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Judge bans Microsoft from selling Word in the US

12th Aug 2009
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Patent infringement lands Microsoft with a damages bill of $290m, and 60 days before it’s barred from selling the word processing software across the pond.  Jon Wilcox reports.

No, it's not a badly-timed April Fools joke: Microsoft has been found guilty of patent infringement by a US district judge in Texas, prohibiting the company from selling Microsoft Office Word from the middle of October.

The claimed infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449 (a “Method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other”), was originally filed at the US District Court in Texas in March 2007, and focuses on Word’s method of reading XML documents. The prohibition on Microsoft selling or importing Word 2003, Word 2007, and ‘Future Word Products with the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or DOCM files’ across the United States, is scheduled to come into effect within 60 days.

Microsoft first implemented XML-based document formatting in Word 2003, introducing the now default .DOCX file type in the process.

In addition to the ruling on Word, Microsoft has been ordered to pay in excess of $200m of damages to the claimant, i4i. Based in Ontario, Canada, the company produces collaborative content systems, including x4o, software described as “The one step solution to XML authoring in Microsoft Word.”

In a statement to Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer, a Microsoft spokesperson conveyed both the corporation’s dissatisfaction at the judgement and its plans to appeal: "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." The Post-Intelligencer has also published PDF versions of the original 2007 infringement claim, and court judgements.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has found itself at the centre of patent infringement claims. In 2003, the company was cleared of charges brought by HyperPhrase Technologies over the way Office stored and retrieved articles; Microsoft has also filed its own patent infringement claims over the years, including one against sat-nav company, Tom Tom.


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