Productivity software

Court Ban on Microsoft Word Won't Hurt Users

Users should not worry about a court-ordered ban on sales of Microsoft Word hurting their business, or Microsoft's. With nearly two months to appeal and negotiate, Redmond can confidently predict success, one way, or the other.

Microsoft has several options, which will probably be undertaken simultaneously:

  1. Write a big check -- Everyone has a price, right? And Microsoft has the money necessary to make little i4i simply go away. Microsoft not being able to sell Word won't help i4i really cash in.
  2. Rework the code. Microsoft should be able to develop and distribute a patch that will render the patched copies of Word non-infringing.
  3. Appeal, win, and make the whole thing go away. Or just delayed long enough to make #2 easy to accomplish.

As software goes, Microsoft Word has to be considered "too big to fail" because of the tremendous damage the ban would do to innocent customers. That is incentive for all involved to settle the case, one way, or the other. Microsoft coders and attorneys are doubtless at this moment racing to see who can "make this thing go away" most quickly.

As an aside, a politically connected friend in Texas, describes the judge on the case as one of the few actually competent to hear it.

"Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court for East Texas was appointed by (George W. Bush) because of his far, far right-wing views," she wrote. "But, interestingly enough, he’s also the only sitting federal judge who has a master’s degree in computer science and who worked as a programmer before attending law school and becoming a civil (patent & IP) attorney."

At one level, Judge Davis is totally competent, but at another his experience may actually make it more likely that he would rule far enough outside the mainstream that Microsoft could win on appeal.

So, in evaluating this ruling, it may be useful to consider who's actually wrong, Microsoft or the judge?

Regardless, much can and almost certainly will happen now and the time the ban would be imposed in mid-October. Including, I bet, a "special patch" from Microsoft that will, from the user perspective, make this issue moot.

David Coursey, who grew up around Texas judges, wrote this piece in iWork Pages '09 so as to be non-infringing. He tweets at @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web page.

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