Print 25 comment(s) - last by sviola.. on May 12 at 2:03 PM

Currently Microsoft owes i4i $300M USD in damages for infringement of its Custom XML patented technology. Microsoft used Custom XML in the best-selling Office 2003 Suite. Microsoft may appeal to the Supreme Court.  (Source: Photobucket)
Microsoft is unwilling to pay its big infringement fine

Microsoft has tried and tried to beat Toronto, Canada-based software company i4i in U.S. Federal Court, but has been handed a long string of defeats.  In May 2009 it lost a patent infringement case to i4i and was ordered to pay $200M USD in damages.  Then in December 2009 it lost its appeal to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in an increased judgment of $300M USD in damages, including $40M USD tacked on for "willful" infringement.

Now it's lost yet again, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Microsoft plea that the patent used in the case be reexamined.  Microsoft is left with two options -- pay the big fine or try to continue its climb up the legal ladder to the only remaining rung -- the U.S. Supreme Court.  That may be what it decides to do, its lawyers indicate.

Microsoft's Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz responded to the defeat of the USPTO request for reexamination, writing, "We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake, and we are considering our options to get them addressed, including a petition to the Supreme Court."

I4i has made it clear that it claims no ill intentions towards Microsoft.  It claims it merely wants to be rewarded for the Custom XML scheme that cost it millions to develop, which Microsoft liberally borrowed from and used in its best-selling Office 2003 Suite.  For the small company a reward would mean it could continue its format development work, while a defeat could spell financial ruin for the business who took a gamble on the massive legal fees required to carry out a litigation campaign against Microsoft.

The company writes in a statement, "i4i’s ‘449 patented invention infuses life into the use of Extensible Mark Up Language (XML) and dramatically enhances the ability to structure what was previously unstructured data. As the magnitude of data grows exponentially, this is a critical technological bridge to controlling and managing this sprawling octopus of data and converting it into useful information."

This core element of the case -- Custom XML -- is a scheme for storing and displaying rich information.  Microsoft used Custom XML in Office 2003, but did not pay i4i licensing fees, according to the plaintiff's claims.  Microsoft disputes this, but has since removed Custom XML from its Office products via a patch to escape a court order forcing it to cease sales.  The Office 2010 beta/RTM builds notably do not use Custom XML, as well.  Custom XML should not be confused with the similarly named Open XML, which is unrelated to the case.

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RE: As they should
By Jaybus on 5/11/2010 4:22:16 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. Custom XML is a use for which XML was designed in the first place, hence the "eXtensible" in its very name. The PTO is not supposed to award patents for an idea that is "obvious to one trained in the prior art". Tagging a word or phrase as a means to tie it to data stored elsewhere....hmmmm. Isn't that about what a HTML hyperlink does? The difference between HTML and XML is that in HTML, the tag type is predetermined. In XML, the tag name can be anything, so long as there is a schema defining the tag. XML was designed to be extensible. Duh! You don't even have to be very highly trained in the prior art. A retarded chimp could have "invented" Custom XML.

I'm not a big fan of M$, but this is BS. Must be political. Certainly isn't technical.

RE: As they should
By sviola on 5/12/2010 2:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not defending i4i or MS, but the patent is from 1994. I might be wrong, but you can't look at what they patented with 2010 eyes, afterall, what today is common sense for even the begginer programmer, might not have been 16 years ago (hence, XML being created 2 years after the patent file).
And also, by the ongoings of the law suit, the courts have agreed that Microsoft infringed the patents (and knowingly), so, I wouldn't assume the patents are BS.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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