Microsoft has filed a motion to stay a U.S. District Court's ruling in a patent-infringement case, one that could see copies of Microsoft Word potentially yanked from store shelves within weeks.
That Aug. 12 verdict by the U.S. District Court in East Texas also saw Microsoft hit with nearly $300 million in accumulated fines. Microsoft is accused by a small Canadian company, i4i, of violating a patent that deals with XML-related formatting for a word-processing program. Microsoft Word allegedly utilizes custom XML covered by the patent, leading to the court's injunction that copies of the productivity suite should be pulled from store shelves within 60 days.
"These filings are not unusual in patent cases," Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz told Reuters. "We believe the evidence clearly demonstrates that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid."
Despite initial fears among certain online segments that the ruling could eventually affect the open-source community, particularly OpenDocument Format (ODF), i4i's chairman and founder told eWEEK that their crosshairs remain firmly set on Microsoft.
"We've never made any pretense... that this is anything other than patent infringement," i4i Chairman Loudon Owen said in an Aug. 14 interview. "This is not about file formats or XML or any of those things."
Microsoft has vigorously appealed such patent-infringement cases in the past, often dragging the legal proceedings on for years. A number of those cases have been fought in the East Texas court system, which has a reputation as a favored venue for small companies looking to file patent lawsuits against IT giants. In 2007, some 409 cases involving copyright, patent or trademark claims were submitted in Eastern Texas U.S. District Court, nearly half as many as the whole state of New York.
Microsoft could employ a technological workaround for the offending XML code, but that process would likely be long and involved. It could also attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement with i4i, although the smaller company seems determined for the moment to pursue the matter through the court system.
"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 said in his eWEEK interview. "We're not in a position to guess or second-guess or speculate as to what the court is going to do."