Microsoft files emergency motion in Word vs i4i case

On Friday afternoon, Microsoft filed an emergency motion with the US District Court for Eastern Texas in a desperate try to block a ruling that could force it to stop selling its flagship word processing software, Microsoft Word in 60 days.

i4i successfully sued Microsoft in 2007 for infringing on it's patent for "custom XML", a product that is integrated into many of Microsoft's products, including Word 2007 and 2003, .NET and Windows Vista. Judge Davis ruled that only Microsoft Word "unlawfully infringed" on the patent owned by i4i - early last week he ruled that Microsoft must cease selling Microsoft Word with the custom XML in question within the next 60 days, but said that they did not need to update versions already in the marketplace.

Microsoft lawyers pointed out that i4i was a "non-practicing patent owner" and that this meant it was "improper" that they sue for monetary damages. Judge Davis also warned a Microsoft lawyer for "equating i4i's infringement case with the current national banking crisis and implying that i4i was a banker seeking a 'bailout'."

"All these arguments were persistent, legally improper, and in direct violation of the Court's instructions," Davis wrote in his ruling. "Therefore, Microsoft's trial misconduct also supports enhancement."

Microsoft is still fighting the ruling and is arguing that the i4i patent is invalid and that Word doesn't infringe on the patent. Microsoft has said they will appeal the verdict but it seems like the emergency motion is a stopgap step aimed at stretching out the time they have to more than 60 days.

The ruling has gained worldwide attention but many legal experts are saying that it's very unlikely Microsoft will have to stop selling Word altogether. The other issue with the lawsuit is that other companies also possess the same XML technology in a lot of their software - OpenOffice is a good example of this. Many legal and technical workarounds do exist, and Microsoft can begin a lengthy appeal process which would push out the 60 days to at least a year and a half - just enough time to get Office 2010 ready.

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