back to article Microsoft loses appeal on Word injunction

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 …

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  1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Champagne!

    section intentionally left blank

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Yet again

    Europe's anti-American legislation attacks an American company's attempts to market a superb product.

    What?

    Oh.

    Sorry

  3. IR
    WTF?

    Huh?

    I hate microsoft as much as the next guy, but seriously?!

  4. Kwac
    Gates Horns

    Deja Vu?

    Stac Electronics

  5. Big-nosed Pengie
    Gates Horns

    Hoist with their own petard.

    Love it.

  6. Inachu
    Heart

    YAY!!!!

    What I like most about this is perhaps no more websites addresses ending in .xml?

  7. Gannon (J.) Dick
    Gates Horns

    This has been ...

    ... 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)

  8. Jerome 2
    FAIL

    i4i

    With a name like that I would have expected them to exact revenge by infringing one of Microsoft's patents. It should also be noted that anyone who uses MS Word for XML editing needs a brain transplant.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Another case of patent-holding morons...

    ...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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      @AC

      http://www.i4i.com/x4o.htm

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Aye

      Cheered me up.

      Now lets hope they have to 'patch' all the copies out there, because that will probably break them.

    3. Steven Hunter
      Headmaster

      Re: Another case of patent-holding morons,,,

      "When did we add that to the US Constitution?"

      In 1787 actually [1]. If you have a problem with it then you need to take it up with Congress.

      [1] Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 8 See also: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html#1.8.8

    4. John Angelico
      Troll

      Excuse me, which planet have you just arrived from?

      i4i was using their patent - until MS had a good look at them, sucked them dry and then tried to kill them off. The judgement talks about wilful actions by MS.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ummmm... Nope

      Actually they sell products based on that technology. They've been doing it for many years. So they're not a patent troll. They had cosy relationship with MSFT at some point of time, before MSFT stole their product ideas.

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. James O'Brien
      Thumb Up

      Good man

      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.

    8. psyq

      Actually...

      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.

    9. Nick Stallman
      Happy

      Not this time

      No they do have a product. Microsoft nicked the idea and added it to word.

      This is a example of the patent system actually working.

    10. Mark Haanen
      FAIL

      Close, but no cigar

      While I agree with your sentiment, it's moot in this case.

      From what I've understood, i4i did have a product line utilizing their patented ideas, which was very succesful within its niche right up until the moment MS Word started to incorporate the patent's functionality.

    11. James Loughner

      Repy: Another case of patent-holding morons...

      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.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Hmmm

        The way votes are handled could be smoother but with a decent mouse it's not so bad. I have an MX700 and to vote I click the thumb then click the go back button. I can then continue reading from where I left off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        They are not patent trolls!

        Get off your high horse, read the article again and repeat after me :

        "They are not patent trolls!"

      3. Ian Halstead
        Joke

        Call the lawyers.

        "... it really ticks me off when I have to confirm what I want to do twice or more on things."

        Oh oh.... looks like the Reg has infringed a Windows patent.

    12. Old Marcus
      FAIL

      Not Europe

      It's spelt T-E-X-A-S.

    13. N2 Silver badge

      You cannot be serious?

      Word - 'a superb product'

      I would rather daub dung on the wall with a stick than use Word.

    14. JohnG Silver badge

      NOT Another case of patent-holding morons..... →

      "..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.

  10. Paul 129
    Grenade

    Ick!

    Apart from the 230m it almost seems like a win win scenario for a MS agenda. US Patent system, didn't the Wright Bros cripple US flight development for decades, cause they had the patents...

  11. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    What's it for anyway?

    @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.

  12. John Angelico
    FAIL

    "Little used feature"?

    They must be kidding - to have been so firmly slapped with a $290Million judgement and a re-affirmed injunction, it must have been reasonably well used by MS customers.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Time to pay up!

    Couldn't happen to a nicer company!

  14. Cucumber C Face
    Coat

    Still a slim hope then....

    .. that someone will crawl out of the woodwork with a prior patent on the ribbon user interface.

    Mine's the one with the Office 97 disc in the pocket - sweet FA useful has happened to Office since.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    AC@20:30

    "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"?

  16. Johnny Canuck

    check their website

    They hold the patent AND produce products based on the patent.

  17. Chris 244
    Gates Horns

    AC@20:20 FAIL

    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.

  18. Steve Roper
    Grenade

    I normally support the little guy

    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?

    1. Mark Simon

      The Ribbon Interface

      ... Still a slim hope then.... that someone will crawl out of the woodwork with a prior patent on the ribbon user interface ...

      Like Macromedia?

    2. JohnG Silver badge

      I normally support the little guy

      "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.

  19. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    "custom XML"

    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.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Damn Canadians

      "...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.

  20. Jason Yau
    Happy

    I have an idea

    Buy multiple copies of office 2003 & 2007. Sell back to people in US

    $$$$

  21. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  22. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    @Steve Roper

    Please read the article before commenting.

    That is all

  23. devnull
    FAIL

    Seriously has anyone actually looked at MSWords xml editor?

    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?

  24. M Gale
    Grenade

    A few words for Microsoft

    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.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      @devnull

      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.

    2. Geoff Mackenzie

      @devnull

      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.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @ morons

    Looks guys i4i is ot a troll. Stop being retards please/

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    @Ken Hagan

    "What is at dispute here is support for a particular customisation (an XML dialect?) developed by this company."

    Er no.

    http://www.i4i.com/x4o.htm

    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.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: what's at dispute here

      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!)

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    3 issues so far and counting

    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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