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Court Ruling Bans Certain Microsoft Word Programs

December 23, 2009

A patent dispute with a Canadian company led a U.S. court of appeals to ban Microsoft from selling certain versions of its popular Word program and ordered it to pay 290 million dollars in damages and interest, AFP reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a jury verdict and lower court ruling in the patent case filed against the U.S. software giant by Toronto-based i4i Inc nearly three years ago.

i4i founder Michel Vulpe said in a statement that the ruling was clear and convincing evidence that their case was just and right, and that Microsoft willfully infringed on their patent.

“This is what we’ve been looking for since March 2007,” added i4i chairman Loudon Owen.

Owen told AFP the company finally feels vindicated and is appreciative, but the ruling did not surprise them.

“We believed from the outset that we had a great case and that the trial judge made the right decision,” he said.

On August 12, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas upheld both a jury ruling that Microsoft’s Word program violates an XML patent held by i4i and the award of more than 290 million dollars.

i4i accused the Redmond, Washington-based company of infringing on a 1998 XML patent in its Word 2003 and Word 2007 programs.

Word uses XML, or Extensible Markup Language, to open .XML, .DOCX, and .DOCM files.

An injunction would also ban Microsoft from selling versions of its word processing program Word that infringe on the patented technology — something Microsoft dismissed on Tuesday as a “little-used feature.”

Microsoft appealed but the three-judge Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against the company.

The software giant indicated on Tuesday that it may file further appeals and released a statement saying it was “moving quickly” to comply with the injunction on selling certain Word products.

Owen said the ball was really in Microsoft’s court whether they want to make a further appeal or not.

“They can try. As we understand it it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide if they want to hear an appeal or not. It’s not a matter of right, it’s a matter of privilege,” he said.

Meanwhile, the injunction only refers to U.S. sales of versions of Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft said it has already “put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products.”

Microsoft said it expects to have copies of Word 2007 and Office 2007, with the feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date.

The company also added that beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.

Microsoft said that while it is moving quickly to address the injunction issue, it is also still considering other legal options.

i4i accused the Redmond, Washington-based company of infringing on a 1998 XML patent in its Word 2003 and Word 2007 programs.

Word uses XML, or Extensible Markup Language, to open .XML, .DOCX, and .DOCM files.

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