Print 27 comment(s) - last by ipay.. on May 26 at 5:48 PM

Open source XML provider i4i defeats Microsoft in court

In its early days Microsoft, oft ignored the open source movement, instead pushing for proprietary standards.  However, more recently the company has made a practice of embracing open standards and then "extending" them in ways that tend to tie them to the Windows operating system, according to critics.

Thus was the case with XML collaborative content standards developed by Toronto-based i4i.  Microsoft took the approach and used it in Word 2003 and Word 2007 to provide a means of controlling the appearance of Word files via embedded tags.  In doing so they modified the XML without permission, in what the courts decide was a clear violation of i4i's patent.

After a fierce court battle, federal court in Texas has found Microsoft guilty of infringing the patent and has ordered it to pay i4i $200M USD in damages
Microsoft spokesman David Bowermaster told reporters that his company plans to appeal the ruling in Federal Court.

The fine is among the biggest ruling arising from a suit from a private entity.  The only one to surpass it in recent history was a
$388M USD ruling by a Rhode Island federal court, over Microsoft's infringement of Singapore-based Uniloc's anti-piracy software.  The court ruled that the technology which formed the basis of the Windows Product Activation (WPA) antipiracy mechanism was clearly an infringement of Uniloc's patents.  Also, Z4 Technologies, in 2004, sued Microsoft over the technology in WPA and won $115M USD in a Texas court.

Microsoft has also started its fair share of intellectual property-based lawsuits.  Earlier this year it sued open-source GPS maker TomTom, eventually securing a hefty settlement.  Microsoft has recently claimed that as many as 235 of its patents are infringed by open source software, something it continues to try to fight with litigation.

The company has fared less successfully with government regulators, though.  The EU has fined Microsoft over $1B USD for antitrust violations.  The EU is currently pursuing new charges against the company.

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By homebredcorgi on 5/21/09, Rating: 0
RE: Fishy
By Spivonious on 5/21/2009 3:38:06 PM , Rating: 2
And does someone really have XML patented? That's like patenting light bulbs or paint.

RE: Fishy
By michael2k on 5/21/2009 4:26:24 PM , Rating: 5
Why do you think paint or light bulbs can't be patented? If you discover a new material to make paint dry faster or less toxic or more vivid, wouldn't that be patentable?

Likewise with more efficient or brighter or effective light bulbs.

RE: Fishy
By borismkv on 5/21/2009 5:59:40 PM , Rating: 5
Um...lightbulbs were (and are) patented. Thomas Edison received the patent for what has become the modern incandescent lightbulb in 1880. It expired some years later and the designs entered the public domain, which allowed anyone to replicate or improve on the design without paying royalties. Subesquent improvements were also patented and new lightbulb designs are still being patented today.

The same with paint. Modern home, automotive, and industrial paints are formulated differently between manufacturers. All of these formulas are either currently patented or were patented in the past. If two companies use the same formula for their paint, you can bet that one company pays the other for the right to do so unless they both use a formula that has entered into the public domain.

XML is covered by a software patent. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the current system of software patenting, since it deals too heavily with the normal patent system. Patent laws for physical inventions aren't quite as useful or applicable to software designs. But, since XML has not exceeded the age requirement for patent expiration, the company/organization/individual that holds the patent has every right to sue for damages if their rights are infringed.

RE: Fishy
By GaryJohnson on 5/22/2009 9:16:31 AM , Rating: 3
It appears to me that they don't have XML patented. The only patent I could find with i4i and XML is pat. 7,206,968: System and method for generating an XML-based fault model. Is this the patent in question? That's definately not a "patent on XML".

The "X" in XML stands for extensible. How could anyone be sued for extending something which is extensible, aka: "capable of being extended"?

RE: Fishy
By adiposity on 5/22/2009 1:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
The name of the filetype does not suddenly invalidate a patent. Yes, XML is intended to be extensible. By who, is another question. In what way, is another. You can't just say, "you designed this to have multiple uses, therefore you have no right to say what those uses will be."

However, I don't think the patent is for XML per se. It seems there's a more specific part of XML that is being focused on, here.


RE: Fishy
By GaryJohnson on 5/22/2009 10:22:05 PM , Rating: 2
You can't just say, "you designed this to have multiple uses, therefore you have no right to say what those uses will be."

XML isn't designed to just have multiple uses, it's designed to be used for anything. It's a language for creating languages. It's not possible to extend it beyond its intended extensibility. If somehow, someway you do then what you have isn't XML anymore; it's something unique enough to have it's own patent.

RE: Fishy
By MikeMurphy on 5/21/2009 3:38:39 PM , Rating: 2
A) The patent was violated in the jurisdiction
B) Texas typically awards much higher damages

RE: Fishy
By homebredcorgi on 5/21/2009 3:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly my point. Note that Z4 Technlogies (mentioned in the article) also sued in Texas. I'm going to take a wild guess and say it is the same obscure city that was used in the Microsoft case. It doesn't seem right that there are specific courts out there that are known to be biased in certain cases - no matter how legal it was for the Canadian company to choose a specific jurisdiction.

My last remark was just attempting to poke fun at the fact that someone had to sue to defend their open source IP.

RE: Fishy
By derwin on 5/22/2009 5:14:33 PM , Rating: 2
You are right, but our country has enough problems affording things like our military, entitlement programs, and the likes; lord knows we ought'nt spend more money on something like a national patent court.
No doubt there are cracks in our patent system, but a cost benefit analysis seems to suggest that we have bigger fish to fry.

RE: Fishy
By Master Kenobi on 5/21/2009 3:40:53 PM , Rating: 2
Texas is popular in software suits due to their verdicts typically in favor of upholding the patent and giving a decent reward to the prosecution. It generally doesn't last once appealed to the federal level.

RE: Fishy
By rcsinfo on 5/22/2009 4:18:16 AM , Rating: 3
This is not a Texas State Court in any way shape or form. It is a Federal District Court (1 of 4 located in Texas and the only one known for patent litigation). Texas voters do not elect the judges as they are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by Congress. Lawyers do not have to pass the Texas Bar to represent clients in this court.

The reason this particular federal court is a popular target of forum shopping stems mainly from the actions of Judge T. John Ward and his "IP Rocket Docket". Patent trolls with a limited budget know that a case will proceed much faster here than in other courts. This can be a huge advantage when chasing after a large company with much greater resources. There are conflicting claims about the rate of successful trials, but all articles I found agree that this court finds for the plaintiff in patent cases much more often than the other district courts.

I don't agree with the actions of this court but unfortunately I can't find anything to support the parent poster's claim of successful appeals against its decisions. The only article that addresses this issue states that there has only been one overturned decision on appeal during the first seven years Judge Ward has been on the bench.

RE: Fishy
By ZachDontScare on 5/21/2009 4:43:11 PM , Rating: 3
Its not Texas as a whole, but a particular court in Texas that's reknown for these types of verdicts. I wouldnt be suprised if it gets overturned once it hits another district. Shopping around for favorable districts should not be allowed.

Open Source?
By TomZ on 5/21/2009 3:56:50 PM , Rating: 2
Jason - Can you honestly answer the question, do you know what the suit is really about?

Because you didn't describe that in your article, and it has nothing to do with open source.

Please aspire to a higher standard...

RE: Open Source?
By Spookster on 5/21/09, Rating: 0
RE: Open Source?
By rmlarsen on 5/21/2009 4:51:28 PM , Rating: 5
You must be new here...

RE: Open Source?
By Alexstarfire on 5/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Open Source?
By freeagle on 5/22/2009 3:44:58 AM , Rating: 4
If you're getting sued over IP infringement it's obviously not open source.

What do you mean? If you used a GPL'ed source code in a commercial closed source application, be sure the owners of the code would have every right to sue you over IP infringement.

RE: Open Source?
By GaryJohnson on 5/24/2009 11:30:45 AM , Rating: 2
The standard GPL doesn't prohibit the use of it's licensed open source material from being used in commercial closed source applications. (In fact it encourages it)

RE: Open Source?
By ipay on 5/26/2009 5:48:19 PM , Rating: 2
That's simply untrue. It doesn't prohibit (as you said) in commercial applications, BUT those applications are then bound by the GPL. Your post would be correct if you had left out "closed source".

RE: Open Source?
By Lifted on 5/22/2009 5:56:28 AM , Rating: 2
You apparently have no idea what open source means.

Open source != free.

RE: Open Source?
By Lifted on 5/22/2009 5:59:00 AM , Rating: 2
And that was completely ignoring the fact that in the process of having a patent issued, you have basically made your idea "open" to the entire world.

eye 4 an eye
By Capsaicin on 5/21/2009 4:25:06 PM , Rating: 5
Seems a little lopsided (real damages vs awarded) to be an "i4i". ;)

Patent System
By shabodah on 5/21/2009 3:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'm very much NOT a Microsoft fan. However, this is yet another case where the patent system is simply to screwed up to function properly, and it is just going to cost us consumers more and more until it is fixed. The entire idea of having software patented needs to be re-evaluated, as does the x86 licensing procedures. These things are holding us back as consumers, and holding back technology. Almost none of the companies that have won related lawsuits deserve any of the money they have been awarded. Please, put a stop to this bastardization of the system.

The irony!
By ctodd on 5/21/2009 10:37:44 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of ironic, stealing other intellectual property (twice) to build a system (WPA) to prevent theft of their own intellectual property. I bet that was embarrassing!

Anything for financial gain
By Beenthere on 5/21/09, Rating: -1
RE: Anything for financial gain
By Tsuwamono on 5/22/2009 12:56:20 AM , Rating: 1
Most companies flirt with the line.. Microsoft just gets caught more then others because they make it so blatantly obvious... Atleast intel does a half assed job of covering it up. Microsoft seems like they dont even try anymore.. they'd rather just throw money at the problem if its discovered.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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