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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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RE: Stupidity
By Rukusss on 8/18/2009 3:47:09 PM , Rating: 3
This whole lawsuit and its outcome is due to Microsoft's own arrogance and stupidity.

Agreed. At first glance, the case appeared like a small company trying to score some quick cash against a deep pocketed opponent. Once it came out that Microsoft not only knew about the probable patent infringement but willfully went full steam ahead, all possible sympathy for Microsoft vaporized. Greed and arrogance won out over more prudent courses of action.

I'd be seriously peeved right now if I were a Microsoft shareholder. A bunch of hyper-aggressive clowns are costing Microsoft billions (settlements plus associated litigation costs).

RE: Stupidity
By Helbore on 8/18/2009 4:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't this really depend on the contents of the emails? I mean, if it was from programmers to patent-specialising legal consultants, then I'd agree wholeheartedly. If it were between programmers and their line managers, it might not be so clear-cut.

If the individuals involved believed that the patent was invalid, they may have assumed that the only way to invalidate the patent was to fight it in court. Legally, they might have been wrong in that thinking, you shouldn't retract the sympathy you had from the beginning.

If i4i are being patent trolls, they still deserve the disdain for trying to bleed money out of Micrososft. (Disclaimer: please note "if" at beginning of sentance, just in case anyone jumps down my throat for making legal conclusions opposed to the case!)

Now if these email trails lead to someone who really should know better, then I'll totally agree with you. But if they don't, I don't think we should knock the little people for not being clued up on the - and let's face it - absolutely ridiculously complicated details of the law. Technically wrong, yes. But not deserving in sympathy, I'm not so sure.

The big question is; does anyone know the content and recipients of these emails?

RE: Stupidity
By Rukusss on 8/19/2009 11:39:13 AM , Rating: 2
If the individuals involved believed that the patent was invalid, they may have assumed that the only way to invalidate the patent was to fight it in court. Legally, they might have been wrong in that thinking, you shouldn't retract the sympathy you had from the beginning.

That implies even further internal incompetence within Microsoft. Someone notes a potential patent infringement and doesn't kick it over to the legal dept. for in-depth analysis? There is even a possibility that even legal knew it might be an issue but a decision was made to just kick the product out the door anyway to meet their deadline. No matter what, a decision to just ignore the patent issue rather than deal with it prior to release is just incompetence.

"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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