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?

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Companies: i4i, microsoft

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Comments on “Wait, Editing An XML Document Is Patented And Worth $98 Per Application?”

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34 Comments
slacker525600 (profile) says:

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?

eclecticdave (profile) says:

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).

hegemon13 says:

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.

Anonymouse says:

$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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

Chad says:

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.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

gigobot says:

Re: 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.

wastedtime says:

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?

comp nerd becoming lawyer says:

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.

PatentWhoresSuck says:

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

“Michael Cannata, director of i4i LP and advisor to the Northwater Intellectual Property Fund”
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”.

Friggin Canadians says:

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!

Peopleunit says:

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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