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PC Partners Backing Microsoft in i4i Case

Two of Microsoft's PC manufacturing partners are supporting Redmond's appeal of a final judgment against it in a patent dispute with Toronto-based i4i LP.

Dell and HP both filed amicus curiae documents with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Monday. Their briefs support Microsoft's appeal in the case which, as Doug covered last week, involves i4i's "custom XML" technology, found to be used with Microsoft Word's .XML, .DOCX and .DOCM document formats. Microsoft will have to stop selling copies of Word that use the technology by Oct. 10.

Both Dell and HP argue that their PC businesses will suffer if Microsoft must comply with the final judgment of the District Court. The PC manufacturers ship Word on the computers they sell, and a disruption in Word sales will affect their operations, the companies contend -- particularly with regard to testing and loading images of the software.

"If Microsoft is required to ship a revised version of Word in Dell's computers, a change would need to be made to Dell's images," Dell's brief states. "Making such a change would require extensive time- and resource-consuming re-testing."

If the appeal isn't granted, the court should push out the compliance deadline 120 days from the appeals court's ruling, both equipment manufacturers argue.

Microsoft critic Groklaw suggested that while end users wouldn't be adversely affected by the loss of Word sales, Microsoft's partners might be.

"End users aren't particularly going to be affected, because i4i told the court it won't go after users for prior infringement, only future, but vendor partners of Microsoft certainly could be affected," Groklaw explained. "I guess they could install OpenOffice.org instead of Word. Hey. Why not?"

Speculation has it that Microsoft will have a patch available before Oct. 10 that will meet the district court's conditions. With Windows 7 slated for an Oct. 22 public release on new PCs, computer makers could still feel the crunch. Oral arguments for the appeal are slated to start on Sept. 23.

And if you're interested, a Microsoft spokesperson provided Redmond Report with Dell's and HP's amicus curiae briefs (though they were censored to remove "confidential information"). The briefs have an almost cookie-cutter similarity in structure and content. You can read Dell's brief here while the HP brief is available here.

Would you buy a new PC without Word? Are PC manufacturers really facing hardship here? Send your answers to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Kurt Mackie on August 28, 2009 at 11:53 AM