One of the more troubling patent rulings in the past year involved a Canadian company, i4i, that held a patent (5,787,449
) that appears to broadly (very broadly) cover editing a custom XML document, separate from the presentation layer of a document. Microsoft included such functionality in Word, and i4i sued. Amazingly, the court not only found the patent to be valid and that Microsoft infringed, but somehow decided that the functionality was worth $98
in each copy of Word where this product was used (estimated to be 1.8 million users). Of course, Word itself doesn't cost much more than that (in reality), and this is a tiny feature of Word that was very unlikely to be a key buying point for most users of the program. But the courts were having none of it, and even issued an injunction
against selling Word, along with a huge fine. At the end of the last year, the appeals court (CAFC) upheld
the ruling and the potential injunction.
Microsoft appealed to have the case reheard by the full panel of judges at CAFC, but that's now been rejected as well
. Microsoft can (and may) still appeal to the Supreme Court, but I doubt there's enough of a core issue at play in this lawsuit to have the Supreme Court bother with it.
Of course, this is just one more reminder why Microsoft might want to reconsider its strongly pro-patent position
. It seems like it can come back to bite you.