Microsoft Pulls Copies of Word Following Injunction

Wednesday Jan 13th 2010 by Stuart J. Johnston
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i4i injunction kicked in on Monday, so where were Office and Word Updates?

Despite assurances last week that it would be ready on time, Microsoft missed Monday's deadline for replacing copies of Office and Word that contain a feature that a federal appeals court ruled last month infringes tiny i4i's patent.

Instead, the software giant ended up pulling offending versions of the products when the injunction kicked in.

The patent in question involves i4i's "custom XML" (eXtended Markup Language) editing technology, which the court ruled Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) illegally copied.

i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, claiming that the larger firm had talked with the small Canadian firm and then went ahead and created its own competitor which it included in various versions of Word and Office. Microsoft lost the case last spring and, in August, the lower court judge awarded i4i penalties and interest of around $290 million, along with an injunction to stop using the technology.

When a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled against Microsoft in late December, it also reissued the injunction-set to take effect on Jan. 11-that barred Microsoft from selling any copies of Office or Word that contain the offending feature.

Microsoft appealed to the appellate court a second time on Friday when it requested that the original three-judge panel reconsider its case and also asked that the entire court consider the case as well -- "en banc."

In the meantime, however, company officials had also said they would be ready to fulfill the requirements of the injunction by Monday. That didn't happen, even though Microsoft had started providing modified versions of Office that did not contain the infringing code to PC OEMs that sell Office preloaded on their PCs as early as October.

The injunction does not affect copies of Office or Word containing the offending code that were sold prior to Monday's injunction date.

However, the offending feature turns out to be present in several versions of Office and Word. Besides Office 2007 and Word 2007, the feature is also present in Office 2003 and Word 2003-which are no longer sold per se but are available to corporate customers via so-called "downgrade" rights.

Microsoft released a patch for Office 2003 and Word 2003 over the weekend.

Additionally, several editions of Office 2007, as well as at least one edition of Office 2008 for Mac, have been pulled from Microsoft's online store are now listed as "not available."

However, some SKUs (stock keeping units), including Office Home and Student 2007 and Office Professional 2007, are still available from Microsoft's store, as noted by several blog sites.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that Office 2010, which is already out to some 2 million beta testers currently and due to ship in June, does not contain any of the offending code.

"We've modified Microsoft Word and are in the process of introducing the new software into our distribution channels. The process won't take long and, in the meantime, customers outside the U.S. still have all of their online purchase options available," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft director of public affairs, said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.

"In the U.S., Office 2007 the Home & Student suite, Office Professional and Office Ultimate are already available for online purchase and download, and the other suites are available in retail outlets," the statement continued.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of the internet.com network.

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