back to article Texan judge outlaws Word

The US District Court of Eastern Texas has granted an injunction to prevent Microsoft from selling copies of Word because it infringes a patent owned by another company. The long-running court case was brought by Canadian software firm i4i which won $200m in damages from Microsoft when a jury found it had willfully infringed a …


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  1. King Edward I

    Award for most obvious statement of the day...

    "...but US reports suggest an appeal is under consideration"

  2. Anonymous Coward


    That's all I have to say

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "a patent relating to XML custom formatting"


    I'm probably infringing it.

    See me not care.

  4. deadlockvictim

    Innovation and Patents

    It is so tragic when companies use patents to stifle innovation [1]. Still, it couldn't have happened to a nicer company. Those who live by the sword can expect to die by the sword.

    [1] Even if it is innovation in Balmerian world. Maybe I should have used apostrophes.

  5. Scary

    Can't import or sell

    No problem, they only license the product and distribute the software that users can license (not buy) on discs written in the US.

  6. Bumpy Cat


    Couldn't happen to nicer people ...

    Seriously, though, it might help to have Microsoft on side to smack down the patent trolls and their loyal goblins in the court system of eastern Texas ....

  7. Chewy
    Thumb Down

    RE: Result!

    How exactly is this a result for common sense? Surely every XSD is custom XML which means the Patents Office have granted a patent to a troll.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Map of tags to location

    Their patent is a map of the parts of the document, as opposed to streams.

    e.g. a stream would be <titletag>This is a title</endtitle><body>This is normal text.</body>

    Would be represented in memory as

    <titletag>, 0, this is a title

    <body>,15, This is normal text

    They presume that wordprocessors previously always stored these as streams with tags embedded in them. Which is not true. There is also no invention here.

    I'm sorry, but the patent office needs to be reformed, it cannot go on being allowed to create havoc in the market by issuing such poor quality patents. If they won't do their job, then they need to be replaced by people who will.

  9. Hugh_Pym


    Microsoft can't sell MS Word in the US until the court case over? Do they even have the capability of stopping people buying it? There must be about a trillion outlets.

  10. Paul Smith

    Patent trolls or legitimate case

    I dont think I understand. XML = eXtensible Markup Language. How do you add something patentable to something designed to be extended?

    Perhaps el Reg hacks could spend a few minutes researching this Canadian company to see if they have a legitimate cause for grevience, because I can not help but wonder if the primary purpose of this case is to generate the fear that "if I use XML in my apps, will I and my customers risk legal issues?" which begs the question; would this case have happened if Microsofts version of OOXML had been adopted?

  11. Anonymous from Mars


    That's harsh.

    One simple mistake can make commercial software cost a ton more. :(

  12. alistair millington
    Thumb Up


    They can't import their own file formats.

    Man that has to sting!!!!

  13. PaulK

    Is this progress?

    I fucking hate this American lawyery thing. Buy a failing company with an interesting patent. identify mega corp with alleged patent infringement. Sue mega corp for mega bucks.

    Where is the creativity in that? Where is the wealth creation?

    Fucking leaches...

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Someone has the sense to ban these .DOCX abominations!

  15. ~mico

    I wonder...

    ...What software did they use to print the decision

  16. Francis Fish

    I wonder

    If this is one of those "patents" that covers the bleedin' obvious? But it's nice the boot's on the other foot for once.

  17. Sandra Greer
    Thumb Up

    First time I have ever rooted for Texas...

    particularly a Texas judge. If they can just forbid saving Word docs as HTML, I would be happy. Also that stupid application that lets idiots create Web pages that are impossible to fix and will not render in other browsers.

    Word is hideous in general. I am a pretty heavy user of Excel at the office, although I use OO elsewhere. So I am not totally anti-MS. But Word just has a bad attitude.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Patents and Karma?

    I have nothing personal against MS, but seems like a case of do unto others....we'll you know the rest!

  19. Lost in a maze of twisty messages, all alike.
    Thumb Up

    Texas a-go-go gone ?

    Might the District Court of East Texas, that well known legal forum for patent trollery, have outreached itself at last ? Hopefully M$ have deep enough pockets to set a precedent which will be sufficiently binding to bring an end to Texas legal tomfoolery.

  20. Jim T

    Even tho it's microsoft

    I can't help but be appalled at this.

    Software patents have got to be stopped.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Free Word?

    How about creating a special Office W (Office without Word) and give everyone a free copy of Word with every purchase of Office W?

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. MinionZero

    A patent relating to XML custom formatting?!?

    For a start, i4i sounds very much like an "eye for an eye" and its defined as, "is a quotation from in which a person who has taken the eye of another in a fight is instructed to give his own eye in compensation." ... so calling a company i4i is in effect the literal definition of setting up a company to fight for compensation. They are by definition Patent Trolls!

    Also I thought one of the fundamental aspects of XML was that it allowed and encouraged extension. i.e. XML as in *Extensible* Markup Language. So allowing customization surely isn't something to patent?!?

    and $200M for that!?! what?!! ... what a crazy and crooked world we live in. :(

  24. Wolf 1
    Thumb Up

    This kills Open Office and other XML word processors too you know

    So i4i has single-handedly outlawed word processing. :)

    Of course MS can always fall back to the .DOC format, can't they? :) Which means MS pays what, $300 million and kills every single Word competitor.

    Cheap at the price! (laughing)

    /end TinFoilHat

  25. Saul Dobney

    Think this is what it's about

    There seem to be three parts to this

    1. Something to parse a stream and break it up separating out the mark up from the content - creating content as a flat file/continuous stream and an index based on the mark-up (the metamap)

    2. The principle of a flat file with a metamap. This is obviously ancient technology since it's the basis of all market research and stats software (eg SPSS and VAX based survey software)

    3. Something to rebuild the document from the flat file and ad hoc indexes. Again market research software would fit here rebuilding individual questionnaires from data plus a question map.

    The first should be obvious but I can't find a specific example. Obviously parsing a text file for control data pre-exists - It's the way email works, or earlier forms of EDI etc but it might be claimed these might not produce a direct map and data separation?

  26. Luther Blissett

    "a patent relating to XML custom formatting" - another angle

    XML is an application of SGML, and the data is format-free (not the same as free format (and overlooking the question of when and where Return is significant (and not forgetting the matter of Abstract Syntax either))), so wherein the custom formatting ? 1: 0; // sorry couldn't resist that

    I wonder if this ruling is part of the long-term strategy for Texas independence.

  27. N2

    Im sure

    That Microsoft would shaft the hell out of anyone, including their own grandmothers, if the boot was on the other foot.

  28. John Angelico
    Gates Horns

    If they win, they lose...

    ...if they lose, they pay.

    If MS overturns this decision, it could put patent trolling on death support, and failing fast.

    Which would soon kill the MS patent-trolling machine, right?

    If they lose, the daily penalties could be a steady drain on the bulging coffers. The faster they settle, the more likely there will be copy-cat attacks.

  29. John70


    I wonder if it's something to do with i4i's product x4o (XML for Office).

    From the link above...

    x4o is i4i's response to the overwhelming complexity of implementing an XML authoring solution. x4o comprises three modules:

    x4o Author - a real-time XML (or SGML) authoring tool in Microsoft Word. With x4o Author, creating a document is as straightforward as selecting the appropriate template (any DTD or Schema & a stylesheet) and authoring as you would in Microsoft Word.

    x4o Designer - an XML template design tool. If you don't use a custom or industry standard DTD, simply create one using the familiar Microsoft Word interface of x4o Designer and already learned Microsoft Word skills.

    x4o CMS Connector - a CMS/DMS connector that makes check-in and check-out as simple as File Open and File Save.

  30. Don Mitchell

    Patent wars

    Actually Microsoft has not been especially aggressive about patent suits, compared to Apple for example. If they were, Open Office would be in big trouble.

  31. RichyS
    Gates Horns

    @Alistair Millington

    Already in place. Well, if you have Word 2008 for Mac it is, anyway...

  32. Chris iverson

    about i4i


    i4i is a world leader in the design and development of collaborative content solutions and technologies. Founded in 1993 by Michel Vulpe, the Company has a proven record of accomplishment and innovation. With its partners, i4i has successfully developed and deployed collaborative content solutions to customers in industry and government around the world.

    It looks like they sell labeling solutions as well as XML authoring which, ironically, they show a screen shot from word

    Ohhh well not to be left out, BURN THE WITCH and all that

  33. Robert E A Harvey
    Gates Horns


    El Reg has already drawn attention to the ironic link with M$'s patenting of OOXML .

    I just find it wonderfully ironic. The biter bit.


  34. richard 69

    have they paid their EU fines yet?

    eh? thought not...

  35. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    How is this good news?

    I hate MS and word as much as the next guy, but you linux fanbois who say that this result is good really don't get the big picture - you also make yourselves look stupidly biased

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can anyone else see a connection

    between the amount of money charged for a copy of and the amount of money it's being sued for?

  37. Aaron Guilmette

    How does this work?

    Write a proprietary format, get railed by technology bigots for not being open. Use a "standards-based" format, get sued.

    Microsoft is only a target because it has money and the American legal system doesn't have technical representation on the state's side. If OO were anything but free, I'm sure something similar would happen to them.

    This just in--Microsoft buys i4i.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    A bit short sighted

    OK, I get it, MS get a patent ruling against them, and I can see from the posts that this has some people smiling.

    But, this patent ruling could have far larger implications, beyond Word or MS.

    There are many XML parsers for many different operating systems. I wonder how many of them use a system similar to the one described to represent XML in memory. Things like fast lookups for XPaths, XSLT Stylesheets etc, could use the same technique under the hood.

    If so, it could affect any software that uses XML, not just Word. Stop and think about how many of the programs we use today loads some XML into memory at some point.

    I’m unwilling to speculate as to why the patent was successfully granted or the ruling. I’m just worried that it could have farther reaching implications in the future.

  39. deegee

    Bogus patent

    From everything I've been able to find out regarding this on the 'net, it looks like the awarded patent is badly done. So the fault should lie with the patent office.

    It's like trying to patent serial connecting mice ten years after everyone has been freely using them.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    @How is this good news?

    Hopefully because if there is any single corporation that can force the US Government to do something about the US Patent office, it is Microsoft. My concern would be that M$ buys a license for the technology and i4i turns on OpenOffice.

    Still, not our problem over here. I just wish we some way of forcing software companies to comply fully to any standards they declare (a bit like CE Marking), so if some software only supported a partial IMAP command set they could not call it IMAP compliant. Ditto with SMTP, HTML, etc.

  41. JK

    GL to Microsoft

    Hopefully this ridiculous decision can be overturned. As others have pointed out, it'll be a blow to anything that uses XML for documents that have text in them.

  42. John 158


    Being that in america it is first to invent rather than first to patent as it is in the uk. maybe the original XML working group of Jon Bosak, James Clark , Tim Bray, Jean Paoli, C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, Dan Connolly, Paula Angerstein, Steve DeRose, Dave Hollander, Eliot Kimber, Eve Maler, Tom Magliery, Murray Maloney, Makoto Murata Joel Nava, Conleth O'Connell, Peter Sharpe and John Tigue could all make a bit of extra cash on the side.

    Hell I was using html in the early 90's to seperate text and print it out maybe im owed too.

  43. James O'Brien


    2 things I see here. . .

    So what are they going to do about the fact there are probably 10million copies of Office out there on store shelves (and yes I know my guess is probably missing a 0 or two)? Are they going to fine M$ more each day until M$ tells said companies to stop selling or else? Also what about the OEMs who include Office?


    How is it that this company has a patent for this and Apple didn't already try to get one for the same thing? What with all the BS patents Apple has been applying for lately has me rather surprised they don't already have one.

    I hope this end patent trolls.

  44. Rolf Howarth

    @Don Mitchell

    "Actually Microsoft has not been especially aggressive about patent suits, compared to Apple for example."

    I'm not sure that's true at all. El Reg certainly goes out of its way to report all the patents Apple *files* for but that's not the same as trying to *enforce* them if and when they're granted.

    I'm sure both Apple and Microsoft would be quite happy if there was no such thing as software patents. For high profile companies, the risk of inadvertently being at the receiving end of a patent troll far outweighs the practical benefits of any protection offered.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Why it is good news

    This could be good news for two reasons:

    First, it shows Microsoft and its friends that this software patent malarkey is bad for everybody in the whole industry. They backed the wrong horse in the hope that it would only hurt the little guys. This proves it hurts everybody, including them, and not in a trivial way. Sure, we already knew this but now everybody will.

    Secondly, it shows that the disgraceful way in which the MS Office XML formats were rammed through the ISO was bad for everybody, even the supposed "winners". The formats were not discussed properly. Their patent status was not looked at properly. And now it has all blown up in their faces. This should wake up the ISO. It is better to make the right decision than to make a fast decision or a popular one. MS would not have liked it if the ISO had pushed them towards the OASIS formats but it would have saved them from all this pain.

    This is going to bring a lot of issues to a head that some people would have preferred to let quietly slide.

    MS has a right to feel hard done by, although this is partly of its own making. The question now is whether it is prepared do switch sides on the software patents issue. If it is, or if this moves them a few steps in the right direction, then this is a good thing. Of they just pay up and accept this sort of thing as a normal business risk then it is just another step on the road to hell. I am optimistic, It is hard to remain complacent in the face of such a massive slap in the face.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OOO may not be at risk

    From opinion on Groklaw, the problem is the custom extensions MS has put into this, that are not described by the normal XML metadata methods, OOO uses normal metadata description.

    Of course the fact that OOO opens .docx may put it in the firing line

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lesson to standards bodies

    Until the law changes, anyone developing an open standard should patent it, then license it freely, to prevent patent trolls from patenting easily foreseen applications which your standard was meant to cover.

  48. Another Anonymous Coward 1

    Should probably stop Adobe from selling Flash, too.

    AS3 features very close integration with XML that is used on thousands of websites.

    Hell, why not order them to remove flash player from the internet with immediate effect, I'm sure that would be a very smart move.

    You don't have to like Microsoft to recognise that removing Word is the most stupid ruling that could have been passed.

  49. Anonymous Coward


    To all the people dissing patents and claiming custom XML to be bleedin' obvious - are you so sure that that was the case in June 1994?

  50. esqo

    Yep, get rid of Flash too

    Yep, we might as well get rid of Flash now that HTML5 supports embedded video. We would have a free, standard video codec by now also, if big-business hadn't opposed it.

    All you M$ and Apple-tards need to open your eyes and start adopting these open and vastly superior standards and methodologies rather than all this propitiatory, tied-in and fraught with legal problems crap.

  51. Al 14


    Well for starters XML is a stupid way to store almost anything. Just because something is XML it does not make it automatically compatible with anything. If you you want to define a standard for something like a Word Processor Document, that's fine, but please use a platform independent binary format... grrrr.

  52. Terry012395214785 << There's a lot of us called Terry

    Software Patents Suck

    To the mypoic and assorted fanbois who say, 'Cool!', think like rational critters, not like Twitter w@ts. If i4i pull this one off (they're probably in the bogs 'pulling one off' as I type) then this is bigger than just Microsoft. Only idiots would applaud this decision.

    Software patents have always sucked. Software patents will always suck.

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