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Word patent patch for end users

Microsoft will release a ‘patent patch’ for Word 2003 and Word 2007 – but why bother?

Quietly, in last hours of 2009, Microsoft released some details of an ‘end user’ patch to cover the ‘Custom XML’ patent dispute.

Looking at KB article 978951 says there will be a link to an update for Word 2007 and Word 2003 to remove the Custom XML feature which is the subject of court cases.

Microsoft says “You must install this update if you are instructed by Microsoft in a separate communication.” (our emphasis).

The patch will remove the Custom XML feature from Word 2007 or Word 2003.

Aside from a placeholder page for a coming patch, the KB article also clarifies some points:

  • Word 2003 and Word 2007 are affected – both have the patent disputed ‘Custom XML’ code.


  • Office Content Controls are not affected – this was widely assumed but it’s nice to see it confirmed.
  • Custom XML stored in ‘doc’ (Word 97-2003) file format is not affected.
  • Ribbon customization and RibbonXML are not affected.
  • The ISO / ECMA standards for Open XML (the Microsoft Office 2007 document formats, sort of) are unchanged.

Welcome as some hard information is, there are still plenty of unanswered matters:

Why apply this patch?

Possibly it may be necessary if Microsoft discovers un-crippled copies of Word 2003/2007 were sold after 10 Jan 2010. If the company can track the end users, they could send a demand (note the word ‘must’ above) that Office 2007 be patched.

How Microsoft could or would force you to apply the patch remains to be seen.

Word 2003 patch?

Since Word 2003 is no longer sold (and the court ruling only applies to software sold after 10 Jan 2010 in the USA) there would seem to be no need for a Word 2003 patch.

There may be some circumstances it will be required or maybe Microsoft is covering itself?

An ‘update’ – really?

We don’t like the use of the word ‘update’ in this case because it implies an improvement upon the existing software – and this patch definitely is NOT an improvement. It’s a legally required crippling of Office. The word ‘patch’ or ‘revision’ would have been better as well as a more explicit statement that only end users who are asked to should download the patch.

Even worse, one headline writer calls the new ‘crippled’ Office 2007 a facelift!


There’s a lot more to be revealed about this ‘update’ but Microsoft isn’t telling.

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