Microsoft still thwarted from selling Word 2007

Judge upholds ruling that finds Microsoft in violatiion of i4i patents, i4i says

So what's the latest on the case that issued an injunction forbidding Microsoft from selling new copies of Word 2007.  On Wednesday yet another ruling has been made against Microsoft, with a judge upholding the $290 million dollar judgment against Microsoft in favor it plaintiff i4i as well as the injunction.

UPDATED: A Microsoft spokesperson has supplied more information (see below). First some background. In December, a court issued an injunction preventing Microsoft from selling new copies of Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word for Mac 2008. The injunction began on January 11. In January, Microsoft appealed. Today's ruling did not overturn that injunction, but confirmed it.

Here is i4i's statement regarding today's ruling:

Today, a panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a revised opinion in i4i v. Microsoft which affirms the August 11, 2009 Final Judgment by The Honorable Judge Leonard Davis that ruled in favor of i4i and found that Microsoft had wilfully infringed i4i’s U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449.

Loudon Owen, Chairman of i4i, says, "The appeals court has again upheld the lower court’s decision in its entirety. In addition, it issued a more detailed analysis in concerning the finding of willfulness in this case. The determination that Microsoft willfully infringed i4i’s patent stands.”

Michel Vulpe, founder of i4i and co-inventor, says, “i4i is especially pleased with the court's continued decision to uphold the injunction, an important step in protecting the property rights of inventors. i4i continues to offer custom XML solutions.”  The Court of Appeals is still considering a petition by Microsoft for en banc review.

i4i is a global technology company headquartered in Toronto, Canada. For more information on i4i v. Microsoft, selected court documents can be found on www.i4ilp.com.

Microsoft is still pursing legal recourse to resolve the whole mess. A spokesperson e-mailed me today with this background, "Microsoft’s understanding is that this revised opinion will be used in consideration of its petition for rehearing en banc and will be circulated to the full en banc court. Also, separate from the opinion, is the status of re-exam. The Patent & Trademark Office preliminarily rejected the claims. In Microsoft’s view, that should be inconsistent with the appellate court's view of willful infringement."

My take is that the injunction to stop Microsoft from selling Word because i4i has a patent infringement claim is far more dangerous to the software industry than sales lost to Microsoft for Word 2007.  Injunctions used to be par for the course, but in 2005 a famous suit between MercExchange and eBay basically put an end to that practice. The software patent system is so insane, that it simply doesn't make sense to go back to the days where anyone with enough money to hire a good lawyer can put another company out of business.

Microsoft isn't in danger of being put out of business, but the precendent this case sets could haunt the industry for years to come.

Posted by Julie Bort

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