4 January 2010

Beware of the spirits that you call: Microsoft hit by a US software patent


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According to a verdict issued by a jury at the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal District has affirmed ,

Microsoft Had Infringed A Patent

owned by I4I Limited Partnership and Infrastructures for Information Inc. The patent is with regard to “a method for processing and storing information about the structure of electronic documents”.
In fact the patent covers the editing of documents containing markup languages like XML and claims to improve said editing process. The patent’s essential output is to be found in an “add-on” software for Microsoft Word, which expands Word’s capability to work with documents containing custom XML.

The claimant alleged that the custom XML editor in certain versions of Word infringed their patent.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft employed the

“Attack Is The Best Defence”

strategy in an attempt to seek a declaratory judgment that the patent in suit was invalid and thus unenforceable, but has eventually failed as the jury refused to follow the brought arguments.
Moreover, the jury found not only that the patent was not invalid, but also that Microsoft’s infringement thereof was wilful.

Upon a lengthy discussion on the claim construction, validity and infringement of the claimant’s patent, the Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling.

To me the importance of the instant case lies in that Microsoft is now being served by the consequences of a policy they have advocated in the near past. In my view it would have been better, if they had reflected the 1991 Bill Gates’ warning that patents could bring the software market to a complete standstill and drive out small players.