Print 86 comment(s) - last by BansheeX.. on Aug 21 at 12:35 PM

A Texas court has banned sales of Microsoft Word and copies of Microsoft Office containing word until a final decision is reached in a copyright infringement trial. Microsoft has 60 days to cease sales.  (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft also faces more damages over willful infringement

Microsoft's Office 2003 and 2007 wove XML into Word, with the introduction of .docx, otherwise known as Office Open XML, as the format of choice.  The new format brought an open standard and better storage to the application.  Unfortunately, it also turned into one of the company's biggest legal headaches.

In making Office, Microsoft implemented technology seeming covered under a 1998 patent (No. 5,787,449) by a developer of collaborative-based content solutions, Toronto-based i4i.  The patent covered "manipulating a document's content and architecture separately." 

A Texas federal court ruled in May that Microsoft had infringed on the i4i's patents and ordered Microsoft to pay $200M USD in unpaid royalties.  Microsoft was reportedly hurt in the proceedings by a published trail of emails that indicated that the company knew that it was infringing on i4i's work.  Microsoft disagreed strongly with the verdict and promised to fight it in appeals court.

Now a US District Court of Eastern Texas judge, Judge Leonard Davis, has ordered sales of Microsoft Word in the U.S. banned until a final judgement is reached.  The injunction also came with an order for Microsoft to pay an additional $40M USD for willful infringement, $37M USD in prejudgement interest, and $21,102 per day in additional fines.  The court also is asking that Microsoft hand over $144,060 a day, until the final judgement and damages are paid (though it may get some of this money back).

Until the final decision is reached, Microsoft is banned from selling any version of Microsoft Office containing copies of Word that can open .XML, .DOCX, or DOCM files containing custom XML.  Microsoft has a mere 60 days to comply with the injunction.

With Office being one of Microsoft's staple products, and with the .docx format being the current default format, an appeal seems inevitable.  Microsoft has not issued a formal response yet to ban on Word sales.

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By Visual on 8/12/2009 8:30:50 AM , Rating: 5
First of all, the docx extension is not "Open Office XML", but "Office Open XML" and is a MS format that has nothing to do with Open Office. Your mistake is very misleading.

Second, that patent is retarded and the patent system itself is retarded to allow it. The judge for this ruling is also retarded, as is the US legal system in general.

By wempa on 8/12/2009 8:38:03 AM , Rating: 5
Agreed. I am more and more amazed each time I read another one of these vague patents that get issued. These patents should never be issued since they are way too broad. Heck, I think I'll apply for a patent on looping constructs in programming languages. I should be able to collect royalties on pretty much every piece of program code that's been written.

By Golgatha on 8/12/2009 8:53:50 AM , Rating: 5
In other news...

Retarded judge unable to issue written judgment due to a blanket WGA deactivation of every copy of Word 2003 and 2007 in the free world. Chinese government spokesperson angered that roughly 10% off all Chinese businesses are negatively effected by this overreaching DRM. Also, Microsoft releases Word 2010, which is basically 2007 without the ability to save in docx format.

By KashGarinn on 8/12/2009 9:38:21 AM , Rating: 5
I think you're underestimating the intelligence of the judge in question.

The judge clearly wants a reform on the whole thing, and the quickest way for a judge to get things changed is to get a high-profile victim, with a really obvious case, and rule to the strictest sense of the law, to show people how stupid the law is.

He did right in judging this way, if he wants the thing changed, what better target than M$ who most likely have a lobbyist working for them.

The 3 way system of power within government is a great system, but it makes it hard for judges to point out when laws are stupid and should be changed without victimizing people under the old stupid law.

By invidious on 8/12/2009 10:02:14 AM , Rating: 1
Agreed, if there is a problem with the law it is important to fix it. Leaving it fosters the idea that is OK to break the law as long as you don't agree with it. And enforcing an unjust law is even worse.

But I wouldn't be so quick to assume the judge's motives. It is not his place to judge the law, only the people accused of breaking it. It is his job to enforce the law to the letter wether he agrees with it or not.

And ultimately I don't understand what authority a state judge has to impose a federal ban on an international corporation. Judges making rulings behond their authority is worries me far more than overly generic copyright laws.

By invidious on 8/12/2009 10:03:51 AM , Rating: 2
Nevermind about that last paragraph, just saw the comments that he is a federal judge.

By Samus on 8/12/2009 11:41:17 AM , Rating: 3
$200 MILLION? Really? What the hell is up with everybody picking on Microsoft lately. Sure, they need to be lightly regulated and monitored but this is out of control. Eventually they're not even going to turn a profit because of all these fines and injunctions.

Huh. Just in time for the back to school seasons, too. That's a bitch students won't be able to legally purchased required software for their classes.

By jonup on 8/12/09, Rating: -1
By rcc on 8/12/2009 6:32:45 PM , Rating: 2
This is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

If they don't have open standards, etc., people bitch. If they do, people bitch. Interestingly enough, it's often the same people.

In this case, a patent for saving file content and formatting separately? Are they kidding? I don't know what the right answer is for software patents, but this kind of thing is getting absurd.

So, if they come out with a Word version that doesn't support the .docx format, will the EU fine them for restricting the rights of consumers? You have to wonder...

By Regs on 8/13/2009 8:54:33 AM , Rating: 2
Wtf is wrong with people and their hysteria against organizations that make profit? Profit makes a corporation grow, feed more families, give more job opportunities, promote careers, give raises, give stock holders dividends, and pay for health care. The bigger the fire the more it takes to feed it to sustain it. Like our economy, it was only a matter of time before some one screamed, fire!

SERIOUSLY WTF IS UP WITH PEOPLES WARPED SENSE OF REALITY LATELY? Profit weights heavier than costs now and it just does not make any sense to me.

And for the people who pick on the greedy pharma industry....blow me. Yes, they want to poison you with pills just so you can keep coming back to them as a paying customer. Meanwhile you can get a generic drug that was originally created by the larger pharmaceutical company for much less and about 10 times as less regulated. That's right, that generic drug is much more likely to kill you than any of the brand named drugs. But no, lets create more barriers to entry for pharmaceuticals and health care...that will fix the freaking problem.

This country is quickly going down the shitter. If people don't grow brains fast or keep an open mind to both sides of the problem, then we're headed for another disaster.Stop blaming everyone else but yourself is a good place to start.

And yes, the legal system is a freaking mess.

By lightfoot on 8/13/2009 7:13:00 PM , Rating: 3
Stupid capitalist.

In Communist Amerika you do not own company. Company owns you.

By plowak on 8/16/2009 5:07:45 PM , Rating: 1
That's close, better would be:

Stupid capitalist.

In Obamalist Amerika you do not own company. Obama owns you.

By fotoguy on 8/19/2009 8:50:43 AM , Rating: 1
You've got to be joking. People don't care about the file format. They just want everyone to be able to open the documents they send to others. The Office .doc format can be opened by basically any word processing program out there. Changing the default format just makes everyone else have to update their apps, so in the mean time, people figure they have to upgrade their current copy of MS Word. Cha-ching!

By futrtrubl on 8/12/2009 2:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, MS has 60 days in which to stop selling the software, even with the extra $20000/day of fines it still makes sense for them to keep selling right up to the end, and that sufficiently covers the back to school period, even if they aren't able to fight the injunction.

By JediJeb on 8/12/2009 11:46:24 AM , Rating: 5
But I wouldn't be so quick to assume the judge's motives. It is not his place to judge the law , only the people accused of breaking it. It is his job to enforce the law to the letter wether he agrees with it or not.

Actually it is the Judicial Branch that is in charge of interpreting the laws, the Executive Branch enforces the laws and the Legislative Branch creates the laws. It is how the system is supposed to work with checks and balances.

The problem these days is that each branch is wanting to have all three powers and that is what is messing up the system.

By BansheeX on 8/13/2009 5:34:24 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, I think he was more correct. It's not the law itself that's supposed to be interpreted by judges, it's whether it was broken and to what degree. That's what may vary from judge to judge, but each judge's understanding of the rule should not. Same logic applies to referees in sports. Every umpire in baseball is trying to call a home run a home run, it's a well defined rule. What they actually see is not always correct, but it's not because they're all expected to have their own opinion of what a home run is. The problem arises when the legislators fail to make the law perfectly clear for all circumstances. Imagine what would transpire if there was nothing in the rulebook about what to do when a ball bounces over the fence. Some umps would call it a homer and others wouldn't. That's not what we want, we don't want different interpretations due to ambiguity in laws.

By JackQW on 8/13/2009 12:35:53 PM , Rating: 2
You basically just said "It's not the law itself that's supposed to be interpreted by judges, it's [the law itself that's supposed to be interpreted by judges]."

Interpret is synonymous with judge here.

It is the judge's job to judge the law itself.

By BansheeX on 8/21/2009 12:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
No, you are confused as hell. Understanding what the law says is a simple objective matter. Deciding whether the defendant, beyond reasonable doubt, broke it is a completely different subjective determination. The whole purpose of a freaking written rule to make differences in interpretation of it impossible.

"Killing another person for money is illegal."

So if I'm a judge and I read that as "Killing another person for money is illegal unless they felt they needed it to survive," you're cool with that? That's not the way it's supposed to work. I should not have the capacity to insert exceptions that aren't there because I personally, emotionally feel for some reason that the legislator meant for them to be there and just forgot to include it.

There is a process for amending laws and the constitution when times change or words change or the original law fails to define things like "cruel and unusual."

By lco45 on 8/12/2009 9:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that vague patents like this shouldn't be granted.
Microsoft though has shot themselves in the foot with their email trail.

By JasonMick on 8/12/2009 8:39:49 AM , Rating: 3
Hi visual,
Fixed the error, thanks!

I also added the link to the patent on the USPTO site, as another op suggested.

If you read the patent, I think most will agree that it is overly broad and vague. Should be interesting to see if Microsoft can fight this.

By FITCamaro on 8/12/2009 9:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously. That patent would make XML illegal. Not just Microsoft's format. Not to mention things like utilizing HTML and CSS to create a webpage since the content is in HTML and the architecture in CSS.

And as much as I love Texas, I don't believe a state judge can bar Microsoft from selling Word in the entire US.

By phattyboombatty on 8/12/2009 9:39:49 AM , Rating: 4
And as much as I love Texas, I don't believe a state judge can bar Microsoft from selling Word in the entire US.

A federal judge entered the order, not a state judge.

By JohnSelden on 8/12/09, Rating: 0
By guacamojo on 8/12/2009 4:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
We could certainly blame the Patent Office, which issued the thing. But once a patent is issued, it is presumed valid, and Microsoft bore the burden of proving its invalidity.

From what I can tell, this is all standard operating procedure for patent cases. I'm a little surprised that the judge ordered a stop to sales of the product, as any award could account for lost royalties in the interim.

In my experience, the Patent Office tries to do a good job of allowing/disallowing claims, but examiner quality varies, and it's still a human institution. The court system is where patents are ultimately tested, and Microsoft will have a fair chance to prove their case.

If there is prior art to this 1998 patent, as other posters have commented, it should be easy for MS to invalidate the patent.

Has anyone here read the actual claims which are supposedly being infringed?

By rcc on 8/12/2009 6:36:57 PM , Rating: 3
In my experience, the Patent Office tries to do a good job of allowing/disallowing claims, but examiner quality varies

Not to mention that if the examiner was actually good and writing/evaluating code he'd be making far more elsewhere.

By jimbeau on 8/12/2009 9:40:15 AM , Rating: 5
A Texas federal court

By Motoman on 8/12/2009 10:44:42 AM , Rating: 2
...wouldn't make it illegal, but if the patent is held up, people will have to pay that company royalties.

I'd have been inclined to side with MS on this one...but the revelation that there are email threads from MS demonstrating that they knew about the patent in advance and knew they would be in violation of it are pretty damning. I would reckon that the proper thing to have done would have been to challenge the patent up-front, rather than just bulldoze your way through it and hope you either don't get caught, or can fight off the lawsuit later.

...however, I do have to admit a great deal of schadenfreude (sp?) over this. MS banned from selling's giggle-inducing.

By guacamojo on 8/12/2009 4:28:27 PM , Rating: 3
the revelation that there are email threads from MS demonstrating that they knew about the patent in advance and knew they would be in violation of it are pretty damning.

They could well have known of the patent in advance, and some people at MS thought they infringed, and others didn't. Email traffic discussing possible infringement of existing patents isn't necessarily damning.

I say that, of course, not having read the actual emails. Maybe they had a business discussion of how easy it would be to steamroll over these guys with legal fees.

By jimbeau on 8/12/2009 9:41:04 AM , Rating: 2
otherwise known as Office Open XML,

By crystal clear on 8/12/2009 9:50:13 AM , Rating: 2
Hey patent lawyers have to earn a living a patent system/legal system in general, that generates employment/income for company's legal dept employees & court clerks & judges. (joking)

By XZerg on 8/12/09, Rating: -1
By Iaiken on 8/12/09, Rating: 0
By FITCamaro on 8/12/2009 11:59:03 AM , Rating: 2
I think the issue is why is it being brought up now? Office 2007 has been out for nearly 4 years. Its not like its document format has been a secret. Christ there were huge hearings on it in the EU and it was validated as a format. Why didn't the company bring it up then?

And why aren't they suing Open Office as well? Answer. Money.

By ghost101 on 8/13/2009 7:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
Civil action started

8th March 2007.

People fail to realise that cases take a long time. Even though its pretty obvious. You think the ruling was made overnight?

By ghost101 on 8/13/2009 7:54:36 PM , Rating: 2
Just so you know, that ~3 months after volume release and ~1 month after retail release.

By FITCamaro on 8/12/2009 12:03:04 PM , Rating: 5
And that patent basically describes XML. If it is a valid patent, then they should have sued when XML was released and demanded royalties from anyone using it.

And XML is rooted in SGML which has been around since the 80s and does many of the same things, which that patent could be applied to.

To any sane person, that patent is BS.

By wempa on 8/12/2009 12:30:08 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Why don't the patent offices hire some people who actually HAVE technical knowledge so they can shoot down all these bogus patents ?

By drebo on 8/12/2009 12:11:21 PM , Rating: 5
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you. This patent could be applied to everything from TeX to CSS and HTML to ini files to XSL and more. Most of which is work that is either ISO or (remember, 'or' implies 'and') predates this patent by many years.

The problem with this patent is not that it doesn't apply to the company's business (although one could make that assertion as their business is XML AUTHORING, not content authoring or typesetting), but rather that the patent does not distinguish itself enough from prior art, and in fact admits to being based on SGML, which is an ISO standard that predates the patent.

Unless Microsoft's Office Open XML format explicitly uses the same typesetting codes as this company's formats, there is no infringement. In fact, this patent should not have been approved, as it basically IS the prior art on which it was based.

By crystal clear on 8/12/2009 2:15:59 PM , Rating: 3
Some facts for the purposes of accuracy-

The i4i patent in question was filed in June of 1994 (and granted in 1998), whereas Microsoft's dates from December of that year. It describes a general method of handling the formatting information in documents by separating it out from the text that's being formatted. In this sense, it's a superset of Microsoft's new patent, which claims similar capabilities but is exclusively targeted to XML file formats.

It's not clear whether the fact that Microsoft has since been granted a patent for the specific technology at issue here might influence further legal proceedings.

By msheredy on 8/12/2009 11:35:28 AM , Rating: 1
If this were Apple you'd all be cheering for joy. Humbling isn't it???

By Vivi22 on 8/13/2009 6:58:08 AM , Rating: 4
I'm pretty sure if this were Apple they'd have filed for the overly broad and vague patent first.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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