Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 9th Jan 2010 22:23 UTC
Legal "Microsoft has filed a second appeal in their XML patent case, claiming the original ruling could be dangerous for future patent cases. Last month, the software giant lost to tiny Canadian company i4i, and removed all infringing custom XML editing abilities from its Office 2003 and 2007 suite. Microsoft also paid USD 290 million in damages."
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I wonder..
by fasted on Sun 10th Jan 2010 05:02 UTC
fasted
Member since:
2006-11-09

how much money ms has paid out in legal fees vs the amount they actually saved in lost revenue from software. I know we're talking hundreds of billions of dollars, but how much is enough? This uber capitalism seem's alot like the cold war, where the victory is the only important thing. At the end of the war, you move on to the next enemy, spending trillions to protect what you believe is the correct path. In the mean time, people are being trampled on, and new enemies are being made. Enemies that will last for years to come, and all of it completely avoidable. In Microsoft's case, this is indeed money that could be spent on educating people threw greatly reduced software prices, and improved software by working with, instead of against your competition.
It just boggles the mind to think of the possibilities that could occur with more cooperation amongst people , instead of the endless string of litigated conflict that primarily occupies todays business world.

Reply Score: 3

RE: I wonder..
by malxau on Sun 10th Jan 2010 07:48 UTC in reply to "I wonder.."
malxau Member since:
2005-12-04

how much money ms has paid out in legal fees vs the amount they actually saved in lost revenue from software...this is indeed money that could be spent on educating people threw greatly reduced software prices, and improved software by working with, instead of against your competition...


This is correct, but note that Microsoft is the victim here. This feature is obscure, and clearly worth less than the hundreds-of-millions damages award (which is why it was removed.) Obviously MS would rather spend the hundreds-of-millions damages award, plus the (I'm guessing) tens-of-millions legal fees towards improving software. Unfortunately, the act of improving software and adding functionality brings about lawsuits like these, so things end up finding an equilibrium.

It's not like Microsoft had a choice to avoid spending on both legal fees and damages here (at least, not without also avoiding spending money improving its software.) Less legal fees == greater damages payouts.

The best way to avoid this would be to restrict software patents such that software developers are not hamstrung by patents which are clearly obvious to anyone 'skilled in the art.'

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: I wonder..
by lemur2 on Sun 10th Jan 2010 09:10 UTC in reply to "RE: I wonder.."
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

It's not like Microsoft had a choice to avoid spending on both legal fees and damages here


Of course they did. Microsoft could have just licensed i4i's technology in the first place, instead of stealing it.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: I wonder..
by Laurence on Sun 10th Jan 2010 10:33 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: I wonder.."
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


Of course they did. Microsoft could have just licensed i4i's technology in the first place, instead of stealing it.


What technology? Oh you mean the patent that vaguely describes any modern form of document file structure from open formats like ODT to Microsoft's own DOCX.

Microsoft are the victims here of yet another evolutionary patent that protects no R&D costs into new technology.

However, in spite of this I have little sympathy MS given their past track record of chasing after open source providers with undisclosed patents.

All this case proves is that nobody is safe from patent trolls and that the system is broke.

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: I wonder..
by ichi on Sun 10th Jan 2010 15:34 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I wonder.."
ichi Member since:
2007-03-06

What technology? Oh you mean the patent that vaguely describes any modern form of document file structure from open formats like ODT to Microsoft's own DOCX.


Is it really that vague? It seems to me that the functionality was somehow specific, considering it doesn't affect new MS Office products nor competing office suites like OOo.

I'm not really sure what the patent is really about, though, but that's the impression I'm getting.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: I wonder..
by Laurence on Sun 10th Jan 2010 16:47 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: I wonder.."
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


Is it really that vague? It seems to me that the functionality was somehow specific, considering it doesn't affect new MS Office products nor competing office suites like OOo.

I'm not really sure what the patent is really about, though, but that's the impression I'm getting.


Here is the patent:
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p...

Now from what I can understand of it - it sounds like just standard XML document mark up. Something which MS Office has supported since Office2003 (as .XML files in Excel, and later as DOCX and XLSX in Word2007 and Excel2007 respectively) and something which OOo (as well as KOffice and all the other open source office packages) supports to with ODT et al.

I'm willing to concede that perhaps Excel documents are immune as - although they're still documents of sorts, they're not DTP/Word processing documents.
This would explain why earlier versions of Office weren't targeted when when damages were calculated (IIRC .XML files weren't available in MSWord pre Office2007).

Either way, my understanding of the patent reads a pretty generic evolutionary design and hardly technology with R&D costs that need protecting (or in layman's terms, an organisation after an easy buck)

Edited 2010-01-10 16:51 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: I wonder..
by zegenie on Sun 10th Jan 2010 17:33 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: I wonder.."
zegenie Member since:
2005-12-31

I'm sorry for the blatant insult, but can you even read? Linking to that patent and describing it the way you did, is like posting a picture about a bear and then describe a unicorn(!)

All questions about patentability of software patents aside... The patent in question is fairly specific, and covers a specific function that the company invented, which is related to parsing and comparing differences between documents stored as XML.

And it's not like we have a patent troll here - they had a product which were sold to many customers - and they even offered Microsoft to license the functionality for a fee. However, Microsoft - rigorous defenders of software patents - choose to ignore the existing patent (which describes a specific function, albeit related to parsing XML - but absolutely not "storing files as XML" as you try to portray it) and instead just copy the functionality into their own product, effectively rendering the existing product worthless.

You may disagree with software patents, but Microsoft has chosen to play this game, in fact they want everybody to play this game, so they deserve every little bit of this. Stop spreading misinformation and lies - Microsoft is *not* the victim here.

Reply Score: 1

RE[7]: I wonder..
by Laurence on Sun 10th Jan 2010 18:23 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: I wonder.."
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

I'm sorry for the blatant insult,


Clearly you're not sorry otherwise you wouldn't have still posted it.
You may have just as well said "No offence, but you're an idiot!" :p

The patent in question is fairly specific, and covers a specific function that the company invented, which is related to parsing and comparing differences between documents stored as XML.

What's this specific function?
It's a fairly lengthy patent and I'm not great at deciphering technical legal documents (computer jargon I'm fine with but that document was struggle)


And it's not like we have a patent troll here - they had a product which were sold to many customers - and they even offered Microsoft to license the functionality for a fee.


You've still not stated what this product is exactly.
Parsing and comparing XML documents is still a very generic evolutionary description and not very clear about what i4i have developed that is worthy of patenting.

I'm not out to defend MS - I just want to understand what the hell i4i own because thus far nobody has stated anything specific (or am I missing the obvious?)

You may disagree with software patents, but Microsoft has chosen to play this game, in fact they want everybody to play this game, so they deserve every little bit of this. Stop spreading misinformation and lies - Microsoft is *not* the victim here.

After insulting my ability to read, you then go on to completely miss the comments I made about not having any sympathy for MS then go on to reiterate my point as if to counter my argument. *sigh*

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: I wonder..
by lemur2 on Sun 10th Jan 2010 22:16 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I wonder.."
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

" Of course they did. Microsoft could have just licensed i4i's technology in the first place, instead of stealing it.
What technology? Oh you mean the patent that vaguely describes any modern form of document file structure from open formats like ODT to Microsoft's own DOCX. Microsoft are the victims here of yet another evolutionary patent that protects no R&D costs into new technology. However, in spite of this I have little sympathy MS given their past track record of chasing after open source providers with undisclosed patents. All this case proves is that nobody is safe from patent trolls and that the system is broke. "

Poster zegenie said it best, so I will just quote those words:

they (i4i) had a product which were (was) sold to many customers - and they even offered Microsoft to license the functionality for a fee. However, Microsoft - rigorous defenders of software patents - choose to ignore the existing patent (which describes a specific function, albeit related to parsing XML ...) and instead just copy the functionality into their own product, effectively rendering the existing (i4i) product worthless.


Edited 2010-01-10 22:19 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: I wonder..
by Laurence on Mon 11th Jan 2010 00:50 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: I wonder.."
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


Poster zegenie said it best, so I will just quote those words:


Yeah, he said that replying to me ;)
But thanks for the reply.


Is it wrong that I'm actually a little disappointed it's not just a patent troll?

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: I wonder..
by lemur2 on Mon 11th Jan 2010 02:36 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: I wonder.."
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

" Poster zegenie said it best, so I will just quote those words:
Yeah, he said that replying to me ;) But thanks for the reply. Is it wrong that I'm actually a little disappointed it's not just a patent troll? "

I, personally, would hold that one cannot patent abstract ideas, that mathematics is an abstract idea, and that software is mathematics.

Therefore, I, personally, would not find Microsoft in any way culpable here.

However, if they were being self-consistent, supporters of software patentability should find Microsoft culpable and liable for a fine over this episode.

Microsoft have positioned themselves as being a supporter of software patentability.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: I wonder..
by malxau on Mon 11th Jan 2010 05:53 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: I wonder.."
malxau Member since:
2005-12-04


Therefore, I, personally, would not find Microsoft in any way culpable here.

However, if they were being self-consistent, supporters of software patentability should find Microsoft culpable and liable for a fine over this episode.

Microsoft have positioned themselves as being a supporter of software patentability.


I think this is a gross oversimplification of Microsoft's position.

Start with general counsel Brad Smith's take:
http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3489181

There is a difference between supporting software patents in some form versus supporting them in their current form.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: I wonder..
by BluenoseJake on Sun 10th Jan 2010 17:25 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: I wonder.."
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

You have no evidence that they stole this, and considering what is at question here, the ability to store a word processing document as XML, and parse that document, it seems that this method would be apparent to any 2nd year CS major.

It's not MS that is at fault here, but the USPO. They never should have granted such a stupid patent.

Edited 2010-01-10 17:25 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: I wonder..
by zegenie on Sun 10th Jan 2010 17:36 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I wonder.."
zegenie Member since:
2005-12-31

considering what is at question here, the ability to store a word processing document as XML, and parse that document


That is incorrect. The patent - validity of software patents aside - is perfectly valid in the sense that it describes a specific way of performing a specific function, and is not at all that generic.

Albeit *related to* XML - it is nothing near as general as you try to portray it.

Edited 2010-01-10 17:47 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: I wonder..
by BluenoseJake on Mon 11th Jan 2010 00:11 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: I wonder.."
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

No, it is generic, because anybody processing documents in XML would eventually come up with this particular method. It is vague because it can be interpreted in multiple ways.

Oh, and just stating I am wrong, with out any valid arguments, do not make me wrong.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: I wonder..
by jaypee on Mon 11th Jan 2010 18:54 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I wonder.."
jaypee Member since:
2005-07-28

You have no evidence that they stole this, and considering what is at question here, the ability to store a word processing document as XML, and parse that document, it seems that this method would be apparent to any 2nd year CS major.

It's not MS that is at fault here, but the USPO. They never should have granted such a stupid patent.


Actually, you have something that is very close to a smoking gun. An article in InformationWeek from this past August shares part of an email that turned up in discovery:

"We saw [i4i's products] some time ago and met its creators. Word 11 will make it obsolete," said Martin Sawicki, a member of Microsoft's XML for Word development team, in an e-mail to a colleague. "It looks great for XP though," wrote Sawicki, according to court records.

source: http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/enterpriseapps/showArt...

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: I wonder..
by BluenoseJake on Mon 11th Jan 2010 20:00 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: I wonder.."
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

That's a smoking gun? That's not even a lit match

Reply Score: 2

Bad microsoft
by TechGeek on Sun 10th Jan 2010 23:30 UTC
TechGeek
Member since:
2006-01-14

Microsoft was clearly in the wrong here. They knew there were patents on the technology. They just figured i4i was too small to do anything about it. As for the award, you can't really judge it unless you know how big i4i's business is. Remember, Microsoft has been dragging this out for years, while i4i tried to negotiate a license deal. Four or five years worth of revenue could easily amount to $300 million. Thats not even counting the punitive part of the award if there is one. Of course, Microsoft claims they are the victim. But their internal emails say otherwise, which I imagine is a large part of the reason for the large award.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Bad microsoft
by BluenoseJake on Mon 11th Jan 2010 00:14 UTC in reply to "Bad microsoft"
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

Proof?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Bad microsoft
by TechGeek on Mon 11th Jan 2010 16:45 UTC in reply to "Bad microsoft"
TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

The email posted by zegenie above is all the proof you need. They saw i4i's technology BEFORE they implemented it themselves. They knew they were stealing it. It makes no difference if the patent should have been granted or not. If Microsoft had a problem with the patent, they could have challenged it instead of just stealing the technology. Even now, they could try to get the patent invalidated, which would save their goose, but they don't. Chances are its because there are no grounds to get the patent invalidated on.

Reply Score: 2