Losing a patent suit to Canadian software maker i4i Inc., Microsoft has been banned from selling copies of Microsoft Word containing the plaintiff’s custom XML element technology as of January, 2010.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the ruling from the appeals court which upheld the lower court’s decision in its entirety. This is both a vindication for i4i and a war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed,” said i4i chairman Loudon Owen in a statement.
“The same guts and integrity that are needed to invent and go against the herd, are at the heart of success in patent litigation against a behemoth like Microsoft. Congratulations to our entire team who provided such dynamic leadership, courage and tenacity!”
The recent win for i4i orders Microsoft to pay $290 million in damages, as well as to comply with an injunction which prevents the firm after December 31, 2009 from selling copies of Office 2003 and Office 2007 that offer users the ability to customize XML elements. Microsoft has additionally been ordered to remove the functionality from its upcoming Office 2010 suite.
The ruling comes nearly three years after i4i Inc. filed a suit against Microsoft alleging patent infringement on patent number 5,787,449, which details a, “computer system for the manipulation of the architecture and content of a document having a plurality of metacodes and content by producing a first map of metacodes and their addresses of use in association with mapped content.”
In other words, a document which has had its structure electronically encoded via eXtensible Markup Language (XML), the very same technology used in Microsoft’s .DOCX file types. The patent further specifies the ability to modify the XML markup to customize the presentation of the document, and that is the feature which has been banned from Word by the ruling.
In response, Microsoft has moved to deploy a patch which removes the offending feature from the affected copies of Office in the United States. As it is not necessary to back-fix copies of Word which have already been sold, the patch is only for OEMs which must patch new machines to comply.
“After this patch is installed, Word will no longer read the Custom XML elements contained within DOCX, DOCM, or XML files,” Microsoft says. “These files will continue to open, but any Custom XML elements will be removed. The ability to handle custom XML markup is typically used in association with automated server based processing of Word documents. Custom XML is not typically used by most end users of Word.”
In the interim, Microsoft appears to be considering its options, which may include a rehearing or a writ from the US Supreme Court.