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The Courts Government Microsoft News

Judgement Against Microsoft Declares XML Editing Software To Be Worth $98? 230

Many people have written to tell us about the patent infringement lawsuit that resulted in a $200 million judgement against Microsoft by a small Toronto firm called i4i. Techdirt has a line on the details of the suit where the patent in question is for "separating the manipulation of content from the architecture of the document." i4i argues that this covers basic XML editing to the tune of $98 per application. "It's quite troubling that doing something as simple as adding an XML editor should infringe on a patent, but what's even more troubling is that the court somehow ruled that such an editor was worth $98 in the copies of Microsoft Word where it was used. An XML editor. $98. And people say patent awards aren't out of sync with reality?"
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Judgement Against Microsoft Declares XML Editing Software To Be Worth $98?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:14PM (#28143985) Journal

    Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday a Texas federal jury ...

    Texas? You mean the state of Marshall, TX [] where Microsoft (and everyone else who wants to win) holds all of its prosecuting patent cases? I do believe Microsoft may be getting a taste of its own medicine!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:17PM (#28144039)

    Yeah, too bad it sets a precedence that fucks us all.

    Down with "soft" patents!

  • Re:Fair Play (Score:5, Insightful)

    by someone1234 (830754) on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:24PM (#28144129)

    Despite how one feels against M$, this is ridiculous.
    It is not fair at all and could be used against other software with similar capabilities.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:25PM (#28144155) Homepage Journal

    If it's an issue of editing XML documents in the sense of using XML to store structured data (such as Ooo documents), then the patent should be overturned. The whole point of XML is to provide a generic (and thereby obvious) means of structuring and editing data.

  • Re:Filed in 1994 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moogsynth (1264404) on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:46PM (#28144371)
    Who knows why they took so long. Still, the patent will expire in a couple of years, so if they want to milk people for cash they have to do it now. Anyone who creates similar software is going to have to watch out for the next couple of years.

    Anyhow, the patent is regarding "separating the manipulation of content from the architecture of the document." That's so hopelessly vague it's not even a joke. That's a patent that will affect every document format known to man. How on earth can this patent be a novel solution, then? Human brains work exactly the same way. We learn and absorb information, and then process it and work with it without modifying the architecture of our brains. Can I have a patent on that?
  • by mea37 (1201159) on Friday May 29, 2009 @06:01PM (#28144531)

    Right. And any Open Office developers who happen to live in the U.S. - whose coding would be subject to U.S. patents - would do what exactly to avoid their liability for infringing the patent? And even if we pretend (as TFS seems to imply, incorrectly) that patent damages somehow have to be tied to a count of distributed copies, and that OO could cut off U.S. distribution, how would the cover the damages for copies already distributed in the U.S.?

    If the patent applies to what OO is doing, it would be a big problem for the project.

  • by xlotlu (1395639) on Friday May 29, 2009 @06:23PM (#28144779)

    I do believe Microsoft may be getting a taste of its own medicine!

    You make it sound like it's a good thing...

    I haven't read the patent, but TFA makes it sound like it applies to any kind of "WYSIWYG" editing of a document that gets saved in a structured format, not only XML ("separating the manipulation of content from the architecture of the document").

    Besides the obvious implications for software like OpenOffice, this covers pretty much any type of WYSIWYG editing: spreadsheets, UML diagrams, math formulas, MS's Visio/Project outputs, the list goes on. Hell, all modern browsers support a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Do they infringe this patent?

    This is absolutely terrible. The only good thing about it is that Microsoft has the money to overturn this joke of a patent, and can get enough media coverage to point out how broken the U.S. patent system is.

  • Re:Fair Play (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rzekson (990139) on Friday May 29, 2009 @06:49PM (#28145043)
    You mean, the law should protect only the poor, miserable, and troubled, and punish the rich, mighty, and successful, so that everyone and everything becomes uniformly mediocre and apathetic. I'm amazed at how the pure open source ideals sometimes end up twisted in people's minds, so that they become indistinguishable from the dull communist propaganda. Surely, this is completely missing the point of the open source movement?
  • by Jurily (900488) <> on Friday May 29, 2009 @06:54PM (#28145095)

    And any Open Office developers who happen to live in the U.S. - whose coding would be subject to U.S. patents - would do what exactly to avoid their liability for infringing the patent?

    Stop contributing. Where is it written, that OOo has to have contributors from the US? There will be others. And I'm sure the courts would appreciate the fact that they stopped upon finding out about the infringement.

    Also, the fact that they sued the richest software company in the world does not imply they'll go after individuals.

  • Re:Fair Play (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rzekson (990139) on Friday May 29, 2009 @06:58PM (#28145139)
    You don't become a patent troll by simply acquiring lots of obvious patents. You become a troll by using those patents to harass others. Lots of companies big and small file patents for DEFENSIVE reasons. Once you have a patent, it's much harder to sue you for infringement; after all, the patent office already agreed that you're doing something innovative. So as long as the patent office awards patents for obvious stuff, filing for such patents for defensive reasons is not only fair, but essentially required. You don't want to risk investing lots of money to develop and market a new product only to find out later that you've been sued by some stupid patent-squatter. Instead of blaming the big players, who only exercise their common sense right to protect their investment, the community should exert pressure on the patent office to start uniformly rejecting ALL such applications.
  • by FooRat (182725) on Friday May 29, 2009 @07:25PM (#28145351)

    Of the variety of parsing tasks out there to do, with the level of support available in terms of API's and frameworks, working with XML could be seen as slicing butter with a hot knife.

    creimer wasn't talking about using a XML parsing API - of course it's easy if you use someone else's parsing and DOM API, that is not the point - he's talking about writing such a parser yourself. Look at the source code of an XML parser (like xerces) sometime if you think it's a quick 'n easy job to whip up something like that.

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Friday May 29, 2009 @10:29PM (#28146523)

    As a sad commentary on the state of the patent system, your convoluted description of coffee was easier to follow than most patent applications.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @12:09AM (#28147017)

    MS and IBM are the main ones jamming sw patents down our throats. There's a scenario where it leads to their justified destruction, since the whole point against sw patents is that no one or corporation can hope to patent every thought that might be useful (which is what sw patents are thought-patents). So even though they have more nukes than anyone else, they still get nuked themselves. And that's a good thing.

    Developers everywhere are nearly universally in denial about what sw patents are and what they imply for those lines of code you wrote today. Every single one of us violates multiple sw patents every day. No software can be written that isn't assailable and no company can launch a product that isn't in violation of sw patents. No company except the behemoths can survive the ensuing legal judgment. The fact that it's not destroying every single company doesn't mean much, except that developers are lulled into believing they're safe.

    The longer sw patents are permitted, the greater the contempt for the law becomes and the more widespread it becomes. Ultimately, contempt for law in this area will be total and absolute. And no, that's not a good thing.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @02:49AM (#28147629) Homepage Journal

    "You make it sound like it's a good thing..."

    Well, since you mention it, YES, it's a good thing!! What could possibly be better, than for a dozen winning suits against multi-billion dollar companies over frivolous patent suits? When the idiocy begins to hurt the idiot who are so successful at lobbying Washington and other capitals around the world, THEN we might see some sanity forced into patent law.

    Really, I want another dozen such suits brought against Microsoft quickly. Each one of them worth a billion dollars or more. Redmond will be RACING to Washington, to BEG Congress to invalidate the portfolios of patent trolls. Of course, in the process, Microsoft's own trolls will be set adrift.....

  • by Bert64 (520050) <> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:31AM (#28148165) Homepage

    Indeed, but if enough of these cases are used to sting microsoft, that they decide to turn against software patents, then the fight against software patents gains a powerful ally.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:17AM (#28148463) Homepage

    Ofcourse there is the risk that MS will simply buy this company so that they can use the patent themselves...

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