Microsoft loses appeal against Word patent dispute

Now this is something at least I wasn’t expecting. You know someone with big pockets like Microsoft loose the patent dispute for the 2nd time with i4i Technologies. And with the latest ruling, they are barred from appealing again, and are now forced to stop distributing Microsoft Word in its current form.

In case you didn’t know already, i4i Technologies sued MSFT for infringing upon a 1998 patent that covers XML manipulating technology in a word processor. This is the new format which Microsoft uses for its Microsoft Word application (.docx). As a result, the Texas court ordered Microsoft to clean up the streets of any products that can open .XML, .DOCX and .DOCM plus pay i4i Technologies a whooping fine of $290 million.

Microsoft naturally appealed against the injunction and was even supported by OEM partners DELL and HP who claimed that even if Microsoft did change the current version of Word, the losses incurred due the recall/redesign would never be recuperated. And the losses wouldn’t only stop at Microsoft – they would affect the entire chain of its partners including the likes of DELL, HP, Best Buy, Walmart etc.

Sadly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington didn’t find the claims in the appeal substantial enough to remove the injunction. Microsoft now has till January 11 to clean up the shelves of any products using the technology.

Surprisingly, Microsoft had already seen it coming and had already been working on a version of Microsoft Word that has removed this (now what Microsoft calls) “little used feature” from their products. The updated version would be available early January, and the already released versions of Microsoft Office 2010 beta have removed the disputed technologies altogether.

Tough luck MSFT. Just chalk another one up for your worst year in business history.

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