Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Patent Woes: Speechless about the Word judgment

This is one of the times when you rub your eyes in disbelief, speechlessly gape at the screen and read the same e-mail over and over again. Pranesh Prakash of the Center for Internet and Society forwarded an article titled, "Judge: Microsoft can't sell Word anymore." The article says,

Judge Leonard Davis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, ordered a permanent injunction that "prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML," according to an announcement by the plaintiff, Toronto-based i4i Inc.
Judge Davis ordered Microsoft to pay $290 million in damages. The abstract of the i4i patent reads,
A system and method for the separate manipulation of the architecture
and content of a document, particularly for data representation and
transformations. The system, for use by computer software developers,
removes dependency on document encoding technology. A map of metacodes found in the document is produced and provided and stored separately from the document. The map indicates the location and addresses of metacodes in the document. The system allows of multiple views of the same content, the ability to work solely on structure and solely on content, storage efficiency of multiple versions and efficiency of
While I am not a big fan of Microsoft, even I have to admit that this is crazy. But wait a minute! Didn't Microsoft get a patent last week for "Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML."

The abstract of the Microsoft patent reads,
A word processor including a native XML file format is provided. The well formed XML file fully represents the word-processor document, and fully supports 100% of word-processor's rich formatting. There are no feature losses when saving the word-processor documents as XML. A published XSD file defines all the rules behind the word-processor's XML file format. Hints may be provided within the XML associated files providing applications that understand XML a shortcut to understanding some of the features provided by the word-processor. The word-processing document is stored in a single XML file. Additionally, manipulation of word-processing documents may be done on computing devices that do not include the word-processor itself.
So, is someone playing tit-for-tat or an-eye-for-an-eye? Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In the weird, wonderful world of digital technology where greedy corporations can convert standards (that should rightfully belong in the commons) into private property, anything can happen.