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i4i vs Microsoft Patent - 290 Million!?!

Cameron Wallace McKenzie
author and cow tipper
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Joined: Aug 26, 2006
Posts: 4968

So, Microsoft just lost a 290 million dollar patent.

What was the violation, does anyone know, from a technical point of view? What exactly was the patent that was violate?

"At trial, i4i contended that Microsoft's use of certain WORD 2003 and all of WORD 2007 products for processing XML documents with custom XML elements infringed claims 14, 18, and 20 of the '449 patent. i4i further argued that Microsoft's infringement of the patent was willful. Microsoft claimed that its WORD products did not infringe the patent and that the patent was invalid."

Preferably answers that don't throw mud at Microsoft are best.

-Cameron McKenzie
Henry Wong

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 20521

I am not a fan of Microsoft ... but ... how the heck can anyone patent a way to use XML? This sounds like one of those silly patents that should have never been issued.


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Cameron Wallace McKenzie
author and cow tipper
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Joined: Aug 26, 2006
Posts: 4968

Well, it is apparently a way to read 'custom' XML. Seeing that XML is extensible, how unique a patent is that.

Obviously, having judges and jury's that don't understand technology isn't always good. "Wow, an idea on how to read custom attributes in an XML file? Surely XML wasn't designed with that in mind! This is a solid patent!"

I'm sure it's much more than that. Please tell me it's much more than that.

-Cameron McKenzie
Mike Simmons
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Joined: Mar 05, 2008
Posts: 3028
Um... by "ici", do you mean i4i? And by "$290 Million", do you mean $200 million? If not, could you maybe give a link to whatever it is you're talking about?
Muse Ran
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 17, 2008
Posts: 317

The US District Court of Eastern Texas has granted an injunction to prevent Microsoft from selling copies of Word because it infringes a patent owned by another company. The long-running court case was brought by Canadian software firm i4i which won $200m in damages from Microsoft when a jury found it had willfully infringed a patent relating to XML custom formatting.
Judge Leonard Davis told Microsoft to pay $40m for the willful infringement, $37m in prejudgement interest and $21,102 per day till final judgement is reached. The court also ordered Microsoft to hand over $144,060 a day until the date of final judgement of damages. Until that point Microsoft is banned from selling or importing into the US any Word products which can open .XML, .DOCX, or DOCM files containing custom XML.

Tomorrow will surely be a new day!!!
Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
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Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11776

If I am understanding Mary-Jo Foley's blog correctly, it is to do with you, the end user, being able to define your own XML that somehow Microsoft Word still understands and can embed the resultant data into the document. This is apparently considered a clear enough deviation from the "you will follow our standard" way of defining a readable XML document that it got through the patent process.

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Cameron Wallace McKenzie
author and cow tipper
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Joined: Aug 26, 2006
Posts: 4968

Thanks for the link. I couldn't find anything similar that talked about the technology, as opposed to the politics.

Custom XML markup “is about embedding custom XML defined outside of Open XML to support solution which aim to structure a document using business semantics, not only using formatting

The only thing funnier than MS promoting what seems like the intended purpose of XML ("business semantics, not only formatting"), is the idea of some company taking them for 290 million, saying they got the idea first.

I like that author's comment "I’m also still interested in getting more of a layperson’s definition of Custom XML — anyone?" I'd actually be happy with a technical description of what it is! I'm sure I"m missing the big picture, as per usual.

“E-mails from Microsoft show they knew about the patent and infringed to make i4i products obsolete.”

So, perhaps there is more meat to this lawsuit than meets the eye. Maybe there was some intent, and maybe there was something special about this patent?

-Cameron McKenzie

Maneesh Godbole
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Joined: Jul 26, 2007
Posts: 10824
Has a link to the actual patent.

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Steve Luke

Joined: Jan 28, 2003
Posts: 4181

My understanding is that it is a bit more detailed than using 'custom XML' in terms of your own data and data structure. Rather, it is about linking and communicating from one document to an XML document (separate entities) through meta-data linking. The problem is that there are XML formats which have a very specific format and definition. People sometimes need to embed these documents into another document (Word) without changing the XML in any way. Word 2003 did this with 'custom schema' or something to that effect. Basically, it didn't just insert 'custom XML' into a word document. Rather, the Word document ended up being like a zip file, with its own document format, the 'embedded' XML file, and a link between the two all packaged together (images and other things get embedded the same way, to my understanding). It is this meta-data link between the two documents which is the infringement - not the ability to customize an XML file with your own data or tags.

That is my understanding from reading a few articles on the matter anyway.

I agree. Here's the link:
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