Canadian Firm Wins $200 Million Patent Award Over Microsoft

CNET reports that i4i, a Toronto-based firm, has been awarded US$200 million in damages from Microsoft in a patent infringement case.  A Texas jury ruled that the custom XML tagging features of Word 2003 and Word 2007 infringed on an i4i patent.

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  1. Software should never be patentable
    You can’t patent a mathematical formula, you shouldn’t be able to patent software.

    But with that said, I have little sympathy for Microsoft considering their huge collection of software patents.

  2. No need to patent software as it, as a creative expression of ideas, is correctly protected by copyright. When you use a program, you don’t see the inner workings, you see the results. It’s not like buying a motor or machine where you can look inside and see how it works.

    The other issue is because everyone and their brother seems to be a programmer these days, there is so much prior art that it is impossible to determine if any new code is genuinely new or not, and hence even patentable.

    Indeed, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Microsoft. If they held their software patent portfolio purely as defense and never used them offensively, I’d by sympathetic, but after how they went after TomTom, my sympathy is gone.

  3. truth be known says:

    It might be useful if individuals did a bit of research to find out the basis for such cases, juries are not that stupid … 1. there are emails between Microsoft and i4i that indicate that Microsoft was clearly aware that they were infringing on a patent held by i4i; 2. Microsoft only began work in this area after i4i had entered into discussions with them about the kind of functionality allowed by the code covered by i4i’s patent; 3. Microsoft’s code is in many instances a direct replica of the patented code. Under the law this is willful infringement on a legitimate patent. i4i has a legitimate compliant one held up by the Texas jury. i4i has not claimed that Microsoft cannot use this functionality, just that they have to pay for the right to use to the legitimate owner of that particular functionality, which did not exist before i4i created it. How is this any different than all other inventions that are patented? Ironically the first purchaser of the right to use patented functionality was the U.S. patent office!

  4. Donal Lafferty says:

    Further points from a practitioner
    At the very best, a software program would be a less than perfect implementation of a mathematical formula. Besides the likelihood of one or more errors, or bugs, software is likely to reflect the evolutionary nature of software development. As it moves from v1.0 to 1.1 to 2.o it will have artifacts of prior functionality embedded either dormant or under used. In this respect, software is more like a DNA sequence than a mathematical formula.

    The prior ‘infringement’ justification by Truth be Known appears in substance to be a description of unfair competition. If Microsoft truly thought the patent grant could be challenged, then they would be right to ignore the need to licence the patent. Thus, the justifications proposed by Truth be Known are circular.

  5. Leanne Jones says:

    Software is intellectual property. Of course it should be patented and protected by patent.

  6. Polly Patent says:

    Patent Lawsuit
    Holy cow, I did not realize that the lawsuits patent software could result in such high costs to the business. Thanks for the information.