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 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.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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