Microsoft finds its latest request for a multiple-judge review in a long-running patent-infringement suit brought by i4i rejected by a federal appeals court. Microsoft had asked for a panel of 11 judges to review its arguments in the case, in which i4i alleges that Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 violate its custom XML-related patents. In August 2009, a federal judge in a U.S. District Court ordered Microsoft to pay $300 million and pull copies of Word 2003 and 2007 from store shelves within 90 days, a ruling that set off months of legal maneuvering.
It may be April Fools' Day, but it's doubtful that Microsoft finds anything
funny in a federal appeals court having declined its latest request for a
multiple-judge review in an intellectual property lawsuit. The case, in which i4i
alleges that Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 violate its custom XML-related patents, has already
resulted in a $300 million judgment against Microsoft.
"This has been a long and arduous process, but this decision is a
powerful reinforcement of the message that smaller enterprises and inventors
who own intellectual property can and will be protected," Loudon
Owen, chairman of i4i, a small Toronto-based company, wrote in an April 1
statement reprinted on Reuters.
Reuters also indicated that Microsoft has the option of taking the case to
the U.S. Supreme Court. In the short term, however, Microsoft was vague about
"We're disappointed with the decision," Microsoft spokesperson
Kevin Kutz wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "As far as next steps, we continue
to believe there are important matters of patent law that still need to be
properly addressed, and we are considering our options going forward."
In August 2009, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Eastern
Texas ordered Microsoft to yank copies of Word from store shelves
within 90 days and pay i4i damages. Microsoft immediately filed an appeal.
On Dec. 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided to
uphold the verdict, ordering that copies of Word be pulled from store shelves
by Jan. 11. Microsoft responded at the time by asking for the review of the decision
by all 11 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and by
making an attempt to sidestep the alleged infringement by issuing a patch for
"With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have
been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its
injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this
little-used feature from these products," Kutz wrote in a Dec. 22
statement. "Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and
Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and
distribution by the injunction date" of Jan. 11, Kutz said.
The 12.9MB patch, made available on Microsoft's OEM Partner Center Website,
removed custom XML elements from
documents with those file types. On the OEM site, Microsoft placed a note that
indicated the patch was "required for the United
States" and would work "with all
Office 2007 languages."
Microsoft may have hoped that the patch, combined with a positive review
from the 11 judges, might have put an end to the long-running case. At this
point, however, it looks like at least a few more legal maneuvers may be
necessary before both parties exhaust themselves.
In previous interviews, i4i executives seemed to indicate a willingness to
fight Microsoft to the bitter end. "Where we come from, if someone tries
to take something that belongs to you, you stand up to them; you don't just
reach for the calculator," Owen
told eWEEK on Aug. 17, 2009. "We're not in a position to guess or
second-guess or speculate as to what the court is going to do."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.