Microsoft Loses Lawsuit, But Word Likely to Stay

First, the good news: No, you won't have to turn in your copies of Office 2007, even now that Microsoft has lost its appeal of a lawsuit brought by the Canadian company, i4i. The lawsuit, a patent battle over a feature few business users ever see, will cost Microsoft $290 million to settle.

Second, more good news: There is little to no chance Microsoft will be forced to stop selling Word 2007 and Office 2007 on Jan. 11, another potential outcome of the suit. Microsoft says it has been working on a fix that avoids the patent and will roll-out non-infringing versions of both Office and Word before the court's deadline.

The forthcoming Office 2010 and Word 2010 do not use the technology that was the subject of the dispute.

The solution could be simply removing the infringing code, which involves using customer XML data in Word documents. Microsoft might develop a non-infringing way to implement the feature. Or maybe it will buy i4i and its intellectual property, solving the patent problem that way.

However, even if Microsoft did nothing, courts are unlikely to stop sales of such an important product, according to my colleague, Tony Bradley.

The 2007 lawsuit, challenged Microsoft's use of XML technology covered by a patent awarded to iXi. Microsoft lost in federal district court in East Texas, and lost again before a three-judge appeals panel.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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