Microsoft loses Word case

Microsoft lost its last appeal against a ruling that it used patented technology in Word.

The US Supreme Court has confirmed a ruling that Microsoft is guilty of patent infringement in Word, awarding the largest ever judgment in an patent appeal case – US$290 million.

Microsoft lost their appeal 8-0 with none of the justices siding with the company.

Back in 2007 a small company called i4i claimed that Microsoft had breached its patent on technology to edit XML files within Word 2003 and Word 2007. A jury agreed, awarding the $290 million amount in 2009. Microsoft appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court and lost all the way.

Microsoft seemed to hope that the Court would ‘legislate from the bench’ in their favor with a request that the common standard for proof in patent cases be reduced to a lesser burden of proof. The US courts are required to assume a patent is valid unless there’s clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

Microsoft is putting the bravest face they can on what was a resounding loss:

“This case raised an important issue of law which the Supreme Court itself had questioned in an earlier decision and which we believed needed resolution. While the outcome is not what we had hoped for, we will continue to advocate for changes to the law that will prevent abuse of the patent system and protect inventors who hold patents representing true innovation.”

Grammar check sidebar: the word ‘inventors’ in Redmond’s statement gets a blue squiggly line and suggest ‘investors’ in Word 2010 US English. Perhaps a Freudian slip wanting the phrase to read “protect investors who hold patents” which would be closer to the truth.

What this means for Office users

Nothing whatsoever because Microsoft removed the feature years ago,

In early 2010 the company moved to remove the feature from Word 2003 and Word 2007. They quickly wanted to cut their losses, regardless of the trouble to paying customers. Microsoft seems to have preferred removing a feature from existing software and inconvenience customers over paying for the patent. Though it’s not known what amount i4i was seeking, if any, to settle the matter and allow Word to have their XML editing technology.

Microsoft pushed out patches to Word 2003 and Word 2007 that removed the XML editing feature and it was never part of Word 2010.

We covered the details, as best we could, at the time in our Office 2007 ‘Custom XML’ and update FAQ though Microsoft made it difficult for us and customers by refusing to answer any questions on the subject.