Okay, has anyone got a clue about the real issue with the i4i vs Microsoft case? Last August there was a ruling that Microsoft would be banned from selling copies of Word than opened XML files (DOCX etc), because they had infringed upon a patent held by the Canadian company i4i. Microsoft recently lost the appeal and are now having to remove the technology covered by the patent. But…
I’ve been going through the various articles available about this, and sadly it is abundantly clear that not a single journalist who has covered this story in the main press has a clue about what the patent actually covers. Half of them seem be claiming that it is Microsoft’s use of XML itself, which is clearly errant nonsense as i4i don’t own a patent on XML. Others refer to Microsoft’s use of “custom XML”, which is a bit like saying that an author has infringed copyright for using “some text”. Most seem to imply that Microsoft won’t be allowed to have versions of Word that will open .docx, .docm etc, but to me that sounds unlikely. Meanwhile, Microsoft are saying that they are patching Word to remove this “little-used business feature”, which they describe as “obscure”.
Reading between the lines, it seems as though Microsoft used something very specific in their XML readers and writers and that infringed upon i4i’s patent, and that they will remove this chunk of code without it having much impact on the end-user. As far as I can tell, this won’t entail them dropping formats such as .docx, which has been accepted as an ISO standard and is just an XML spec at the end of the day.
But does anyone have a clearer understanding as to what it is exactly that has been infringed, and exactly what it is that MS are having to drop from future versions of Word? The reporting on this has been particularly poor and frustrating.
Thanks and all the best,