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i4i pats self on back for Microsoft patent win

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth...

The Canadian software maker that saw a US federal appeals court uphold a ruling against Microsoft yesterday, has described the decision as a "war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed."

As we reported on Tuesday, Microsoft has been ordered to pay $290m to i4i, following a long-running patent spat with the firm over an XML - or extensible markup language - custom editor present in some editions of MS Word.

"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," said i4i chairman Loudon Owen in a statement.

"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!"

i4i won the patent legal battle against Microsoft in a US district court in Texas on 12 August.

The software giant was slapped with a $290m fine and issued with an injunction that prevented the multinational from selling 2003 and 2007 versions of Word that come loaded with i4i’s patented XML tech.

Microsoft will also be required to remove the custom XML editor from its upcoming Office 2010 suite.

In September Microsoft won a temporary reprieve - after it was granted a stay on a court injunction that would have stopped the software giant selling its Word application in the US - to give it time to ready its appeal against the ruling.

The original injunction was expected to kick off in mid-October.

Following yesterday's court decision, Microsoft only has until 11 January to remove the custom XML functionality - just five months on from the original August 2009 ruling.

MS will be able to provide tech support to current Word users, but it's barred from telling new customers how to use the custom XML editor in its ubiquitous Office app.

"This ruling is clear and convincing evidence that our case was just and right, and that Microsoft wilfully infringed our patent," said i4i founder and co-inventor Michael Vulpe.

"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."

i4i issued US patent number 5,787,449 in 1998. The US sales ban on copies of Word containing the XML tools that infringe the patent doesn't apply to software sold before the injunction comes into effect in January.

"Because the injunction only applies to future purchasers, Microsoft does not need to back-fix its already-distributed software. Rather, it only needs to ensure that software sold on or after January 11, 2010 is non-infringing," noted US patent law blogger Dennis Crouch.

Microsoft said it was "moving quickly to comply with the injunction" but at the same time was weighing up its legal options too, which could include a rehearing or a request for a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court.

A full copy of the ruling is here (PDF). ®

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