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Microsoft Barred From Selling Word

A Texas federal court judge granted an injunction against Microsoft, barring the company from selling some of its Word word-processing software because it violates a Canadian company's patent related to XML (extensible markup language), reports The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other media sources. As Wikipedia explains, XML is used to create custom markup languages, which in turn are used in a variety of products, including Microsoft Office.

Back on May 20, a jury found that Microsoft had infringed on Canadian company i4i's patent. The judge's ordered Microsoft to cease Word sales in 60 days and pay $240 million in damages for violating the patents. The judge's order is available here, courtesy of Patently-O.

So will Microsoft start removing its products from the shelves? Hardly. Right now, Microsoft still has various options, including settling with i4i or buying the company out. In addition, Microsoft will appeal, though it is not clear that the appeal with stay the judge's order to cease sales. According to Dennis Crouch at Patently-O:

Under ther Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Microsoft has a right obtain a stay of relief pending appeal after it posts an appropriate bond. However, that right only applies to monetary damages. There is no right to stay injunctive relief pending appeal. On occasions, both District Courts and the Federal Circuit will stay injunctive relief pending the outcome of an appeal.

The district court has already denied Microsoft's motion to stay injunctive relief. "The fact of Microsoft's infringement causes i4i to suffer irreparable harm for every new XML customer that purchases an infringing Microsoft product. To stay any injunction would only prolong that harm without providing any remedy."

Crouch observes that Microsoft also has a technical remedy in addition to these legal avenues:

Microsoft can presumably fix its patent problem by eliminating the .docx format. According to court records, "i4i has presented evidence that it is possible to design a software patch that can remove a user's ability to operate the infringing functionality." Alternatively, Microsoft could buy the patent – although the price will now be substantially higher than it was in 2007.

Even if you're not a fan of Microsoft, the decision could still be bad news. Crouch suggests that OpenOffice might be liable as well.  And if that happens, i4i may target users because no central entity controls its development and distribution (although Sun is a potential target).

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 12, 2009 at 09:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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