Yet Another Sign That Our IP Laws Are Messed UP   Leave a comment

BBC News reports that Microsoft has lost an appeal in its court case against i4i.

The patents cover the use of XML, a mark-up language that preserves data formats across different programs.

The judgement also required Microsoft to remove the i4i technology from its Office software suite and stop selling the infringing programs.

The injunction on sales began in January 2010 and applied to any Microsoft Office software, specifically Word 2003 and 2007, containing the infringing patents.

Since it lost the first round of the legal battle, Microsoft has been stripping the disputed technology from its Office products.

Soon after losing the initial case, Microsoft filed an appeal asking the court to re-think its decision. In December 2009, a panel of judges upheld the initial ruling.

Now, I’m not one to jump to Microsoft’s defense, but let’s be clear here… if I’m reading i4i’s patent correctly, they’re not patenting *a* method for using XML.  From this post:

Now, the patent owned by I4i does not claim to cover the idea of custom text transformation. It very clearly claims the right to an invention that is defined concisely as used to split marked up text into raw text plus a tag map.

They’ve patented creating XSLTXML is an open standard!  They’ve basically been awarded a patent for using an open standard the way the open standard defines it ought to be used.  Here’s how XSLT works, in diagram shorthand:

The XSLT processor ordinarily takes two input documents – an XML source document, and an XSLT stylesheet – and produces an output document. The XSLT stylesheet contains a collection of template rules: instructions and other directives that guide the processor in the production of the output document. — Wikipedia

So, if I have marked up text (the XML document) and a plain text document (the Result Document), creating an XSLT stylesheet violates their patent.

The only difference between the diagram above and the one in Figure 4 of their patent is that they drew a can and labeled it “Primary Storage”.  Again, according to Wikipedia… “a patent application must include one or more claims defining the invention which must be new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable.”

More blog posts on the topic here, here, and here.  Several legal blog posts defending the merits of i4i’s case, but it seems to me that the legal analysis presumes that the original patent isn’t on a method that is, yanno, part of the concept of the specification itself.

Sure, likely Microsoft knew about i4i’s patent.  I’m not so sure I’d fault a company for trying to drive what appears to this reader to be a blatant patent troll out of business.

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Posted March 12, 2010 by padraic2112 in law, tech, Uncategorized

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