Microsoft Prepares to Meet Word Injunction

While still considering its legal options -- including a possible run at the Supreme Court -- Microsoft says it is fully prepared to comply with an injunction barring the world's largest software maker from selling copies of Word 2007 and Office 2007 that contain infringing XML-related technology. One solution: just remove the infringing technology.

Microsoft said Dec. 22 it is moving quickly to comply with an injunction barring the world largest software maker from selling copies of Word 2007 and Office 2007. At the same time, Microsoft is considering all of its legal options following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruling upholding a $290 million judgment that found Microsoft infringed an XML-related patent held by i4i Ltd of Canada.

As a part of the ruling, the court imposed a Jan. 11, 2010, deadline for Microsoft to cease selling copies of Word 2007 and Office 2007 that contain the infringing XML-related code.

"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," Microsoft said 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." Microsoft also said the beta versions of Word 2010 and Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction. In addition, Microsoft said it was considering a possible request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or a request for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing.
There is also a possibility of Microsoft negotiating a settlement with i4i before the Jan. 11 injunction deadline.
The infringing patent, originally submitted in 1994 by Canadian firm i4i deals with XML-related formatting for a word processing program, utilizing algorithms to create a data structure called a metacode map, within which resides formatting formation. A more complex breakdown of i4i's patent by eWEEK can be found here.
Microsoft's claim is that i4i failed to corroborate its creation date for the technology behind the patent. However, "Unlike in priority disputes, where requiring corroboration of an inventor's testimony makes sense, there is no reason to require corroboration in all instances, and this court never required it," i4i said in a brief to the court.
A Texas federal court ruled in favor of i4i Aug. 12. The court then stayed the injunction until Microsoft could appeal. The Dec. 22 ruling puts the injunction into effect.
"A small company was practicing its patent, only to suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customer goodwill as the result of the defendant's infringing acts," the court ruled in upholding the injunction. "The district court found that Microsoft captured 80 percent of the custom XML market with its infringing Word products, forcing i4i to change its business strategy."
According to appeals court, Microsoft will be allowed to provide technical support to Word customers but it is barred from instructing users on how to use the custom XML editor or from selling copies of Word that contain the infringing technology.