A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has ordered Microsoft to stop selling the latest version of its Word software. And yes, that’s the same Word that’s part of Microsoft Office, a product that supposedly has 500 million users (although only half of them pay).
That news comes from The Seattle PI’s Microsoft Blog, which also notes that the decision was made in Texas’ Eastern District, which is known for being “a haven for patent litigation.” Judge Leonard Davis’ injunction (which I’ve embedded at the end of this post) doesn’t just forbid Microsoft from selling Word. In ruling against the software giant in a lawsuit filed by i4i, in which the Toronto-based company alleges Microsoft violated its patent on a method for opening XML files, Davis writes:
Microsoft Corporation is hereby permanently enjoined from performing the following actions with Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, and Microsoft Word products not more than colorably different from Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Word 2007 (collectively “Infringing and Future Word Products”) during the term of U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449:
1. selling, offering to sell, and/or importing in or into the United States any Infringing and Future Word Products that have the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM file (“an XML file”) containing custom XML;
2. using any Infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML;
3. instructing or encouraging anyone to use any Infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML;
4. providing support or assistance to anyone that describes how to use any infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML; and
5. testing, demonstrating, or marketing the ability of the Infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML.
Oh, and Davis also awarded i4i $240 million in damages. Naturally, Microsoft says it plans to appeal. Of course, it’s hard to imagine any scenario where this will actually affect your ability to buy Microsoft Word — indeed, i4i probably doesn’t want that to happen, since its products include XML tools for Word — but the decision could end up costing Microsoft a sizable amount of money, either in lawyer’s fees or in whatever it needs to pay i4i to bring the litigation to a close.