Word Interrupted

After appeals court upholds ruling, Microsoft updates Office app to remove patent-infringing technology.

At press time, Microsoft was hurrying to remove patent-infringing technology from Microsoft Word in order to avoid a judge's order that it would have to stop selling the ubiquitous word processor.

The company faced a Jan. 11 deadline to stop selling Word if it couldn't remove the technology. The Jan. 11 date became official in December when a federal appeals court upheld a lower court case in which a jury found Microsoft guilty of willfully infringing on a custom XML-related patent owned by Toronto-based i4i Inc.

The original judgment ordered Microsoft to stop selling Word products that have the capability of opening files containing custom XML. The appeals court also upheld an approximate $290 million judgment against Redmond, plus interest and court costs.

In a statement, i4i Chairman Loudon Owen said he was pleased: "This is both a vindication for i4i and a war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed."

Microsoft officials said the company had been preparing for the possibility since the injunction. We "have put the wheels in place to remove this little-used feature from [Word 2007 and Office 2007]," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft director of public affairs, said in a statement. "We expect to have copies ... with this feature removed ..." Microsoft released the patch Jan. 8. Kutz said beta versions of Word 2010 don't contain the technology covered by the injunction. Microsoft filed an appeal with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a rehearing.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital projects at the company, including launching and running the group's popular virtual summit and Coffee talk series . She an experienced tech journalist (20 years), and before her current position, was the editorial director of the group's sites. A few years ago she gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web browser technology would impact online advertising for publishers. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.