Print 25 comment(s) - last by sviola.. on May 12 at 2:03 PM

Currently Microsoft owes i4i $300M USD in damages for infringement of its Custom XML patented technology. Microsoft used Custom XML in the best-selling Office 2003 Suite. Microsoft may appeal to the Supreme Court.  (Source: Photobucket)
Microsoft is unwilling to pay its big infringement fine

Microsoft has tried and tried to beat Toronto, Canada-based software company i4i in U.S. Federal Court, but has been handed a long string of defeats.  In May 2009 it lost a patent infringement case to i4i and was ordered to pay $200M USD in damages.  Then in December 2009 it lost its appeal to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in an increased judgment of $300M USD in damages, including $40M USD tacked on for "willful" infringement.

Now it's lost yet again, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Microsoft plea that the patent used in the case be reexamined.  Microsoft is left with two options -- pay the big fine or try to continue its climb up the legal ladder to the only remaining rung -- the U.S. Supreme Court.  That may be what it decides to do, its lawyers indicate.

Microsoft's Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz responded to the defeat of the USPTO request for reexamination, writing, "We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake, and we are considering our options to get them addressed, including a petition to the Supreme Court."

I4i has made it clear that it claims no ill intentions towards Microsoft.  It claims it merely wants to be rewarded for the Custom XML scheme that cost it millions to develop, which Microsoft liberally borrowed from and used in its best-selling Office 2003 Suite.  For the small company a reward would mean it could continue its format development work, while a defeat could spell financial ruin for the business who took a gamble on the massive legal fees required to carry out a litigation campaign against Microsoft.

The company writes in a statement, "i4i’s ‘449 patented invention infuses life into the use of Extensible Mark Up Language (XML) and dramatically enhances the ability to structure what was previously unstructured data. As the magnitude of data grows exponentially, this is a critical technological bridge to controlling and managing this sprawling octopus of data and converting it into useful information."

This core element of the case -- Custom XML -- is a scheme for storing and displaying rich information.  Microsoft used Custom XML in Office 2003, but did not pay i4i licensing fees, according to the plaintiff's claims.  Microsoft disputes this, but has since removed Custom XML from its Office products via a patch to escape a court order forcing it to cease sales.  The Office 2010 beta/RTM builds notably do not use Custom XML, as well.  Custom XML should not be confused with the similarly named Open XML, which is unrelated to the case.

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software patent = fail
By sukidesu on 5/11/2010 4:23:36 PM , Rating: 5
Innovations are innovations. They just used something someone else has used before. Now i4i get's free money because they put their flag down and declared it theirs first. Kind of like when the European countries were like "This new America land and it's millions of citizens? Ours! India and it's millions of citizens? Ours too!"

Microsoft is at an unfair advantage because they are picked on more for being a big company. God forbid someone create a successful company and manage it well, turning it into one of the most profitable companies in the world. Oh, and provide computer access to billions of people on the planet. Let's go after them because they had the same idea as us. Oldsmobile should sue every other car manufacturer for manufacturing cars because they were there first.


RE: software patent = fail
By mcnabney on 5/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: software patent = fail
By xmichaelx on 5/11/2010 5:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
None of which has any bearing at all on the merits of the case at hand. Thanks, tho.

RE: software patent = fail
By mcnabney on 5/11/2010 8:39:44 PM , Rating: 1
Your right. Pilfering IP from Wordperfect and 123 is nothing at all like the pilfering they were caught doing again.

RE: software patent = fail
By rcc on 5/12/2010 12:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
It's a time honored tradition. After all, it's not like 123 and WP were original products.

Visicalc and Wordstar? And they probably had predecessors too.

RE: software patent = fail
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 5:40:07 PM , Rating: 2
When was it used before? This is not like Apple patenting multitouch gestures, if you can find a similar implementation that predates the 1994 patent application, I would tend to agree with your statements on the matter, unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.

I find it funny that you are defending MS here. Big players should be picked on when they knowingly infringe on others IP. Microsoft KNEW there was a patent that covered Custom XML, they just ignored it (which is one of the reasons the extra 40 million was tacked on to the settlement).. Nobody else specifically infringed on i4is core business in Custom XML. If i4i left Office's Custom XMl implmentation unchecked, why would anyone continue to buy their products?

Lets get a few things straight here, this is not a case of MS happening to develop the same technology as someone else without their knowledge. They knew, and i4i proved this during the case.

RE: software patent = fail
By drycrust3 on 5/12/2010 1:19:45 PM , Rating: 1
Wrong! If you go to the trouble of researching and developing a line of software for a niche that no one else thought of, and that line of software is profitable, then obviously you would be annoyed if you saw another company was giving away software that was not only similar, but pretty well identical, especially if they had used only your software as the basis for their research and development. This is what has happened here: Microsoft, who is also the dominant player in the PC operating system market and the supplier of the Microsoft Office Suite, set out to put i4i out of business by giving away software that not only did almost exactly what i4i's did, but little else besides.
The fact it did little else besides indicates they just used i4i's software as the basis for their research, and not that their (Microsoft) range of products that matched i4i's was coincidentally developed while developing a broad range of marketable software packages that were intended to sell Microsoft Office.
If Microsoft had given away a broad range of free packages which included some that could have been easily modified to do what i4i's did, they would have got away with this; if they had given away a broad range of packages that included some similar to what i4i's did, but not their whole product range, they probably would have got away with it; but no, they decided to give away almost exclusively only packages that were pretty well identical to what i4i did and little else. If Microsoft charged higher prices from i4i, they probably would have got away with it too. But no, they gave it away, and as the dominant player in the market, that can easily be seen as using their marketing position to put another business out of business by "unfair tactics".
Whether that is illegal or not in America I don't know (I'm not American), what I do know is that the American courts decided that Microsoft must stop selling or giving away that software while they appeal their huge fine.

How to be a bad loser
By dark matter on 5/11/2010 3:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
Lost, lost, lost, and lost.

I hope that if they lose this one, they get truly hammered for it.

By carniver on 5/11/2010 5:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake

MS is right about this one; I just hope shall they be defeated in Supreme court, someone will still look at the present shortcomings of PTO.

As they should
By ZachDontScare on 5/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: As they should
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 4:02:02 PM , Rating: 3
Yay for trolls who think everyone is a patent troll..

Only load of BS is your lack of research. Research.. you know that easy thing to do with Google at your fingertips? Perhaps you should do some, or look back on previous DT articles/comments on the subject to see why this case is the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

i4i have several products which use this technology, even plugins for Office itself that use the technology which predates Office 2003. They have also been in talks with MS for licensing fees for some time, they did not wait for the product to become successful.

RE: As they should
By ZachDontScare on 5/11/2010 4:32:10 PM , Rating: 1
I didnt say they were patent trolls - they own and use the patent. If you think I did, please quote the part of my post where I call them patent trolls.

I said the *patent*, like many software patents, is pure BS. Wow, storing ui info in XML. How... original.

Its one thing to patent a new encryption algorithm, or video compression algorithm. But storing structured info in XML? Please. That should have been rejected outright. Thats the whole point of XML, which they didnt invent.

They're just looking for a big payday, and like a lot of modern businesses, they find its easier to get it from litigation than it is through selling product.

RE: As they should
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 4:57:36 PM , Rating: 2
I didnt say they were patent trolls - they own and use the patent. If you think I did, please quote the part of my post where I call them patent trolls.
More of the usual, you see a headline with someone suing a big company and you assume that the patent is invalid. You did not post anything to prove your point, you just said 'AS THEY SHOULD THIS PATENT IS BS!!!'

Even when you do make some points, they are once again done without research. i4i's patent application for the patent in question predates XML, and clearly identifies the differences between it and SGML (XML's predecessor). Making matters worse, the implementation discussed in the patent is VERY similar to that of Office 2007's implementation.

The fact that XML was designed for this use is irrelevant, if the technology existed beforehand. Thats why this case has merit.

I agree that the patent system is flawed, but in this case you can't fault i4i. They developed the technology, and they have for some time sold products using this technology, and for that reason they are one of the few that actually deserve their payday.

Making matters worse, none of this would have ever occured if MS just payed its licensing fees. I also don't agree with your big payday theory. If you read the patent, it surely seems that many of the elements of XML itself violate their patent in the first place, yet they choose to focus only on products/services that infringe on their core business. (i.e Custom XML offerings)

RE: As they should
By ZachDontScare on 5/11/2010 5:23:41 PM , Rating: 1
So in other words, given your evasion, you were in fact wrong , I didnt call them patent trolls. Again, please quote the part where I use the phrase 'patent troll' in my original post. Otherwise just admit you were wrong so as to avoid embarrassing yourself further.

The merits of the so-called innovation have been done to death. This isnt a new story. Any competent programmer would find this 'technology' quite ordinary. That its even called 'technology' is rediculous.

RE: As they should
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 5:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
Its called making an inference!

I've read the patent, in doing so, its not hard for me to pinpoint someone who has not. You were the first comment and made a one liner without backing it up.. It really was not that big of a stretch.

Furthermore, are you seriously going to sit here and call me 'wrong' when your own comments pretty much prove my statements?

That patent is a steaming load of BS.

They're just looking for a big payday, and like a lot of modern businesses, they find its easier to get it from litigation than it is through selling product.

If you think the patent is invalid and you think they are just looking for a big payday... what exactly do you think you are inferring?

RE: As they should
By Reclaimer77 on 5/11/2010 6:21:38 PM , Rating: 1
So can I patent storing baked potatoes wrapped in tin foil to be baked in ovens??

That makes about as much sense as this patent. Face it Omni, you are only taking your side because Microsoft is involved.

RE: As they should
By someguy123 on 5/11/2010 6:26:24 PM , Rating: 3
The actual patent is quite vague and is filled with a history lesson on the advancement of type to inflate its length.

It essentially says i4i owns all rights to using code based formatting for text, which would mean i4i owns all rights to basically all forms of current text input.

This time I'm going to have to side with the big m$ here and say that this patent really has no merit.

RE: As they should
By Samus on 5/11/2010 6:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't seen the court documents myself, but something tells me if THREE sessions of court all indicated copyright infringement, especially against a homeland company, then this is going no where for Microsoft.

RE: As they should
By Jaybus on 5/11/2010 4:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
Here's some research.

Documentation on creating the same thing in Emacs from 1996. It goes back further than that, but I couldn't find older Emacs docs quickly. Moving from a binary version of custom markers in Emacs to a XML version in Word is absolutely obvious to one trained in the art. It's like moving from configuration information stored in the binary registry to configuration info stored in an XML file. Neither deserve a patent, because they are obvious to any half way competent programmer.

RE: As they should
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 5:03:38 PM , Rating: 3
Here is mine:

Inventors: Vulpe; Michel J. M. G. (Toronto, CA), Owens; Stephen P. (Toronto, CA)
Assignee: Infrastructures for Information Inc. (Toronto, CA)
Appl. No.: 08/253,263
Filed: June 2, 1994

RE: As they should
By dvinnen on 5/11/2010 10:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
Reading through the patent there is no mention of XML (probably based off of SGML) which makes sense because XML wasn't invented till 1996. But the gist of the patent is interpreting type setting based off of meta data opening and closing tags. Only twist is saving those tags start and stop locations in memory to easily provide different views of the data.

If so it sounds like LaTeX to me ( ) which has been around since the '80s (based off of TeX, written by CompSci legend Donald Knuth)

Also, if this patent stands the the CSS standard would also be in violation.

RE: As they should
By omnicronx on 5/11/2010 5:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
And if it was so obvious, why did it take 4+ years for it to be truly realized with XML? (what i4i's patent covers was not present in XML's predecessor)

RE: As they should
By Jaybus on 5/11/2010 4:22:16 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. Custom XML is a use for which XML was designed in the first place, hence the "eXtensible" in its very name. The PTO is not supposed to award patents for an idea that is "obvious to one trained in the prior art". Tagging a word or phrase as a means to tie it to data stored elsewhere....hmmmm. Isn't that about what a HTML hyperlink does? The difference between HTML and XML is that in HTML, the tag type is predetermined. In XML, the tag name can be anything, so long as there is a schema defining the tag. XML was designed to be extensible. Duh! You don't even have to be very highly trained in the prior art. A retarded chimp could have "invented" Custom XML.

I'm not a big fan of M$, but this is BS. Must be political. Certainly isn't technical.

RE: As they should
By sviola on 5/12/2010 2:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not defending i4i or MS, but the patent is from 1994. I might be wrong, but you can't look at what they patented with 2010 eyes, afterall, what today is common sense for even the begginer programmer, might not have been 16 years ago (hence, XML being created 2 years after the patent file).
And also, by the ongoings of the law suit, the courts have agreed that Microsoft infringed the patents (and knowingly), so, I wouldn't assume the patents are BS.

RE: As they should
By bhougha10 on 5/11/2010 6:48:02 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's kinda funny. This patent and most patents are a bunch of BS. But you know what is funny, I bet MS sues companies for a lot less meaningful patents.

I remember Ms threatening a kid who's name was Mike Row to change his website name or be ready for the hammer. (different thing, but dont' feel to sorry for MS, they do thier share).
In any case, we need MS, so get back to work people.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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