Microsoft Slapped With $200 Million Patent Ruling

On Wednesday, a federal court in Texas slapped Microsoft with a $200 million patent infringement ruling for including a Canadian software firm's technology in Microsoft Word.

Toronto-based i4i, a developer of XML-based collaborative content solutions, sued Microsoft in 2007 for customizing the XML in Word 2003 and Word 2007 in a way that violated i4i's patent, charges that Microsoft has denied. According to Bloomberg News, i4i's case centered on Microsoft's method for processing Word files using embedded codes that provide instructions on how information appears.

As it has done in past rulings that haven't gone its way, Microsoft insists it didn't infringe i4i's patent and that the patent is invalid. Microsoft will ask the court to overturn the verdict, Microsoft spokesman David Bowermaster told Bloomberg News.

Last month, a federal court in Rhode Island ordered Microsoft to pay $388 million in damages for infringing on an antipiracy patent owned by Uniloc, a Singapore-based developer of antipiracy software. Uniloc claims Microsoft's Windows Product Activation (WPA) antipiracy mechanism infringes its patent, and Microsoft is appealing that ruling as well.

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In 2004, Z4 Technologies, a Michigan-based patent holding firm, sued Microsoft for using its technology in WPA, and in April 2006 won a $115 million judgment against Microsoft in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas.

Microsoft, of course, is far more accustomed to filing patent infringement lawsuits than it is to defending itself. Microsoft claims that free and/or open-source software violates 235 of its patents, and in February, the company sued in-car GPS device maker TomTom for infringing three of them in TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel.

However, that case has opened a can of worms for Microsoft, as The Open Invention Network, an industry organization that protects Linux by acquiring and licensing open-source patents, has urged the open-source community to review the three Microsoft patents with a goal of rendering them useless for further litigation.