Patent that Prevents Microsoft from Selling MS Word

Microsoft, long popular for Office solutions with MS Office, besides windows, would now longer be able to sell  MS Word because of an obscure patent dispute raised by Texas District Court.

I4i, a software company based in Toronto, had been fighting with Microsoft over a patent related to XML, a key component of many websites as well as Word and other programs.

In May, a jury found Microsoft guilty of infringing upon i4i’s 1998 patent for “Method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other,” and Judge Davis upheld the ruling.

The principal area of infringement is Word’s support for XML files (.XML, .DOCX, and .DOCM).

Judge Leonard Davis ruled Tuesday that Microsoft is at fault, and ordered the company to cease Word sales until the dispute is resolved.  He also ordered Microsoft to pay several hefty fines to i4i, including $200 million in damages and $40 million in “enhanced damages.”(PDF)

“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling,” says Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz. ‘We believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We will appeal the verdict.'”

Patent disputes are common in the tech industry.  Normally these issues proceed quietly, with little impact on customers.  But the judge’s ruling could have an unusual effect on the software industry’s most powerful player.

The case will eventually settle in  period days. But it brought a shock to Microsoft.

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