Owen said Microsoft will be treated with the same respect as any other should it approach i4i regarding licensing the patent. “We’ve always pointed out that Microsoft certainly knows our phone number, and knows how to contact us and we’re always happy to talk to any prospective partner,” said Owen.
As for what Microsoft might do about today’s court decision, Owen said the situation is unpredictable. “The one thing we know Microsoft can do is they can seek to have the case, or part of the case heard, at the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said. “So we fully expect they’ll try that and that’s outside our control.”
In a statement, Microsoft said: “While we are moving quickly to address the injunction issue, we are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Kevin Kurtz, director of public affairs.
The original verdict ordered Microsoft to comply by Oct. 10.
A Texas jury first ruled on the patent infringement case in May after an eight-day trial, awarding i4i US$2090 million. The company originally filed the suit in March 2007, claiming Word 2003, Word 2007, .Net Framework and Vista infringed on a 1998 patent on technology allowing regular word processors to function as XML editors.
In August, a Texas court gave Microsoft 60 days to stop selling custom-XML-capable versions of Word, and tacked on another $90 million in penalties and interest. That injunction was stayed in September, after PC makers Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. went to bat for Microsoft in court, claiming their products would have to undergo expensive and time consuming retesting to ensure they worked with a custom-XML-free Word.
Few technology-watchers believed i4i’s case would stand up in the long run.
"I've read the patent and diagrams presented by i4i and they appear to be very broad and vague," said Tim Hickernell, lead analyst with Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., in August. i4i's patent "could be applied to any content application from almost any software vendor," according to the 25-year document content expert.
Microsoft also has its own patent, granted earlier this year, that more directly describes the relationship between the Word format and XML, according to IDG News Service contributor Tony Bradley.
Patent attorney Barry Negrin said a simple technology workaround would allow Microsoft to sidestep the injunction. Rosoff agreed. “I don't think it's a horribly complicated or expensive process to remove the offending feature from Word, but it's not cost-free either,” Rosoff wrote. “Microsoft has probably had some employees assigned to this since the original ruling in August.”
Microsoft has already removed the feature in the 2010 version, now in beta.
In October, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed the i4i situation in an interview with IT World Canada editor-in-chief Shane Schick.
“I think we’ve handled the situation well,” Ballmer said. “We didn’t initiate the situation. We have two valid disputes: One, is it an invalid patent, and No. 2, did we infringe it? They’re valid disputes and they’re playing out the way they’re supposed to through the legal system. We didn’t initiate the dispute, i4i did. That’s they’re prerogative. We don’t begrudge them that, we just don’t agree with it.”