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Microsoft Receives Patent Blow

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

13 May 2010

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has confirmed that Canadian-based i4i's patent on a computer code is valid, further bolstering its legal position in relation to a legal tussle with software giant Microsoft.

Microsoft has requested that the USPTO re-examine i4i's patent claim after it lost a series of court battles last year. The Patent Office, however, came down on the side of the small Toronto-based technology firm.

Ruling in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in August last year, Judge Leonard Davis ordered Microsoft to pay i4i enhanced damages of USD40m and pre-judgment interest of USD37m for “willful” patent infringement.

The damages and interest were added to an earlier award of USD200m by the same court in May after a jury agreed with i4i that certain versions of Microsoft's Word 2003 and Word 2007 products use "extensible mark-up language," or XML, in a way that infringes a patent filed by i4i. Microsoft was also ordered in that ruling to pay post-verdict damages of USD144,060 per day from May 21, 2009 until the date of the final judgment on August 11.

Judge Davis also issued a permanent injunction preventing Microsoft from importing or selling any Word products capable of opening an .XML, .DOCX or .DOCM file containing custom XML, which took effect on January 11.

Microsoft has, however, removed the offending piece of code by means of a patch downloaded by users and sales of its products have seemingly remained unaffected. Office 2010, which is being formally launched today (May 12), also does not contain the infringing code.

However, Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, told Reuters that the company remains unconvinced that Microsoft's patch has fully resolved the issue. Microsoft is likely to look for further means to appeal, suggesting that the legal battle will rumble on.

TAGS: court | patents | commerce | law | intellectual property | e-commerce | United States

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