Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Injunction to prevent Microsoft from selling Word due to XML

It appears that there are just a handful of truly ubiquitous PC applications out there that exist on almost every single computer on the planet and Microsoft Word is certainly among that bunch. So it is an interesting twist that a Texas judge ruled yesterday in an injunction that Microsoft can no longer sell Word (version 2003 and 2007) starting in 60 days because they can handle XML data.

In a lawsuit filed in 2007 i4i (based out of Canada) said that Word violated its 1998 patent No. 5,787,449 on a method for reading XML.

If you are like me and prefer to read all the legal details yourself, here are the relevant links (thanks to The Microsoft Blog for the PDFs):

Needless to say, Microsoft will either appeal the injunction, try to invalidate the patent, or – most likely – settle and write a big check to i4i, but this just shows yet another aspect of the broken patent system when it comes to software patents especially in relations to standards such as XML.

It is interesting to note that the patent appears to deal primarily with representing any document in XML, which appears to be slightly ludicrous given the long history of SGML prior to 1998. Also interesting is that the injunction doesn't just talk about XML, but rather specifically mentions .DOCX (i.e. Open Office XML), which is used by Word 2007 as its default storage format.

More coverage on techmeme.com

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