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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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Patents
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
quote:
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, http://www.i4i.com/x4o.htm . 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.

quote:
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?
quote:
Go look for yourself, http://www.i4i.com/x4o.htm . 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.


Stupidity
By Shadowself on 8/18/2009 2:51:24 PM , Rating: 4
Ignoring for a moment the simple fact that the patent is stupid and should never have been issued by the USPTO...

This whole lawsuit and its outcome is due to Microsoft's own arrogance and stupidity. Documents produced during the discovery phase showed Microsoft 1) was aware of the patent and 2) was aware their products would likely infringe and 3) chose to not license the patent (or as a worst case try to get the patent invalidated). Thus the ruling.

What Microsoft should have done from day one was get the patent invalidated. Instead they are looking at a willful infringement verdict.

Even if they now, as they should, get the patent thrown out, they may still have to deal with some kind of willful infringement fine. If they get the patent thrown out they will at least not have to license it and can ship Office at will.




RE: Stupidity
By Rukusss on 8/18/2009 3:47:09 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
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
quote:
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.


RE: Stupidity
By Lord 666 on 8/18/2009 3:49:09 PM , Rating: 2
Talking about stupid patents, check out the one that was awarded to Michael Jackson for his leaning shoes.

Microsoft will fight and try to outspend the little guy. After the little guy is beaten down, MS will then try to settle.


Grammar Nazi
By SSDMaster on 8/18/2009 4:44:10 PM , Rating: 2
I'm the grammar Nazi, gonna take away ur lettarzzz!

quote:
Davis did give the software giant an out in his judgment to continue selling Word by saying that only version(<--s) with support for XML were subject to the ban.


People, please help this confused writer out. Join my sponsor a writer program! DT NEEDS OUR HELP!

You get +1 point for every letter out of place, and +5 points for every grammar error. Together, we can make a difference.




RE: Grammar Nazi
By riottime on 8/18/2009 8:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
it's really sad when a writer don't know grammar. they don't even try on this site. i know several new grads who don't have a job that can write better than this joker.


RE: Grammar Nazi
By Totally on 8/18/2009 10:32:01 PM , Rating: 2
They get paid for this?


RE: Grammar Nazi
By Spivonious on 8/19/2009 9:51:19 AM , Rating: 2
"A writer don't know grammar"

I really hope you were going for irony.


If this judgement stands.....
By rcc on 8/18/2009 6:38:16 PM , Rating: 2
There will be a lot of seriously pissed of businesses. Disabling .docx would mean that all their saved documents will become unaccessible if they patch. Unless it's just the ability to 'write' the format that is an issue.

Even if they don't patch, any new copies would be incompatible.

Should be entertaining.




By Belard on 8/18/2009 8:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
Why is it there fault?

Its companies like that who have patents (or attempted) for mundane things.... including words, objects, etc. So you have some scam artist just follow in their foot steps.




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against
By cleco on 8/18/09, Rating: -1
RE: against
By cleco on 8/18/2009 1:48:09 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
The original suit that i4u brought


shouldn't it be i4i?


RE: against
By Helbore on 8/18/2009 4:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
i4u. Sounds like those little messages girls used to write on their text books at school when they had some mega crush.


Too bad
By Belard on 8/18/09, Rating: -1
RE: Too bad
By SoCalBoomer on 8/18/2009 2:56:39 PM , Rating: 5
and THOSE two don't infringe upon the patent as well? You think that neither of them run a word processor that can process XML documents?

Wait, one's Apple, and one's Sun/Oracle. . .they can't be bad!

Pull your head out of your nether regions. . .for your own sake.


RE: Too bad
By Belard on 8/18/2009 8:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
Taking my post serious?


RE: Too bad
By omnicronx on 8/19/2009 12:37:03 AM , Rating: 2
For god damn sakes, how many times must it be said, this case is not that generic. MS was not sued for using XML, as the entire case is based upon Microsofts implementation in MS word that is completely proprietary and separate from the Open XML format.
quote:
Custom XML markup “is about embedding custom XML defined outside of Open XML to support solution which aim to structure a document using business semantics, not only using formatting. A great advance since you want to get to the data, and not by saying that the customer name is the 3rd paragraph. The issue is that you cannot just allow any arbitrary XML to be stored in the WordprocessingML package. This would become application specific, and it would break validation since all XML is valid. Not a great idea.”
I.e Custom XML which is not part of XML at all, is limited to MS word and is developed and used only by Microsoft. In other words you are incorrect, no they don't infringe on this patent.

Here are the court files signed by the judge in question:
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/9908082/i4i-v-Microsof...
Notice how it specifically mentions:
quote:
1. selling, offering to sell, and/or importing in or into the United States anyInfringing and Future Word Products that have the capability of opening a .XML,.DOCX, or .DOCM file (“an XML file”) containing custom XML ;t
Should MS chose, they could completely remove Custom XML and word could legally open XML based files.

Funny how pretty much any source seems to miss this fact.
Please DT, if you are going to run anymore articles on this subject please make this clear.


RE: Too bad
By omnicronx on 8/19/2009 12:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
To follow up the patent is not really XML specific in the slightest, it just so happens that Microsofts implementation of Custom XML infringes upon the ideas behind this patent. In fact its not really XML at all, as all tags are removed and replaced with special mappings to specific locations for where the tags should be. The main point is to remove the need for parsing rules in a document to separate content from markup, which must happen with any document based on a markup language.


RE: Too bad
By Helbore on 8/18/2009 4:50:00 PM , Rating: 3
Yep, if a judge says it, you just buckle under and pay up. Because a judge cannot be wrong.

It's a shame for Microsoft that there isn't an appeals system in operation in the US legal system, just in case judges make incorrect rulings.

Og, wait...


RE: Too bad
By soxfan on 8/18/2009 7:56:27 PM , Rating: 3
<------ Patent Attorney

Provided they preserved their rights, MS can appeal the verdict to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on any number of grounds.


RE: Too bad
By Helbore on 8/20/2009 4:34:56 PM , Rating: 2
I know. I was being sarcastic ;)


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