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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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RE: BS
By JohnSelden on 8/12/2009 9:41:10 AM , Rating: 0
Judge Davis is a federal district judge, not a state judge. And a darn good one at that. Don't blame him for Microsoft's inability to invalidate this patent, even if it is crappy. 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. Without knowing the quality of the evidence put on by Microsoft, it is hard to know who to criticize.


RE: BS
By guacamojo on 8/12/2009 4:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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?


RE: BS
By rcc on 8/12/2009 6:36:57 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
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.


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