back to article Microsoft secures web Office XML patent

Microsoft might be offering up its XML-based Office specs and formats with a promise not to prosecute, but that hasn't stopped it from locking down another patent on the suite. The company has been awarded a US patent apparently intended to protect the formatting and editing of Word documents that use XML. Microsoft's patent …


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  1. Tom 7 Silver badge


    MS has patented using XML for what it was designed for?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ribbon interface

    Most the complaints I hear from people regarding the office ribbon are simply along the lines of: "I don't like it because things aren't where they used to be". This is a ridiculous but incredibly common attitude. Imagine how unusable computers would be if no one had ever made changes to the user interface because it would require users to learn something new. My father still uses a command prompt to perform actions that he could do 10 times quicker in explorer because he refuses to learn how to use the 'newer technology'.

    Back to the ribbon interface, I personally think it is a phenomenal improvement. It greatly increases my productivity not having to go clicking through menus every time I want something there isn't a toolbar button for. Occasionally something has been put in a weird place but that's fairly rare in my experience. Other people I know that complained about it have now been won over after they actually started using it rather than just moaning.

  3. OkKTY8KK5U

    Failure copying failure?

    Oh, great. Microsoft Office's "ribbon" interface was the final straw that convinced me to abandon Microsoft's rotting failhole. Now OpenOffice, which is already a buggy and incompetent enough application as it is, and whose developers have already shown more than enough disdain for the wants of their actual users, has decided that instead of fixing actual bugs or improving file-format compatibility and stability so that people with actual jobs can get those jobs done, wants to copy it? Awesome.

    I suppose OpenOffice may at least be a little less arrogant than Microsoft and at least give us a choice of using a "classic interface." Or be hackable. I've had to hack OpenOffice to disable some of their UI stupidity already, although honestly, I have better things to do with my limited time. Too bad the drooling incompetents behind Abiword can't wrap their pathetic heads around smart quotes, notwithstanding Douglas Adams's rant on the topic from 1987 and the ready availability of source code.

    What am I supposed to do, give up and buy a Mac?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US patent system still completely broken

    The patent is for the 'invention' that xml can be used to represent a word processing document and that other applications can then manipulate this representation of teh document.

    It would be an excellant patent if it was not completely obvious, totaly unoriginal, predated by at least two decades of well known prior art and so abstract it is doubtful that it actually can be conidered an invention at all.

    Reading the patent makes you wonder if there is any appraisal or even disciplinary procedure for patent examiners. Do they just flip a coin? Do they actually read the patent or have any sort of technical experience or knowledge?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Hope you can turn off the ribbon. I find it the most second most annoying feature of Orafice 97 after the the way it appears to mess around with all other apps cut and paste.

    Also, it really aint good for small format screens like a netbook.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Obvious, no significant advancement of state of the art,...

    ...and prior art exist with certainty approaching 1 (what was SGML for already? oh, and we have had TeX for, like, forever..)

    Ok, what actually _does_ one have to do to USPTO employees to make them stop their neverending stream of totally wortheless patent grants?

    New offices in Guantanamo? Schooling in Zimbabwe? Crowbars to their heads? Bullets? Zyklon B??

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Open Specification Law

    Open Specification Promise? Bah, humbug! What we need is an open specification LAW in all cooperating jurisdictions. I'm not talking about pussy-footing around with "patent reform" either. This law needs to be robust. A law in a single jurisdiction would still be an improvement.

    Firstly, such a law would require that before data can be exchanged (e.g. between persons, companies or agencies), or stored or retrieved in persistent form, the complete specification of all pertinent data formats must be published and accepted by a designated standards body (acceptable standards bodies would be nominated by Government under the power of the legislation). Secondly, legislation would permit anyone, anywhere, complete, unfettered and free use of all published data standards. That's pretty much all that's needed, as far as I can see.

    Developers/companies can still copyright their code ... just as long as all data formats are published and their use unhindered.

    The justification is pretty simple: Why should anyone be held captive and only able to access their own data, or data given to them, through use of unclear, unpublished and illegal to reverse-engineer data "standards" where a fee must be paid first and formats are locked to proprietary platforms? No-one would accept the current state of play with any other medium. Why is there so much as a moment's hesitation in deciding that proprietary, closed formats are not acceptable?

    Data should be accessible by anyone who has the rights to do so, using whatever tools they have or choose to use, on whatever platform they have or choose to use, and in the manner intended to be used (e.g. music is played, images are displayed). Data access/ownership rights can change at a moments notice and so can the platform.

    So grab yer pitchforks and prepare to march on Parliament!

  8. asdf

    software patents morally wrong

    While I never trust the intentions of M$ and think this may just another example of embrace, extend, extinguish I do have to admit M$ is forced to play the lame patent game and pay the patent lawyer tax (extortion?) for the possibly defensive patent as a cost of doing business. M$ has had to pay as much as just about anyone to the patent trolls. Software patents and the retarded extension after extension to copyright makes one realize the lawyers have subverted the legal system to such a point they can be nothing but leeches that suck on the blood of others blood and sweat. Oh well, the virtual land rush and other aspects of the modern western economy are so contrived that the house of cards is already starting to fall. Creating impossible to understand financial products as the main export of your economy is very bad long term epic fail.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The Ribbon Sucks Ass

    I never use it, and get annoyed when I accidentally click on it.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear...

    "The largely Sun-Microsystems-backed OpenOffice has revealed a planned new look and feel that adopts the ribbon interface Microsoft introduced to its own productivity suite with Office 2007."

    Oh dear. Goodbye Open Office, it was nice knowing you.

  11. Robert E A Harvey
    Gates Horns


    So you can bully the ISO into adopting something as a standard, then persuade the US patent office to patent it afterwards? How can that be right? or legal? or enforceable?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Ohh no, not OO with the ribbon as well


  13. Doug Glass

    New Definition?

    I guess I just never realized "renaissance" and "clone" meant the same. I had always [mistakenly] understood renaissance to mean something new and better coming out of old rubbish. Or some such.

    I learn something every day. And today I learned just how desperate Sun must be. Since we all know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I can imagine the smile on Mr. Balmer's face.

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Why another XML patent?

    Just looks like COBOL on bad acid to me.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Patenting part of a ISO Standard?

    How the hell does that work? How the hell can you have a ISO standard that contains patents?

    Mind you people knew this was the sort of shifty nasty thing MS would do when they fucked over the ISO approval process to force their standard through.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Prior art?

    Excuse me, but won't any wysiwyg XHTML editor be a prior art for this "patent" ?

  17. Quirkafleeg
    Gates Horns

    And they think that that is patentable

    “Significantly, the patent award covers "the manipulation of word-processing documents [that] may be done on computing devices that do not include the word-processor itself."”

    An X server on a terminal and the application (which could easily be a word processor, e.g. abiword) on a client box elsewhere, so no need for the app to be installed on the X server box – wouldn't you say that that's prior art? I certainly would, and that would shoot down at least part of it.

    Regardless, it's Yet Another Software Patent, so if they try to file it here, hopefully the Evil Empire will be told where to go.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Patenting an XML Schema?

    (Skimming the patent) It sounds like they're trying to patent the XML schema used for their word docs. I can't really see what else they're trying to achieve.

    Patenting the ability to edit word-documents without the original program? Nope - prior-art in practically every Word competitor - or even Word 2, 3, 4 itself.

    Patenting a way to edit word-documents saved as XML? Nope - XML editors are prior-art.

    Patenting the use of 'styles' and 'hints' elements and tags in an XML document - how the heck can that be patented? It's an XML format associated with an XSD. Just because the elements and attributes have particular meanings - does that make the file format patentable? I don't think so...

    What the hell are they patenting?

  19. Stephen Bungay

    Ribbon look 'n feel...

    If, on initial install or upgrade, the option of the ribbon interface is presented to the end user (i.e. select between Office 2007 interface or Office 2003 (and use pictures to make sure they know what they are selecting)) then OK. To simply make the ribbon the default without asking the user if they WANT it is going to result in many many pissed-off OOo users.

    Put the ribbon in as an option. Good.

    Ask if they want the user interface to look like Office 2007 (use pictures). Good.

    Assume they want the ribbon interface, Bad

    Learning from the mistakes of M$. Priceless.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    DeJa Vue all over again?

    Sounds familiar? The "ISO" standard based on Office?

    It's like a standard but incompatible with anything else.

    MS supports standards

    Like a rope supports a hanged man.

  21. Reg Sim
    Thumb Up

    Hmm some good comments there...

    ... I followed the link to see what the ribbion would look like, and I have to say, I am with most people who commented below about it 'suxing' and much like vista kept me at XP, Office 2007 kept me at Office 2003 because of the ribbon. (lets hope the next version sort that).

    However there is one very good stand out post in that lists, that suggests they understand why there would need to be a ribbion interface (ie to get Office converts) however there should be other options (which would be an advantage over MS Office were you can not have an 'old' (and better) style of interface).

    Most intrestingly is his suggestion that almost everybody and there netbook have wide screens, so you waste a lot of space on your screen, so why can you not move your tool bars (or ribbons) down to the sides?

    A fair point me thinks.

  22. raving angry loony

    enough is enough

    Can someone please just raze the US Patent Office to the ground please, taking all its asinine policies and incompetent decisions with it? NONE of what Microsoft or other software companies is patenting is "not obvious to a skilled practitioner". NONE of what is being patented in the software field actually encourages development and innovation. All it does is make more lawyers very, very rich.

  23. Roger Heathcote 1
    Gates Horns


    From the patent docs...

    "The present invention is directed at providing a word-processing document in a native XML file format that may be understood by an application that understands XML, or to enable another application or service to create a rich document in XML so that the word-processing application can open it as if it was one of its own documents. "


    Patenting a format intended to aid interoperability LMFAO! Hands up who thinks the patent world isn't wildly out of control. Oh no-one? Honestly, does anyone at the patent office even read the applications anymore?

  24. Mark Simon

    Open Patent?

    I’m tremendously confused here.

    Is it possible to patent something which you have tried desperately to establish as an open standard?

    What is the point of a patent if there is no intention of suing? Is it OK to rip it off?

    What do the standards bodies think of this?

    Where am I?

  25. Bad Beaver


    MS dicking about their IP, what's the news? Great link to Sun though, love how the first comments on the UI are in essence "WTF!?".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I call bullshit

    You only patent what you want to protect. And by protect I mean "sue the ass off any other implementer". OOXML was forced through as a standard (shame on ISO) even though it was only half-formed, inconsistent and there was a pre-existing standard that was already in use.

    This is clearly part of MSs continuing game-plan "embrace, extend, extinguish" and with more open-saucers falling for their tricks it won't be too long before MS can stick the boot it good ' proper.

    It won't be long before MS use this patent to stab some F/OSS type initiative in the neck; mark my words. They don't know how to do anything else.

    As for OpenOrifice's UI, no and thrice NO! Get the basics right, then piss about with the frillies. Stopping formatting being lost or randomly changing in Writer and Calc would be a big bonus. Stopping Draw randomly moving components of your diagram and fucking up the layout would be nice too. Being able to copy from Draw and paste into Calc without corruption would be good too. (not to the unthinking fanbois: I use OpenOffice almost daily, whilst I like it these basic bugs drive me to distraction at times).

    But no - they are going to take their crude-but-usable Office 2000-ish UI and turn it into the vomit that is Ribbons. Urgh.

    Talk about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  27. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    WHY does the USPTO ....

    award patents for inventions for which prior art so clearly exists. No formatting is lost when saving Open Office documents in XML? Wy not patent the concept of a generic markup language ((La)TeX anyone?)

    In related news , the USPTO has allowed Microsoft to patent the screwdriver

  28. Anonymous Coward

    I know it's a mock up but...

    ...did someone purposely at OOo "Ok, redesign. My brief is to make this look as shit as possible."

    They succeeded.

    I like the Office 2007 ribbon (I'm an odd-ball, I also have no probs with Vista either), but OOo just seems to be making reasons not to use their product. Shame as Writer is actually half decent and easier to write long documents with than Word.

  29. Robert E A Harvey
    Gates Horns

    @Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Oh glods, no. A microsoft screwdriver. Only works with screw 2.3, whose direction of driving changes half way down, and which can only be used to fix microsoft wood to microsoft wood. After driving three screws you have to buy a new screwdriver and not give the old one to anyone else.


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