Microsoft pulls Office from distribution channels on patent-infringement deadline day

Microsoft pulls Office from distribution channels on patent-infringement deadline day

Summary: January 11 is/was the day by which Microsoft was required to stop selling versions of Office or components of it that included the Custom XML technology, as a result of a patent-infringement ruling against the company. Given that Microsoft released to PC makers a patch designed to remove the infringing technology at the end of last year, it looked like the Softies were ready to comply with the ruling over a month ago. But now it looks like that wasn't the case....


January 11 is/was the day by which Microsoft was required to stop selling versions of Office or components of it that included the Custom XML technology, as a result of a patent-infringement ruling against the company.

Given that Microsoft released to PC makers a patch designed to remove the infringing technology at the end of last year, it looked like the Softies were ready to comply with the ruling over a month ago. But on or just before the actual compliance deadline, Microsoft ended up pulling existing copies of Office that included the technology from its various distribution channels and sites, including the Microsoft online store, MSDN and TechNet.

The products pulled/removed included various Office 2003, Word 2003, Office 2007 and Word 2007 SKUs. Microsoft officials told various blogs that the company planned to make available updated versions of these products soon via these same distribution outlets, but didn't provide an exact date. Computerworld noted that Microsoft provided a patch  Word 2003 over the weekend via its download center, advising Office 2003 customers to apply it. Computerworld also said Microsoft is planning to patch Word 2004 and Word 2008 for the Mac as part of the i4i ruling. (I asked Microsoft to verify this list of affected products on January 11. So far, no word back.)

Update (January 12): This just in from a Microsoft spokesperson with the Office team. The full list of products Microsoft is updating as a result of the i4i ruling is:

Word 2003 and Word 2007 Office 2003 Professional edition Office 2007 all versions Mac Office 2008 Word for Mac 2008

All of these are in the process of being updated, the spokesperson said. "They are uploaded as they are done.  If you go to the (Microsoft) Store page, Office 07 Home and Student, Professional, Ultimate, Mac Office 2008 for business are all available now," he added.

I wonder whether Microsoft officials were so convinced that the patent-infringement verdict against the company was going to be overturned that they didn't have a "Plan B" in place to patch Office in time for the court-set deadline. Either that or some at the company wanted to show just how disruptive the i4i ruling would be by making Office/Word unavailable for a while. (Yes, that sounds like a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory, but such a move wouldn't be unprecedented. Look what happened with Windows 7E, the browserless version of Windows 7 that Microsoft nearly foisted on European users to make a point...)

Here's Microsoft's officials statement on what it's doing, courtesy of Michael Croan, Sr. Marketing Manager, Microsoft Office"

“We’ve taken steps to comply with the court’s ruling and we're introducing the revised software into the U.S. market. This process will be imperceptible to the vast majority of customers, who will find both trial and purchase options readily available.

"We’ve modified Microsoft Word and are in the process of introducing the new software into our distribution channels. The process won’t take long, and in the meantime customers outside the U.S. still have all of their online purchase options available. In the U.S., Office Ultimate, the Home & Student suite and Office Professional are already available for online purchase and download, and the other suites are available retail outlets.”

In December, Microsoft lost its appeal of a patent-infringement case involving Custom XML technology that was instigated by Toronto-based i4i. Late last week, Microsoft officials requested a rehearing, claiming that the $290 million or so ruling against the company was "egregiously excessive."

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Microsoft pulls Office from distribution channels on patent-infringement de

    Existing customers continue to use their patched versions of Microsoft Office, every one else will upgrade to Office 2010. This will leave i4i in a very tight spot, they will start going after other development houses or even worse individual developers to get their money because Microsoft has cut them off. As I said before, everyone is in danger of this.
    Loverock Davidson
    • But many enterprises are still on 2003 - struggling to get to 2007.

      We've been having problems w/ our older VB stuff. Won't run. Will be a long time till we get to 2007. Can't even think of 2010.
      Basic Logic
      • When your people have a hard time figuring out how to print

        .. you know the software upgrade is not worth the switch.

        Give Office 2007 to somebody and ask them to print ... then watch how long it takes them to figure it out ...

        When doing something as primitive as printing is a pain to figure out, you know the upgrade is not worth the extra expense. Just keep using what you know works.
        • What kind of users?

          I'm not sure what kind of users you're working with, but the trained monkeys around my office figured it out pretty quick.

          The CTRL + P still work (like it has for years), and there's a big honking button in the top left hand corner that the basic functions are displayed under.... including..... say it with me here..... PRINTING.

          Let me guess, you'd like it better if everyone had to install Samba through some random repository and then call you when the other members of the Linux fan-boi community snarl down their noses at them.
          • These users are referred to as Windiots

            as in Windows Idiots.
          • Kind of like Mactards

            as in Mac retards. Working in a college setting there are many, many of both. I am amazed at the # of people who have been working with computers for the last 15-20 years & still don't know basic things.
        • I call troll

          "Give Office 2007 to somebody and ask them to print ... then watch how long it takes them to figure it out ..."

          You mean click the Office button and click print? Really hard...
          • As much as i hate to say it... its somewhat true

            we upgraded to office 2007 and i had a whole bunch of lost puppies. I installed a plugin for them that setup a menu block that looks exactly like 2000/2003.

            Keep in mind that i did send them videos to watch on the new office weeks before i upgraded them. Most didnt watch the videos.

            The complaints died down and most people like the new version.. it just took some getting used to.
          • Or...

            how about keeping the print icon on the toolbar so people don't need to hunt for it. Not everyone will get the new layout right away you know.
          • quick print icon................

            Why not add a "quick print" icon to your "quick access toolbar" ??????????????
        • That's just the same excuse OpenOffice users try to use..Inertia

          "People stick with Office because it's what they had foisted upon them from work so that's what they use at home because they don't know any better.." Sound familiar?

          The only reason that users of Office 2003 and prior know how to print from OpenOffice better than Office 2007 is because "that's what they're used to (think about it - how intuitive would it be <i>really</i> for a user to figure out that "Print" is under "File" if they'd never seen it before?) It only seems natural to us now because menu-driven software has stuck "Print" in the "File" menu for the last couple decades.

          Think about the origins of the QWERTY keyboard, and the fact that the layout was purposely designed to slow down your typing speed.. Yet, we still use it at least twenty years after computers became fast enough to catch up to even the fastest typists.. Amazingly still is the fact that people pretty much <i>demand</i> QWERTY keyboards on their cell phones now, despite the fact that nobody could touch-type on their phones, and an alphabetized keyboard or some variant would probably have been easier to navigate for non-typists.

          Inertia is very hard to break.. you'd think that it would be the "highly innovative" OpenOffice folks who would have come up with something more then a re-worked Office 97 menu system.. Instead it's Microsoft making the sweeping changes.. The big stalwarts who couldn't "innovate themselves out of a paper bag."
          • Not on web pages

            Even with my pathetic 27 wpm typing speed, I can often type data into a web page form faster than it will accept it!

            As you can probably tell, I am really looking forward to the day, when everything will have to be typed into web pages.

            Also, I have to admit that the first time I tried to print something with Office 2007, I was completely bamboozled. I was so rattled that I even forgot about "Ctrl + P".

            What idiot thought that an unlabelled logo, would obviously be a menu?

    • Then its time too sue MS as a collectivity

      Its there fault , there responsibility , they
      infringe I4I patent .. they where advise of it
      ... there refuse, decide to go to court they
      loose badly ....

      Now the customer is screw because MS is a
      greedy ,bad, abusive , corporation. A nice
      collective action against MS to giveback back
      the money for those office version and the
      trouble cause to those people ...... Period.

      If MS had comply to I4I they could have found a
      way .... But no the great MS do not make
      compromises they impose there will ... well not
      this time. I hope that this will not stop
      there and MS is force to give all the money
      back for those version of Office .

      That what happen when your a bad player you get
      caught and get screw
      • Sue a software company for financial....

        responsibility? What a despicable thought. To hold a programmer responsible for anything is just unthinkable. How dare you.
        • Not the programer... MS

          Who Make Office MS
          Who sell Office MS
          Who must make sure that everything that goes in
          Office is patent ok MS
          Who did not Its job too give accreditation for
          xml inside office without checking the patent
          first MS

          Not the programmer are not the boss they are
          like all employee not responsible for there
          action they are employees .

          The real bad guy off the story is MS as always
          they try to impose there will and walk on the
          small guy this time they got a nail in the
          foot the size of a railroad spike ....

          the programmer have nothing in this ....
        • Also why its a despicable tought .....

          MS sold something that infringe a patent.
          MS sold me that junk that infringe patent ( me
          or my team spend x number of hour changing or
          working on those document . Its MS fault is xml
          is not working,they should pay for what they
          did .....
          MS did something illegal and sold me something
          that contain patent infringement it MS responsibility they should pay the bill .

          there nothing despicable in that.
      • Sue them for what?

        Microsoft already paid i4i, they already took corrective action on the Microsoft Office products. You have no case and would quickly be laughed out of court.
        Loverock Davidson
        • They paid I4I they did not pay the user

          Like i said before Its the responsibility of MS
          if today user that use XML in office are screw

          All the time they spend on those document that
          are useless today because MS did a as always a incompetent job at assuring that eventhing was
          in order and patent proof .....

          So they should reimburse for this defective
          product .... It MS responsibility they failed
          they should pick up the tab.
          • user doesn't need to be paid

            i4i isn't going after the users (yet), and if they did they couldn't go after anyone affected by Microsoft software because Microsoft already complied and issued a patch to correct this. The users that should be worried are independent developers.
            Loverock Davidson
          • "i4i isn't going after the users (yet)"

            Of course they won't, ever. It was MS who stole i4i's property and MS who sold i4i's property. The end user is the victim, once again, of MS's idiocy.