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Word nemesis: Microsoft deliberately 'destroyed' our business

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Word litigant i4i has claimed Microsoft worked to destroy its business while publicly touting its partner status.

i4i said that Microsoft's inclusion of custom-XML editing in Word from 2003 usurped its own invention and relegated the company from mass-market player to mining the relatively smaller pharmaceutical sector.

The company also said Microsoft only started work on custom XML in Word after it had partnered i4i on Office.

The claims have been made in i4i's latest brief, here (warning: PDF) and reported here. The document was lodged with the US court of appeals and rebuts arguments made by Microsoft in its own, earlier filing against a Texas court ruling that it had infringed on i4i's XML editing patent.

Under that ruling, Microsoft was ordered to stop shipping offending copies of Word - an order that’s been stayed - and to pay $200m in damages to i4i.

In its court filing, i4i said: "Since Microsoft incorporated the accused custom-XML functionality...Microsoft has sold over 100 million copies of Word 2003 and Word 2007. Further, Microsoft touted XML as a core technology to Word 2003 and 2007 and stated both that support for custom-XML constituted 90 per cent of the value to using XML and that custom-XML was 'the most important effort [it] did on XML in Office since ever'.

"i4i now operates almost entirely in the specialized niche market of the pharmaceutical industry."

The litigant said: "When it suited its purposes, Microsoft touted i4i as a 'Microsoft Partner' able to provide software that Microsoft could not. But behind i4i's back, Microsoft usurped i4i's invention, destroying i4i's ability to compete in the market that it had created."

i4i said Microsoft approached it as a partner in April 2001 because federal defense and security agencies wanted a custom XML solution in Office from Microsoft. The meeting was initiated by a representative of Microsoft's US government sales office, Mark Belk.

"An internal notice sent before the meetings described i4i as a 'Microsoft Partner' and described i4i's patented product as 'the simplest way to enable your entire workforce - non-technical as well as technical - to create XML collaborative content without a costly investment in proprietary software and training," i4i said.

At a meeting with Microsoft representatives, i4i said it was told Microsoft didn't have any plans to offer the custom XML editing that the government wanted and that Microsoft instead promoted i4i's ability to provide specialized solutions.

Microsoft went on to heap praise on i4i and its XML authoring tools.

Just five days after the initial meeting, though, i4i said Microsoft executives discussed plans to add custom XML authoring to Word that would make competitors obsolete. i4i cited a June 2001 email from a Microsoft executive who'd attended the April meeting that i4i claimed had said: "[I]f we do the work properly, there won't be a need for [i4i's] product."

"Later in 2001, before Word 2003 was released, Microsoft cut off all contact with i4i," i4i said.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for September 23. ®

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