Brief: Microsoft barred from selling Word, has plan for workaround
The US Court of Appeals has ordered Microsoft to drop support for editing Custom XML in Word, essentially stopping the company from selling current versions of one of its flagship products and affirming a $290 million patent infringement judgment against the software giant. The injunction, which goes into effect on January 11, 2010, not only bars the sale of Word 2007, but also affects all editions of Microsoft Office 2007, since Word comes bundled with all of them.
It's not as bad as it seems, however. "This injunction applies only to copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 sold in the US on or after the injunction date of January 11, 2010," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars, meaning all copies of these products sold before this date (including Word 2003 and Word 2007) are not affected. "With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products. Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for US sale and distribution by the injunction date."
The injunction does not require changes to Word 2010, slated for release in June 2010. This is because "the 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," the Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.
A federal judge in Texas issued an injunction that gave Microsoft 60 days to stop shipping any recent version of Word, based on a patent that was found to cover the XML formatting used by the software. A week later, Microsoft asked for a stay by filing an emergency motion. Canadian-based i4i, the company that owns the patent that Microsoft has been found to be infringing, claimed in the lawsuit that its business shrank significantly when Microsoft added custom-XML support to Word. Word 2003 and Word 2007 were both found to be infringing on i4i's patent by using XML for encoding and customizing XML in a specific way (US Patent No. 5,787,449). The stay was granted in September 2009, but it has now been lifted and Microsoft is being asked to stop selling Word as well as pay $290 million in penalties.
While Redmond is moving quickly to comply with the injunction, it isn't giving in completely. "We are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court," the Microsoft spokesperson told Ars.
- Court Affirms Injunction Against Microsoft (online.wsj.com)