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MS loses as Toronto firm wins claim over Word patent

Ruling against Microsoft, the US Patent and Trademark Office confirmed a patent held by Toronto-based i4i Inc. The tiny Canadian company had taken the software giant to court in 2007 over violations of its patent in Word applications and won the case and got $290 million in damages last December.

business Updated: May 12, 2010 09:59 IST

Ruling against Microsoft, the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday confirmed a patent held by Toronto-based i4i Inc. The tiny Canadian company had taken the software giant to court in 2007 over violations of its patent in Word applications and won the case and got $290 million in damages last December.

The US court of appeals had upheld a lower court order banning Microsoft from selling its patent-infringing Word processing software from January 11. The patent pertains to the use of technology that can open documents using the XML computer programming language.

The Canadian software company had said Microsoft stole this technology when it created Word 2003 and Word 2007 software.

Microsoft had filed a review petition in the US federal court of appeals against the December ruling as well as fines, but it was rejected last month.

In a fresh development in the case Tuesday, I4i said the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has finally upheld its claims of the patent ('449) stolen by Microsoft.

In a statement here, Loudon Owen, Chairman of i4i, said, "This is a very material step in our litigation against Microsoft. Put simply, i4i's patent is clearly and unequivocally valid. Even though Microsoft attacked i4i's patent claims with its full arsenal, the Patent Office agreed with i4i and confirmed the validity of our '449 patent."

Owen said, "The protection of patents and intellectual property is vital to small inventors and pioneers, like i4i, especially when confronted by giant industry competitors like Microsoft.

"i4i's '449 patented invention infuses life into the use of Extensible Mark Up Language (XML) and dramatically enhances the ability to structure what was previously unstructured data. As the magnitude of data grows exponentially, this is a critical technological bridge to controlling and managing this sprawling octopus of data and converting it into useful information."

Added Michel Vulpe, founder of i4i and co-inventor of the patent,"i4i is naturally very pleased with the decision of the PTO. The '449 patent application was filed in 1994, and this has now been a 16-year journey.

"Our patent claims were put under intense scrutiny by the PTO during its reexamination and this decision is a resounding confirmation and a further validation of the '449 patent."

Reacting to the new development, Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz said, "We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake, and we are considering our options to get them addressed, including a petition to the Supreme Court."

The only option for the software giant now is to take the issue to the US Supreme Court.

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