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i4i Says OpenOffice Does Not Infringe Like MS Word 146

Posted by kdawson
from the tooth-for-tooth dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "After the permanent injunction barring Microsoft from selling Microsoft Word, many armchair lawyers and pundits wondered how the ruling would affect OpenOffice. The company with the patent, i4i, believes that OpenOffice does not infringe upon it. But lest anyone think that therefore ODF will win out over OOXML, keep in mind that Microsoft has its own broad XML document patent, which issued just two weeks ago, having been filed in December 2004, and they're telling the Supreme Court to apply the Bilski ruling narrowly, so that it doesn't invalidate patents like theirs (and i4i's). After all, unlike most companies and individuals, Microsoft can afford $290 million infringement fines. Then again, given that Microsoft's new patent has only two independent claims (claim #1 and claim #12), and both of those claims 'comprise' something using an 'XML file format for documents associated with an application having a rich set of features,' maybe they wouldn't be that hard to work around if you just make sure any otherwise infringing format is only associated with an application lacking in the feature richness department."
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i4i Says OpenOffice Does Not Infringe Like MS Word

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  • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:49PM (#29111917)
    The claim about the MS patent affecting ODF is not true. See here [adaptux.com] for details.
    • by quarterbuck (1268694) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:23PM (#29112261)
      It would not matter what a third party thinks as long as i4i thinks it is not infringing. Unlike trademarks, patents do not expire unless enforced. So i4i is within rights to sue Microsoft and not Sun. And anyway the common practice is to sue the ones with most amount of money and who can be convinced to pay -- It is difficult to ask for a cut of sales when OpenOffice is free (for most part). To add to that there is the fact that large Open Office installations are in Europe where the patent won't apply anyway.
      Of course things might change when Oracle completes the purchase of Sun.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sumdumass (711423)

        Actually, the patents will apply most everywhere in Europe. There are several agreements concerning this. You can find out more at the WIPO site [wipo.int] which lists almost all the "IP" related treaties. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on the case, the law of the land of the violation (Whatever European country) will most likely prevail which could be worse or better depending on the country.

        • by Zarluk (976365)

          Actually, the patents will apply most everywhere in Europe.

          No, they won't. EC doesn't recognize software patents :D

          Under the EPC, and in particular its Article 52, "programs for computer" are not regarded as inventions for the purpose of granting European patents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_under_the_European_Patent_Convention [wikipedia.org]).

          • by pnewhook (788591)

            No country should recognize stand alone software patents. It's the stupidest concept ever. Software as a part of an overall invention, sure, but not algorithms or concepts.

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            It doesn't really matter. Countries who signed onto the agreements are obligated to honor the copyrights and patents of other countries whether they recognize them or not. So even though they don't particularly deal with software patents, they will have to honor another country's complaint on them.

      • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:42PM (#29112477)

        It would not matter what a third party thinks as long as i4i thinks it is not infringing. Unlike trademarks, patents do not expire unless enforced. So i4i is within rights to sue Microsoft and not Sun.

        From the perspective of a company which invests into integrating its business processes with the office software that it is using (that's the area of application where the kind of stuff that the patent talks about is relevant), it matters a lot whether you can base your work on ODF without having to fear that essential features (for your purposes) might get removed from future versions due to patent trouble.

        • by h4rm0ny (722443)

          Presumably there's a counter issue about future development though. The patent can be an advantage to MS in a way. If MS do settle with i4i then they will henceforth be able to implement a feature that OpenOffice (or anyone else) wont be able to. So, yes - it pains MS that they would have to pay to do something, but if they can pay and others can't then the patent has the usual effect of software patents, of closing the market with further barriers to entry and favouring established and large players.
          • by JAlexoi (1085785)

            able to implement a feature that OpenOffice (or anyone else) wont be able to

            Imagine the scene: The patent bites a programmer's fingers off when (s)he tries to implement a patented feature?

            • by h4rm0ny (722443)

              Imagine the scene: The patent bites a programmer's fingers off when (s)he tries to implement a patented feature?

              I was more imagining a letter from a lawyer in East Texas saying you can't sell your work anymore, actually.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CSMatt (1175471)

        Unlike trademarks, patents do not expire unless enforced.

        Wrong. Patents expire in 20 years, but can not be invalidated unless enforced.

        • by Qzukk (229616)

          Ah, parentheses. What language cannot be improved by the addition of more parentheses?

          Trademarks can be lost if they are not enforced. Read the sentence "Unlike trademarks, patents do not (expire unless enforced)."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zordak (123132)

        large Open Office installations are in Europe where the patent won't apply anyway.

        Actually, the U.S. patent will not apply at all in Europe, or Mexico, or China, or Japan, or anywhere else. It's strictly national. It looks like there's a Canadian patent in the family, but I don't see any others (with the caveat that I am not offering legal advice about whether or not this is patented or not in any particular country).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Zordak (123132)
          ...and, it looks like we had a little problem with the href tag. The Canadian patent shows up here [espacenet.com].
      • by mysidia (191772)

        Unlike trademarks, patents do not expire unless enforced.

        What? Patents will expire at the designated date whether you enforce them or not, they are for limited times.

        Trademark rights are considered abandoned if not properly enforced.

        Patents always expire exactly on the expiration date, unless found invalid by the USPTO (upon re-examination), or ruled invalid by a court in the interim.

    • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @06:04PM (#29112673) Homepage

      The submitted article cites the patent owner saying it doesn't apply to ODF. Why would I care what someone who says about himself, "I am not a lawyer, and specifically not a patent lawyer. I have never spent a lot of time on learning about the intricacies of patent law" has to say on the matter at this point? In fact, why would I care even what experienced patent lawyers have to say now? Hasn't it been definitively settled by i4i's statement?

      • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @06:28PM (#29112875)

        The submitted article cites the patent owner saying it doesn't apply to ODF. Why would I care what someone who says about himself, "I am not a lawyer, and specifically not a patent lawyer. I have never spent a lot of time on learning about the intricacies of patent law" has to say on the matter at this point? In fact, why would I care even what experienced patent lawyers have to say now? Hasn't it been definitively settled by i4i's statement?

        What hasn't been settled by i4i's statement is the (IMO false) claim that the MS patent affects ODF more than the i4i patent does.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Miseph (979059)

          The patent owner may hold that opinion right now... they might not hold that opinion in the future, and until they put it into some sort of legally binding statement (which I seriously doubt they have) it doesn't mean a damned thing.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            IANAL but I believe that the term is Estoppel and it doesn't take a lawyer to put an estoppel into place either.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel

            But the article doesn't quote anyone from i4i so the we can't be certain that ODF is clear. If i4i puts out a public relations statement or something of that sort stating that ODF does not infringe upon their patent then they have applied an estoppel to an infringement case against ODF on this particular patent.

            • by Miseph (979059)

              If the statement clearly and definitively stated that ODF does not infringe their patent that would mean something, but such a statement is extremely unlikely to be made in any event, and would almost certainly accompanied by an aneurysm for i4i's chief legal counsel. Much more likely is a statement that ODF doesn't appear to infringe, or that they are not aware of any infringement in ODF, or that there is no plan to sue regarding infringement in ODF. The latter versions could sound an awful lot like "ODF d

        • by makomk (752139)

          Yep, and you're right that the Microsoft patent doesn't affect ODF, but you're missing the more significant reason why. Both independent claims have the following requirement:

          wherein all of the text of the document is stored within text elements such that only the text of the document is contained between start text tags and end text tags; wherein there are no intervening tags between each of the start text tags and each of the corresponding end text tags

          This means that document formats that use a HTML-like mixed content model to do their formatting aren't affected by the Microsoft patent, and that includes ODF. This isn't a coincidence; the references show the patent examiner was aware of the StarOffice/OpenOffice.org XML format that ODF was based on. It will also remain true no matte

          • by Adaptux (1235736) *

            you're missing the more significant reason why. Both independent claims have the following requirement:

            wherein all of the text of the document is stored within text elements such that only the text of the document is contained between start text tags and end text tags; wherein there are no intervening tags between each of the start text tags and each of the corresponding end text tags

            This means that document formats that use a HTML-like mixed content model to do their formatting aren't affected by the Microsoft patent, and that includes ODF.

            That's a very good point; thank you for pointing this out! I've added a link to your comment at the bottom of my article under "Notes on feedback from readers [adaptux.com]".

  • Gold digging? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by reginaldo (1412879) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:53PM (#29111967)
    I wonder if this is a decision made based off knowledge of the law, or based off of the respective wallet size of software organizations.

    Why spend money on litigation against OpenOffice if you don't get a $290 mil return on investment.
    • Re:Gold digging? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Adaptux (1235736) * on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:58PM (#29112011)
      It's a decision based on the facts of the matter. OOXML has a mechanism (called "CustomXML") which does what the i4i patent describes. ODF doesn't have anything like it.
      • Gold digging. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by baboo_jackal (1021741)
        Actually, the patent [uspto.gov] does no such thing. The i4i patent describes an algorithm to separate the tags and plaintext of a markup-language document into two separate files, where the locations of the tags are defined by the character position at which they would have appeared in the original, embedded-tag document.

        i4i claims to have patented the concept of storing a document's raw data and formatting data separately, rather than inline. Given that Microsoft Word's Custom XML stores its markup inline, I har
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by makomk (752139)

          Custom XML stores the markup inline, but the text itself is stored out-of-line.

          Think about it this way: the i4i patent is on splitting the document into two parts, one of which contains just text, and a second part which contains formatting instructions and references the text by its location. With Custom XML, the first part is the custom XML file (text only, no formatting) and the second part is the document XML file (references the text in the custom XML file by full XML paths, and applies formatting to i

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CSMatt (1175471)

      Oracle still makes billions of dollars, even if Microsoft makes more than them.

  • No matter who wins (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We lose.

    • by gbarules2999 (1440265) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:12PM (#29112151)
      I think it's funny. Microsoft steps right into a landmines of patents, and problems and complications seem to go off at every turn. Ironic? A little bit. Come on, it's a little funny.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It would be a lot funnier if it were Apple. I hate Microsoft but it seems like almost every time they're in court, I end up on their side.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rsborg (111459)

          It would be a lot funnier if it were Apple.

          I think it would even more funny and ironic if it were "big patent" IBM [windowsitpro.com] (or as fake steve jobs calls em: "The Original Borg").

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yup. I think it's because the patent system is inherently anti-consumer. Whether MS itself is pro- or anti-consumer doesn't seem to matter, every time they get in patent trouble it's the consumer who loses out, and usually over something that shouldn't really be patentable at all. Remember that viewing a spreadsheet as a database table thing? Where somehow it was patentable that one thing whose most obvious representation is a grid be mappable to something else whose most obvious representation is a grid. N

        • by shentino (1139071)

          I'm glad you're not on the jury then.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by syousef (465911)

        I think it's funny. Microsoft steps right into a landmines of patents, and problems and complications seem to go off at every turn. Ironic? A little bit. Come on, it's a little funny.

        Only if you find the decay of human civilizations funny. No one is immune to this nonsense and in the end innovation grinds to a halt and everything goes backwards until the current IP laws are replaced with something saner and more sustainable. In the meantime expect to see less progress on everything from things that make you

        • Only if you find the decay of human civilizations funny.

          Hey, somebody discovered the slippery slope fallacy!

          • by Qubit (100461)

            Slippery phallusy what?

            Oh shucks, that's a'nuher one of 'em homophones!

            (Not to be confused with a homonym which, at least according to the linguists, must share both the same pronunciation and spelling. Silly linguists!)

          • by h4rm0ny (722443)

            Hey, somebody discovered the slippery slope fallacy!

            Hey, somebody discovered the Slippery Slope Fallacy Fallacy. That is to say, the "slippery slope fallacy" states that just because we have stepped closer to the cliff edge, doesn't mean we'll take further steps. The "slippery slope fallacy fallacy" states that just because we haven't proven the additional steps will be taken, doesn't mean we haven't just reduced the number of steps needing to be taken to reach the cliff edge.

          • by syousef (465911)

            Hey, somebody discovered the slippery slope fallacy!

            Hey, somebody discovered that if they cryptically accuse the other person of a logical error without any kind of backing to the accusation, they can avoid the issue altogether!

        • by JAlexoi (1085785)
          Well, sometimes when it's very bad the only thing left is to go crazy and find everything funny.
          Ironically I am listening soundtrack of Fallout 3 :)
  • if you just make sure any otherwise infringing format is only associated with an application lacking in the feature richness department

    Any XML document is associated with the feature "poorest" application imaginable; the plain text editor. Perhaps a text editor with UTF-16 support or such, but still something that handles characters and nothing else.

    • by rkit (538398)

      Any XML document is associated with the feature "poorest" application imaginable; the plain text editor.

      I am looking at you, EMACS!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:16PM (#29112207)

    What does XML have to do with anything? Microsoft's XML based office format notwithstanding, XML is a text-based data storage and interchange format. Putting things in a container to make them easy to store and transport cannot possibly be non-obvious or novel. Can I get a patent on storing the Amero in a billfold (digital or otherwise)?

    For all the talk about improving patent quality, the patent holders real colors come out when they start challenging Bilski.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bilski only dealt with 'method' claims. The 1st set of claims 'system' claims were not discussed by Bilski.

      Bilski dealt with 101, whether certain methods qualified as patentable subject matter. Bilski has nothing to do with obviousness or novelty (sections 103 and 102 of 35 U.S.C the laws dealing with patents)

  • by Jahava (946858) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:38PM (#29112423)
    I find that hard to believe; in fact, I've heard that an i4i leaves everyone blind.

    Although, that quote is oddly applicable, as blind (along with lame, deaf, and dumb) is more or less the result of the ongoing software patent trends.

  • Telling? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:52PM (#29112555)

    Microsoft ... [is] telling the Supreme Court to apply the Bilski ruling narrowly

    Asking, you mean.

    • Re:Telling? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by commodoresloat (172735) * on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @07:07PM (#29113189)

      It's Microsoft. "Telling" more accurately connotes their arrogant attitude when dealing with such petty nuisances as the U.S. Court system.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      Well, if they're filing an amicus curiae brief, those tend more towards telling than asking. It's literally an outside party interjecting its opinion as to the law and the facts. With the court's permission, Microsoft is telling the court its opinion as to relevant facts or legal arguments not covered by the court. Strictly speaking, they're not asking the court for a specific ruling unless they're an original party or an intervener. Officially, they're telling the court what standards they think the co
      • Well, if they're filing an amicus curiae brief, those tend more towards telling than asking.

        Its not telling the court to apply Bilski narrowly, its telling the court its opinion of what the best approach to the law is. It is asking the court to act on that understanding, though the request is implicit in an amicus brief, whereas it would be explicit in filing by a party.

        Yeah, that's a technicality, but "telling" is the correct word, even if the summary isn't great.

        "Telling" is the correct verb, if its follo

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @06:16PM (#29112779)

    After all, unlike most companies and individuals, Microsoft can afford $290 million infringement fines.

    This has absolutely no bearing on whether or not Microsoft will be allowed to continue shipping Word.

    i4i is entirely within their right not to license the patent to Microsoft, even if/after Microsoft pays the fines and damages.

    • by Tsujiku (902045)
      And Microsoft can remove the infringing feature without having to purchase a license to do so.
  • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @07:31PM (#29113355)

    > and they're telling the Supreme Court to apply the
    > Bilski ruling narrowly, so that it doesn't
    > invalidate patents like theirs

    Microsoft is in a bit of a bind here. Even raising Bilski arguments puts their patent in question as well as providing ammunition for any future challenges of Microsoft patents.

    Their best bet is to pretend they never heard of Bilski and find other grounds for their challenge, or just license i4i's technology to preserve their own claims.

    A pox on both their houses.

  • I just can't believe (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    all the shills here still trying to call I4i a patent troll. It's been proven conclusively that they do not fit the definition, and they have said their patent isn't violated by ODF, yet the same old lies just keep on coming.

    I can't believe the lack of ethics and outright lying that goes on here. I'd have to hide my head in shame if I were caught in the lies being told here. Yet, here are shills still trumpeting their crap.

    It's no wonder the US is going down the tubes and our society is collapsing as thi

    • by z80kid (711852)

      all the shills here still trying to call I4i a patent troll.
      ...
      Go read about how Rome's, and every other major civilization's, society crumbled and you'll see the same exact types of behavior......

      Wow. Here I thought this was just a simple patent dispute. I never realized that the very future of western civilization is hanging in the balance!

  • Good as I use OpenOffice, and there isn't anything that is any good other than OpenOffice on Linux side that I know of for starving students.
  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:53PM (#29114361) Homepage

    What I just completely fail to understand about this patent (i4i's patent I mean) is the words "custom XML". I keep seeing this term "custom XML" as part of its claims. But XML stands for the eXtensible Markup Language. It was designed to be customised. I don't understand,

    • What is their definition of "custom XML"?
    • What is "non-custom" XML? ("Standard XML"?)
    • How they can seemingly get a patent on a usage scenario that XML was specifically designed for?

    What leap of logic am I missing here? (Having, obviously, not read the patent.)

    • by Adaptux (1235736) *
      "CustomXML" has a specific meaning in the OOXML spec, and there is a corresponding API in Microsoft's "Word" product that plugins can use. See here [msdn.com] for an explanation of what it is about.
    • i4i's patent is here [google.com]. customXML is just the name of the infringing feature in Microsoft Word, which is why it's referenced as such in the judgment. It's part of the OOXML specification, as well (not that anyone but Microsoft uses that).

      In other words, 'customXML' is just a name for a particular way of using XML. It does NOT mean that every way of customizing XML has been patented (though I'm sure there are people trying to do that...).

      In a related note, I wish that people would stop saying that Microsoft

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All of this simply reinforces, at least to me, the idiocy of software patents. They are great for companies or individuals to make money, but bad for the intellectual side of the software development industry because they stifle innovation. I don't think you are missing anything at all and saw the issue very clearly - some patent holder wants money, period. It's very sad this happens, but people and companies arre greedy and so here we are.

  • Translation: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:29PM (#29114643)

    There's no money in enforcing a patent against Open Office, so we won't sue you. Should you start making a lot of money, we'll get back to you with our updated policy.

    • by FreeUser (11483)

      There's no money in enforcing a patent against Open Office, so we won't sue you.

      Particularly when "you" (ODF) in fact don't violate our patent, and have nothing in your standard that is even analogous to our patent.

      Should you start making a lot of money, we'll get back to you with our updated policy.

      Good luck with that. See above.

  • actual explanation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:51PM (#29114813)

    This piece by Amy Wohl [typepad.com] is the only writing on this subject that comes remotely close to explaining what is going on.

    In short, i4i's patent only covers some specific use of XML that is only widely used in the medical field. Microsoft is violating that particular patent.

    i4i is apparently not claiming that they own a patent against all of XML or anything.

    • I think we all know that. The issue is claiming that somehow because you encapsulate some customized extensible data into a markup language (in this case XML) that somehow or other you have this unique invention. It isn't unique. It's been a notional part of markup languages for the better part of four decades.

  • by MORB (793798)

    1.Serialize ODF into JSON instead of XML
    2.Laugh at both "office documents serialized into xml" patent trolls
    3.profit

    • by makomk (752139)

      Actually, there's an easier and more effective way to avoid them than that - just serialise the document into XML in the obvious way, and don't change ODF at all.

      Yes, seriously. The i4i patent fairly clearly excludes normal XML document formats from the patented subject matter - it includes SGML-based document formats in its description of the state of the art on which it improves, and XML is basically just a simplified and cleaned-up version of SGML.

      As for the Microsoft patent, that only covers XML documen

  • it's one of two things, either i4i is holding off suing them since the windfall from MS, or they think OpenOffice doesn't have the cash to make the extortion worthwhile.

  • I don't think the supreme court likes being told what to do by corporations.
  • It has been suggested in various writings that the newly issued Microsoft patent on an XML-based document would somehow resolve Microsoft's woes against i4i. This is most unlikely. A patent grants only rights to exclude others from practicing a claimed invention, and creates no right at all to practice the claimed invention. It is quite possible to obtain a patent governing a novel and unobvious variation of an existing patented technology. While the second patent would grant its owner the right to excl

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