Word won’t be banned—for now

Microsoft won’t be forced to pull Word from store shelves, after all. As Seattle PI reports, the U.S. Court of Appeals has granted the company’s motion to hold off on the ban until its appeal goes through.

As we reported last month, a Texas judge ruled that Microsoft had infringed upon the patents of Canadian firm i4i, and he issued an injunction on copies of Word that "have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML." He also ordered the company to pay $240 million in damages to i4i.

Had Microsoft’s motion not been granted, Word sales would have had to stop by October 10. Seattle PI points out that HP and Dell, the world’s two biggest PC vendors, both filed "amicus curiae" briefs in support of the motion. Dell, for one, argued that the injunction would force it to modify the disk images it copies onto on new PCs, which would involve "extensive time- and resource-consuming re-testing."

Comments closed
    • blazer_123
    • 13 years ago

    Openoffice.org Please!

    • aatu
    • 13 years ago

    Hmm, yeah. And if I just read/understood correctly from Wikipedia, XML itself should be open standard.

    So for this to go through, MS should have basically stolen the code bit-by-bit. And MS couldn’t have been that careless.

    • branko
    • 13 years ago

    I’m still puzzled what i4i actually claims.

    If they claim that they have separated document “structure” from “content”, then they are describing what SGML/XML does and SGML concepts have been around from the 1960s.

    If they are describing a mechanism for inserting a document into another document, then this is awfully similar to COM Structured Storage (part of OLE – Object Linking and Embedding), which was Microsoft’s own invention from early 1990s.

    In both cases i4i’s patent is invalid due to the prior art.

    • aatu
    • 13 years ago

    So let me get this straight: i4i *IS* making money with products that aren’t tied to MS’s products. They have implemented it somewhere else, then MS saw it was a working idea and took the same functionality for their own software, without paying royalties or anything similar?

    In that case, I’m still on i4i’s side. MS can’t just steal stuff. If i4i was there first, it’s tough shit on MS’s behalf. That’s just how the system works.

    I know, the current patent system isn’t perfect (especially regarding software development), but as long as they don’t change it, MS has to follow the same rules. And I’m sure they have their fair share of patents also. It goes both ways…

    • BenBasson
    • 13 years ago

    You’re right, the patent is quite broad, and is in fact named “Method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other”.

    However, the i4i products seems to be based around that concept (in the context of adding functionality to Word), as are Microsoft’s improvements to Word. The patent is not exclusive to Word, but the crux of the matter is that Microsoft added a feature wanted by industry, and i4i stand to lose out because that’s what their entire business model is.

    Tough shit, in my opinion. Making money by enhancing someone else’s product is never going to be a safe bet.

    • potatochobit
    • 13 years ago

    Doesn’t a DELL come with the trial version of Microsoft Word : /
    oh man, we are going to have to ‘modify’ our system now!

    • aatu
    • 13 years ago

    Well, I haven’t read very thoroughly about this particular case, but wasn’t this about the XML? I thought the patent’s governed usage scenarios were much broader than merely Word. And I also thought the XML-part is truly an addition to Word, not something missing from the middle that screams for improvement. Meaning something that theoretically could have been implemented in the 80s and to any writing software imaginable.

    Or did i4i just develop a way to implement XML to Word exclusively, and is now holding on to that implementation patent? Because in that case MS’s behavior would be more understandable.

    • Philldoe
    • 13 years ago

    You also have to factor in the time needed to go through the massed stocks of computers already built, removing word, repacking, re-QAing, and reshipping. That.. is a lot of money and time.

    • Game_boy
    • 13 years ago

    What’s wrong with him?

    • Game_boy
    • 13 years ago

    So, if a product breaks the law, you shouldn’t expect it to be pulled because it’s too popular? Can you link to the exception clause in patent law for really popular stuff?

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    …except that this is exactly what the court ordered them to do, and they are still fighting it and refusing to pay up. Ultimately, the one with the deepest pockets to pay for lawyers (i.e. MS) will probably prevail.

    • pogsnet
    • 13 years ago
    • BenBasson
    • 13 years ago

    From what I’ve read, it looks very much as though i4i filled a feature gap in Microsoft Word and patented the idea. Microsoft have since put their own solution (or partial implementations) in place (i.e. making their product more complete by filling that same feature gap) and i4i are claiming infringement.

    Cases like this are why software patents are completely stupid and shouldn’t exist. The patent is dictating that Microsoft can’t improve their own product without paying someone else for the privilege.

    From a consumer point of view, it’s even worse. If you need that functionality and Microsoft can’t embed it, not only do you pay for Microsoft Word, you also have to buy another add-on.

    • aatu
    • 13 years ago

    I agree. Just because masses use Word, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t/couldn’t ban it for being illegal. It’s still WRONG what MS did. It’s worse than illegal filesharing: MS is profiting from someone else’s work. And I think i4i should be compensated on a basis of sold products that use it (past and future sales).

    It’s like stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor. It’s a good thing for the poor, but it’s still illegal. Well, now it’s reverse because they’re stealing from the small company, and giving it to the rich (themselves). Which makes it even worse.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 13 years ago

    what about snakeoil?

    • entropy13
    • 13 years ago

    Well, adultery would still be a crime and thus will result with a criminal case. Try with ANOTHER example.

    Divorce however would be a civil case, and there would be a “take all the time you need to adjust to your divorced life style” pass if the divorce is approved by the court, although it wouldn’t be explicitly stated in the decision. It’s commonsensical that a person needs to adjust after a divorce, and the time needed is dependent on that person itself. And there wouldn’t really be any difference in adjusting faster anyway since the court doesn’t care about it anymore since they’ve made a decision already.

    But then again the example I gave is still a bit different with the Microsoft case, primarily because Microsoft is given the identity of a legal person without being an actual, individual human.

    • destroy.all.monsters
    • 13 years ago

    I am not going to read that entire page to get your point. Please post to the specific arguments that sustain your point.

    Thanks.

    • A_Pickle
    • 13 years ago

    Do you realize how many people depend on prison industrial complex money?

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    I was thinking exactly the same thing — how long can it possibly take to remove MS Word from the image and re-test it to ensure that Word has /[

    • blazer_123
    • 13 years ago

    thank you. I’m glad to know that.

    • delsydsoftware
    • 13 years ago

    I was in the software preload department at IBM for the Thinkpad line of laptops back in 2001, and I got to load and test Windows and Office 2000 builds all day. My job was to create new test builds of XP with Office 2000 small business edition installed. It took about 1 day of building and testing time per laptop model, and I was building 6-7 different versions for other languages as well. I was the only person that built and tested these MS Office-based images in the Thinkpad group, but i was able to get images ready for new models in just 3-4 days usually. I don’t know if HP or Dell have different procedures, but I have a feeling that it wouldn’t take long at all, especially if more people were working on it.

    • blazer_123
    • 13 years ago

    Does anyone actually believe HP and Dell? I understand that it would cost a great deal of manpower and downtime to accommodate the change.

    But what I don’t believe for a second is that they actually contemplated doing it in the first place. When Texas ruled Microsoft would be pulled off the shelf no company would rationally take heed. Microsoft is too powerful, Word is too widely used to have a prohibition taken seriously. If Word was actually pulled it would shock everyone. The companies rational expectations would be wrong and they would suffer even greater because of not being prepared.

    It is not at all surprising why HP and Dell would lend their support to Microsoft. It is nearly impossible to fight Microsoft. When you add 2 of the top 3 computer manufactures to the list the task is beyond daunting.

    (and did I mention that by time Word 2010 comes out this won’t be an issue because Microsoft will have worked around the technical aspects?)

    • designerfx
    • 13 years ago

    if the judge accepts the appeal it means they believed a whole lot of microsoft lies. Read here – §[<http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090829110124793<]§

    • oneofthem
    • 13 years ago

    yes. it is a policy question after all

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    Do you realize how many people depend on drug money? Those high priced condos and sports cars don’t pay for themselves.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    Curses, forgot to hit reply.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    Ok, let me try again.

    The amount of time shouldn’t matter. If a person is caught cheating on their significant other should they get a “take all the time you need to adjust to your non-cheating life style” pass?

    • Sargent Duck
    • 13 years ago

    You do realize how many people depend on Word right?

    • UberGerbil
    • 13 years ago

    Except this isn’t a criminal case, it’s a civil one. And it’s not a sentence, it’s an injunction. But aside from not fitting the situation at all, your analogy is great.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    The amount of time shouldn’t matter. If a person is caught doing something illegal should they get a “take all the time you need to adjust to your non-crime life style” pass?

    • Hattig
    • 13 years ago

    Does that mean that if Microsoft lose their appeal, the damages could be made even larger?

    But yes, it was an incredibly short period of time for an entire industry to sort out its offerings and processes to fit in.

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