Word case goes against Microsoft

Microsoft loses another round in a Word patent case, an Office update is coming in the new year.

A US court judgment seems to have forced Microsoft to release an update to Office 2007 in the new year.

The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the judgment that Microsoft breached a patent in the XML features of Office. The original judgment in August gave Microsoft 60 days to stop selling Office. Of course that wasn’t going to happen once the full power of Microsoft Legal bore down on the East Texas court.

But since the Court of Appeal has affirmed the finding of a patent breach, Microsoft now has until 11 January 2010 to stop selling Office 2007 in its current form.

According to Microsoft, the company has been preparing for the possibility of a court loss and have ‘special’ versions of Office 2007 available for sale in the US before 11 January 2010. These versions will have the XML features removed.

Amusingly, Microsoft describes the patent breaching technology as a “little used feature”. After years of promoting the XML feature of Office, all of a sudden it is a “little used feature”?

All the legal machinations should not affect most Microsoft Office users. Only anyone who buys MS Office 2007 or Word 2007 in the USA after 11 January 2010 may get the ‘crippled’ version and maybe not even then.

The talk of Office 2007 being ‘barred’ from sale in the new year makes for a great headline but is otherwise silly talk.

Since there’s plenty of Office 2007 stock on the shelves its quite likely that even a physical copy bought after the cutoff date won’t be the new legally compliant version. Presumably the downloaded version from the Microsoft Store will be adjusted though, as we’ve mentioned before, the MS Store is usually the most expensive option and best avoided anyway.

Based on Microsoft’s statement the following users are NOT affected:

  • Existing Office 2007 users anywhere in the world.
  • Anyone who buys Office 2007 or Word 2007 in the USA before 11 January 2010
  • Buyers of Office 2007 outside the USA
  • Users of Office 2003, Office XP or earlier versions of Microsoft Office.
  • Users of the Office 2010 beta. Microsoft says that Office 2010 has removed the offending code from the next version of Office.