Patent Suit Forces MSFT to Change to Word, Office

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington yesterday ruled that Microsoft must change Office or pull the software from shelves by January 11. 

Back in August, Microsoft was ordered to pay Toronto-based i4i $290 million for infringing upon a patent awarded to the company in 1998. U.S. Patent No. 5,787,499 covers software designed to manipulate "document architecture and content."

According to attorneys at McKool Smith, the firm representing i4i, the software covered by the patent removed the need for individual, manually embedded command codes to control text formatting in electronic documents. Aside from paying the hefty damages, Microsoft was ordered not to sell or import any Microsoft products that had the capability to open .XML, .DOCX or .DOCM files containing custom XML, to the United States.

Microsoft quickly appealed the ruling and filed an emergency motion to block the injunction saying it causes irreparable harm to the company. "Even if Microsoft ultimately succeeds on appeal, it will never be able to recoup the funds expended in redesigning and redistributing Word, the sales lost during the period when Word and Office are barred from the market, and the diminished goodwill from Microsoft's many retail and industrial customers," the company said in a statement.

The courts awarded Microsoft a temporary stay but i4i remained confident that it would come out on top when the appeal rolled around. "Microsoft's scare tactics about the consequences of the injunction cannot shield it from the imminent review of the case by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeal on the September 23 appeal," i4i Chairman Loudon Owen said in a statement. "i4i is confident that the final judgment in favor of i4i, which included a finding of willful patent infringement by Microsoft and an injunction against Microsoft Word, was the correct decision and that i4i will prevail on the appeal."

Yesterday it seemed Microsoft had changed its tune when it came to the consequences of having to redesign word. Bostom.com cites a pretty brazen statement in which Microsoft declares it had been working on a change since the August verdict and had “put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from our products.’’

Kevin Kutz, a spokesperson for Microsoft, said copies of Office and Word with the altered software will be available in January and the already available beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 don’t contain the technology covered by the injunction.

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  • LePhuronn
    I'm sorry, but patenting programming code is bullshit. Copyrighting your specific implementation of a given programming language is fair enough, but I don't see how they could patent software implementation of a concept.

    More accurately, I don't see how they could be allowed to patent it.
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