Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Aug 2009 17:55 UTC, submitted by Laurence
Legal In what some will undoubtedly call ironic, Microsoft has been declared guilty of wilfully infringing upon an XML patent held by the Canadian company i4i. The judge has ordered Microsoft to pay a fine of 290 million USD, and has barred Microsoft from selling Word in the United States if the company doesn't comply within 60 days (a detail omitted by many). Microsoft has already announced it will appeal the judge's decision.
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Word-less US
by weildish on Wed 12th Aug 2009 18:11 UTC
weildish
Member since:
2008-12-06

What an odd turn of events. I'm just trying to imagine a Word-less US. If the decision isn't appealed, this doesn't rule out future Word programs though, does it? Only 2003 and 2007? If it does rule out any Word program forevermore, businesses won't have much to turn to except for OpenOffice.org (which wouldn't be a bad thing, I suppose) aside from some other less-known proprietary programs.

I have to say-- that seems a bit harsh. Very surprising, too.

I bet it won't be hard for them to repeal the decision, though. At least for being able to still sell Word.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Word-less US
by jpobst on Wed 12th Aug 2009 18:19 in reply to "Word-less US"
jpobst Member since:
2006-09-26

Yes, thank goodness OpenOffice doesn't use an XML based format and is therefore immune to this patent!

Reply Parent Score: 7

RE[2]: Word-less US
by lemur2 on Wed 12th Aug 2009 23:47 in reply to "RE: Word-less US"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Yes, thank goodness OpenOffice doesn't use an XML based format and is therefore immune to this patent!


AFAIK, this patent applies to having the formatting codes separate from the text to be formatted. Microsoft Office and the OOXML formats do this extensively, using a feature Microsoft call "custom XML", but ODF does not. The formatting codes in ODF are unobscured and intertwined with the text element they apply to.

AFAIK, if OpenOffice.org wants to be certain that it did not infringe this patent, all that it would need to do is drop its .docx support.

Supporting reference:
http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&sid=200908121441548...

Edited 2009-08-12 23:50 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Word-less US
by fridder on Wed 12th Aug 2009 18:21 in reply to "Word-less US"
fridder Member since:
2007-11-03

Keep in mind that this only affects the .docx and similar formats. They would still be able to distribute a version of word that uses the .doc extension.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Word-less US
by Eddyspeeder on Wed 12th Aug 2009 22:05 in reply to "Word-less US"
Eddyspeeder Member since:
2006-05-10

I'm internally divided over this matter. Frankly, Microsoft should know better and be more careful when it comes to matters like these. The gazillions of trials they had in which they ended up paying multi-million settlements for misconduct or infringement should have taught them that.

But a court ruling like that is just ridiculous. Is there really legislation allowing a judge to prohibit a company to sell or support their product (i.e., Office) altogether? Also, it's OFFICE(!); think of the economic damages, not only for Microsoft (which may end up outweighing the settlement), but for any company or individual around the globe using Office. That would mean that they, too, have effectively just a few days to completely transfer everything to OpenOffice. And as history has shown us; they won't.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Word-less US
by lemur2 on Thu 13th Aug 2009 03:25 in reply to "RE: Word-less US"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

I'm internally divided over this matter. Frankly, Microsoft should know better and be more careful when it comes to matters like these. The gazillions of trials they had in which they ended up paying multi-million settlements for misconduct or infringement should have taught them that. But a court ruling like that is just ridiculous. Is there really legislation allowing a judge to prohibit a company to sell or support their product (i.e., Office) altogether? Also, it's OFFICE(!); think of the economic damages, not only for Microsoft (which may end up outweighing the settlement), but for any company or individual around the globe using Office. That would mean that they, too, have effectively just a few days to completely transfer everything to OpenOffice. And as history has shown us; they won't.


AFAIK, patent law does allow for exactly such an injunction to be imposed.

The fact that it is Microsoft Office isn't really relevant ... even Microsoft should be subject to the law, one would think. If there is a problem (which, granted, there does appear to be) ... then the law needs changing, not merely an exemption granted to Microsoft because they are Microsoft.

Since software is just maths, then a clause stipulating "No software patents" would seem to be a good ammendment to patent law that would solve this problem for everyone.

The true irony, for me, is that it is the "custom XML" features of the .docx formats that are AFAIK the very elements of OOXML via which Microsoft was hoping to keep its format lock-in.

Edited 2009-08-13 03:27 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Word-less US
by phoenix on Thu 13th Aug 2009 18:33 in reply to "RE: Word-less US"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

But a court ruling like that is just ridiculous. Is there really legislation allowing a judge to prohibit a company to sell or support their product (i.e., Office) altogether? Also, it's OFFICE(!); think of the economic damages, not only for Microsoft (which may end up outweighing the settlement), but for any company or individual around the globe using Office. That would mean that they, too, have effectively just a few days to completely transfer everything to OpenOffice. And as history has shown us; they won't.


It only affects the US, and it only affects Office 2003 and 2007, and it only affects future sales. All the installed copies will continue to work. And you can always use the .doc file format, as this only applies to the .docx file format.

If it is held up, then all MS has to do is release an update to Office 2003 and 2007 that removes the ability to save in .docx format, and sets the default file format back to .doc. And then start shipping Office 2007 with the same.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Word-less US
by lemur2 on Thu 13th Aug 2009 00:08 in reply to "Word-less US"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

What an odd turn of events. I'm just trying to imagine a Word-less US. If the decision isn't appealed, this doesn't rule out future Word programs though, does it? Only 2003 and 2007? If it does rule out any Word program forevermore, businesses won't have much to turn to except for OpenOffice.org (which wouldn't be a bad thing, I suppose) aside from some other less-known proprietary programs. I have to say-- that seems a bit harsh. Very surprising, too. I bet it won't be hard for them to repeal the decision, though. At least for being able to still sell Word.


Well, Microsoft could scrub up thier support for ODF, make it fully compliant with ODF 1.2, and use that as the default format, and retain the support for their legacy, binary formats, but drop all OOXML formats.

That way Microsoft could, AFAIK, avoid this patent and still sell Office. In one fell swoop, Microsoft would also rid themselves of accustaions from the EU of lack of interoperability.

Reply Parent Score: 2