Wait, Editing An XML Document Is Patented And Worth $98 Per Application?

from the say-what-now? dept

A bunch of folks sent in variations on the story about Microsoft losing a patent infringement lawsuit to the tune of $200 million to a small Toronto firm (the ruling also came right on the heals of another ruling against Microsoft in a patent case, for $388 million). Since both rulings will certainly be appealed, it seemed a bit early to pay too much attention, but Joe Mullin has dug into the details of the $200 million ruling, and it's fairly startling. The patent in question is for separating the manipulation of content from the architecture of the document, which the company, named i4i argues, covers basic XML editing. It's quite troubling that doing something as simple as adding an XML editor should infringe on a patent, but what's even more troubling is that the court somehow ruled that such an editor was worth $98 in the copies of Microsoft Word where it was used. An XML editor. $98. And people say patent awards aren't out of sync with reality?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    bob, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:37am

    It's Funny

    To see the blood suckers attached to Microsoft.

     

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  2.  
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    MadJo (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 1:47am

    yikes, I'd better stop with my work then, because I edit XML files on a daily basis? Do you per chance also know whether SQL editing is covered by a patent? If it is, I'm out of a job...

     

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  3.  
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    Confused, May 29th, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Can't you edit XML with Notepad?

     

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  4.  
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    Matthew Holloway, May 29th, 2009 @ 4:36am

    @Confused

    Yes but Notepad probably wouldn't be applicable.

    This seems to be about an XML file with an abstraction layer above it... where you change the content but not the XML document itself (Eg, like most word processors, (x)HTML editors, etc.

     

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  5.  
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    slacker525600 (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    AJAX

    Whats the difference between a web application that determines content via tagged xml messages and editing an xml document?

    How about an addon for firefox called firebug where you can edit any part of the page? I notice that you can edit the content of the page without editing the architecture

    Im pretty sure any reasonable patent office wouldnt have granted this patent, as the purpose of xml is to separate content from display.

    Shouldnt people ruling on tech have some foundation in understanding technology?

     

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  6.  
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    iyogi (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 4:42am

    XML file updated

    Using XSL it is possible to open the XML file that you want to edit and transform it into an HTML form and send it to the browser. The values of the XML elements will be placed as the values of the HTML input fields. After you make the necessary edits, the edited information can be submitted to the server and the XML file updated.

     

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  7.  
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    McZigger, May 29th, 2009 @ 4:47am

    What next !!

    All I can say is FFS.

     

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  8.  
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    fentex, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:13am

    Doesn't it sound like that includes EVERY application that edits a files contents indirectly - such as an image editor or any other wysiwyg editor?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:15am

    I want $200,000,000 for doing fuck all too.

     

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  10.  
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    eclecticdave (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 5:26am

    Prior Art goes back to the 60's

    I had a quick look at the patent and although I'm not a expert, it looks like this attempts to cover any transformation of a markup language style document, including where the transformation is used for display or printout.

    The patent was filed in 1994, prior art seems to include NROFF format files which goes back at least to the earliest days of Unix (used in man pages among other things).

     

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  11.  
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    WarOtter (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 5:26am

    Re:

    Better patent it soon.... I'm seeing a lot of it these days...

     

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  12.  
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    UNKN, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:55am

    That should be heels near the start of the story.

     

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  13.  
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    NullOp, May 29th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    XML editing

    So basically, every app that has or is a text editor, XML editor, owes i4i $98? Sweet!

     

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  14.  
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    hegemon13, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    Karma

    Given that, with Office 2007, Microsoft tried to patent the use of XML within a document format, despite the fact that OpenOffice had already been doing it for years, I think MS is getting their just desserts.

    However, I don't want to see them lose. This patent describes the publication process since the invention of the printing press. The writer did not compose the document by arranging letters on the press. They wrote the content, and someone else laid it out on the press. Same with any newspaper or book or any other published document since publication began. Simply transferring this concept to a digital format should not be considered original enough to warrant a patent. Thank goodness the patent will expire in two years, but until then, Adobe, Lotus, Sun, and every other creator of a desktop publishing application better watch out.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymouse, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:17am

    $200 Million Dollars

    The post says that "the court" ruled that an XML editor was worth $98 per application. Not so. The jury awarded that damages figure. "The court" may decide, on post-verdict motions, that the figure is unsupportable, and order the damages lowered, as happened in the Cornell-HP patent case. That number seems awfully high.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Huamn Brain

    "@Confused

    Yes but Notepad probably wouldn't be applicable.

    This seems to be about an XML file with an abstraction layer above it... where you change the content but not the XML document itself (Eg, like most word processors, (x)HTML editors, etc."

    Human brain is a self-programming computer rittled with abstraction layers and can infringe on this patent

     

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  17.  
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    mike42 (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Conspiracy Theory

    Anyone notice that Microsoft seems to lose these on a fairly regular basis, and only squeaks through on appeal?

    It's like they don't want to win, because they could easily do it with prior art. The concept of separating presentation from content has been described since SGML. Really weird...

     

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  18.  
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    Chad, May 29th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    wait..

    People need to read the patent before getting worried about nothing. As far as I can tell, the lawsuit itself (and the patent in turn) have nothing to do with XML formatting or even the editing of XML documents themselves. From what I can tell, the thing that is patented is the technology used to manipulate the XML via an editing program (such as in a Word document). When Word came out with its own methods for manipulating XML documents, i4i found that it was far too close to the methods they had patented.

    Now this might seem a bit technical, but upon reading the patent it seems that the only thing that was really patented was the way XML metadata is mapped and read into the program through abstraction layers in the program itself..

    All this means is that in the future, software companies are going to have to develop more diverse means of compiling the XML data.

    What it does NOT mean, is that every text editor and XML editor out there owes $98. It's just that Microsoft used the same methods for reading and compiling XML in their software as i4i had been doing.

     

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  19.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Re: wait..

    "All this means is that in the future, software companies are going to have to develop more diverse means of compiling the XML data.

    What it does NOT mean, is that every text editor and XML editor out there owes $98. It's just that Microsoft used the same methods for reading and compiling XML in their software as i4i had been doing."

    Saying it doesn't make it any more sane. Obvious stuff is obvious. The fact that you can do it in a slightly less obvious manner is a problem, not a solution.

     

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  20.  
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    zman58 (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Notepad is forbidden

    No, Notepad is not permitted. You can edit it only if you use edlin or maybe vi. :)

     

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  21.  
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    zman58 (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 2:55pm

    another reason software patents are absurd

    It is sad to see this type of behavior. How does this advance society as a whole? Just more legal flotsom and jetsom that get in the way of progress. When will our representatives stop pandering to greedy corporate interests and do what is best for society. Kill the software patents for heaven's sake!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    well hell, isn't HTML XML? If HTML is XML then every wysiwyg editor out there is busted, stupid lawyers

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 3:33pm

    Re: wait..

    "Now this might seem a bit technical, but upon reading the patent it seems that the only thing that was really patented was the way XML metadata is mapped and read into the program through abstraction layers in the program itself.."

    In other words, the XML file was deserialised into memory, modified, then written back out to XML.

    ie. exactly what every program that uses XML does.

    See the problem?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    gigobot, May 29th, 2009 @ 3:44pm

    Re:

    That would be great for HTML. Have you ever had to edit the output of a wysiwyg tool? And look at all the exemptions they're making in the HTML5 spec for code produced by stupid wysiwyg editors. I'm all for this patent. HTML should either be machine-generated or hand-written, not produced by selecting text and clicking on buttons.

     

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  25.  
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    Pele, May 29th, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    Interesting company name

    Does anyone else find it interesting that the companies namd is i4i (eye for an eye???). Anyways, I have to wonder if this case would have ever even made it in front of a judge if Microsoft had not been the defendent.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 6:16pm

    Typical

    When software patents are allowed, this what you should expect

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    Oh boy this is a bogus patent

    My reading of the patent suggests that NROFF and TROFF would be prior art. Reading claim 1, even the source code of a program would fit.

     

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  28.  
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    Spelling Nazi, May 29th, 2009 @ 11:41pm

    heels, not heals!

     

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  29.  
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    wastedtime, Jun 1st, 2009 @ 7:33am

    getting it wrong

    I'm not a developer but I am familiar with the circumstances surrounding this patent. It appears to me that no one here is keeping in mind that i4i approached Microsoft with the patented process and was rebuffed, only to see MS incorporate it into their software afterward (i.e., steal it for themselves). So when you say that you can do this and that without the patent, did it occur to anyone that it is exactly because MS is using i4i's patented process?

     

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  30.  
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    comp nerd becoming lawyer, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 7:31am

    It is not XML

    As a developer turning lawyer, I have to admit I am confused about the direction of this article in contrast to the patent text itself. The patent states pretty clearly how it is different than XML/HTML/SGML/etc. In fact, the entire patent is devoted to describing how it is different. The very fact that the patent exists is that it is a different approach to formatting than serial markup in that it stores the market entirely separately.

    A) This is standard xml formatting.

    B) CODES{{xml:position-span:8:20}}CONTENT{{This is standard xml formatting}}

    B is what the patent does. A is XML. Two separate things.

    Not that this should ever have been patented in the first place, but...it looks like they found a MicroSoft product that uses this technique.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    PatentWhoresSuck, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:34am

    i4i sleeps with the patent whore

    Humm, from the i4i website:
    http://www.i4i.com/collateral/05-26-09-Release-Jury_orders_Microsoft_to_pay_i4i.pdf

    "Mi chael Cannata, director of i4i LP and advisor to the Northwater Intellectual Property F und"
    That leads us to:
    http://www.northwatercapital.com/intellectual_property.html

    "Intellectual property (IP) is the fundamental asset of innovation and entrepreneurship in the 21st century - with the potential to generate new wealth opportunities for investors."

    "The fund is managed by a team with expertise in IP assessment, valuation, management, and enforcement."

    Translated:
    A group of assholes that goes around trying to find IP's that can be considered "violated" so they can sick their lawyers on to sue companies for profit.

    In other words the "Jerkwater Patent whore Fund".

     

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  32.  
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    Friggin Canadians, Aug 17th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    What's this all aboot?

    Yeah what a bunch of pole smokers, I dig the eye for an eye reference veiled in their name. I'm not in love with Microsoft and their business practices in the past, but just because they can afford a frivolous lawsuit like this, doesnt mean they should have to but up with this ridiculousness. Any code monkey (myself included) could write that kind of XML editor. I love how they tout their Microsoft Word all over their site too, think they got permission for that? In the words of Matt and Trey, F(*& Canada!

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Peopleunit, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    I did some basic research on document and text formatting back in the mid 1980's, back when electronic typesetting systems, desktop publishing, and word processors (PageMaker, Claris, and Word perfect) were at the technological forefront.

    LATex and its derivatives are precursors to XML and its counterparts such as JQuery, CSS and other methods used to enhance documents.

    As an interesting side note, Congress just passed legislation whereby government documents have to be written with sufficient clarity that a non-specialist can understand them. Goodbye convoluted patent claims filled with technobabling jibberish.

     

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