Microsoft Word patent-infringement case: Playing chicken

Summary:September 23 is the date a federal appeals court has set for a hearing in the i4i vs. Microsoft patent infringement case over Microsoft Word. I'm doubtful Microsoft will let things go that long.

September 23 is the date a federal appeals court has set for a hearing in the i4i vs. Microsoft patent infringement case over Microsoft Word.

I'm doubtful Microsoft will let things go that long. I'm betting we'll see either a settlement between the Redmondians and the Toronto-based company that won its patent suit in Texas a week ago -- or Microsoft will issue a patch for Word that will pull Custom XML from the product.

According to the ruling in the case, which Microsoft is appealing, Microsoft is prohibited from selling or importing to the United States "any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML.”

I've heard Microsoft already has developed a patch for Word 2007 which disables the Custom XML functionality and is ready to roll that patch out, via Windows Update, at a moment's notice.

Microsoft legal spokesperson Kevin Kutz wouldn't comment on that patch. Instead, he maintained the consistent company party line: "As we've maintained throughout this process, we believe the evidence clearly demonstrates that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We look forward to filing our appeal and to Court of Appeals review. "

Microsoft requested an expedited review in the case -- via which company officials claimed enforcement of i4i's patent would result in "irreperable harm" to customers if the Softies were forced to pull Word from the market. -- was denied.

Microsoft's legal team is great at playing chicken with lawyers and their clients. The back and forth over Windows 7 E, the browserless version of Windows 7 that Microsoft is currently holding in its back pocket in case its settlement talks with the European Commission go awry, is evidence of that.

Any predictions on what will happen in the i4i case? Will Microsoft settle, patch or choose some other route?

Topics: Windows, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software, Software Development

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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