Court rejects Microsoft appeal, bans Word sales

A federal appeals court today ordered Microsoft to stop selling its popular Word software in less than three weeks.

A federal appeals court today ordered Microsoft to stop selling its popular Word software in less than three weeks, rejecting the company's appeal and confirming the ruling of a lower court.

Microsoft will comply with the injunction, a company spokesman said today. "We are moving quickly to comply with the injunction, which takes effect on January 11, 2010," said Kevin Kutz, the director of public affairs for Microsoft, in an e-mail.

The decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit follows a late-September hearing before a panel of three judges, during which Microsoft argued that a jury verdict earlier this year should be overturned or a retrial should be ordered. It also asked that an injunction ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis be struck.

The case has attracted interest primarily because of that injunction, which originally was to bar Microsoft from selling Word as of Oct. 10, 2009. That injunction, however, was suspended after Microsoft threatened that sales chaos would result , and several major computer makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell, stepped forward to say the same.

According to Microsoft, it would take five months to modify Word, and the company wouldn't be able to sell Word 2007, and the Office 2007 suite that includes the word processor, during that time.

The appeals court agreed with Microsoft on the five-month delay. "We conclude that the district court erred by ordering Microsoft to comply with the injunction within sixty days," the Court of Appeals' order read. Instead, said the judges, the only evidence entered into the record was Microsoft's five-month timetable, which the Jan. 11, 2010, deadline allows.

Canadian developer i4i first sued Microsoft in 2007, accusing the U.S. company of illegally using its XML editing technology in the popular Word software line. In May, a Texas jury said Microsoft violated i4i's patent, and ordered it to pay i4i nearly $300 million in damages. The judge issued his injunction on Aug. 11.

Today, Microsoft said it had been planning on this contingency. "With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products," Kutz said. "Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date."

Microsoft is not obligated to modify already-purchased copies of Word via a software update, but only to strip the i4i technology from the programs it sells as of Jan. 11, 2010. Currently, the only versions that Microsoft sells to distributors are Word 2007 and Office 2007.

The upcoming Word 2010 and Office 2010 -- which were released as previews a month ago -- do not require any changes, Kutz added. "The beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction," he said.

Microsoft is considering additional legal moves, said Kutz, including requesting a rehearing by the Court of Appeals, or asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Court of Appeals today also reaffirmed the jury verdict in the case, and said that Microsoft was obligated to pay i4i nearly $300 million in damages and interest.

Representatives from i4i did not reply to a request for comment on today's appeals court ruling.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftofficeWord

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?