Texas Judge Bans Microsoft From Selling Word in the U.S.
August 12, 2009 8:10 AM
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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.
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 (
) 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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8/12/2009 2:15:59 PM
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.
"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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