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Microsoft must remove custom-XML editing from Word or face a permanent injunction barring the company from selling recent versions of the software, a federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a $290m patent infringement judgment against Microsoft, won by Toronto-based …
... a test of our Vendor LockIn Module (VLM). Now that we have Court Ordered Updates the Module has been removed and placed in Windows XP, which in the future will be shipped in small flimsy rectangular boxes marked "McDonalds' Big Mac", unless we can come up with something a little less obvious.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Steve (for Lucifer)
...who do not and have no intention of actually contributing working products to the market exercising their entitlement rights. When did we add that to the US Constitution?
The USPTO should require patent-holders to either use, sell, or give away (at the inventor's choice) a product or service utilizing their patented ideas within 5 years of granting the patent; or optionally license it to a 3rd party to implement. Otherwise you lock out innovation in a market by preventing anyone from using the idea, even if they thought of it on their own after you did. Patents were a good idea when they were invented, but the traditional patent and copyright laws that we have in the US (and in Europe) do not work with software and media in this age where intangible products and ideas drive the market. We can't abolish them, but they need serious reform.
"When did we add that to the US Constitution?"
In 1787 actually . If you have a problem with it then you need to take it up with Congress.
 Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 8 See also: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html#1.8.8
Someone who actually said what needed to be said about these patents. To take that alittle further why are there software patents at all? Maybe patent the end result of what you release and its look and feel but with how many companies out there (RAMBUS, i4i[I include because I have never heard of them until this whole mess started and use XLM on a daily basis], Apple, Nokia) just hold onto them [the patents] forever waiting for someone to infringe, wait several years, then sue the ever living crap out of the company?
Im not saying M$ isnt at fault here, I firmly believe they did intentionally do this, but what kind of precedent is going to be set for custom XML from this? Cant wait to find out, can you guys?
/on a different note here why when we upvote[or downvote] a post do I have to click the appropriate button twice and THEN have to click another link to go back to the commentard section? [yes yes I know I broke the *tard rule sorry Moderatrix] Why cant we, if already logged into the site, just click and have it say something like "Your vote has been recorded, Thank you" replace the buttons? Its not that I dislike the voting system but it really ticks me off when I have to confirm what I want to do twice or more on things.
i4i did offer their technology - they were in fact negotiating with Microsoft long before the court case.
What MS did - they thought they can avoid the patent (email proof shown in court) - and decided to say goodbye to i4i...
Well, at the end - it looks like it did not play well for Microsoft, and what they did in fact was willful infringement.
So, before you call people morons, get your facts straight, mr. Anonimous Coward.
In this case the company in question had developed and was selling the tech. But MS wanted it so they could get some Government contracts. And just stole it. Though I agree with you that there are far too many patent trolls, in this case though i4i is not one. I also think the whole idea of software patents is dumb and should be abolished. But while we have them the companies need to play by the rules.
"..who do not and have no intention of actually contributing working products to the market exercising their entitlement rights."
What a load of crap! i4i had developed and brought to market a product that was doing quite well in specific industry sector - Microsoft simply stole their idea and sold it in a globally marketed product.
@AC, I agree with you, but in this case i4i passes your tests. On i4i's web site, they do sell software for "XML Authoring in Microsoft Word"... IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), and have not looked over the patent, so I won't judge if it's a good patent or not. But they do have an actual shipping product, it's up to version 3.0, and not vaporware... so they are not just patent trolls.
My question is, though, what use is there for direct XML editing within Word? I guess there is a use or i4i and Microsoft wouldn't have both implemented it, but I'm just not seeing it.
"Another case of patent-holding morons"
That would be Microsoft?
You are either ignorant of the details of this case or an MS shill. Assuming you're ignorant let me precis.
i4i has a niche business in a market (Healthcare IIRC) that MS wanted a bigger slab of. They approached i4i offering a partnership deal. i4i goes into deep technical discussions with them as part of the partnership talks thinking their IP is protected then MS decides they are not interested. Then MS releases addons to Office that deal with this area. The argument is they could have not done this without the specialist insght they got off i4i who they then double crossed presuming that i4i either would not have the cash or the will to fight them.
Pretty much the behaviour of a predatory paedophile selecting a victim who won't report them.
As you appear ignorant of recent history you're probably ignorant of older history. These tactics were exactly those of the founder of the National Cash Register company in the late 19th/early 20th century. They are one of the reasons the US *has* anti-trust legislation from such an early period and why Tom Watson Jnr (the 1st head of IBM) did jail time for breaking it.
Thumbs up for i4i but wheather they will get some serious cash out of MS is another matter.
In hindsight with a name like that should MS have expected any other response but "biblical"?
Before posting garbage like "...who do not and have no intention of actually contributing working products to the market..." maybe you should do a bit of reading about the case (starting with the article you were commenting on).
i4i was APPROACHED BY MICROSOFT regarding their custom-XML software, as far back as 2001. Microsoft walked away, but custom-XML soon showed up in MS products without MS paying i4i a penny. That is called theft.
i4i HAD FUNCTIONING PRODUCT covered by (admittedly hated but currently legal) US software patents. Microsoft has been found to have infringed, and that finding has now been upheld on appeal.
Sorry about the shouting.
but when the "little guy" is nothing but a greedy patent troll playing dog in the manger then I most definitely side with Goliath. Even if it's Microsoft, a company I normally have an almost spiritual hatred of.
Besides, I was under the impression XML was an OPEN standard, like HTML? Since when can these shits lay claims to open standards?
"but when the "little guy" is nothing but a greedy patent troll "
i4i aren't patent trolls, they have a successful product, Microsoft saw it, invited them for technical discussions, then said they weren't interested and promptly stole the idea. They later tried to bully i4i out of existence but failed.
" ...I was under the impression XML was an OPEN standard..."
XML is an open standard and i4i did not have a patent for the XML standard. They had patented their technique for handling/editing XML files, used successfully in their products for some years - it is that which Microsoft copied in Word.
Can we please find an alternative nomenclature here. The X in XML stands for "extensible" so just about all XML is "custom" in the common English meaning of the word. What is at dispute here is support for a particular customisation (an XML dialect?) developed by this company.
As your article stands, it sounds like these Canadians have managed to patent a W3C standard and Microsoft are going to have to pull all XML support from the Office suite. That XML support is probably the only useful feature added in the last decade, so it would be a big deal. By contrast, withdrawing support for a niche dialect is a minor inconvenience for a handful of MS developers.
"...it sounds like these Canadians have managed to patent a W3C standard ...."
So, it would have been OK if they were Americans, eh?
Anyway, they have not patented XML, they patented a technique for editing and otherwise handling XML files - it is that technique which MS copied into Word after holding technical discussions with i4i and telling them they weren't interested in taking it further.
I dont like microsoft but come on, this whole thing is just plain ridiculous.
Even by 2003 standards the xml support in ms word is substandard.
There are multiple shareware products: XML Marker, Stylus Studio and Notepad++ to name a few that are free and are more useful.
In addition there are multiple tools which only have a $50 per seat licenses if you want something more graphic.
There are even multiple applications available to parse your xml document into a word document or pdf (Which despite not being what was patented was the only thing of interest in i4i's product).
Ignoring the fact that patenting xml editing is like patenting the ability to edit C++ or java who would even seriously consider using ms word to edit xml documents when there are much better options out there.
And you definitely wouldn't base your purchase of the office suite on the ability to gable your xml documents into tags (losing your attributes and most of your leaf node values).
Given that a quick look at their website indicates that the i4i's product's only real claim to fame is the ability to generate doc files and pdfs (which not only is a common ability technically it violates Microsoft and adobes patents).
I fail to see what great innovation i4i is protecting.
Whats more it appears to simply be a word pluggin anyway.
Their business more likely suffered because most of their target customers where not willing to pay a (presumably) large per seat fee for an app that added little value over other alternatives.
Whats next EMAC suing word because the ability to write text documents. (Yes I know EMAC wasn't the first text editor that's kind of my point).
But given the product in question largely useless value (useless in the sense that it does not innovate nor does it do anything that hasn't been done before) all this really means is MS pays an impressively over inflated price for including common xml functionality in it's product. Pushing up what it charges to cover the increased expense. In addition it freezes ms word sales to Europe until office 10.
Why does not feel like a success for the little software vendor out there per se?
Two hundred and thirty five patents.
I will always feel happy when Microsoft is found guilty of "Intellectual Property" violations, as much as I dislike software patents. They've played this game themselves for decades and built a whole business model around it. They deserve every single lawsuit, and I have absolutely no pity for them.
Just because you think i4i's product is crap does not give Microsoft or anyone else cart blanche to steal it. They are selling it and making a living.
Whilst software patents may be a bad thing, that is the legal framework in place and which everyone (in the USA) has to work within. Furthermore, being one of the big supporters of software patents and IP, Microsoft should not be breaking these laws - they have enough lawyers specialising in this area to know exactly what they are doing.
With a handle like that you should probably know it's called Emacs.
Although 'custom XML editing' is confusing terminology, this patent covers something a bit more complex than what Notepad and friends will do for you as far as my (limited) understanding goes.
I'm opposed to software patents as a matter of principle but I have to say, fair play to i4i; Microsoft earned this result in a wide variety of ways simultaneously.
"What is at dispute here is support for a particular customisation (an XML dialect?) developed by this company."
Its 2 big features are it can take a DTD and use it to create a data file and the ability to create new DTD's within the Word UI.
The first allow someone to send data to an application by *directly* typing stuff in. If this has an API then VBA inherits this capability as well.
The second allows (in principle) people who are domain data experts but not developers to design a data transfer definition in an environment they are likely to be familar with. That feature means it allows people to develop what you might call a "dialect" of XML
I gather the original area MS was targeting was healthcare so I guess the idea is that small medical practices could use this to download the DTD and then effectively "hand craft" small XML *data* files to go back to big outfits, rather than investing in some practice management software that would spit out the necessary files automatically.
Thanks for the clarification. To judge from the comments, it wasn't just me that needed it. :)
All I need now is clarification of quite what the various judges was smoking when they upheld the patent. The use of DTDs to specify "possible documents" pre-dates the personal computer and so generating documents that conform to a DTD must surely have prior art. Similarly, using a word processor to create a text document is hardly what I'd call "non-obvious", and neither is using an add-in to support a particular format.
I suppose i4i would have a copyright on their original implementation, and Microsoft's own implementation might be contaminated by their dealings with the company, but that doesn't seem to be the ruling here. (Perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick here too!)
1 Do you believe MS just ignored i4i's patent and effectively stole their IP?
2 Do you believe i4i is just a patent troll who got what was coming to them?
3 Do you think software patents are fundamentally a bad idea and shoudl be dumped?
The court believes 1 and from their website I don't believe i4i is a troll. AFAIK MS don't exploit stuff that isn't already being exploited by someone else. MS is the definition of a "me too" company. MS exploiting something *no* one else is using for something would be quite a novel concept.
I do think software patents are pretty bad. A lot seemed to have been issued which just ignored *huge* swaths of prior art (building a copy of screen layout in memory then moving the *whole* image to the screen is *patented* FFS. It had been used for 20 odd years before the patent was issued). Maybe the system has improved and some of the crap has been dumped but I doubt it.
I am still gobsmacked you can patent genes (including human) and sue people if they do research on them. Can it really be true that you can have property rights on a gene in someones body and *demand* they cough up a sample for you to use?
Mine will be the one with a copy of Michale Creighton's "Next" in it.
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