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Microsoft The Courts Your Rights Online

MS Issues Word Patch To Comply With Court Order 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the wrist-slap-complete dept.
bennyboy64 writes "iTnews reports that Microsoft has begun offering what appears to be a patch for its popular Word software, allowing it to comply with a recent court ruling which has banned the software giant from selling patent-infringing versions of the word processing product. The workaround should put an end to a long-running dispute between Canadian i4i and Redmond, although it has hinted that the legal battle might yet take another turn."
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MS Issues Word Patch To Comply With Court Order

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  • "Wrist slap"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:09PM (#30589350) Homepage

    This is a civil lawsuit. The point is to make the plaintiff whole and cause the infringement to cease. It is not about any sort of punishment.

    • Well, willful patent infringement can result in treble damages being awarded, which is about punishment even though it's a civil suit.

      In this particular case, though, damages weren't trebled, but the district court judge awarded i4i an additional $40 million as sanctions against Microsoft for courtroom shenanigans (which is also about punishment).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by OnlineAlias (828288)

        I would like to know where my damages are. How can Microsoft sell a product with a feature, lose an intellectual property case, then take the feature out of my copy by way of "patch". Didn't I pay for that feature? Microsoft has done this before, and I didn't get a refund. How can they keep doing this without eventually even acknowledging that they are removing features from *my* product, not *their* product?

        • Strangely, my understanding of the injunction was that it wasn't supposed to interfere with Microsoft's contractual obligations to its present customers, only that it was supposed to enjoin Microsoft from continuing to sell the unpatched product to new customers. Maybe they figure that new customers buying software already on the shelves would get an unpatched version in violation of the injunction, so they're patching everyone.

          • by Plunky (929104)
            Frankly they could withdraw the stock on the shelves and restock the shelves for virtually nothing. The thing that is on the shelf does not cost $$$ to make.
        • by jbengt (874751)

          I would like to know where my damages are.

          Fortunately, i4i is not asking you to pay damages.
          (Strictly speaking, they could. In turn you might be able to recover those damage payments from MS)
          IANAL, YMMV, etc.

          • Fortunately, i4i is not asking you to pay damages.

            I didn't infringe upon i4i's patent. i4i was made whole by the damages awarded to them by the court against Microsoft.

            i4i has no grounds to seek restitution from me, even if I continue to use an unpatched Word.

            • by jbengt (874751)

              i4i has no grounds to seek restitution from me, even if I continue to use an unpatched Word.

              Actually, if you use features covered by their patents, they do have grounds to sue you. Proving damages would be a different story.
              IANAL, YMMV, etc.

        • by mevets (322601)

          I can license you to use any rancid lump of shit that may or may not do anything you want it to do. I can grant or take away any interoperability at any point in time, as you own nothing but the license to standby while it does whatever it pleases.

          FZ, in "I am the slime" summed it all up pretty well:
          You will obey me while I lead you
          And eat the garbage that I feed you
          Until the day that we don't need you
          Don't go for help . . . no one will heed you
          Your mind is totally controlled
          It has been stuffed into my mo

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        They called Shenanigans? What was going on? Egregious Skylarking?
    • This is a civil lawsuit. The point is to make the plaintiff whole and cause the infringement to cease. It is not about any sort of punishment.

      Civil suits sometimes involve punishment, hence punitive damages, which are awarded in order to discourage infringing behavior when the actual compensatory damages are insufficient to do so.

  • Copyright? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roguegramma (982660) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:12PM (#30589372) Journal
    Don't submit something if you can't tell the difference between patent and copyright.
  • by toby (759) * on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:12PM (#30589374) Homepage Journal

    Groklaw has it. [groklaw.net]

    It's very hard not to agree with the court that Microsoft wilfully infringed. Furthermore, it seems they expected to be caught, and to lose the inevitable suit - and didn't care either. Not hard to see why: The damages awarded are equivalent to just two days' revenue for Microsoft (although they infringed for five years). As a commenter pointed out, that's why such cases are unlikely to change their posture on software patents; even when they lose in that arena (and they are serial infringers, frequently losing such cases) - they have already made a huge profit on the whole dirty business. Same old Microsoft.

    The way damages were calculated is detailed by the document linked (and was upheld by appeal, as it most likely substantially underestimated the real damages).

    • by crazybit (918023)

      The way damages were calculated is detailed by the document linked (and was upheld by appeal, as it most likely substantially underestimated the real damages).

      Next time court should hire RIAA lawyers and let them make the math of the damages.

    • "The way damages were calculated is detailed by the document linked (and was upheld by appeal, as it most likely substantially underestimated the real damages)."

      The damages were not upheld because the estimate was worth a shit (and after reading how they arrived at them I think they were WAY high) they were upheld because Microsoft failed to file a pre-verdict JMOL on damages. Or so it says under B. Reasonableness of the Damages Award.
    • by ortholattice (175065) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:04AM (#30590742)

      (and was upheld by appeal, as it most likely substantially underestimated the real damages)

      I won't argue that i4i doesn't legally "deserve" $290 million because of what MS did or that MS shouldn't be "punished" by that amount; the courts are supposed (in an ideal world at least) to determine the proper amount based on patent and contract law.

      But I'm assuming that you are using the term "real damages" in the non-legal sense of what i4i actually suffered (in the sense of what they would have that that don't have now, had MS not used their patent). I highly doubt that "real damages" in that sense have been "substantially underestimated". Small companies rarely sell $290 million of any kind of software, patent or not.

    • It's very hard not to agree with the court that Microsoft wilfully infringed. Furthermore, it seems they expected to be caught, and to lose the inevitable suit - and didn't care either. Not hard to see why: The damages awarded are equivalent to just two days' revenue for Microsoft (although they infringed for five years). As a commenter pointed out, that's why such cases are unlikely to change their posture on software patents;

      Why would they change? Microsoft's position on software patents is that there is nothing wrong with them in principle, but the patent office needs to do a better job of not granting patents on things that are not non-obvious or that are not novel. Their position would be that the i4i is one of the ones that would not have been granted under what they would consider proper standards of novelty and non-obviousness.

      The way damages were calculated is detailed by the document linked (and was upheld by appeal, as it most likely substantially underestimated the real damages).

      Considering how few people actually make use of Custom XML in Office, it's hard to see how the r

    • Don't you think they have suffered enough. Everywhere I look, I see hatred being dumped on this poor company that is just trying to do what it does best. For gods sake, leave microsoft alone.

      Besides, don't you think apple fanbois had something to do with this. Apple really sucks, and I think this is them dumping on microsoft, again.

  • Why patch? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:20PM (#30589426)
    Existing copies of Word were expressly grandfathered in by the ruling -- only the sale of new copies was prohibited. Is the patch intended to be applied against shrink-wrapped copies bought after Jan. 11th?
    • Re:Why patch? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LOLLinux (1682094) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:22PM (#30589446)

      Because they want consistency across all copies of the same version of Office?

    • Existing copies of Word were expressly grandfathered in by the ruling -- only the sale of new copies was prohibited. Is the patch intended to be applied against shrink-wrapped copies bought after Jan. 11th?

      I would assume that the patch is intended to be applied to every version of Word possible. If for no other reason than to have a unified codebase.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      It'll probably be optional for existing installs of Word. So you could just not install it. It might be a good idea if you have to interoperate with a lot of other people who may or may not have it, at least you know you won't be sending them incompatible files.

      For new installs, though, it'll have to be burnt on the DVD, so you're out of luck.

  • CENTER FOR UNEASE CONTROL, Seattle, -- A federal court has banned Microsoft Word from sale as a poisonous substance [newstechnica.com], suspected of causing millions of brain-deaths around the world.

    Microsoft Office has long been considered potentially hazardous to health, despite advertising claiming that "four out of five CEOs prefer Outlook" and most of the billions of dollars sloshing around in major banks' credit-default swaps before the Great Recession actually having been calculated in macros in Excel.

    Workers whose computers are infected with Microsoft Office are advised to press "escape," step slowly away from the desk, break into a run and gather at the official hazardous substances meeting point, in the pub around the corner from the office.

    Symptoms include nausea, irritability and short temper, hostility, homicidal impulses, loss of mental clarity, diarrhoea, mental confusion and liver damage from excess alcohol consumption.

    Doctors have recommended victims of Word use OpenOffice instead, its "majestic" startup time giving one healthy pause to catch one's breath, make a cup of tea and nip off to the loo, and its fibrous composition providing the same health-giving effects and taste sensation as eating a bowl of sawdust with milk every morning for the rest of your life. Many sufferers have instead opted to write on toilet paper with a burnt stick.

  • by headkase (533448) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:44PM (#30589600)
    Hooray! Now we can all stagnate. See: Melancholy Elephants [spiderrobinson.com] but instead of standard writing, apply it to programming writing. From a comment in: This Story [techdirt.com] (which I'm in too ;): "To protect all artists you must disadvantage some. Those some rarely see the logic." which leads to: "Its a horrible future where the copyright maximalist dream (copyright forever and ever) is near at hand, and is finally shown to be a nightmare. The "some" artists that are disadvantaged are the ones who cannot profit from their works in a reasonable time period and refuse to cope with the markets. The Vast Majority who are protected are the Other artists of today and the infinite future, protecting their freedom to innovate, rebuild and even reinvent without some ancient monopoly power looming in the shadows to spank them and call them thieves." Software patents are basically "copyright" for ideas so all of this applies. Now, I'm not saying software patents shouldn't exist but rather in the context of stagnation especially with the pace of development that they should be much shorter than they are now.
  • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @10:00PM (#30589696)

    YOU HAVEN'T HEARD THE LAST OF MEEeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

    * /steve shakes fist angrily.

  • Will this be a foreced patch? that can not be blocked?

  • So essentially, Microsoft got sued for, putting extra data in a file. What a joke.

  • IF Microsoft wants to really blow openoffice out of the water, they need to make sure that when you export a CSV, it doesn't go all Y-2-Krazy on standard ISO dates. OpenOffice can't compare with that!

    (And before you try to tell me OO.o doesn't do that, I'm looking at a fresh file that says it does... goddamn it...)

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