Microsoft Word: Patent Injunction Upheld

December 23, 2009

Microsoft Word, one of the world’s most widely used pieces of software, cannot be sold in its current form, in the USA at least, from 11 January

In August a Texas judge ruled that Microsoft had violated a US patent held by i4i when it created its Word 2003 and Word 2007 software. i4i was awarded US$290-million in damages and Microsoft was made subject to a permanent injunction which had effect from 11 January. On 22 December, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the ruling and injunction. The latest ruling can be found here . Although based on US law and US cases, the lead judgment is worthy of a careful reading for lawyers in all jurisdictions.

While Microsoft  are said to be considering further appeals, clearly the 11 January looms and they are taking steps to ensure that all US distributors have Word shorn of the feature. The patented feature relates to the way in which XML text is manipulated within Word. Microsoft claim to regard the feature as minor. A statement indicated as follows:

‘With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products. Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.’

I4i’s Chairman Loudon Owen is quoted as saying ‘This is both a vindication for i4i and a war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed. The same guts and integrity that are needed to invent and go against the herd, are at the heart of success in patent litigation against a behemoth like Microsoft.’