Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
east texas, injunction, patents, xml

Companies:
i4i, microsoft



Judge Bars Sale Of Microsoft Word For Patent Infringement (Though It Won't Stick)

from the nice-work dept

Just last week, plenty of tech publications were up in arms over the news that Microsoft had apparently secured a patent on XML word processing documents (patent 7,571,169). Of course, when you live by software patents, expect to die by software patents... as a judge (in East Texas of course) has now issued an injunction against Microsoft, barring the sale of Microsoft Word because it infringes on a patent that involves (you guessed it) XML word processing documents.

The judgment against Microsoft in this case actually isn't new. We wrote about it and the $200 million judgment back in May, noting how insane it was that the company holding the patent, i4i, felt that it deserved $98 for every copy of Microsoft Word ever sold. For what? Its patent, 5,787,449, is about XML editing of a word processed document. How that could be worth $98 per copy of Word is beyond me. Actually, how it's patentable at all is beyond me... but that's another story.

Of course, there's about 0% probability that this will actually stop the sales of Word, but it's ridiculous for Judge Leonard Davis to issue this injunction in the first place. As he well knows, the Supreme Court ruled in the MercExchange case that injunctions often don't make sense in patent infringement cases. In that case, the Supreme Court says that a judge should weigh a variety of factors in determining if an injunction is reasonable. From the actual injunction, there's no evidence at all that the judge weighed anything at all. However, he gave Microsoft 60 days to comply, which is ample time for Microsoft to appeal the injunction, and in such cases it's quite common for the appeals court to stay the injunction.

But, honestly, the whole thing shows (yet again) how screwed up the patent system has become. The fact that a judge would ban all sales of Microsoft Word because it can edit an XML document? And that's on top of a $200 million award for infringing on this patent? How can anyone think that's a sane outcome?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 2:47am

    I think the judge is doing it for his own self-interest (more patent cases for Texas) and should be jailed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Frosty840, 12 Aug 2009 @ 3:07am

      Re:

      I can't honestly see any other rational explanation.
      Sure, there's an offchance that Microsoft's lawyers sat around and drooled for the whole case, but I'm pretty damn sure that they'd want to have pointed out that this guy can't actually patent the concept of editing a file format that someone else invented...
      Or can he? Is the system really that bad?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Big Al, 12 Aug 2009 @ 4:43am

        Re: Re:

        If MS can get a patent (7,571,169 mentioned above) on using XML for what it's intended to be used for (a text mark-up language i.e. document formatting) then why can't i4i enforce THEIR patent (5,787,449 - Ha ha, got there first) on using XML for what it's intended to be used for?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    senshikaze (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 4:46am

    Couldn't care less

    As an avid Linux and OS X user, anything that hurts Microsoft is either a)funny or b)good.
    I would not put this under the b category, but it defiantly a.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    slacker525600 (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 4:50am

    None of this makes sense

    But that is what happens when you have people reviewing patents with no insight into the technology behind them. And when you have courts ruling on systems that they do not understand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 4:57am

    Ignoring the "who" in the case, let's look at the legal realities.

    Company A makes a product that infringes the patent of Company B. Company B gets a ruling, which company A ignores. What is the next step?

    The next step is clearly to get the sales of the product stopped, as they are infringing and unlicensed.

    WHile you may or may not like the patent(s) in question in this scenerio, the reality is they company is doing what they are suppose to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 10:29am

      Re:


      Company A makes a product that infringes the patent of Company B. Company B gets a ruling, which company A ignores. What is the next step?


      Um. Microsoft did not "ignore the ruling." So not sure where that came from.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Clevername, 12 Aug 2009 @ 5:13am

    Ha

    It is funny that the company name is i4i.
    I can't wait for the next case which involves a company named tooth4tooth.

    Oh and btw, can I still use vi to edit xml ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    topspeed (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 5:46am

    Hate DOCX

    If this will prevent the use of the DOCX format then I'm all for it. MS tends to force useless file format changes which, in the corporate world, on messes-up the ability to share information. This can be helped with add-ons from MS but the non-MS products which read only DOC formats are useless. This ends-up costing companies many millions.

    Well done i4i, I hope this will either shake-up the retarded US patent laws or make Microsoft eat its own dog food.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Patent Whire, 12 Aug 2009 @ 6:05am

    Time to Patent

    I serious need to patent the idea of using a device that has a processor and some sort of input device to create output.

    I think that should cover just about every modern device... then I can get a judgement to stop the sell of EVERY electronic device!

    BAHAHA!

    The world won't know what to do. There will be chaos and turmoil.

    The World Will Look Up and Shout "Save Us!"

    And I'll whisper... "No."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AC, 12 Aug 2009 @ 6:09am

    Re:

    Guess what kind of shirt I'm never going to buy because of stupid advertising spam? That's right: the ed hardy kind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spectere (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 6:34am

    Hey guys! Newsflash!

    To all of the Microsoft bashers above, don't you realize that OpenOffice.org would infringe on the same patent that Microsoft Word allegedly does? It uses an XML-based document format as well.

    Don't be so quick to "ha ha" just because Microsoft is being brought to court. If lawsuits like this stick then everybody is screwed, not just the big players.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DNY (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 6:14pm

      Re: Hey guys! Newsflash!

      Not necessarily: if i4i lets XML be used under GPL license
      terms or anything similar, and credit is given by OpenOffice, a freeware distribution using XML would not violate their patent, while its use in proprietary software sold for a profit would.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Spectere (profile), 13 Aug 2009 @ 6:49am

        Re: Re: Hey guys! Newsflash!

        You're making a pretty huge assumption that the company is going to turn a blind eye to someone who is infringing on their "patent" just because they're developing a free, GPL licensed, office package.

        The way I see this going down, i4i is going to get licensing fees from everyone that they possibly can. And considering OpenOffice.org was initiated by Sun Microsystems, you'd better believe that they'll be next if they manage to get anything out of Microsoft.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Spoiler, 12 Aug 2009 @ 7:14am

    WORD?

    Personally I haven't used WORD in years! OpenOffice seems to take of all my needs. If you're not using OO I suggest you grab a copy and put WORD on your 'B' list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Felix Pleșoianu, 12 Aug 2009 @ 7:29am

    Still think it's a good idea to be judged by people who are ignorant about everything besides the law? Especially when said law is already obsolete? A judge/jury who understands the issues they judge could at least try to reconcile reality with the spirit of the law, and pass a decent ruling. But as long as they're deliberately chosen to be ignorant, expect the circus to continue.

    Besides, how can the patent troll demand that MS pays for every copy of Word ever released? Those before 2007 don't even understand XML. And the patent itself was filed in 2004. How can it apply to Word 2003 and previous versions?

    Good to live in a jurisdiction that doesn't have software patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 8:32am

    "Just last week, plenty of tech publications were up in arms over the news that Microsoft had apparently secured a patent on XML word processing documents"

    If Microsoft's patent is enforced and the judgment against Microsoft is ofterturned then that double standard shows who the patent system truly stands to serve, the rich and the powerful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 10:17am

    "Just last week, plenty of tech publications were up in arms over the news that Microsoft had apparently secured a patent on XML word processing documents (patent 7,571,169)."

    Wasn't the purpose of XML to create open standards that are free of retarded intellectual property? After everyone has gone through ALL the hard work of doing this why the heck does Microsoft get to parasite off of the hard work into developing this (with the intent of not having stupid intellectual property get in the way of EVERYTHING WE DO) and get a patent off of this work? This harms innovation and creates a disincentive for people to create new innovations with the intent of them being in the public domain knowing that some stupid evil parasite like Microsoft might grab a patent on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      So people create open XML standards, they become a success, and then Microsoft, with practically nothing to lose, sees the success of XML that other people have put hard work into developing and decides it wants to parasite off of that hard work and success so it grabs a patent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2009 @ 5:52pm

    Microsoft will probably countersue for patent infringement and it will turn into a patent mud slinging war like always.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2009 @ 5:54pm

      Re:

      (or they'll appeal and it'll get overturned. those are the two likely probabilities. But personally I want to see a patent mud slinging war, it's more entertaining).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    detour, 1 Oct 2009 @ 7:31pm

    XMLOpen Document Format related MS Word Injunction

    What a joke ...

    Word is that the "judge" is from an old school that believes in an "eye for an eye".

    Seriously though, accepting that he is simply passing the "buck" to an appellate jurisdiction which has greater authority and presumably more combined intelligence, how can our learned friends get it so wrong?

    "Common good" if not "common sense" is plainly lacking ... next case!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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