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4/2/2010
07:49 AM
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Microsoft Loses i4i Appeal

A federal appeals court rejects a request for a rehearing in a patent infringement case involving Microsoft Word.

A federal court on Thursday rejected Microsoft's request for a rehearing in a case where the company's Word product was found to have infringed on patents held by a small, Canadian software developer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Microsoft's request to rehear the case, which was brought by i4i, of Toronto.

In a statement, i4i chairman Owen Louden said "i4i is delighted by this ruling from Federal Circuit Court of Appeals." Louden said, "This has been a long and arduous process, but this decision is a powerful reinforcement of the message that smaller enterprises and inventors who own intellectual property can and will be protected."

Microsoft earlier this year issued a patch for its Office 2007 product that brings the desktop suite into compliance with a court edict.

The 2007 Microsoft Office OPK Master Kit Download, available on Microsoft's OEM Partner Center site, strips Word of custom XML editing capabilities, the subject of i4i's lawsuit. "The following patch is required for the United States," Microsoft said in a message on the site.

An appeals court previously ordered Microsoft to stop selling unpatched versions of Microsoft Word 2007 because the software infringed on i4i's patent. A judge also hit Microsoft with a $290 million fine.

I4i originally sued Microsoft in 2007, claiming that an XML editor built into Word steps on its patent. In August 2009, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas found in favor of i4i, prompting Microsoft's appeals.

The rulings means Microsoft can't sell versions of Word that can open documents saved in the .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM formats that contain custom XML.

Those formats were at the heart of the patent dispute. DOCX is the default format for the most current version of Word, which is included in Microsoft Office 2007. Custom XML is used by businesses to link their corporate data to Word documents.

The patent, No. 5,787,449, describes how programs go about "manipulating a document's content and architecture separately."

Microsoft Office, which includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, accounted for more than $3 billion in worldwide sales in Microsoft's most recent fiscal year and is used by literally millions of businesses and consumers for everyday tasks like word processing and spreadsheet creation.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report based on its 2010 IT Salary Survey. Download the report here (registration required).

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