Microsoft Complying with Word Court Order

Microsoft begins offering customers modified copies of Microsoft Office, as well as issuing patches for Word 2003 and Word 2007, in order to comply with a court order to pull copies of the productivity application that allegedly violate a custom XML patent held by i4i. The case's original verdict ordered Microsoft to pull copies of Word from store shelves and pay the smaller company nearly $300 million in fines. Microsoft has vowed to continue to fight through legal channels, expressing a willingness to head to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Apparently in response to a patent-infringement lawsuit filed against it by small IT company i4i, Microsoft pulled copies of Office 2007 from its online store and issued patches for Word 2003 and Word 2007 in its online download center.

Time ran out for Microsoft on Jan. 11, the date by which a legal injunction demanded that the company stop selling copies of Word that allegedly violated a custom XML patent held by i4i. Microsoft had previously indicated that it would comply with the injunction by removing copies of Word in favor of ones whose coding sidestepped the patent.

In the meantime, Microsoft has asked that all 11 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit review its long-running case with i4i. The original verdict, delivered by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in August 2009, ordered Microsoft to stop selling copies of Word within 60 days-something that the company has successfully managed to prevent until this point-and pay i4i nearly $300 million in accumulated fines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld that verdict on Dec. 22.

A full eWEEK breakdown of the suit, i4i's patent and the meaning of custom XML can be found here.

The full version of Office Ultimate 2007, meanwhile, remains available for $679.95, although the upgrade edition is "not available."

Neither the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog, the official blog of the Microsoft Office product development group, nor the Microsoft Word 2010 blog, the official blog of the Microsoft Word product team, have posted updates on their pages about the situation.

On Jan. 9, Microsoft posted a 5.7MB patch to Office Word 2003 on its Download Center, stating, "You must install this update if you have been instructed to do so in a separate communication from Microsoft." The note adds: "This update will affect a particular custom XML tagging implementation."

Previously, on Jan. 6, Microsoft had posted a similar note for Word 2007, saying, "Customers who purchase or license Word 2007 from Microsoft after Jan. 10, 2010 for use in the United States and its territories must use updated software that does not include a particular custom XML tagging implementation."

In a Dec. 22 statement to Reuters following the court's upholding of the verdict, Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz said the company was "moving quickly to address the injunction issue," adding, "We are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court."

The alternative, it would seem, would be to pay close to $300 million in fines, something the company likely wants to avoid.