i4i/Microsoft Patent Dispute Deeper Than I Thought

Today’s news that an injunction has been issued against Microsoft for selling Microsoft Office Word in the States caused me to put on my sleuthing cap and take a closer look at the action.

First, due to my disdain of patent trolls, I always check to see if the plaintiff in these types of cases is a patent holding company. That’s definitely not the case with i4i, the company with the suit against Microsoft. Looks to me like a reputable document management company, and I’m sure they are or have been employing the methodology they’ve patented. I found the press release announcing their previous court award of $200M. Presumably Microsoft is still fighting the payout, in which case the injunction is probably further leverage. Sounds pretty normal so far.

But then I discovered news from just a few days ago that Microsoft had been awarded its own patent for storing word-processing documents in XML format. Per Ars Technica:

The patent was filed back in late 2004 and was apparently approved only this month. It’s entitled “Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML,” but it appears to cover the use of an entire class of XML documents by any word processing program.

Now that’s interesting. Using an injunction to fight for an award is fairly mundane, but the injunction coming hot on the heels of Microsoft being awarded a patent to use XML documents in any word processing program gets my attention. So, is the injunction just leverage to get the award, or was it spurred by this wide-reaching patent that could break the initial claim and possibly immunize Microsoft against any other lawsuits? Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing if or how Microsoft will exercise their newly awarded patent to get out of this.