting its fair share of the profits on a technology it developed.  He states, "We're not seeking to stop Microsoft's business and we're not seeking to interfere with all the users of Word out there.  The injunction is not saying there is no more Word for the world.  That is not our intention and that would not be a sensible remedy."

Mr. Owen says that the $200M USD settlement is a big deal for the small company.  He states, "It's obviously a material verdict by US patent verdict (standards), but we think it is fair."

He says that his company's focus is not on the lawsuit, but rather on products.  He says that his company's mission is to bring structure and standardization to global data storage.  He estimates that currently only 10 percent of the world's digital data is structured, something he sees as a big problem. 

The company has only 30 employees, but has been around since 1993.  They have worked with major pharmaceutical companies -- Amgen, Bayer and Biogen -- on software products over the years.  Ironically, the company's biggest contract to date had been overhauling the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's own website for patent submissions.

Asked whether his company could partner with Microsoft for the right price, Mr. Owen showed a bit of humor, quipping, "Microsoft is too big for us to buy at this point...  We are always ready willing and able to partner with any good partner, whoever that is."

Mr. Owen, who co-founded the Mclean Watson venture capital firm, has already brokered one major sale to Microsoft -- a 1994 purchase of 3D animation firm Softimage.



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What a Troll
By clovell on 8/13/2009 10:32:38 AM , Rating: 2
And this schmuck actually has the nerve to come out and basically say, "we're not trying to put them out of business, we're just trying to extort ~$200 million out of them - it's not such a big deal."

It's jerks like this that are a disgrace to the entire concept of IP protection. Every time some little sh*t like this pulls these shenanigans, they jeopordize the concept and all the good things it produces - like life-saving treatments, more efficient vehicles, faster computers, and on and on.

The advancement of technology relies on the very ideal that this guy is exploiting. As far as I'm concerned, him & his company can FOAD.




RE: What a Troll
By GaryJohnson on 8/13/09, Rating: -1
RE: What a Troll
By amanojaku on 8/13/2009 10:59:42 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
It's jerks like this that demonstrate why there shouldn't be such a thing as IP protection.
Wrong. IP protection is a good thing, and you'd understand that if you spent a lot of your time making something, only to have it stolen.

I'm not a patent lawyer, but my review of this "patent" leads me to believe it should never have made it in the first place. You can't patent concepts, but you CAN patent methods. This patent included no methods that weren't generic. It's like saying MS should be sued for duplicating UNIX's "cp" as "copy", or that Linux Torvalds should be sued for making Linux look like UNIX. i4i's patent is as generic as it gets.


RE: What a Troll
By boldingd on 8/13/2009 11:29:33 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Wrong. IP protection is a good thing, and you'd understand that if you spent a lot of your time making something, only to have it stolen.


Can be a good thing, depending on how it's actually implemented. Our system is fairly messed-up: by granting and enforcing such dubious patents, it's working against it's intended purpose.

I've been wondering all week how either this patent or Microsoft's (covered earlier, specifically about XML) don't run afoul of the bloody obviousness standard. Will someone please, please explain to me how a "method of separating formatting and text" is not obvious? For that matter, how did Microsoft manage to loose this case? I don't see how this patent wouldn't be trivial to bust.


RE: What a Troll
By bhieb on 8/13/2009 12:03:28 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
For that matter, how did Microsoft manage to loose this case? I don't see how this patent wouldn't be trivial to bust.

Because the judge does not decide whether the patent should have been issued, rather that once one is it is enforced. He is taking the stance that if the patent office approved it, then it is a valid patent, and therefore under law MS should have complied.

It is the only real power the judge has, the only way to reform the system is by enforcing this crap on a high profile case, so the patent office can see why they should not allow these vague things through. If the judge ruled that he did not care if the patent was legit, and ruled in favor of MS, then it sets a precedent that a legit patent can be overturned by a judge that does not agree with it.

The law says if you have a patent your IP is protected, his job is to enforce/interpret the law. So the question is do they have patent (yes), did MS knowingly violate (Yes). The validity of patent is not for him to decide.

The problem is where is the check and balance for the patent office? Who ultimately decides if it is a valid patent. I'm not sure, but my guess is that there is a dispute process, but no outside party regulates the patent office. They have no personal liability for approving bad patents, and thus no motivation to improve the process.

Personally the only way I see a fix is for MS to counter sue the patent office.


RE: What a Troll
By boldingd on 8/13/2009 12:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
I was under the impression that a patent actually could be determined to be invalid at trial. You're right, tho, in that, if that's not the case, we definitely need some checks-and-balances in the patent system.


RE: What a Troll
By bhieb on 8/13/2009 1:27:58 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no expert by any means, but I was always under the impression that the courts could only determine if it was violated, but not really if it is valid/vague. So if it is way to vague I guess they could say the patent was not violated, but it does not invalidate patent (just makes it harder to collect on). Here even though the concept is a vague, the internal emails and such show that MS knew it was in violation so he had no choice.

Even if they could, my contention is they should not. The courts have better things to do. We have arms of the government that police other arms (FBI, DOL, DOJ...). It is all part of the checks and balances system. My concern here is that they answer to no one when it comes to issuing bad patents. I'd be willing to bet they have some sort of review that says ok you've done x% more patent work this year and cut costs by $y, looks good here is your funding. I doubt whether or not the quality of the program is ever taken into consideration.


RE: What a Troll
By CABCDEFG on 8/13/2009 1:04:35 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The law says if you have a patent your IP is protected, his job is to enforce/interpret the law. So the question is do they have patent (yes), did MS knowingly violate (Yes). The validity of patent is not for him to decide.


That's completely wrong actually. When someone is sued for patent infringement, the defendant is able to counter-sue that the patent is invalid under the U.S. patent laws.

Once this counter-suit is filed, it is up to the judge and jury to decide whether the patent or valid or not.

The fact that a patent has been issued does not make it valid - it only gives the patent holder a presumption of validity in the court of law.


RE: What a Troll
By bhieb on 8/13/2009 1:32:11 PM , Rating: 2
Cool someone who knows. I was just arm chairing this one.

So it is the courts job to police the patent office. Still flawed since the idiots granting these have nothing at stake. Something has to be done to hold them liable for bad patents (via funding or something), and free up the courts to do meaningful work.


RE: What a Troll
By Fritzr on 8/14/2009 6:28:53 AM , Rating: 2
The PTO has a "reexamination" process. If anyone can find prior art that would limit or invalidate a granted patent then they can pay a fee and have the patent examined by an examiner who has not previously examined the patent being questioned. Anyone can file the request. Sometimes it is infringers seeking to prove that they are infringing an invalid portion of the patent. Sometimes it is the inventor checking to see if some "prior art" found after issuance will affect the patent. Sometimes it is just a person or corporation looking to break or modify a patent.

The presumption is that previous examinations based their findings on the evidence available at the time. So it is required that you introduce new evidence if you wish to modify or cancel a patent once it has been issued.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is using this process successfully :)
http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2009/01/07


RE: What a Troll
By GaryJohnson on 8/13/2009 11:46:23 AM , Rating: 2
I do a lot of volunteer design & devlopment. So understand that I do spend a lot of my time making things only to give them away for free.


RE: What a Troll
By amanojaku on 8/13/2009 1:11:49 PM , Rating: 2
You CHOOSE to give your work away. That's not the same thing as someone stealing something from you. When you give something away you are explicitly giving anyone (or a subset of people) permission to obtain your work. This is the model that open source software uses, with some open source software being free for all but commercial use. When someone steals that person has not received permission, and that is why we have patents, licenses, etc...


RE: What a Troll
By GaryJohnson on 8/13/2009 1:31:02 PM , Rating: 2
I know that's the way it works now. I'm saying it should work differently.

If two people have the same idea, one of them shouldn't be able to stop the other from using it or expect to get payed when they do.


RE: What a Troll
By Jucken on 8/13/2009 12:11:24 PM , Rating: 2
You really need to watch Prof. Robert Dewar's lecture on software IP:

http://ccsl.ime.usp.br/files/copyrights-saopaulo.p...


RE: What a Troll
By GaryJohnson on 8/13/2009 1:06:06 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. - Thomas Jefferson


RE: What a Troll
By Skott on 8/13/2009 12:49:12 PM , Rating: 3
$200 Million is nothing for MS to pay out. It Wouldnt surprise me if they pay them off. I guess it comes down to how winnable the case is.


RE: What a Troll
By intelpatriot on 8/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: What a Troll
By gescom on 8/14/2009 9:42:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They have worked with major pharmaceutical companies -- Amgen, Bayer and Biogen --


same jerks just smaller.


He's right, his goal is too
By michal1980 on 8/13/2009 10:23:58 AM , Rating: 5
be a parasite. And live of the success of others. Company is working on nothing more then finding a non-goverment source of welfare.

software patents are getting sick.




RE: He's right, his goal is too
By ricleo2 on 8/13/2009 10:47:28 AM , Rating: 5
Give this man a 6.


RE: He's right, his goal is too
By chick0n on 8/13/2009 11:26:48 AM , Rating: 3
I give you a 10000000 +


RE: He's right, his goal is too
By omnicronx on 8/13/2009 12:02:18 PM , Rating: 5
I think perhaps you people should actually read on this case. At first I surely thought this was an obvious case of patent trolling, but upon further investigation it seems MS dug their own grave on this one.

First off i4i actually has products, and have been active in the industry for more than 15 years, being very active in the pharmaceutical industry.

Second this is not about using XML, but the way in which MS implemented their usage of custom XML schemas. (if you want to call them that)

Specifically :
'A system and method for the separate manipulation of the architecture and content of a document, particularly for data representation and transformations. The system, for use by computer software developers, removes dependency on document encoding technology. A map of metacodes found in the document is produced and provided and stored separately from the document. The map indicates the location and addresses of metacodes in the document. The system allows of multiple views of the same content, the ability to work solely on structure and solely on content, storage efficiency of multiple versions and efficiency of operation.

Which infringed upon this patent:

"Method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other."Sure it sounds generic, but it was i4i's idea and employed by them through various XML based solutions for various pharmaceutical companies.

Funny thing is, this was probably not the nail in the coffin. MS started to advertise how these new custom XML schemas could be used, in which they went out of their way to outline many usages in the pharmaceutical industry (far more than anything else), which happens to be i4i's bread and butter.

Go read up, this case definitely seems to have some merit, unlike most of the cases that we usually see in Texas. They are actually in the industry, nor did they just file the patent like we are seeing with these cases vs Apple. Yes it seems they went out of their way to file in a patent friendly state, but that does not mean the case does not have any merit.

Microsoft is definitely infringing on i4i's core business, so from my point of view, they are in the right. Sure the patent seems a bit generic, but remember it is from 1998 (probably developed and filed beforehand as they have been around since 1993), XML was definitely a new piece of technology and as such a patent that seems generic today, may not have been 10 years ago. (this is where this case varies, this is not like a multitouch patent that was filed for after a release of a major product in which they are looking to cash in even though their patent should have never been approved)

Furthermore this even for Texas injunctions like this are not very common, in fact you would be hard pressed to find a major product that this has happened too recently. Now I am obviously not a patent lawyer, but from my point of view an injunction like this just shows how serious the judge thinks the violation actually is.


RE: He's right, his goal is too
By joex444 on 8/13/2009 1:17:09 PM , Rating: 2
This is the whole point, though. That line about manipulating the architecture separate from the content is just an idea. To me, the patent is really about the map of metacodes where it is stored SEPARATELY from the document. This being at least a method of implementation rather than just a goal or objective.

We all, clearly, have no idea how MS coded the Word application itself. But it should be fairly straight-forward to figure out how their .DOCX files are stored. Now, on the surface of it we can all certainly agree that in order to send BOTH the architecture and content of a Word document, one need only email a SINGLE .DOCX file to someone. This appears, so far, to mean that the architecture is *NOT* stored separately from the content and thus does not implement the metacode map method that i4i does have patented.

On the other hand, MS could have achieved the metacode map by having Word rip apart a .DOCX file into an XML structure and a content file. This would make .DOCX more like no-compression ZIP or RAR between the XML and apparently plain-text file. This would mean that Word does in fact violate the i4i patent held on implementation of metacode maps with separately stored architecture and content. MS only took this one step further and bundled the two together, but did not do so in a way so as to render them indistinguishable (which would, as far as I can see, not violate i4i's patent).

Anyone know which of these cases is true, because it is apparent that exactly one must be true.


RE: He's right, his goal is too
By esandrs on 8/13/2009 5:31:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
On the other hand, MS could have achieved the metacode map by having Word rip apart a .DOCX file into an XML structure and a content file. This would make .DOCX more like no-compression ZIP or RAR between the XML and apparently plain-text file.


DOCX is totally an actually-compressed ZIP file with XML information inside. You can verify it by renaming any DOCX file to ZIP and opening it to see the contents.


Is it just me...
By MrBungle123 on 8/13/2009 10:49:46 AM , Rating: 5
or does that guy look like an evil Bob Saget?




RE: Is it just me...
By peldor on 8/13/2009 10:53:32 AM , Rating: 5
Are you suggesting Bob Saget isn't evil? I demand proof.


RE: Is it just me...
By MrBungle123 on 8/13/2009 10:55:29 AM , Rating: 1
A tool of epic proportions maybe, but evil... nah I wouldn't say evil.


RE: Is it just me...
By MrBlastman on 8/13/2009 11:03:13 AM , Rating: 2
Bob Sagat is so evil he's already swallowed your soul and you don't know it yet.

That's why he has a big smile on his face all the time...


RE: Is it just me...
By Etern205 on 8/13/2009 2:51:54 PM , Rating: 2
If evil Bob Saget knew who uses Word, then he may have not create the lawsuit in the first place. x)

http://www.funnyphotos.net.au/images/microsoft-wor...


We just want...
By Smilin on 8/13/2009 10:19:40 AM , Rating: 2
All the free publicity that comes with getting tangled with Microsoft.




RE: We just want...
By phatboye on 8/13/2009 10:47:52 AM , Rating: 5
...and 200M...


RE: We just want...
By Smilin on 8/13/2009 10:53:39 AM , Rating: 3
That too. 200m won't buy this kind of publicity though. I bet their website has gotten more clicks in a week than it has in it's lifetime.


what goes around comes around..
By rameshms on 8/13/2009 11:52:39 AM , Rating: 1
It isn't like M$ has been all holy.. Remember the patent issues created by SCO against novell & ibm. and MS part in it by financing SCO

Having said that i agree 2 wrongs don't make a right.




RE: what goes around comes around..
By Smilin on 8/13/2009 4:10:30 PM , Rating: 2
Ah the bitter little guys who spell Microsoft with a $.

Is there any old issue (relevant or not) that you won't drag up?

What does SCO have to do with any of this?


RE: what goes around comes around..
By Jalek on 8/14/2009 4:20:50 AM , Rating: 2
SCO wanted to be this guy, just like Novell before them with their purchase of DR DOS and those suits.

I hope MS's corporate lawyers dig up enough from this company's products to get a judgment of their own to dwarf this one. I don't like Microsoft's business tactics, but this guy just oozes sleaze.


By HinderedHindsight on 8/13/2009 12:21:21 PM , Rating: 4
http://www.i4i.com/x4o.htm

This product specifically is an XML authoring tool that works exclusively in Word. So effectively, they now have a product that they won't be able to further market and sell as a result of the injunction against Word. I understand this product is not the core of it's business, but I do find it mildly ironic.

If this injunction does go into effect in 60 days, I'm wondering if businesses in the US could sue I4i for damages as a result of lost productivity. This is more of a joke than anything, but for some companies, taking away the ability to buy Word would do serious harm as they could not allocate licenses for new employees; my current company is actively hiring new business side employees whose jobs will depend almost exclusively on their ability to write up documents. Seems like maybe I should stop posting and start purchasing licenses....




not out to kill word
By tastyratz on 8/13/2009 10:25:27 AM , Rating: 2
Just collect on the fat of the land from a 10 year old ridiculously ambiguous patent. Jackasses like them are why the patent system blatantly needs reform in the US.

Wonder if they patented the delete key too.




What a waste
By wickedworld on 8/13/2009 11:42:13 AM , Rating: 2
I thought it might be a good thing if MS worked with open standards. Now with this i4i tool (and whoever comes next) maybe MS should just go back to using only their own file formats. Who knows maybe the next legal combatant will look like an evil Dave Coulier.




Death of XML
By Robear on 8/13/2009 2:15:55 PM , Rating: 2
How many file formats are moving to XML?

Think of how many companies are going to be scared to move to XML file formats as a result of this lawsuit.

How many open standards define a consistent way to structure data in a file? Will these all die now in fear of i4i?

This patent is ridiculous, and i4i should be ashamed.




By bersl2 on 8/14/2009 6:43:27 AM , Rating: 2
Software patents suck. But MS is a major proponent of software patents. Therefore, I want to enjoy this schadenfreude as much as possible.




The simle
By Kyanzes on 8/14/2009 10:22:59 AM , Rating: 2
I can understand the smile. :)




Whatever
By kickn67 on 8/13/2009 10:54:45 AM , Rating: 1
I'm sure you guys would have different feelings about this if you had a patent on something you developed and someone else was using it for their profit.




Flash of Genius
By jayton420 on 8/13/09, Rating: -1
RE: Flash of Genius
By Dribble on 8/13/2009 11:55:39 AM , Rating: 4
Do you actually understand what the patent was?

It basically says instead of doing bold in a document using
/b This is bold //b

Using two files, the first with the text:
This is bold

then separately having another file that says:
Make chars 1 to 12 bold.

How can that be a defendable patent?
The scariest thing is the judge - how on earth can he have awarded them the win? Is he corrupt, stupid, or what?


RE: Flash of Genius
By omnicronx on 8/13/2009 12:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but you are incorrect, by your account XML schemas in general infringe upon i4i's patent which is just not the case.

In this case it is the way in which the XML files are read, specifically the use of of custom XML schemas which were essentially developed and deployed by i4i before anyone else. I thought perhaps there would be a case for prior art, but it seems i4i really has a case here as their technology is deployed in their products.

I think this case has merit for two big reasons.

1.MS specifically marketed the advantages of their custom schemas to the pharmaceutical industry, which was i4i's bread and butter.

2.i4i was actually the first company to bring XML based documents to word, long before MS had abandoned their much hated proprietary format (think it was Word 97). The product was called x4o (XML for Office) and is very similar to Microsofts implementation. This reason alone would be enough for an injunction, as MS is pushing the third party out of the market by infringing their patent. It seems this one was left out of many of the articles around the net, but is very pertinent to the case.
http://www.i4i.com/solutions/Edit_XML.htm


RE: Flash of Genius
By akugami on 8/13/2009 6:29:36 PM , Rating: 2
XML was based on SGML which has been around for many many years.

i4i may have valid products but this case reads like a classic patent troll case. Not to mention there seems to be legit prior art on this.


RE: Flash of Genius
By smitty3268 on 8/13/2009 8:06:18 PM , Rating: 2
Can anyone explain why HTML/CSS don't infringe on this patent? Or do they, and i4i just went after MS first?


RE: Flash of Genius
By Jalek on 8/14/2009 4:09:13 AM , Rating: 2
CSS has been around longer than this patent, at least in proposal form. Besides, who would they get a check from if CSS did violate their IP?


RE: Flash of Genius
By smitty3268 on 8/15/2009 12:56:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
CSS has been around longer than this patent, at least in proposal form.

Well then, why doesn't that invalidate this patent as prior art? Actually, I knew it predated it, I just couldn't tell what the difference was supposed to be.

quote:
Besides, who would they get a check from if CSS did violate their IP?

Well, Microsoft, Apple, and Google all have deep pockets and create a browser to parse the CSS files - that doesn't sound any different from what Word is doing to me. Mozilla, Opera and others would be vulnerable as well. If the patent has to do with creating the xml files and not the way it is read back, then every company out there which ever created a website could be a target.


RE: Flash of Genius
By akugami on 8/13/2009 6:19:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How can that be a defendable patent? The scariest thing is the judge - how on earth can he have awarded them the win? Is he corrupt, stupid, or what?


Nah, he's from Texas. Texas, as all /. and most DT'ers know, is the legal home of patent trolls everywhere. Seriously, anyone arguing that i4i has a legit patent, all they need to know is that Texas is where 90% of all patent trolls file their suits in.


RE: Flash of Genius
By Jucken on 8/13/2009 12:22:28 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I would recommend that you all check out the movie "Flash of Genius." It is a very good movie about this very topic.


I recommend reading Thomas Jefferson's letter to Isaac McPherson for another viewpoint:

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/...


What about the law?
By teknurd on 8/13/09, Rating: -1
RE: What about the law?
By SMShadowman on 8/13/2009 11:01:11 AM , Rating: 4
You obviously know nothing about this case. Microsoft did not steal anybody's IP. These guys are patent squatters who obtained a vague and broad patent on an already well-known technology for the sole purpose of suing Microsoft.

They did absolutely nothing to earn this money other than abuse the patent and legal system. These guys are crooks, not innovators.


RE: What about the law?
By omnicronx on 8/13/2009 1:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You obviously know nothing about this case.
Pot, meet kettle..
quote:
These guys are patent squatters
Wrong.. they are well known company in the field.
quote:
who obtained a vague and broad patent on an already well-known technology
Really? XML only came out 2 years before this patent was approved, nor was it 'already well known' at the time as it was still in its infancy.
quote:
for the sole purpose of suing Microsoft.
So I guess thats why they develop products for many pharmaceutical companies, at the time were considered leaders in the field and had major projects such as redesigning the patent system website and submission tools for the US patent Office? Nope.. you must be right, this was just a smokescreen for their real goal, bringing MS to their knees..


RE: What about the law?
By Fritzr on 8/14/2009 6:48:02 AM , Rating: 2
I read the Associated Press story on this. They had additional information. i4i is a tech company that developed and used the document format in the patent. i4i LP is a separate company created by i4i for the express purpose of going to court on issues dealing with the IP of i4i. So technically i4i LP is a patent troll. In practice they are the legal department of a small tech company.

Since the spokesman is employed by i4i LP, then he will speak as if his company's sole focus is legal action...quite correct since the company lawyers are rarely involved in R&D, Product Development, Sales or Marketing.


RE: What about the law?
By damianrobertjones on 8/13/2009 11:04:32 AM , Rating: 2
Please try not to use the word retard as it offends retards.

It also offends lots of people who have made comments and one of them could be a nutter and stalk you. Or sue you for 200m


RE: What about the law?
By amanojaku on 8/13/2009 11:07:08 AM , Rating: 2
So you're saying teknurd should sue himself? Sounds like something a retard would do. ;-)


RE: What about the law?
By MrBlastman on 8/13/2009 11:11:56 AM , Rating: 2
/tasteless comment of the day

Just give him a pair of scissors and put them in his hand, that'll take care of the problem.


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