Judges uphold Word patent-infringement ruling

A US appeals panel has confirmed a ruling that Microsoft infringed on i4i's custom XML patent in Word, part of an ongoing court battle
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

A US Court of Appeals panel has upheld a judgement that Microsoft infringed on another company's patent with its custom XML tags in Word 2003 and Word 2007.

The judges were asked to reconsider a 2009 ruling regarding i4i's patent, which covers a "method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other". Microsoft lost its first appeal in December, and then lodged a second appeal for a panel hearing and for an 'en banc review' before the full appeals court. The Texas federal circuit panel's decision on Wednesday is part of that process.

"The appeals court has again upheld the lower court's decision in its entirety," i4i chairman Loudon Owen said in a statement. "In addition, it issued a more detailed analysis in concerning the finding of wilfulness in this case. The determination that Microsoft wilfully infringed i4i's patent stands."

In May 2009, a Texas jury ordered Microsoft to pay $200m (£128m at the time) to i4i for infringing on the patent. Then, in August, a Texas judge granted i4i an injunction against Microsoft that prohibited the software maker from carrying out US sales or imports of any Word products that can open XML, DOCX or DOCM files containing custom XML.

Microsoft issued an US-only update to Word 2007 in January this year, removing the functionality that the lower court found infringed on i4i's patent. In February, i4i released a product, x4w V 1.0, which it said returns custom XML functionality to Word 2007 documents.

Custom XML is used in business process applications such as inventory systems, and Microsoft's stripping-out of the tagging feature means that companies will no longer be able to use Microsoft Office-based applications that use it, i4i said.

Toronto-based i4i began its infringement suit against Microsoft in 2007. The suit centres on US Patent No. 5,787,449, which i4i was granted in 1998.

The Court of Appeals is still considering the petition by Microsoft for its appeal via 'en banc review', a rarely-granted form of review that involves gathering the entire Court of Appeals in a circuit. En banc review is the last step before taking a case to the Supreme Court.

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