Tuesday, 12 January 2010 11:30

Microsoft seeks review in i4i patent case

Despite complying with a court order to modify Word 2003 and 2007, Microsoft is seeking a rehearing of its appeal against the original verdict in the patent infringement case brought against it by Canadian developer i4i.

A patent infringement case brought by i4i against Microsoft last year went to the US Court of Appeals, but the original verdict was upheld.

The result was that Microsoft had to modify Word 2007 so that it no longer infringes i4i's patent dealing with particular aspects of the use of XML.

That was achieved by January 11, and Microsoft also recently released updates that removes the offending feature from Word 2003.

An equivalent update for Word 2007 was released last month.

It appears that the updates were released so that the offending code can be removed from copies of the software that were already 'in the channel' by the injunction date, or to ensure that volume licensees can eliminate it from any additional newly-licensed copies they make.

According to Microsoft, customers "must install this update if you are instructed by Microsoft in a separate communication." [It would be interesting to learn whether customers are actually responsible in law in such a situation, or if this is merely a formality forced upon the company.]

What about existing copies, and what's this about a review of the appeal? Find out on page 2.

Existing licences are not affected by the court ruling, and nor are copies acquired for use outside the United States and its territories.

As foreshadowed by Microsoft's director of public affairs Kevin Kutz, the company has now petitioned the Court of Appeals for a review by the full bench of 11 judges.

The company reportedly is concerned that the appeal hearing did not follow precedents.

The original verdict meant Microsoft also had to pay $US290 in damages.

According to Microsoft, Word 2010 does not breach i4i's patent, but i4i officials have reportedly said they will be looking closely at that program.

There are also suggestions that i4i may go after other applications that edit files containing 'custom XML' and that the list could include those supporting ODF (Open Document Format) 1.2 files.

ODF is a widely supported open format. Version 1.2 is currently under development.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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