Microsoft Ordered To Stop Selling Word in January

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Remember earlier this year when Canada’s i4i won a $200 million patent infringement case against Microsoft over how its flagship desktop applications Microsoft Word handles custom XML documents? Now, some of Microsoft’s chickens have come home to roost: a federal appeals court has ruled Microsoft has to pay i4i some $290 million for patent infringement, and furthermore Microsoft must stop selling infringing versions of Microsoft Word by January.

As part of the ruling, Microsoft must also stop selling infringing versions of Microsoft Word. Although the custom XML feature in Word goes all the way back to Word 2003, the injunction applies only to versions of Word 2007 and Word 2010 sold after January 11, 2010. However, it’s very unlikely Word will disappear from retailers’ shelves: Microsoft has already released a patch to its Microsoft Office suite that disables support for custom XML in Word 2007, and Microsoft claims the current beta versions of Office 2010 do not include the infringing technology.

“This ruling is clear and convincing evidence that our case was just and right, and that Microsoft willfully infringed our patent,” said i4i founder Michel Vulpe, in a statement. “i4i is especially pleased with the court’s decision to uphold the injunction, an important step in protecting the property rights of small inventors.”

The appeals court decision upholds the findings of the trial court, which ruled that Microsoft willfully infringed on i4i’s patents regarding creating and saving custom XML documents. During the trial, Microsoft was also fined some $40 million for misconduct, apparently because a Microsoft attorney had claimed i4i’s motives in the case were akin to banks seeking government bailouts.

Microsoft says it will comply with the injunction, but is weighing its legal options. “While we are moving quickly to address the injunction issue, we are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court,” wrote Microsoft’s director for public affairs Kevin Kutz, in a statement.

Toronto-based i4i is a privately-held company that creates collaboration systems, with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry.

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