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US patent office gives i4i Word up in Microsoft snub

Redmond suffers another XML setback on eve of Office 2010 launch

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Microsoft's request to have the patent claim it brought against Canadian software maker i4i examined has been thrown out by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

i4i said it was pleased that all the claims of US patent number 5,787,449 that belong to the company came out unscathed following a re-examination called for by Microsoft.

"This is a very material step in our litigation against Microsoft. Put simply: i4i's patent is clearly and unequivocally valid. Even though Microsoft attacked i4i's patent claims with its full arsenal, the Patent Office agreed with i4i and confirmed the validity of our '449 patent," said i4i chairman Loudon Owen.

In December 2009 Microsoft was 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.

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

Microsoft was slapped with the multi-million dollar fine and issued with an injunction that preventing it from selling 2003 and 2007 versions of Word that came loaded with i4i’s patented XML tech.

The software giant was also required to remove the custom XML editor from its upcoming Office 2010 suite, which the company will officially launch tomorrow.

"i4i's '449 patented invention infuses life into the use of Extensible Mark Up Language (XML) and dramatically enhances the ability to structure what was previously unstructured data," said Owen.

"As the magnitude of data grows exponentially, this is a critical technological bridge to controlling and managing this sprawling octopus of data and converting it into useful information."

The Register asked Microsoft to comment on this story. It gave us this statement from chief flack Kevin Kutz:

"We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake, and we are considering our options to get them addressed, including a petition to the Supreme Court." ®

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