back to article Microsoft at a loss in Word patent case?

Time to take a breath following the "landmark" injunction against Microsoft over alleged infringement of an XML patent in Word. Never mind a US jury has found that Microsoft willfully violated an XML patent in its ubiquitous Word application and the case judge fined the company $200m. Microsoft's no stranger to patent …


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  1. asdf333

    cocaine is a helluva drug

    Wait a min did Rick James write this article.....

    "And on a larger scale, it's likely this is the end for Word for Microsoft, its partners, or millions of users."

    "This i4i ruling is not the end of the Word or the lucrative Office franchises. "

  2. Jacob 5

    At a loss

    There was a great opportunity for a "Lost for Word" pun here.

  3. Reg Sim

    I wonder if...

    I wonder if this will hurt microsofts plans to get its document format as an industry standard?

  4. The Cube

    I don't think the judge ruled based on the patent case

    I think the judge has had to use MS Word 2007 and took this opportunity to try and kill the damn thing whilst he (/she) had the chance....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    the end of "word"

    You mean something besides the garbage that IS MS Word might kill off MS Word first?

    I doubt that the courts will be that fast. What is Word 2007/2008 is such a steaming pile - and it is worse than 2003/2004..... So with the next release, I expect Word to be completely bolloxed.

    PH because she has a much better interface.

  6. Mark 65


    Perhaps now they'll campaign for software to be excluded from patents? Didn't think so.

  7. Alan Swartz

    Software Patents - Bad!

    This is yet another example of why all software patents should not exist. They stifle advances in software development.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    What makes the Canadians think anybody here will care?

    How do they even have any standing in a Texas court. Let alone the public opinion of a Canadian company trying to battle it out with an American company. Where are our pro-American Texans to set them straight? In a place like that, I'd expect to see the judge personally telling them to go back up to Cannuckland and leave our American software products alone. With all my ranting aside, there should be a limitation on patent claims so the plaintiffs can't wait 6 years after billions of dollars worth of product are sold to step in and say "wait a minute...that's our technology." I'd say if they didn't file this suit by 2004 (more than a year after Word 2003 came out), they shouldn't even be allowed to complain, let alone sue over it.

  9. mlo0352
    Paris Hilton

    This would mean

    No more MS Office in the USA?

    Paris because she prefers Open Office anyways

  10. The Douros

    Never mind Microsoft...

    ...just tell me if this is likely to impact OpenOffice at all.

  11. David Barrett
    Gates Halo

    Wait, what?

    It's early so I may have misread that, but have they patented the X in XML? Because if you can't customise it it ain't eXtensible.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    who owns the patent for custom HTML ??? They're sitting on a potential goldmine for the dumbass American legal system!

  13. Anonymous Coward


    The patent office that granted this one should be investigated. It is so generic! This could be a problem for FOSS too, as well as the hundreds of products that rely on XML in this way.

  14. SkateNY


    It's about time Microsoft got punished for their arrogant failings. Problem is, as always, they'll probably buy themselves out of this one.

  15. Dana W
    Jobs Halo


    Do I still get two more wishes?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    The real issue... that this case shows up just show damned stupid software patents are. Ignoring the rights or the wrongs of the judge's decision this case shows that the US patent system is broken. MS have lots of software patents, and just got one for some of the XML manipulation that lies at the heart of the OOXML ISO standard. Many, if not all of these patents should never have been granted.

    Microsoft and other large American companies are trying to persuade the EU to embrace software patents claiming that software patents encourage innovation.

    I hope that this latest farce, and that is what it is, is enough to make people in the UK and EU realise that software patents are just wrong. If people don't stop the EU changing the law then expect to see this sort of waste of everyone's time and money happening in a court room near you.

  17. Time for a career change


    Will Microsoft never learn to use open standards?

    Will Microsoft ever learn that they don't own the world's computers, and can't just take what they want?

  18. Ole Juul


    This is only a legal ruling. It won't have much effect.

  19. Avalanche

    Normal application of XML

    Not knowing the exact details, this 'custom XML' sounds like a normal application of XML Schema with processing in the application. I don't see how this is patentable, or such.

  20. Martijn Bakker

    As usual with software patents..

    Nobody seems able to report what the patent entails.

    Custom XML? Does that mean invalid XML with additional MS features, incompatible with competing products? Or use of valid XML to describe a word processor document?

    Is there any chance that the same patent would apply to similar products?

    But above all: Who the &*($^ are i4i and what great technological discovery (assuming it's not just using XML to describe arbitrary data, which is what XML is for in the first place) have they been allowed to patent?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Buy it?

    Can a patent be bought?

    (I'd have thought so - it's just another commodity)

    On the other hand if the motivation is mischievous/malicious can MS request some review to protect itself, shareholders, customers, retailers, distributors, ... from effect and consequence of malicious actions?

  22. Paul Mitchell 1
    Thumb Up

    No great hardship then

    "Cannot sell or import..." So licensing and exporting like they've been doing till now are both still okay then?

  23. Jonathan 17


    You mean they are at a loss for Words?

  24. N2

    Too bad

    If they cant sell Word, theyll have to give it away for free.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this just show

    how f**ked "Justice" is, if you have the abilty to pick and choose where case is heard in order to get the best result for the client?

    Justice should be a level palying field, where no matter you are, where it is tried, the results should be consistant.

    But as we all know, justice is never equal.

  26. Golodh

    Banned from Spreading the Word !?!

    Now that's a shame ...

  27. JohnG


    The snag for Microsoft here is that customers may be worried what might happen to Word/Office and Microsoft in the future and this may affect their purchasing decisions. Delaying the injunction and seeking to extend the legal process might actually hurt Microsoft more if they start losing customers due to the uncertainty. I would have thought they would be better off stomping up cash quickly to make the whole issue go away.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    there goes open office too

    guess this applies to open office too.

    dont you just love patents -

    but hey they cant get money from open source. Sorry forgot to be anti MS

  29. Anonymous Coward

    I don't get it...

    XML is an open standard that allows people to create structures and custom XML in any way that they want.

    Gonna have to look up this patent as I think it affects more than Word. What about XMLSpy, any configurator for anything (hardware/software) that uses XML. What about any XHMTL editors - cause basically they are all XML.

  30. Richard 116

    "customers would be forced to find alternative products."

    What would they be then? It's my understanding that OpenOffice also infringes this patent.

    Maybe we'll be banned from downloading that too. Oh hang on. They haven't got any money have they?

  31. Anonymous Coward

    I'm not the to say it...

    Bomb Canada!

  32. Jelliphiish
    Gates Horns

    parasitic lifeforms

    where there's a large resource, there'll always be something making use of it. Flease on cats, Rhemoras on whalesharks, patent infringement suits on large Corporates.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    How does...

    ...this ruling affect OpenOffice, AbiWord etc? And how does it affect vendors of applications that integrate with Word and also rely on XML for content/metadata?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    may I be one of many to misquote...

    It's the end of the Word as we know it and I feel fine.

  35. Andus McCoatover


    <<Not being able to sell Word would potentially hurt sales of Office>>

    I must be a bit thick, suffering from 'flu - fortunately no smell of bacon yet - but 'potentially'????

    It'll fuc*k Office. Can't believe I've missed something here. I really must be in 'flu-mode.

    Christ-in-shitty-nappies, must be jumping for joy.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Of course they can release it...

    ... just not in Texas. But even there they can just do mail order from outside the state.

    Perhaps finally after this idiotic ruling software companies over there might realise the corner they've painted themselves into with moronic software patents. Still, the only people it will hurt are US software companies, the rest of the world doesn't care and will just leave them at the wayside as other companies fly past unencumbered by a patent system designed by morons.

    You have to laugh at how even in such a bad recession the US legal system is still slowly killing its own IT sector.

  37. Rob Farnell

    There's some pretty good commments from Computerworld Blogwatch

    It's interesting to see that they went for Vista and .NET but settled to target Word. I'm pretty sure Microsoft will have to settle on this one.

    I always knew the Canadians would out manoeuvre the US in something like this!

  38. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    So what about just trying to overturn the patent?

    But maybe that is not a possible avenue to explore, as today just managing to find your own arse in a dark room is considered the mark of the American Genius.

  39. Anonymous Hero

    But...i4i have an XML authoring tool based on Word...

    "x4o© - The One Step Solution to XML Authoring in Microsoft® Word"


    I for one am amazed that these guys are getting away with this. How can you patent the use of data in angle brackets?

  40. Antoinette Lacroix

    This is getting old

    Troll against troll . . most money wins. Big troll buys off small troll - settled.

    <- Checks her software - pats her BSD boxes - feels sad for the average (l)user - GRINS !

  41. Graham Bartlett

    "Side-step the patent whilst paying them off"?

    Erm, did I miss something here? The point of the patent is to *get* paid for your invention. i4i said "you owe us this much". MS said "we're giving you nothing". Court said "MS, pay this much". At some point, MS and i4i will meet in the middle. If MS are smart, this will involve paying i4i a price which i4i are prepared to accept. If MS aren't smart, they'll dig their heels in and the court will beat them with a big stick until they *do* pay something.

    MS vs. Netscape is a good example of this. It tends to be presented as a victory for MS, which of course it was in terms of user-base. But AOL (who by that point owned Netscape) got a $750m payout from MS in exchange for dropping that one. Had MS settled earlier, that figure would have been a whole lot lower.

    And even on American lawyers' rates, I doubt Netscape used three-quarters of a billion on the lawsuit, so that represents a solid profit. Sure you've lost your user-base - but do you really want to own the most widely-used web browser, which has precisely zero income (because you're giving it away) and which still needs a team of developers employed (because there are still new features to implement)? Or would you rather have a tax-free three-quarters of a billion dollars in your back pocket which you can invest somewhere that'll turn a real profit? Hmm, tough call...

  42. Benny

    I think I've missed something here

    but isn't the point of XML that you have that holding your data, use a schema to define it, and XSL to style it!?

  43. captain veg Silver badge


    And some people say that Americans don't get irony.


  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Original patent a farce

    As much as we may not like Microsoft, the original patent is a farce. XML is designed to represent data, so for Microsoft to do so for a wordprocessing document is not original or novel.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Eolas II - The Revenge

    How did anyone seriously get a patent on using XML to store data for a word processing application using a custom schema? That's just a normal application use of XML, like millions of apps use.

    I'm not normally one to say this, but go Microsoft. Send in Bill and his mates with their baseball bats.

  46. Mathew White

    Office: mac

    Maybe the mac office update that broke xml office document compatibility wasn't a bug; it was just released too soon. DUM DUM DAAAAA.....!

  47. John70

    @The Douros

    "Never mind Microsoft... #

    By The Douros Posted Thursday 13th August 2009 04:22 GMT

    ...just tell me if this is likely to impact OpenOffice at all."

    This ruling in theory should affect all Office applications (Excel with xlsx, Powerpoint ppx, etc)

    Also Open Office and any other application that reads and writes XML will be affected under this ruling.

  48. Pat 4

    you forgot

    You forgot that contained in the evidence of the case, are a trail of Microsoft email messages clearly showing that they knew all along they were infringing this specific patent, but made no attempt to contact the owner and negotiate an agreement.

    Personally, I hope the decision is upheld all the way. Having a major player, with a major product like this getting hurt that badly, is the only way everyone can finally agree that software patents are completely ridiculous and should be banned. Maybe finally the US Patent system can finally get the overhaul it desperately needs.

  49. AlistairJ

    Drama? What drama

    What happens is the big company try to out-gun the little company with lawyers and money. If the little company still has some fight in it, they may settle out-of-court on a licensing fee. Or they can buy the little company. Whatever. Little company makes some money from their patent and big company carries on as before.

    Shame they didn't break up MS years ago, though.

  50. Graham Bartlett
    Paris Hilton

    @George Schultz

    That would be a "point and lick interface", right...?

  51. Andy 17

    Is this a rat I smell?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on....

    ...does this mean all I have to do is make up a company, i dunno eyeforeye inc. Find some common and obvious software technology that hasn't been patented, I dunno, formatting text or something stupid. Patent it and then sue the nuts of everyone to get some cash?

    Sounds like a good business model to me!

    What a complete farce!

    n.b. Obviously, I've not bothered to research the actual patent in question, who i4i are, or any detail other than this article, so my plan maybe completely silly!

  53. richard 69

    their EU fine?

    is that paid yet?

  54. Paul Rivers


    Anyone who read about this and did a search on the patent (one of the Tech Republic articles had the patent number) will understand why none of the tech articles are reporting on what the patent includes. Because the patent is so vague and poorly written it should never have been granted in the first place.

    Basically, if you have a document and you want to store the data in a format where you declare the formatting and the document and where it starts and ends in a metadata storage medium you're in violation of the patent.

    If you store your document as


    This patent SUCKS


    You're in violation.

    If you store your document as



    "This patent " ***BOLD*** "SUCKS"


    "Doc End"

    You're still in violation.

    It's like patenting the number 1.

    It's insane.

    Should never have been issued at all.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I'd stop them selling office 2007

    ...for that atrocious GUI alone.

  56. I didn't do IT.

    i4i Patent; Software patents BAD

    Here is the number and link to the patent: 7,206,968

    The problem here is that, in the deep part of the text, there is a claim for "a schematic memory for storing XML types". This seems to be the ability to store, in memory, storing XML _types_ in a schema format. What? The rest of the patent deals with "segment faults" in an industrial settings being integrated and displayed with MS Word. That is probably why MS is dragged in first. However, this might apply to many, many applications utilizing XML in a similar way. Yay, great; where's my shotgun?...

    Software patents should, like the enlightened British Isles, be classified as a "business process", which should not be valid for patenting.

  57. Paul Rivers

    Also, any of you LinuxBots....

    Please refrain from dancing on Microsoft's grave. This patent is a serious danger to any Linux apps that store their data in a document and store the formatting in that same document. It's ludicrous.

    The only way to avoid it is if the data storage is done in a compiled medium. That's how the previous versions of Word got away.

    They only brought the case against Word because now that they've won, they can go back after all the Office Suite, any Linux apps, any custom written apps that store their data in the open XML formats.

  58. Blitz

    Ironic strangeness

    SO....i4i's lawsuit creates an injunction preventing (in theory) MS Word from being sold from within (or imported into) the United States where Microsoft is based.

    Meanwhile, back in Canada, i4i's happy home, punters can continue to purchase MS Word and import it.

  59. Dustin 1

    VI too

    Anything that does anything with XML should be included in such a context as this 'Lawsuit" depicts. Programers text editiors, Admin web portals, web browsers with editing facilities like netscape maybe?

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ John70

    "Also Open Office and any other application that reads and writes XML will be affected under this ruling."

    Actualy probably not, but IANAL so I might be wrong. This patent covers customisation of the XML schema that you store data in. The ODF format as it now stands specifically excludes customisation of the XML schema (one of the big differences between ODF and OOXML). So theoretically ODF is safe.. possibly.

  61. Brett Brennan 1

    If MS buys i4i to resolve this...

    ...then MS can use the same patent to shut down ALL other implementations that use extensible XML and force them to pay license.

    Ohhhh, this one is going to get nasty before it gets better. Don't be surprised if Oracle, EFF, ISO, etc. don't file some amicus briefs on this one. Which SIDE they file on is going to be pretty interesting: for Microsoft to protect XML from patent abuse, or for i4i to attack Microsoft's OOXML patents that compromise open standards.

    Also, hasn't anyone wondered about the company name - i4i (read as "(An) eye for (an) eye"? Or do they need to be more obvious for us south-of-the-border folks with something like "Jolly Roger Patent Trolls, LLC"?

  62. Bod

    End software patents now

    Nuff said.

  63. Blue Pumpkin

    It'll all end in tears ...

    If you read the filing the lawyers name is a certain Mike McKool ....

    And it is a crappy patent, it's like trying to patent hash tables or indexed files.

    Thank god the IEEE stepped in or somebody would be claiming patents on all floating point numbers by now.

  64. raving angry loony
    Gates Horns

    like that's going to last

    Microsoft has bought judges before, it'll buy judges again. They'll have the injunction reversed before next week. A Canadian company doesn't have a chance in a politically motivated American courtroom. Courtrooms whose judges are either elected or whose appointments are dependent on political backroom dealing. This is now a high profile case, and you can bet that Microsoft is going to call in a couple of markers to make sure the next judge who sees this follows the party line.

    Mind you, this is the same company that continues to push for software patents. I doubt they'll stop doing that either, knowing that the system they're pushing for usually favours the rich and powerful companies. Such as Microsoft.

  65. Andy Bright

    No Potential About It

    "Not being able to sell Word would potentially hurt sales of Office."

    Not being able to sell Word will *definitely* hurt sales of Office. Word and Excel are the only reasons to buy Office, there is far superior software available that can replace the rest of the package, especially if you are a personal or small business user and haven't bought the Professional version.

    Yes people use Project, Power Point and Access - some are even stupid enough to spend money on Exchange servers and pay Microsoft instead of using superior products that do the exact same thing but with far less overhead and disk space and with far more reliability.

    Any business that requires Office installed on their PCs will also require that all documentation is created and modified using Word or Excel. Only companies that have no standards or organisation will allow people to use whatever they feel like and even then they'll probably insist the documents created are compatible with those products.

    People are obviously going to bring up Open Office and it's ability to do the same thing. But that's completely missing the point. The point is whether or not Office will lose sales if it doesn't include Word. Of course it will. You don't buy a product that doesn't include the software you bought the product for.

    If you're going to do your work with Open Office, why are you buying Microsoft Office? It's like being given a BMW and then buying a Mercedes without a steering wheel to do your driving because you like the colour of the Mercedes better. The argument you can take the steering wheel out of the free car and install it in the one you bought is kind of retarded.

    I suppose the best part about this would be that their rivals could use the same kind of FUD that Microsoft created for Linux. Why not suggest that any business that uses software that violates a patent might find themselves liable too? It doesn't have to be true to work, just look at how many businesses SCO managed to scam money from. And these weren't small businesses, they kept SCO running for years.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope the ruling stands

    It would be great to see Microsucks held accountable for some of their crimes.

  67. Kotonoha

    What the...

    Could that jury be any more retarded?

  68. kain preacher

    @raving angry loony

    Federal Judges are appointed for life. Its hard to remove Federal judge remove . No Back room dealings to become a Federal judge. %99 of all Federal judges were Federal prosecutors.

    But sense you know so much please tell me how the process to become a federal judge happens and how you remove a federal judge from the bench ?

    Oh yeah why don't you comment on the merits of the case instead of your anti-American stance .

  69. Al 4

    Swiping from small companies

    Microsoft's problem is they like to use technology developed by other companies without paying them for their technology instead forcing them into litigation until the smaller company has to sell out due to legal expenses. This though hasn't always worked for them if anyone remembers the lawsuit against them by a small company named STAC that had developed fast compression software. What we don't know is what MS might have known about this company before hand. Its hard to believe that MS didn't know about the existence of this patent when they were preparing their XML patent.

  70. Bruno Girin

    That patent

    should never have been granted. Here it is if you want to have a look:

    Flames because that's what should be done with all software patents.

  71. Captain Thyratron

    Software patents are bunk.

    In 1980, the US Supreme Court declared (in a 5 to 4 vote) that patents could be granted for genetically engineered bacteria. This was a farce to begin with, but the US Patent and Trade Office took this to mean that it was also okay to grant patents to software, and this has now stood as established precedent for nearly three decades. Madness has ensued.

    Patents were meant to protect innovation and invention. Now, they serve as a means to destroy competition, and the proliferation of frivolous patents on things that should never have been patentable--DNA and now even algorithms, things no human should dare claim to have invented--has populated many a litigious arsenal, and these have, time and time again, been used to force payments on the order of several million dollars out of companies who ended up on the wrong end of the sword.

    Furthermore, I doubt the US Patent and Trade Office is exactly reluctant to accept patent fees that, once all is said and done, quite often amount to something on the order of several thousand dollars per patent--and they issue hundreds of thousands of the things per year. Perhaps it sounds like I'm wearing a tinfoil hat here, but I think that sounds like a wee bit of an incentive.

  72. Roger Heathcote 1


    "custom XML" covers the ability to "define your data using XML Schema syntax, and then you can use that data in your Office documents."

    And they were granted a patent for that !?!?!?

    Surely the whole point of XML is to enable free data interchange between vendors.

    It's a good job Basic's out of copyright otherwise we'd have a rash of these parasitic trolls trying to patent FOR loops and GOTO commands...

    10 PRINT "FAIL"

    20 GOTO 10

  73. tfewster

    Microsoft Patents Ones, Zeroes

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    No kidding, Sherlock!

    "US lawyers are renowned for shopping around to find friendly judge and jury systems"

    Why else would a company based in one part of America (ie Microsoft) threaten to take EU citizens to court in another part of America (SoCal) if we do anything dubious with "their" computer? (I pay for the machine, I own the software on it; I'm not renting it even the crappy OS!)

    I doubt it's because MS really want to pay for me to have a vacation in The Land of the Emission-Free...

  75. not.known@this.address


    (an) EYE FOUR (an) EYE?

    Are they serious? And they are trying to own something that goes right to the heart of the way every computer in existence stores and processes data with a vaguely-worded "patent" that is little more than a rather obvious attempt to cash in on someone (anyone) else's hard work thus allowing the "patent-holder" to get loads of money for doing fsck-all themselves...

    And to all those FOSS supporters rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of Microsoft getting some of their own back, I say this; once MS crash and burn in the courts and have to pay these bottom-feeders off, who will actually pay the money when i4i point out that they've won against Microsoft so have legal precedent for claiming from *anyone* who infringes their patent...

  76. Graham 6
    Jobs Horns

    What's the worst that will happen?

    Microsoft pay loads of money out in various directions and get what they want.

    We all know the harsh reality, i.e.: it's the devils playground.

    But the meek inherit the earth, eh Steve?

    I keep saying this, but eventually we will look back and laugh at the "Microsoft years".

    They are starting down the road of open source with HyperV.

    You know, sometimes your biggest enemies can become your biggest fans.

    I've just got out of my TARDIS and can tell you in 2032 Microsoft are taking IBM to court for breach of the GPL. RMS is on the board and Linus is their chief architect.

    Shame about Steve, though, poor soul.

    They eventually disbanded pirate bay and he lost everything.

    He's having a hard time inside for all the child snuff.

    SwineAir is doing good business with long haul flights.

    The weather report says Hades is down to -40 today ;-)

    oh and @AC: You talk(post) too much. You need to stop.

  77. AdrianInExile

    Read N2's comment again...

    They can't sell it but they can give it away. Just like Internet Explorer or Media Player. So you may shortly see Office being marketed as "containing a free copy of Microsoft Word"...

  78. Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art

    Not sure if anyone cares, but my boss has at least 4 things he can site as Prior art sitting on his desk. Yeah they're technical and related to either drawing graphs, working with Mass Spectrometers, or dealing with Raw data (and it's markup) ... some of them head back towards the 70's :)

    Not that we'd go out of our way to tell Microsoft that though :)

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