Microsoft liable for patent infringement

Microsoft has been found liable for infringing a patent owned by a comparatively small Canadian software company, i4i. Microsoft must now cease selling any versions of Word 2003 and Word 2007 after January 11 2010, although any copies sold before the said date will not be affected. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where the case was heard, ordered Microsoft to pay $290 million in damages.

Loudon Owen, the chairman of i4i commented that “the same guts and integrity that are needed to invent and go against the herd are at the heart of success in patent litigation against a behemoth like Microsoft.”

The dispute concerned the ‘XML’ feature which was an important tool for users, such as drug companies, who regularly handled large amounts of data. By removing this feature from its software, Microsoft will disadvantage users of the same.

In the latest ruling, the three-judge panel said: “A small company was practicing its patent, only to suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customer goodwill as the result of the defendant’s infringing acts.”

It noted that the “district court found that Microsoft captured 80 percent of the custom XML market with its infringing Word products, forcing i4i to change its business strategy.”

Kevin Kutz, Microsoft’s director of public affairs, said that the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are now available for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.

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