Microsoft loses appeal: can't sell MS Word

Federal judge affirms i4i's patent infringement judgment against Microsoft

A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a patent infringement judgment against Microsoft which bars Redmond from selling current versions of its Word program, the Wall Street Journal reports. A Texas jury had ruled in favor of Toronto-based i4i over the summer. UPDATED 4 P.M. However Microsoft has said it was prepared for the ruling and the offending "little used" feature will be removed before the injunction date -- January 11. Microsoft promises sales will not be disrupted.

The case resulted in $290 million judgment against Microsoft, also upheld today, and an injunction that bars Microsoft from selling Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word for Mac 2008 in their current forms. Microsoft knew of the patent held by i4i as early as 2001, but instead set out to make the Canadian developer's software "obsolete" by adding a feature to Word, according to court documents.

In 2001, Microsoft employees involved in the XML for Word development team were reportedly forwarding e-mails to each other from i4i that discussed the patent. The injunction stops Microsoft from selling Word 2003, Word 2007, Word 2008 for Mac, and would even stop Word 2010 after it is released unless the company changes or removes the word processing programs' custom XML feature. Microsoft has until Oct. 20 to comply.

In a written statement e-mailed to Microsoft Subnet, i4i said this about today's ruling. 

Today, in the United States Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, in Washington D.C., a panel of three judges returned their ruling on the appeal of i4i v. Microsoft and upheld jury’s verdict and all the findings of the August 11, 2009 Final Judgment that ruled in favor of i4i and found that Microsoft had willfully infringed i4i’s U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449, issued in 1998.

Loudon Owen, Chairman of i4i, says, "We couldn't be more pleased with the ruling from the appeals court which upheld the lower court’s decision in its entirety. This is both a vindication for i4i and a war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed.” Mr. Owen adds, “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. Congratulations to our entire team who provided such dynamic leadership, courage and tenacity!”

Michel Vulpe, founder and co-inventor of i4i, says, “This ruling is clear and convincing evidence that our case was just and right, and that Microsoft willfully infringed our patent.” Mr. Vulpe adds, “i4i is especially pleased with the court's decision to uphold the injunction, an important step in protecting the property rights of small inventors. We will continue to fully and vigorously enforce our rights and we invite all potential customers interested in custom xml to contact us.”

For more information on i4i v. Microsoft, selected court documents can be found on www.i4ilp.com.

But Microsoft fired back. Here is the company's statement in full.

We have just learned that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has denied our appeal in the i4i case.  We are moving quickly to comply with the injunction, which takes effect on January 11, 2010. 

This injunction applies only to copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 sold in the U.S. on or after the injunction date of January 11, 2010.  Copies of these products sold before this date are not affected. 

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.

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.

--Kevin Kutz, Director of Public Affairs, Microsoft Corporation

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