Although I am not in favour of software patents, it would appear that, in this case, the patent holders had a product that they thought was protected by the patent. Microsoft employed them to collate data from the 911 attacks, got to the point where they understood how the patent holder's software worked, incorporated that methodology into Word and then stole the patent holder's customer base.
It's important to note 2 things here; firstly the implication is that the methodology was non-trivial to the point that Microsoft were not able to incorporate it into Word without studying the patent-holder's methods.
And secondly, it is only Word which has been litigated against; the other elements of the Office suite, which use the same XML formatting and data storage model were not affected.
So it seems that rather than just being a simple patent troll seeking to extract maximum monetary recompense from Microsoft, the patent holders are simply asking for a wrong to be righted.
But from what I understand, the patent is horribly loose and merely describes a system of mapping data and formatting information separately by using metacodes: a description that surely applies to most formatted data files, from HTML through to Words own .doc format and which should probably fail on prior art.
So, much as I believe that Microsoft have knowingly and cynically swindled their erstwhile partners, it seems difficult to believe that this patent has any merit at all.
In which case, not only was the money spent on the patent completely wasted, but worse, it probably gave the patent holders a false sense of security in the face of their business partnership with Microsoft.
If I have misunderstood what has happened here, I'm very happy to have it explained to...