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Microsoft can pay the fine and license the technology, or modify Word to strip XML

The courts in East Texas have been booming with patent infringement cases after Judge Leonard Davis started issuing judgments that were more to the liking of small, patent wielding firms as opposed to the liking of the massive companies like Nintendo and Microsoft.

Judge Davis issued a judgment recently that is set to go into effect in mid-October that will bar Microsoft from selling and importing Word in the U.S. in its current form. Davis did give the software giant an out in his judgment to continue selling Word by saying that only version with support for XML were subject to the ban.

That would mean if Microsoft patches its Word software to strip XML formatting or open documents in plain text it could continue to sell the application in America. Judge Davis' ruling also hit Microsoft with a fine of $240 million for unlawfully infringing upon patent number 5,748,449 owned by i4i technologies covering a "Method and System for Manipulating the Architecture and the Content of a Document Separately from Each Other."

Microsoft has announced that it strongly disagrees with the Davis ruling and plans to file an appeal in the case. That comes as no surprise considering Microsoft Office made about $3 billion for the software giant last year. Rather than issue a patch or not selling Word in America, if Microsoft loses its appeal it could simply license the technology from i4i.

The original suit that i4u brought against Microsoft also sought to bar Windows Vista and the .NET Framework from the U.S. market, but Judge Davis found those products didn’t infringe upon the patent in question. The ruling against Microsoft has raised a number of questions about patents in the software industry. Some feel software should be covered by copyright like books while others feel that a patent is appropriate for software as it is for hardware.

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By deltadeltadelta on 8/18/2009 2:15:19 PM , Rating: 4
This whole thing is completely ridiculous. Expecting a judicial representative to be able to understand the nuances of what makes software different is nuts. Leave Microsoft alone already. We did this last decade. Lets stop, people.

Make better products. Don't litigate. SCO is not a successful business model.

RE: Patents
By Zshazz on 8/18/2009 2:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree that software patent lawsuits are stupid... Microsoft totally had this coming. They are also guilty of patenting stuff that shouldn't be patented. More interestingly, Microsoft was recently awarded a patent for documents made in XML... which seems to be what these guys are claiming they have... both of which, are essentially what SGML describes, so it should count as prior art.

This really just shows exactly why the patent system is broken. The sad thing is that the "little guy" would never be able to survive these crazy patent lawsuits, so everyone is discouraged to innovate in fear of a random overarching patent that may or may not be something that is previous art.

RE: Patents
By dark matter on 8/18/2009 3:49:44 PM , Rating: 3
Good point.

Who come MS's patent of XML is fine and dandy, yet these guys patent of XML isn't.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

RE: Patents
By VaultDweller on 8/19/2009 9:22:52 AM , Rating: 4
Microsoft isn't getting any special treatment here. When MS acts like a patent troll, the community here rips on them for it, too. Microsoft isn't exempt.

Yes, Microsoft does throw some pretty BS-heavy patent lawsuits around - but that's neither here nor there. We're talking about this particular BS patent lawsuit, not other ones in which the parties have been involved.

RE: Patents
By snbdr on 8/18/2009 3:19:49 PM , Rating: 1
While I don't agree with the case in general, the judge that was chosen does understand programming and architecture. That is part of the reason that he was chosen.... that and Texas is known for these patent cases.

RE: Patents
By Yawgm0th on 8/18/2009 4:15:50 PM , Rating: 2
While I don't agree with the case in general, the judge that was chosen does understand programming and architecture.
Just not well enough to come to a reasonable conclusion.

RE: Patents
By omnicronx on 8/18/2009 7:20:46 PM , Rating: 5
Says the DT user.. who are you to make such a claim? Have you gone over the patents? Have you any background in the field? Do you have any idea what i4i does and what they have been doing for the past 15 years?

This case definitely has some merit if you actually read over what they are suing for, this is not some generic case where some random company patented XML. It is the way MS implemented their usage of XML.

MS just got an even more generic XML patent, so really they cannot complain. They would have safeguarded their patent had i4i not existed in the exact same way.

I'm sure you would be signing a different tune had this been your IP. I guess our minds are clouded by all the stupid and invalid patents in recent memory that should have never been granted in the first place. That being said, this case is not like any of those, they have a product, and of course whats not listed in any of these articles is the fact that Microsoft tried to infringe on i4is primary business (pharmaceutical) and actively tried to market it toward that field more than any other.

Not to mention i4i were the first to bring XML to Office a good 5 years before Microsoft.

Go look for yourself, . They have the software and the patent, how on earth do you think their case is not justified?

RE: Patents
By gamerk2 on 8/19/2009 7:43:11 AM , Rating: 2
First off, that patent should never have been allowed to go through; what's next: A patent for "looping constructs within a defined interval?" (FOR Loop)

That being said, the patent did go through, and M$ is in violation of it. Really isn't much M$ can do except strip out .XML formatting.

RE: Patents
By knutjb on 8/19/2009 5:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
So a Canadian company files in a court in East Texas known for ruling against big business, hmmm. And you imply that there is only one way to put XML into any word processing document.

not listed in any of these articles is the fact that Microsoft tried to infringe on i4is primary business (pharmaceutical) and actively tried to market it toward that field more than any other.

Infringe on i4i's primary business, infringe? i4i is suddenly the only company allowed to be in a particular market and MS or any other company cannot search for new markets, specifically that one?
Go look for yourself, . They have the software and the patent, how on earth do you think their case is not justified?

I looked, it's plug in developer for MS Word, not a stand alone product. Maybe MS did violate their patent, maybe they didn't. Is it possible that the idea of both companies products are the same but the path how they get there is different.

I just think it's fair to be skeptical towards both parties since i4i filed in an court known to be overtly favorable to their market and MS just moved into one of i4i's niche markets. Also software patents are a murky world, particularly those filed in the 90s. There are a number of ways to skin the proverbial cat and we are not privy to the code in question and how they came to that conclusion. Wouldn't be the first time the lower courts get something wrong. It's up to the higher courts to determine if they got it right.

Until the legal process is over I can't slam MS or i4i on such little information. MS has, at times, been their own worst enemy but I'm not positive this is the case here, yet.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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