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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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