Last year i4i won an injunction preventing Microsoft from selling Word 2007 because of patent infringement. Microsoft, of course, appealed against this injunction – and, as described last night in the Guardian’s Technology blog, the court’s decision is:
“a panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a revised opinion in i4i v. Microsoft which affirms the August 11, 2009 Final Judgment by The Honorable Judge Leonard Davis that ruled in favor of i4i and found that Microsoft had wilfully infringed i4i’s U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449“
Good news at seeing a court decision going against the evil empire? I think not. We have now seem a company winning an award based on their ownership of a software patent. So if you feel that software patents stifle innovation you should be regretting this decision. And how will Microsoft react? I suspect they will regret not having submitted a patent covering their use of XML in the MS Office application suite to prevent such decisions – i.e. use of a defensive patent, described in Wikipedia as “the purchasing of patents or patent rights in order to keep such patents out of the hands of entities that would assert them against operating companies“.
And as i4i have been successful in their claim against Microsoft, might they now make claims against other organisations? Such concerns were highlighted last year in an article published in eweek.com entitled “Microsoft Patent Lawsuit Could Spell Trouble for Open-Source Format“. A successful software patent claim is based news for open development, as far as I am concerned, even if Microsoft are the victims. What are your thoughts?