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Microsoft Patents The Courts Technology

Court Allows Microsoft To Sell Word During Appeal 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the back-in-the-saddle dept.
An anonymous reader sends along this update to the ongoing patent battle between Microsoft and i4i involving XML formatting in Word. "Microsoft's motion to stay an injunction has been granted; the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has allowed the company to keep selling Word as it appeals a patent ruling from last month. The injunction had an effective date of October 10, but the motion to stay blocks the injunction until the appeal process is complete. If upheld, the injunction wouldn't stop existing users from using Word, but it could prevent the software giant from selling Word 2003 or Word 2007, the most common versions of Word currently on the market, and would require the company to significantly tweak Word 2010, which is slated for the first half of next year. The victory is a small one for Microsoft; the company still has the whole appeals process to go through. 'We are happy with the result and look forward to presenting our arguments on the main issues on September 23,' a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. 'Microsoft's scare tactics about the consequences of the injunction cannot shield it from the imminent review of the case by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeal on the September 23 appeal,' said i4i chairman Loudon Owen in response to the court's decision."
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Court Allows Microsoft To Sell Word During Appeal

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  • Surprise (Score:4, Funny)

    by siloko (1133863) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:24AM (#29321877)
    Er now there's a surprise . . .
  • Sauce for the goose. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:26AM (#29321889)

    If they had concentrated on reforming the patent system, instead of just bolstering their patent portfolio, they could have prevented this. But instead, they prize their own ability to do this to the little guy too highly.

    They are reaping what they sowed. It doesn't make the patent troll any less despicable though.

    • by siloko (1133863) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:39AM (#29321927)
      Well this story at least is about them getting a stay of execution, so they are indeed reaping what they sow (political/judicial power due to massive economic influence) but not in the way you suggest. Perhaps they will lose this case and have to pony up some dollar but if anyone thinks the sale of Word is going to be impeded for even a day then they are naive in the extreme.
    • by kripkenstein (913150) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @05:39AM (#29322127) Homepage

      They are reaping what they sowed. It doesn't make the patent troll any less despicable though.

      How many times does this need to be pointed out? i4i is not a patent troll. That doesn't mean they're cute and cuddly panda bears, but they aren't a patent troll, which is defined as suing over patents without having an actual product (or in other words, suing over patents is a patent troll's business model, not building things). i4i does have an actual product, and they claim that Microsoft is competing against their product; after convincing a judge of that, they got the injunction.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @06:04AM (#29322183)

        i4i does have an actual product, and they claim that Microsoft is competing against their product; after convincing a judge of that, they got the injunction.

        I thought the case revolved around Microsoft stealing their product, not competing against it. That Microsoft took their product and bundled their own rather-similar-indeed implementation directly into Word, and that the patent is the only thing i4i has that they can sue MS over. But yes, to re-iterate i4i is not, in any shape or form, a patent troll and this is one case where the patent system is actually working as intended!

        Microsoft was very naughty and deserves to sit on the 'do not collect $200 per copy' step.

        • by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @07:30AM (#29322469)

          No, it was always just a plain patent infringement case [swpat.org] about using XML for the reason that the mark up language was created. The sad part is that i4i created a product that uses Word for all of its user interface. That means they are using way more of Microsoft's code in their own product than Microsoft could have ever "stolen" from them.

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            I think you'll find, if you read more than some trolling blog posts, that Microsoft intends for you to add stuff to Office documents, and also has a whole Office developer section for people to "use way more of their code", its perfectly ok if its offered to you as a feature of the product they want you to use.

            Anyway, i4i had a separate product that, in this case, was taken by MS and included into Word documents. This article gives a better description of why everyone thinks MS is the thief. [seattlepi.com]

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by whatajoke (1625715)

            No, it was always just a plain patent infringement case [swpat.org] about using XML for the reason that the mark up language was created. The sad part is that i4i created a product that uses Word for all of its user interface. That means they are using way more of Microsoft's code in their own product than Microsoft could have ever "stolen" from them.

            How is writing a plugin for Word make i4i using "Microsoft code in their own product" ? If Microsoft is not OK with the plugin they could have removed the plugin functionality form Word instead of really stealing from i4i.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Anpheus (908711)

        So? Almost all software patents have implementations. That doesn't make them legit.

        I don't get why Slashdot screams bloody murder when software patents are brought up in conversation about open source products, but when Microsoft or one of the "bad guys" is on the receiving end of a lawsuit it's A-OK with you guys.

        You are the cancer that is killing /., is what I'm trying to say. They aren't a patent troll? Come on, grow up. You can be a patent troll with a product, just like all those other software patent

        • My only point was that they didn't meet the technical definition of a patent troll. I didn't say they were 'nice', in fact I clearly stated otherwise ('not panda bears').

          But, you seem to be having fun demolishing a strawman, so why should I stop you :)
          • by Anpheus (908711)

            They -are- a patent troll. Just like any other company that sues for obvious, trivial software patents and non-inventions. They're all seeking to make money by extortion or lawsuit for something that really isn't patent-worthy, hence: patent troll.

            At times, even Microsoft has been a patent troll, so have many other companies. Stop treating everyone differently with these trivial patents, rather than playing favorites just because a company you don't like is involved.

    • Microsoft [swpat.org] does support reform. "Reform" means [swpat.org] making litigation harder for certain types of companies (small companies and companies that don't have a successful product based on the patents), reducing the time for granting patents, and reducing the amount that an infringer can have to pay (by dropping the incentives for litigation, patent trolls [swpat.org] should be less common).

      All these measures are good for Microsoft and other dominant players who want to use their portfolio strategically to entrench their positi

    • by dbIII (701233)
      The question is how do they go about removing the idiocy that is software and business method patents? This is a nasty quirk of government.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by janwedekind (778872)
      Microsoft could just argue that according to the Bilski ruling [groklaw.net] a process which is not tied to any particular apparatus is not patentable. But obviously they have their own stakes in software patents. I wonder how many more i4is (eye for an eye?) the economy can take.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      If they had concentrated on reforming the patent system, instead of just bolstering their patent portfolio, they could have prevented this. But instead, they prize their own ability to do this to the little guy too highly.

      Over its lifetime, Microsoft has filed something like two patent lawsuits involving software patents, not against little guys. I don't recall the details of one, but the other was in a case where the other side was threatening Microsoft over patents, negotiations failed, and both sides filed suit.

      During that same time, they've been on the receiving end of patent lawsuits, often from the little guys, numerous times.

      The fact is that they have pushed for patent reform to make it harder to get software patents.

  • Seems appropriate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:27AM (#29321893)

    If i4i wins the appeal, the court can make Microsoft pay for the unlicensed use of the patent. This way the patent still does what patents are supposed to do in most general terms: reward the inventor for sharing his inventor with the public. If Microsoft wins, i4i might not be able to reimburse them for lost sales.

    This said, I think software patents are counterproductive and should be abolished. And maybe patents in general. For an interesting e-book on this topic, see http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm [dklevine.com]

    But it still would be fun to see Microsoft's cash cow whacked with the patent hammer. Especially after their petty lawsuit against TomTom.

    • by Nathrael (1251426)
      I don't think software patents are overally bad - they are just bad as they are now. Patents are important. If I write software, I want to be able to sell it and to get paid for it, and that's just fair. On the other hand however, the patent system is horribly abused, especially since patents last half an eternity plus forever. I think the ideal solution would be to set patents for software at around 10 years...maybe even 5. This way, companies and developers would still get paid for their stuff, but they c
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If I write a book, I want to be able to sell it and get paid for it. I cannot patent the contents of a book. What makes software any different?
        • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @10:26AM (#29323435) Homepage

          "If I write a book, I want to be able to sell it and get paid for it. I cannot patent the contents of a book. What makes software any different?"

          I'm sorry for the late response. I spent the first half hour trying to post from my copy of 1984, but eventually concluded that there is in fact a difference, and went back to the approach of using software rather than books ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lonewolf666 (259450)

        But did patents ever work as expected?

        According to chapter 1 of "Against Intellectual Monopoly" (see my first post), the patents of Boulton and Watt impeded the development of the steam engine rather than promoting it. That was 200+ years ago. Today we still have similar problems. That is reason enough to doubt the usefulness of patents in general.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dangitman (862676)

      reward the inventor for sharing his inventor with the public

      That's some orgy porn I don't particularly want to see.

    • by arkhan_jg (618674)

      But in the interim, microsoft makes bucketloads of cash from selling their infringing product, and since they're not being hurt in any way from that infringement, they can drag out the court case for many years and there's no rush to fix it via patch. Meanwhile, i4i loses their business to microsoft's infringing product, and potentially runs out of money before the patent case is ever resolved, and may eventually end up as just a patent shell company.

      Justice delayed is justice denied. An injunction against

      • Meanwhile, i4i loses their business to microsoft's infringing product, and potentially runs out of money

        You have a point about the risk of bankruptcy. Otherwise, I disagree:
        Until a final verdict is reached, the court should avoid doing something irreversible. Like crashing the market for MS Office. On the other hand, money can be redistributed later if necessary. As in "Microsoft, you have infringed the patent. Pay $20 for each copy of Word since 2009".

        • by makomk (752139)

          Except that it doesn't destroy the market for Microsoft Office - all Microsoft had to do to comply with the injunction was release a version without the patent-infringing feature. Since only a small percentage of Office users actually make use of said feature, it won't even affect most of their users.

  • money buys justice [nytimes.com]. But this is the age of the internet, where information is everywhere and nobody reads anything. So "word" is obsolete. All we need is YouTube!

  • Small victory?!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Reaper9889 (602058)

    I am pretty sure Microsoft is more than capable of making this lawsuit last as long as they want to. Until, e.g. they do not use the tech anymore...

  • by viralMeme (1461143) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @05:23AM (#29322085)
    The entire planetary commercial ecosystem would grind to a halt without Microsoft Office ...
    --

    Ubersoft Marketing Language [ubersoft.net]
    • by binarylarry (1338699) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @06:06AM (#29322189)

      Yeah, it's terrible.

      What we need is some kind of "open" office suite of tools, to replace Microsoft Office.

      Someone should start a project.

    • Nah. Not everyone depends on Office 2007, you know.

      Lots of people still use 2003.
      OpenOffice? What's that? ;)
    • by Rick17JJ (744063)
      Yes, how could the entire planetary commercial ecosystem possibly get by without Word? I do not know. But, personally, I have these excellent free alternatives installed on my Windows XP computer:

      OpenOffice
      IBM Lotus Symphony (a free office suite which also includes a word processor)
      Abiword

      If I wanted to pay for something, Word Perfect would also be a great alternative.

      On my Linux computer, I have these excellent free alternatives installed:

      OpenOffice
      IBM Lotus Symphony
      Abiword
      KOffice
      Scribus

      I do not actually h
      • by ivan_w (1115485)

        Currently, the most needed piece of software missing from productivity suites are an 'access' like product (read : a SQL query + reporting tool).

        For the rest.. I completely agree... myself (like you) haven't had any MS Office product installed on my computer(s) (some of the running Windows) for a long time (~3 years).

        --Ivan

        • by Rick17JJ (744063)
          What about OpenOffice Base? That was only added in later versions of OpenOffice. I have Base open right now on my screen. It seems to look similar to Microsoft Access. It has tables, queries, forms and reports. Under queries tab, it has an option called "Create Query in SQL view."

          I have not actually yet tried creating a small database with OpenOffice Base, so I am not sure if OpenOffice Base is a mature enough alternative yet, or not.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenOffice.org_Base
          http://www.openoffice.org
          • by dschl (57168)

            I haven't used Access since Office 97 or 2000. Base is pretty close in features to those, but I don't think it is up to the latest versions of Access. I'm using Base at work for asset inventory reporting and water quality database (replacing excel, which is all that the techs have used in the past).

            I haven't been able to get the Sun report builder extension working yet in either Linux or Windows, but that is about the only piece that is missing. I can generate reports, but the graphing crashes, and that is

  • Status Quo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @05:52AM (#29322157)

    The legal system in the US is fixated on maintaining the status quo when it comes to major corporations. There is this "too big to (fail/not be sold)" mentality and that's what's saving Word. If it was "Joe's Word Processor" that was the infringing software, the sales injunction would have held.

    It's a shame, because I would have really liked to see Dell and the others putting OpenOffice or another alternative on their computers for a few months while this thing got sorted out. And that's what should have happened. The products that didn't violate patents should have been given a competitive advantage over those that did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KiahZero (610862)

      This is an application of well-settled law on the question of when injunctions should be issued:

      That test requires a plaintiff to demonstrate: (1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction. The decision to grant or deny such relief

    • The legal system in the US is fixated on maintaining the status quo when it comes to major corporations.

      The legal systems in the U.S. tend to preserve the status quo in any litigation until a final decision is rendered.

      Microsoft is a multi-national with $60 billion in revenues and no significant debt. It is in no way seriously threatened.

      But a similar injunction against a geek's one-man operation would be ruinous.
         

  • Surpise... not. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    M$ has more money than i4i.
    M$ wins in court.
    Case closed.
    That's how the legal system works nowadays.
    Lobbying, bribes and little brown envelopes under the table.
    M$ even support bribery in their own in-house information.

    • by KiahZero (610862)

      A stay is not a win. It means the injunction won't go into force until the appeal is concluded.

      Nothing about that is abnormal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today"
    -- Bill Gates [wikiquote.org] in his "Challenges and Strategy" memo 16 May 1991

  • There are other alternatives to Microsoft products, such as Linux, Open Office, Mac OS, etc., so please explain to me how they are a monopoly. They dominate the market, but other products, such as Apple's iPod or Google's search engine also dominate the market without being labeled monopolies.

    They were convicted in a U.S. court, but the U.S. legal system is probably the worst in the civilized world, with the dumbest judges and juries, and the greediest, most unscrupulous lawyers.

    I4i's patent is vague

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