Microsoft has lost its appeal of the injunction in the i4i patent lawsuit that prohibited it from selling versions of Office (specifically Word) in the US that contain code with the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML. As a result, the folks in Redmond are scrambling to comply by the required January cutoff date:
This injunction applies only to copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 sold in the U.S. on or after the injunction date of January 11, 2010. Copies of these products sold before this date are not affected.
With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products. Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.
While we are moving quickly to address the injunction issue, we are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ed Bott has more information on what specifically Microsoft is doing for its various Office distribution channels and the net is that there does not seem to be any reason for Office sales to grind to a stop in the USA.
Microsoft today announced that they had started licensing their proprietary, patent-pending Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) file system with a variety of Industry players like Sony, Canon, Sanyo, and SanDisk Corp. already anteing up. Sometimes unofficially called FAT64, exFAT is similar to Microsoft’s old FAT file system in that it has low overhead, but it can handle larger files and it has an enlarged addressing range – 256TB instead of FAT’s 32 GB. Its properties make it useful for simplified storage systems in flash devices like thumb drives, cameras, and GPSs which have traditionally used FAT variants, but are fast approaching FAT’s size limits.
exFAT is notably supported only on Windows PCs which rather throws a crimp into usability for devices implementing it if they need a PC connection. However, there is apparently a Linux exFAT support effort underway which yields the promise of more Microsoft patent disputes with Linux system makers since they are still aggrieved that Linux incorporated FAT support which Microsoft also patented. Microsoft sued GPS maker TomTom over that very question among others.
Microsoft yesterday was ordered by a federal judge to within 60 days stop shipping versions of Microsoft Word in the USA that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML, according to a statement released by attorneys for the plaintiff, i4i Inc. The plaintiff had won a judgment in May that Word’s XML features infringed on their patent No. 5,787,449 and ordered Microsoft to pay $200 million. Yesterday’s ruling added an additional $77 million in penalties and interest.
Microsoft’s response is that that they will appeal the verdict and that i4i’s patent is invalid. i4i is a small developer of a variety of XML related software.
Microsoft and TomTom, a maker of car navigation systems, today announced a settlement of their patent dispute which has broader interest because of Microsoft’s claims related to Linux:
Microsoft Corp. and TomTom N.V. today announced that they have settled the patent infringement cases brought by Microsoft before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the International Trade Commission (ITC) and by TomTom in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The cases have been settled through a patent agreement under which TomTom will pay Microsoft for coverage under the eight car navigation and file management systems patents in the Microsoft case. Also as part of the agreement, Microsoft receives coverage under the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit. The agreement, which has a five-year term, does not require any payment by Microsoft to TomTom. It covers both past and future U.S. sales of the relevant products. The specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The agreement includes patent coverage for Microsoft’s three file management systems patents provided in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom’s obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the “FAT LFN patents”), which enables efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data. TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.
While Microsoft has downplayed it in this case, those file management patents are the ones that raise the Linux infringement specter. The "open source community" will undoubtedly have a lot to say shortly much as they did over Microsoft’s Novell deal that Microsoft claimed recognized Linux infringement on their patents.