Texas judge: Microsoft Word must go in 60 days

Evidently, RealNetworks isn’t the only one getting the short end of the legal stick this week. CNet News reports that a Texas District Court judge has ordered Microsoft to halt sales of Word. Yes, Word. The Office component everybody and their dog uses to write letters, memos, and clip-art-laden flyers. Microsoft has 60 days to comply.

What’s the deal? Just over two years ago, Canadian content technology firm i4i sued Microsoft, alleging that Word violated U.S. patent 5,787,449—a "method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other." According to a press release from i4i’s law firm, Microsoft "willfully infringed" on the patent by selling software that "removed the need for individual, manually embedded command codes to control text formatting in electronic documents."

The injunction specifically covers Word versions that "have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML." Microsoft was already ordered to pay $200 million to i4i in May, and reportedly, the judge has added $40 million to the damages plus $37 million in prejudgment interest.

In another post, CNet News quotes this statement from Microsoft: "We are disappointed by the court’s ruling, . . . We believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We will appeal the verdict." As the site points out, that 60-day deadline ought to give Microsoft enough time to come up with a solution without having to pull Word from store shelves.

Comments closed
    • Sniper
    • 13 years ago

    I’m not a legal expert.

    All I know is the system is fucked royally. It worked well for the 1700s, but not today.

    Software patents are bullshit.

    • matter3
    • 13 years ago

    We all know they will just buy out i4i…

    ———-
    §[<http://freemicrosoftpointstoday.info<]§

    • glacius555
    • 13 years ago

    It must’ve been a hard working week for me, I read it as patent’s basement;)

    • RealPjotr
    • 13 years ago

    A patent should be require to hold “increased invention value”, that is it has to add something non-trivial. Most software patents in USA are trivial and should never have been granted patent status.

    Fun to see Microsoft lose to their own patent methods (think FAT patent that Linux was forbidden to use, how to write a long filename in an 8 character filename field, that has no invention level at all, I say).

    Microsoft has a ton of these trivial patents, so it’s not a matter of a small company from nowhere. The whole software industry is full of this and if enforced by all players, further technical development and invention will become impossible. If you have to pay a licence for almost any idea you get on how to write software, on simple algorithms really, how to write a filename compressed, how to write a loop etc… the system is a big fail waiting to explode in the future.

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    There are others, but we keep them locked in the back closet.

    • pfunkallstar
    • 13 years ago

    am i the only one who cant stand when people use the ‘m$’ abbreviation for microsoft.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    What does copyright have to do with any of this?

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    M$FTg{

    • Meadows
    • 13 years ago

    Well dang, in before I noticed this news post.

    • no51
    • 13 years ago

    from my parent’s basement in Wyoming, I stab at thee!

    • dpaus
    • 13 years ago

    To answer your question, MadMan, i4i is no troll company – they were a pioneer in converting proprietary formats – like Word’s .doc – into open formats – like XML. Contrary to many other posts on this matter, they do /[

    • Hattig
    • 13 years ago

    Well there’s a court order stopping Word from being sold, and currently it looks like Microsoft can avoid it by paying $277m to this company. Or it will stop being sold. Which isn’t really what Microsoft want.

    (snip XML stuff, looks like the patent predates it, and CSS too)

    I just can’t see how software patents have helped anyone, except lawyers. At least this company had a product using the patent, so it’s not as trollish as other cases.

    • PoohPall
    • 13 years ago

    Microsoft should give America the finger and re-locate to Syria or something 😉

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    Ahh, yes… I didn’t even think of TeX. IIRC that’s been around since the ’80s (if not longer).

    • UberGerbil
    • 13 years ago

    Except that the /[

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 13 years ago

    As a designer i can tell you that your opinion is pretty much entirely flawed. Many people still use patents, especially students. If you don’t have patents then your teacher can give your ideas away to companies, if you don’t have patents it’s near impossible to freelance. Design shows and competitions would no longer exist. Designing outside a corporate office would stop out right since your ideas wouldn’t belong to you anymore. You would also like for all software piracy to be legal to wouldn’t you because that is what getting rid of patents will do to Engineering and Design.

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 13 years ago

    The name is a trademark.

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    The fact that they are a small company that came out of nowhere has nothing to do with it. The validity of the patent needs to be examined on its own merits, regardless of the size of the company that filed it.

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    Bingo. You go after the party which has the best odds of cutting you a big fat settlement check.

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    No, I think you’re mis-reading things. It appears that MS does in fact use the concept covered by the patent. The patent is probably overly broad (and shouldn’t have been awarded), but that doesn’t change the fact that MS violated it.

    At this point MS can either settle, or try to get the patent overturned.

    • blazer_123
    • 13 years ago

    That would be perfect… for a couple of years. But by then the lack of _[

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    Not everyone here likes MS… 😀

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    Separating the formatting from the content is the same idea that is behind CSS. The invention of CSS occurred in roughly the same timeframe that this patent was filed, so it is not clear to me which one came first.

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    The headline on that page, man.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    Your second link tells me why they would have filed this. I don’t know if that product is a big moneymaker for them but it’s clear they’re upset people wouldn’t need their XML-in-Word editor with the ability built in to Word.

    Maybe MS should have just borked their program interoperability somehow and it would have just been a simple anti-trust case :p

    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    Explain your lol please.

    • Synchromesh
    • 13 years ago

    It’s Texas. Nobody is in any rush over there. In fact, if this happened 5 years from today, I wouldn’t be so surprised.

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    §[<http://www.i4i.com/overview.htm<]§ LOL! and yeah I do mean out loudg{<.<}g

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    And I really thought the RIM patent crap would have brought real change.

    Hopefully this really happens and the industry self-implodes since you pretty much need Word to read legal documentsg{<.<}g

    • Machupo
    • 13 years ago

    It’s times like these I’m really looking forward to a Bilski decision which invalidates every software patent out there (based upon the idea that the original patent was for the computer… all software is manipulation of a patented system)

    • kenclopz
    • 13 years ago

    Word up. I mean Word down.

    • vikramsbox
    • 13 years ago

    In the 60 days time, MS will buy out i4i. No hammer, no hurt.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 13 years ago

    What took so long? i4i sued 2 years ago (back when 2007 first came out), so what’s been happening since? Or is it that the patent court is that backlogged.

    That being said, a “method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other.” Doesn’t CSS do this? Your CSS page manipulates your html page.

    • stmok
    • 13 years ago

    Its simplified to this: Exploit Software Patents to your advantage.

    • potatochobit
    • 13 years ago

    Yes we should remove the patent system so the chinese can flood our markets with donuts made of cardboard and claim they are gourmet krispy cremes.

    • Sniper
    • 13 years ago

    Patents should put the burden of proof on the patent holder to prove to a Judge that another company COPIED/STOLE ideas from the copyright holder.

    This bullshit where a small unknown company comes out of nowhere should INVALIDATE the god damn patent they hold.

    Either that or just remove the patent system. It’s not good for consumers. Consumers are the majority. I don’t care about some guys wish to be a zillionaire by producing an electric anus cleaner.

    The system as it works now only protects greed. It’s flawed and should be dismantled.

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 13 years ago

    “Write letterz and shit, yo!” LOL!!

    • no51
    • 13 years ago

    But Microsoft has deeper pockets than the Open Office Foundation.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    Or too many idiots sending him .docx documents.

    • 5150
    • 13 years ago

    Define: Ruse

    Your cunning attempt to trick me.

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    ^^This. Also, the patent was filed in 1994, and AFAICR, the patent’s described data handling procedure was pretty novel in 1994 for document creation. XML isn’t at stake here, either: It is Microsoft’s specific implementation (hold the document contents in one area, and a formatting ‘map’ in another) that allegedly violates the patent.

    • willyolio
    • 13 years ago

    Why is it whenever a small company tries to defend its patents from a large company everyone here likes (such as MS), it’s done in Texas?

    • maxxcool
    • 13 years ago

    r[

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    The patent claim is just a ruse. The real story is that the judge was pushed over the edge by one too many confrontations with The Ribbon.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    Because we’ve become very jaded by patent-trolling companies which don’t actually make anything other than patents. I did ask it as a question and others provided some actual info though.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 13 years ago

    soooo….Word 2007 and 2008, right? What about Open Office, which can open those “open” formats? Does it use the algorithm i4 patented?

    • 5150
    • 13 years ago

    Sure as hell ain’t Sparta.

    • Tamale
    • 13 years ago

    THIS.. IS.. A FREE MARKET!!!

    • Voldenuit
    • 13 years ago

    Am I reading this right? i4 sued MS not because Word infringed their patent, but because Word circumvents the need to implement the algorithm they patented? And they won?

    This is madness! (The judge should be kicked into a deep pit…)

    • jstern
    • 13 years ago

    It was pretty funny.

    • Tamale
    • 13 years ago

    seems like it’s almost a business strategy these days to simply create something that gets used by a big guy then sue the [email protected]*( out of them..

    • kvndoom
    • 13 years ago

    Totally unrelated, but I do so love this picture.

    §[<http://media.techeblog.com/images/letters.jpg<]§ At least I still have my old versions to fall back on. My word processing needs are basic at best.

    • wibeasley
    • 13 years ago

    I think it came up two years ago because .docx (the Word 2007 default format) uses xml, while .doc doesn’t.

    • Game_boy
    • 13 years ago

    Even if they lose, Microsoft will just license the patent.

    • jdaven
    • 13 years ago

    Why is it whenever a small company tries to defend its patents from a large company everyone here likes (such as MS), there is some doubt cast?

    The real response is who cares. It’s not like Word is going to be blocked from being sold. Today, the Goliaths of the world almost always beats the Davids.

    • blastdoor
    • 13 years ago

    I wonder if this will boost sales of Word in the next two months…

    • ltcommander.data
    • 13 years ago

    §[<http://i4i.com/A4L.htm<]§ §[<http://i4i.com/x4o.htm<]§ Interestingly, i4i is not a patent troll since they make publishing solutions using that patent. They appear to be legitimately defending a patent that they were granted and are using. Whether that patent should have been granted in the first place is another question.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    wtf?? Is i4i just a patent troll or a genuine R&D company? And how come this only came up 2 years ago?

    Also, obligatory ‘patent system is messed up’ post.

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