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"Easy Work-Around" For Microsoft Word's Legal Woes

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the legal-hokey-pokey-is-what-it's-all-about dept.

Microsoft 172

CWmike writes "Microsoft can likely use an 'easy technical work-around' to sidestep a recent injunction by a Texas federal judge that bars the company from selling Word, a patent attorney said today. 'The injunction doesn't apply to existing product that has already been sold,' said Barry Negrin, a partner with the New York firm Pryor Cashman LLP who has practiced patent and trademark law for 17 years. 'Headlines that say Microsoft can't sell Word are not really true,' said Negrin, pointing out that the injunction granted by US District Court Judge Leonard Davis on Tuesday only prohibits Microsoft from selling Word as it exists now after Oct. 10. 'All Microsoft has to do is disable the custom XML feature, which should be pretty easy to do, then give that a different SKU number from what's been sold so it's easy to distinguish the two versions.'"

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172 comments

The other solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079135)

They can just rename it to Words.

Re:The other solution (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079375)

Word patent troll edition.

Really... (5, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079147)

Really if MS decided to lobby against patent trolls they could have saved themselves the trouble in the first place.

MADONNA'S BIRTHDAY IS TODAY (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079177)

Madonna is now 51!

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didnt know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat incomplete
Id been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new

Chorus:

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats (after first time, with your heartbeat)
Next to mine

Gonna give you all my love, boy
My fear is fading fast
Been saving it all for you
cause only love can last

Youre so fine and youre mine
Make me strong, yeah you make me bold
Oh your love thawed out
Yeah, your love thawed out
What was scared and cold

(chorus)

Oooh, oooh, oooh

Youre so fine and youre mine
Ill be yours till the end of time
cause you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Ive nothing to hide

(chorus)

Like a virgin, ooh, ooh
Like a virgin
Feels so good inside
When you hold me, and your heart beats, and you love me

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Ooh, baby
Cant you hear my heart beat
For the very first time?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADONNA!

Re:Really... (4, Informative)

KraftDinner (1273626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079703)

Except the company suing them aren't patent trolls. If you took a minute to check out their site, they legitimately offer services that directly relate to what they're suing about.

Re:Really... (2, Insightful)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080079)

A patent troll with a PoC is still a patent troll. Looks to me like they sold a pretty simple plugin, and even made some money while doing it. Now that feature has been moved into the mainline version of word, and they worry about unfair competition.

If i4i has a better product, they have nothing to worry about. If Microsoft is interested in adding that functionality to word, then they can acquire i4i for a fair price. If neither side can agree on a fair price, then we have what is called innovation. Both sides crank out features as fast as they can, and compete for who can offer the best features for cheapest. Eventually they will agree on a fair price, and the consumers will be better off for it.

Using patents to prevent Microsoft from competing is anti-competitive.

Re:Really... (2, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080209)

If i4i has a better product, they have nothing to worry about. If Microsoft is interested in adding that functionality to word, then they can acquire i4i for a fair price.

It doesn't matter whether or not i4i has a better product. They own the patent on the method their product uses. Microsoft is using that same method in Office without having licensed it from i4i. If they can't reach an agreement on a license fee or buy the patent outright, MS must wait about twenty years for the patent to expire if they want to use this method again.

Re:Really... (2, Interesting)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080627)

Ya, sorry, I was sort of giving my view on how things should happen rather than the current legal status quo on the issue.

20 years is insane.

I sort of like the idea of property taxes on intellectual property. If microsoft offers to buy the idea for 8 million, and i4i claims the software is worth 10 million, then the value of the patent is set to 10 million, and i4i would need to pay something like 10% of that per year to keep the patent, or it goes into public domain.

When patent reform actually does happen, it's going to be awesome.

Re:Really... (5, Insightful)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080673)

Using patents to prevent Microsoft from competing is anti-competitive.

That's because patents are inherently anti-competitive. A patent is a limited-term monopoly expressly granted by the government. That's the whole idea.

And your naive and simplified free market solution is unrealistic. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of free markets too. But they're not flawless and universally efficient. If i4i were to compete head-to-head against Microsoft, they would get crushed regardless of the quality of their product.

Fortunately for them, the USPTO has, pursuant to its statutory authority (which is well-grounded in the constitution, unlike about 90% of what the federal government does), granted them a limited monopoly. They now have the right to enforce that monopoly in the courts, which means they get a chance to compete.

The alternative is that MegaCorps get to decide every single product and service that is available to you. There would be no way for disruptive technologies to get a footing. All startups could be crushed at inception, because their ideas (the only asset where they may possibly have an edge on the MegaCorp) would be free for the taking. MegaCorp gets to decide what you can buy and what you can't (and in what form). Sounds like Utopia, huh?

Re:Really... (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080785)

Technically speaking, patents can be unfairly anti-competitive or part of a healthy market. It all depends upon how they're used, how long they're in place and what they're allowed to cover.

There's a difference between blocking patents which exist primarily to make it impossible for other companies to work in an area, and patents on important processes that are genuinely being used an exploited as an end.

Patten troll or not? (4, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080367)

Except the company suing them aren't patent trolls. If you took a minute to check out their site, they legitimately offer services that directly relate to what they're suing about.

First off I would have to disagree that your assertionis correct (see below). But at the same time I would assert that the technique in question might be on the hairy edge of patentable, making them legitimate--maybe.

Okay so what is the patent about? Well it's not about using XML to store documents. It's about a somewhat specific way of storing xml for documents in file systems or streams that has gains some efficiency over the conventional XML format. Specifically you write the documents plain text out as raw plain text without any XML tags. Then in separate location you write our all the xml tags. After each tag you write a pointer to the chearacter position in the plain text where the tag needs to go. The claim is this means that if you change formats you don't have to re-write the file with the plain text thus making it a lot faster to update (and you can imagine stream on the cloud). The second patented feature is that this allows one to store multiple "views". That is one could have multiple different xml tag sets for the same text body. Besides simply being a view, this is useful also for undo's

So you can see this pertains basically to "fast saves" of big documents, and possibly to cloud applications.

It's pretty easy to imagine other ways to skln this cat if you had too. FOr example, store diffs which I think is how the older MS fast saves work anyhow. But in the cloud world I bet just using XML views rather than diffs is slightly more javascript freindly given all the existing XML based code. plus it makes i more of an open standard.

SO while MS could work around this, it will make the resulting document less open format. a terrible irony.

One could question howver if this is really patent worthy. I'd say maybe. it does have tangible advantages and back when it was patented it might have been the first time for xml to be encoded this way (I have no idea on that). But it also seems kinda obvious. Many XML documents sort of do that in a way already. They insert some labeled format tag which we call a "style" then put the detailed XML description of that "style" in the document header. SOr example apple's pages does that, and presumbaly most processors with style sheets have done that. But that's still a bit different than actuall pointers.

So maybe maybe it's patent worthy. I'd say no. but it's arguable.

ANyhow getting back to the parent's assertion that they market this, well thats nonsense. this is a technique that once you tell it to someone is generic. No one would hire you to implement it for their own product so you can't sell any services here. And any specific implementation is irrelevant. FOr example this is not going to affect their competitiveness in selling a word processor.

Beware the Details (1)

syntap (242090) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079161)

As we all know, when someone (usually a non-techie or a PHB) says "All you have to do is blah blah" it usually means it will be far from simple and easy.

Re:Beware the Details (3, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079195)

Nah, removing the ooxml code is easy. Telling your customers "all of the documents you've saved since 2006 won't be readable by new installations" is the hard part. This is a non-story, we all know obviously they can take the code out, but it doesn't help their users who have docx documents.

Maybe they could offer a downloadable component like they have for old versions of Word?

Also, what does this mean for openoffice?

Re:Beware the Details (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079257)

I'd assume that whichever judge imposed the injunction would take a very dim view of MS offering a "product + download" to circumvent the injunction; but IANAL, and there could be some subtlety that makes that legal(incidentally, I can well imagine that, if it applies to the OOXML plugins for 2003, there'll be some weeping and gnashing of teeth among certain major corporate customers).

Re:Beware the Details (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079567)

The work-around is that they are no longer using the patented invention. That is complying fully with the requirements of the injunction.

Re:Beware the Details (-1, Offtopic)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079435)

Surely the solution is to just not sell in Texas? Anyone in Texas can buy it from another state, and the Interstate commerce clause in the constitution means that Texas can't prohibit them from importing it...

Re:Beware the Details (4, Informative)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079519)

Wow. Just wow. Do yourself a favor next time, and look up the slightest bit of info. The US District Court is a FEDERAL court.

Re:Beware the Details (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080745)

Wow. Just wow. Do yourself a favor next time, and look up the slightest bit of info. The US District Court is a FEDERAL court.

whose legal interpretations ONLY apply to that district. They can keep selling in any other district, including the three other Texas districts and not have any legal ramifications, until someone decides to file a lawsuit.

Re:Beware the Details (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079923)

According to GrokLaw's informal analysis, OpenOffice doesn't use this patent. This is a patent on custom extensions to the standard.

Caution: IANAL. I may well have misunderstood the argument. But the conclusion was that OpenOffice isn't affected by this particular patent.

Re:Beware the Details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079929)

This case does not reference the XML-based file formats. It's a specific reference to a custom XML editor that was rarely used - totally different things. So, it really is as simple as TFA suggests.

It's a common mistake to confuse the two.

Re:Beware the Details (2, Interesting)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080365)

if memory serves me correctly the patents main feature was storing all of the XML in a single file, Open office seems to do this as well. The difference is OO uses several files that are compressed into a single archive. You can take a OO file and run gnuzip on it and all the file uncompress; Microsoft could do the same and simple add a converter to open the old format, split it into seperate files internally and store it as a single archive.

Re:Beware the Details (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080447)

But you can open a docx as an archive and see each resource. It works with winrar (everything works in winrar) and probably 7zip too.

Re:Beware the Details (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079371)

I know of an easy solution: sign a patent license agreement with the patent holder!

Re:Beware the Details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079479)

or hire an assassin

Re:Beware the Details (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079943)

What if they don't want to sign?

(Well, of course there's the suggestion in the sibling post. But MS wouldn't do anything illegal, would they?)

Right, easy.... (4, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079217)

All Microsoft has to do is disable the custom XML feature, which should be pretty easy to do

Spoken like a true end-user. As a developer, almost every single time I've ever said something would be "easy to do" code-wise it has come back to bite me in the ass. I've learned not to use that phrase for anything, especially for things that really do seem easy to do. Now it is "I'll see what is involved in that request and get back to you." End-users always seem to think things will be easy to change. Disabling a feature in a widely used application like Word that likely has a ton of legacy code in it is probably not as easy as one might think. I'd also be skeptical about this statement considering it is coming from the opposing lawyer and not from one of MS's own engineers.

Re:Right, easy.... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079247)

Not to mention the fact that this would require a new run of DVDs having to be specially burned, new packaging which would have to be approved of, etc.

Re:Right, easy.... (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079427)

This would remove the "extend" from "embrace, extend, extinguish (the competition)".

Also, anyone who read the judgment already knew this. This is NOT news.

Re:Right, easy.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079287)

Oh it's very easy for the lawyer to do, he just tells his client to disable it and *poof*! It's done!

Remember, computers run on magical mystical blue smoke that can do ANYTHING as long as you don't let it out!

Re:Right, easy.... (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079631)

Yeah and sometimes that smoke goes through the monitor cable to give you a fancy BSOD.

Re:Right, easy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079447)

simple enough...on the routine that handles the xml feature, just replace the first line with:

GOTO 10

Done and done.

Re:Right, easy.... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079987)

It should be easy to do. Just make a new run of MSWord 2000. It didn't use XML, so it definitely didn't violate the patent.

Of course, that means that you won't be able to open docx files. Opening those files, though, would require using the patented technology. So you can't do it. (Or can you? OpenOffice can, I believe, open those files...but I'll admit I've never tried.)

Maybe MS could just start distributing OpenOffice? Of course, once OpenOffice got sued it would be forced to remove the ability to read/write docx files, but that's no problem. They've got their own file format which doesn't use the patented process. So just send you documents to Canada or Mexico and have them converted into *.odf formats.

You say that's not practical? But you can't open the files without violating the patent. So tell me again just *why* you supported software patents.

This patent is certainly a lot more valid than many that MS has been threatening people with.

Good luck with that... (2)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079223)

I wanna see this shit play out - M$ is going to attempt to tell a Judge that they "fixed" it by disabling something - (then perhaps a hacker can - re-enable it)... wonder if this... ahem "JUDGE" will accept this...

Re:Good luck with that... (2, Interesting)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079243)

why not, they convinced a judge that internet explorer is part of the windows OS when there are plenty of third party apps that can remove it...

Re:Good luck with that... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079317)

At the time, IE was the only way to get updates for the system. I'd call that part of the OS.

Re:Good luck with that... (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079585)

So in other words adware, toolbars and spyware should be perfectly allowed because a third party program can remove them?

Re:Good luck with that... (0, Troll)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079625)

sure, why not, i dont care one way or the other, i use openoffice on linux anyway, so this lawsuit against microsoft office xml does not mean anything to me...

Re:Good luck with that... (2, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079971)

And break the control panel, countless apps, filters for image formats, and I'd wager a whole slew of other things. Internet Explorer may not be part of the OS like a kernel module to a Linux Kernel, but it is an expected part of the Operating System and is the foundation for Explorer and a mess of other Microsoft and 3rd Party applications. You take it away, you essentially have a broken system.

Re:Good luck with that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080717)

Internet Explorer may not be part of the OS like a kernel module to a Linux Kernel, but it is an expected part of the Operating System and is the foundation for Explorer and a mess of other Microsoft and 3rd Party applications. You take it away, you essentially have a broken system.

And how would this be different from an unmodified Windows installation?

Re:Good luck with that... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079265)

Your honor, we've moved all the offending code to hot_coffee.dll, and made sure that it is not accessible to users...

Re:Good luck with that... (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079817)

Except for the fact that what business would want to rely on fixes by a hacker to keep Office as it was?

Re:Good luck with that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079993)

You'd be suprised. I've seen more than a few businesses using pirated software on their systems, though it has usually been smaller businesses. One would hope larger business would keep to legally licensed software, but I'm sure there are those that don't as well. Even the guy who ran one of the labs in my university building had not quite legitimate software on the workstations.

Re:Good luck with that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080091)

I've done various software installs for several different types of organizations and I would venture to guess that most have "pirated" software on their systems. "Pirated" in quotes, however, as most of it is probably believed to be legal but actually isn't. In my experience most companies have paid at least something at some time to software companies that are "victims" of the piracy, but the software is deployed on too many computers or some other aspect of the license is being broken.

Re:Good luck with that... (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080285)

not sure why you think it would bother i4i, the patent holder, that a third party would then be allowed to write a Solution to XML Authoring in Microsoft® Word [i4i.com] ? Some reason they don't like Microsoft building that tool into word without sharing some of the profits.

Is this guy an idiot? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079239)

Or does he not quite understand the reaction of a few million angry customers, who've just discovered that "Word" now doesn't read "Word documents" and have been blandly told "Oh, we changed the SKU number from 3454234 to 3454235, didn't you notice? You should have seen KB65564 for clarification of Microsoft Office Product SKUs."

Seriously, doing that would make the whole Vista Ready vs. Vista Capable debacle look like a 10 dollar parking ticket. What a stupid plan.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079367)

The summary said it doesn't affect products that have already been sold. You didn't even need to go into TFA to find that much.

These millions of customers won't even notice. Word also defaults to .DOC so it's unlikely it will have that much of an impact, even if they do remove .XML support from new products after Oct 10th. Unless someone goes out of their way to save or open an XML doc, they won't notice.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (2, Insightful)

sirsnork (530512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079391)

Uh, not the last time I used it. Word defaults to docx in it's default state. THats not to say you can't change that preference via group policy or just doing some menu digging, but out of the box it most certainly saves to docx by default

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (-1, Flamebait)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079465)

Still a DOC format. DOCX on Office 2007. DOC on Office 2003. My point is that XML is not a default and you would have to go digging to change it to XML.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079531)

docx is xml. Idiot

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080269)

True, but then this has nothing to do with docx files. That isn't what it is about at all. It is a little used extension for custom XML. Fixing that does not prevent anyone from reading or writing docx files at all. Or the older office xml files either.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079541)

Funny you mention that, because docx uses XML for formatting.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (2, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079611)

Ok, so, we were kinda talking about 2 different things. An article I found says it's the actual creation of XML documents (i.e. documents meant to be used as XML) that's the problem. Another says it's both the creation of said XML documents and the .docx and .docm, as they use XML for their own formatting. Considering it's custom XML they use for docx and docm, I'd think that they would both be nixed by this judgment, along with XML, thus rendering a large portion of Word users really, really pissed.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079613)

Irrelevant to existing installs. Again, it only affects new products sold after Oct 10th. Any existing Office 2007 products will be unaffected.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079845)

WTF part of "all our files for the last two years are in a format the new employees can't create or modify" are you not understanding?

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079979)

So every time you get a new employee they don't get the same Office software as all of the rest of your employees? I seriously doubt that, as any IT shop worth it's salt has a standard version that users get. Upgrading new users willy nilly with whatever flavor happens to be newest version would be a help desk disaster as your user base could have any number of versions. The version of Office you are currently licensed with won't be affected by this at all. It won't suddenly stop working after October.

Since that version will continue to work just fine after October 10th, including the ability to open, edit, and save XML files, then you have nothing to worry about unless you plan to upgrade and even then it would be a manual choice to upgrade.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080005)

We don't keep to many spare licenses laying around. Any expansion of employees means new licenses. A license would be the equivalent of selling a new copy, thus prohibited under the injunction.

Replacement employees could keep the same software because it is already licensed, but you couldn't get new licenses except under the new SKU and the new version.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080047)

The permanent injunction does not apply to Infringing or Future Word Products that:

open an XML file as plain text;
upon opening an XML file, applies a custom transformation that removes all custom XML elements;
providing support or assistance to anyone that describes how to use any of the infringing products to open an XML file containing custom XML if that product was licensed or sold before the date of the permanent injunction, which was August 11, 2009.

Meaning you can simply open the XML and save it as a doc.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080081)

Here's the text of the judgment if your curious:

Link [marketwatch.com]

The exclusions are at the bottom.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080099)

Documents of any complexity get their formatting screwed up when you do this. Been there, suffered under that curse.

This will create an immense amount of work and introduce errors.

Leave it to a lawyer (from the original article) to tout this as "an easy workaround". Wasn't it the legal industry that kept WordPerfect alive for so long because of the weaknesses of Word?

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080035)

So all these companies have to pay a flunkie to sit there with the old version and go "file>save as" and convert them back to the old .DOC format. Hey, people need jobs! It's good for the economy! What's the matter, don't you WANT the economy to recover?

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

nickspoon (1070240) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079537)

This injunction (as I understand from TFA) does not concern saving to XML. If saving to an XML format were patent-protected like this Microsoft wouldn't be the only ones up to their neck in lawsuits.

The actual technology to which this injunction pertains is "Custom XML", which "allows people to create forms or templates such that words in certain fields are tagged and then can be managed in a database." This is what supposedly infringes on i4i's patent (the actual patent which was infringed upon is 5,787,449 [uspto.gov] ). I imagine that very few people will notice the missing functionality - it's not a very common task for your day-to-day Office user.

And as much as it amuses me that Microsoft has been hoist by their own petard, it seems to me that this is a flagrant abuse of the patent system and should not be happening.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080023)

Sorry, but I think that this is a more reasonable than average use of the patent system.

Software patents are bad medicine. AKA poison. Anyone who supports them in anything approximating their current form is asking for courts to make stupid decisions, because that's what the laws require.

P.S.: Business method patents are nearly as bad. Other patents are also candidates for the junk heap. It's not that patents are, inherently, a bad idea. It's that the implementation, and the creation of monopolies is abusive.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079443)

Yes, but if your whole office has MS Word with XML, and you need to get the new employee a computer, you can no longer get a license for Word with XML, just Word sans XML. So now the new person at the office can't read any of the existing documents. And all the existing users have to make sure they only use the old .doc version.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079481)

I doubt it would affect licensing for an existing product. If you are purchasing an additional license, you already own the product itself. Your new employees would get the same version as everyone else in your company, which again wouldn't have this restriction. Only new products sold after October 10th.

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079451)

KB65564?

Any takers on a bet that we get to article 65535 and then the MSKB system crashes and burns?

Re:Is this guy an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079525)

Not insightful. The patent is about creating XML. Not reading it in a document.

MS Remove Custom things from an application? (4, Insightful)

Kilz (741999) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079275)

If Ms got rid of the ability to add custom XML, they would never be able to Extend the specification they proposed, and so Extinguish competition while everyone else plays catch up.

Thank you (1)

wumpus188 (657540) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079277)

I hear the sound of the millions of ./-ers sighing with relief.

Re:Thank you (3, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079323)

We all write our comments in Word. Because the Internet Explorer doesn't have a spell checker.*

* (just a guess)

Re:Thank you (4, Funny)

rennerik (1256370) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079461)

We all write our comments in Word. Because the Internet Explorer doesn't have a spell checker.*

* (just a guess)

Wat are u tlaking abot, I dont nede a spellcheker.

Internet Explorer doesn't have a spell checker but (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080713)

...FireFox does.

Re:Internet Explorer doesn't have a spell checker (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080777)

# How do I spell Firefox? How do I abbreviate it?

Firefox is spelled F-i-r-e-f-o-x - only the first letter capitalized (i.e. not FireFox, not Foxfire, FoxFire or whatever else a number of folk seem to think it to be called.) The preferred abbreviation is "Fx" or "fx".

http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/releases/1.5.html#FAQ [mozilla.com]

Easy Solution (0, Redundant)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079351)

Just impliment Open Document Format (ODF) like every other word processor.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079453)

They do.

Re:Easy Solution (2, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079867)

Actually they did not. They deviated just enough with regards to implimenting the standard to make their version incompatable with everybody else.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

MarkKB (845289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080223)

Actually they did not. They deviated just enough with regards to implimenting the standard to make their version incompatable with everybody else.

So, just like every other implementation of ODF? :D

Re:Easy Solution (2, Interesting)

rennerik (1256370) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079499)

Just impliment Open Document Format (ODF) like every other word processor.

Does ODF use XML format? Because if it does, it's also technically in trouble just as much as the DOCX format is for Word. If anything, that should be the cause of even greater worry for Microsoft's format. If Microsoft can't or won't defend themselves against this ridiculous patent, then any XML format that even partly resembles something technically covered by this patent would be subject to a lawsuit. And while IANAL, it would seem that having this "legal victory" under their belts against a huge company such as Microsoft, the plaintiffs can use that as precedence to go after ODF, the custom XML format I use in the applications I write, the custom XML format *you* use in the applications *you* write, etc.

I would suggest we all hope for Microsoft's lawyers to prevail in this case. It will be a victory for all of us, even if you dislike Microsoft and think they should get their comeuppance. Please save your schadenfreude for another case.

Re:Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079653)

Does ODF use XML format? Because if it does, it's also technically in trouble just as much as the DOCX format is for Word. If anything, that should be the cause of even greater worry for Microsoft's format. If Microsoft can't or won't defend themselves against this ridiculous patent, then any XML format that even partly resembles something technically covered by this patent would be subject to a lawsuit. And while IANAL, it would seem that having this "legal victory" under their belts against a huge company such as Microsoft, the plaintiffs can use that as precedence to go after ODF, the custom XML format I use in the applications I write, the custom XML format *you* use in the applications *you* write, etc.

If your conclusion is true, it sounds like this might eliminate XML use as we currently know it. If that's not a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.

Re:Easy Solution (1, Troll)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079679)

Does ODF use XML format? Because if it does, it's also technically in trouble just as much as the DOCX format is for Word.

...

I would suggest we all hope for Microsoft's lawyers to prevail in this case. It will be a victory for all of us, even if you dislike Microsoft and think they should get their comeuppance. Please save your schadenfreude for another case.

Nice shilling - you don't get out much, do you? This has NOTHING to do with xml. i4i made an add-in that Microsoft refused to license for $20 million, copied the functionality and called it "custom xml" (which is another way of saying it's NOT part of the xml standard) and now has to pay 10 times as much for WILLFULLY infringing.

You want us to hope Microsoft gets a pass for that? You work there or something?

If Microsoft had stuck to the standard rather than trying another "embrace, extend, extinguish", they wouldn't be in this boat right now. Then again, it's only by bringing out incompatible "features" such as "custom xml" (which, since it doesn't conform to the standard for xml, is really a misnomer), that Microsoft can keep people locked in.

Custom XML (3, Informative)

imemyself (757318) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079459)

Complying with this would *NOT* involve removing support for the Open XML formats (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc). This is related to Custom XML, which is described as:

âoeCustom XML is the support for custom defined schemas. Itâ(TM)s that support that allows you truly integrate your documents with business processes and business data. You can define your data using XML Schema syntax, and then you can use that data in your Office documents. By opening up our formats with our reference schemas, and supporting your custom defined schemas, you get true interoperability of your documents.â

I have a better idea (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079489)

They could hire someone to dig through the IBM research journals and patents on the General Markup Language and its successor SGML, and find some prior art. They might even have some prior art of their own related to RTF. This patent sucks; it's on a basic technique that anyone writing a program to read a document with inline tags would at least consider, and I find it hard to believe it wasn't actually used on occasion.

Re:I have a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079947)

Isn't that what was in the TNEF file that was attached to emails sent by Exchange's client before they switched to HTML?
This used to annoy the crap out of me until a Microsoft afficionado I knew explained it was only some markup to put some color and style and leave pure text for the email. So I could ignore it without losing too much.
So if this patent is what I understand, it applies to TNEF too. Except I saw TNEF files in 96, so TNEF is prior art...
The company is not really a troll, they just had a product that was an add-on for Word that became obsolete when Word started doing XML. Which shows of future-proof a business they really had...

:P (1)

Rehnberg (1618505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079583)

Of course, there's a good chance that Microsoft will still try to fight the ruling, even though I've never used the Word feature to create XML documents. In fact, I hadn't even been aware of that feature before I read the original story.

Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29079587)

This was known since forever.

OK Then (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079811)

Convert all DOCX documents to DOC format to prevent some Microsoft Office update removing the XML features and thus shutting people out of their DOCX documents.

What does the judge think of this ODF plug-in converter [sun.com] for MS-Office? Does it violate the XML patent as well as Sun Office and OpenOffice.Org and IBM Lotus Symphony?

Patent is "markup indirection" (5, Informative)

baboo_jackal (1021741) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079829)

So the patent works like this: Instead of storing markup within a document, you instead store the markup separately from the raw data and then map each markup element to a character position in the raw data, like this:<br><br>

--Original document--
<foo>This is a foo</foo><foo><bar>This is a foo bar</bar></foo>

--i4i patented storage--
Raw document:
This is a foo This is a foo bar

Metadata Map:
1 <foo> 0
2 </foo> 13
3 <foo> 14
4 <bar> 14
5 </foo> 31
6 </bar> 31

The idea is that you should be able to edit the raw data, or the markup, independently of one another. The patent outlines three core scenarios: 1) Taking an existing document with inline markup and separating the text and the markup, 2) Generating a "separate data and markup" document from scratch, and 3) Combining the markup and raw data of a doc generated from scenario 1 or 2 back together to produce a document with the markup inline.

So why is this neat? The patent claims that you can edit both the content and the markup independently of one another. Except that you would require a specialized editor that manipulates both components to be able to do this and still maintain the "mapping" of markup to raw data. Hate to say it, but I can already do this on normal, inline-markup documents using notepad, or any WYSIWYG HTML editor.

The other claim is that you could apply any map to any raw data. Except that, unless the character positions of semantic elements in the raw data were exactly where the "Metadata Map" expected them to be, the result would be a huge mess. Practically speaking, the application of a metadata map to multiple documents (since the map is based on character position) would most likely require additional inline tags to align the separate metadata to the content, thus defeating the whole purpose of the patent. Or maybe you could establish a "standard sentence length" in order to allow one map to be applied to different documents - that would be great. :P

I'm having a hard time understanding how the technology described in this patent is actually useful at all, let alone how Microsoft has infringed on it.

Re:Patent is "markup indirection" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080051)

Something so vague shouldn't be patentable at all. US patent law allows way to many vaporware patents. Copywriting the source code is one thing, but patenting the obvious idea behind it should not be possible. Like Amazon's "1 click to purchase" patent:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click
http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=US&NR=5960411&KC=&FT=E

It's like patenting "wet car with hose, scrub car with soapy sponge, rinse car, let dry".

Re:Patent is "markup indirection" (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080289)

Odd, that's how styled text was stored on Mac OS at least as far back as 1990, probably earlier. You had the text, and a style table which was just a set of runs for each style, with changes between. But it's insanely obvious; either you store meta-information inline, and have delimiters, or you store it separately, and include pointers (text offsets) to what they apply to.

Re:Patent is "markup indirection" (4, Interesting)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080313)

I'm having a hard time understanding how the technology described in this patent is actually useful at all, let alone how Microsoft has infringed on it.

It's crappy technology (and there is prior art too). However, it happens to be the format that Microsoft uses in Microsoft Office's native XML format. I think Microsoft used it because it maps more naturally onto Microsoft Office's internal data structures. The correct way to accomplish this goal is, of course, with style sheets.

ODF, instead, uses XML markup the way it was intended to, so the patent shouldn't apply.

The patent may also be the reason for Microsoft's sudden reversal and support of ODF a couple of years ago.

Just recall it, change the SKU... (1)

Mr. Picklesworth (931427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079981)

...and throw the tens of thousands of old copies into a landfill. No harm done!

(E.T. will be impressed).

Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080095)

Doesn't Microsoft have their own patent related to exactly how they use the XML code within their software? If they do, and the patents conflict with each other, then Microsoft should not be in trouble. The patent office should have done a better job.

SKU number? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080293)

All Microsoft has to do is disable the custom XML feature, which should be pretty easy to do, then give that a different SKU number from what's been sold so it's easy to distinguish the two versions.

I'd better get out my debit card, go get some cash from the ATM machine after entering my PIN number, and buy some copies before they remove this feature...

Re:SKU number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080567)

There is nothing syntactically redundant about the phrase 'Stock-keeping unit number'.

easy technical workaround (3, Interesting)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080321)

The "easy technical workaround" for Microsoft is to dump their crappy OOXML format (which infringes this patent) and switch completely to ODF (which doesn't seem to).

Maybe this patent lawsuit is the reason why Microsoft started supporting ODF in the first place.

RE: Aiding and Abetting ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080349)

Aiding and abetting ... the perpatrators!

PS Note to Slashdot.
Seems you like Safari, but not Opera ... Why? Are you ... Afraid? ,,, Are you paid by ... M$? ... Answer: Yes!

Just let it alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080405)

My problem with all of this is why so long for this action? Let's all pile on Microsoft and pile on and pile on. To me, this is not about patent infringement. It is again about someone(s) who for whatever reason do not MSFT and know MASFT is an easy target. And just think where all of these elitists attacking MSFT would be if not for MSFT and their vision and marketing. (Doing constructive things???????) Anyway, to me it just stinks of another MSFT with hunt. And I use a Macbook on the road and Ubuntu on my desktop for info sake

Validation of Linux work arounds for MS patents? (1)

emeade (123253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080475)

Sweet, sweet, catch-22. Show linux infringements of MS patents so they too can be trivially worked-around. Sleep in the bed you patented.

Pryor Cashman LLP? (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080529)

Is this cryptic lawspeak for "cash up front"?

Plaintiff previously did work for microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080549)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/features/vox/i4i-won-a-huge-legal-victory-but-at-what-cost/article1251606/

Here's a link to an article about the Canadian company involved in the lawsuit.

From briefly skimming the article, here's what I got:

The company (i4i) did work for microsoft. Microsoft took the patented ideas the company used in its software, and began distributing an implementation of them for free in Word.

This appropriation by Microsoft of i4i's technology effectively destroyed the company's business. Hence the lawsuit.

Definitely not a case of patent trolling.

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