The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has ruled in favor of Microsoft -- for now. The court granted a stay against a landmark injunction by Toronto, Canada-based i4i, which told the court Microsoft infringed on its patents by using custom extensible markup language (XML) in both Word 2003 and Word 2007.
The ruling comes after the software giant filed an emergency motion on Aug. 19 asking the court to stay a ruling by Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, who ruled that Microsoft infringed on i4i's patent. Davis fined Microsoft $280 million and granted an injunction that would have stopped Microsoft from selling Word 2003 and Word 2007 in their current form after Oct. 10.
Microsoft's motion said taking Word off store shelves and away from partners and customers would cause irreparable harm. The appeals-court ruling will allow Word sales to continue while the case is appealed.
"We are happy with the result and look forward to presenting our arguments on the main issues on Sept. 23," said Kevin Kutz, a Microsoft spokesperson.
i4i Chairman Loudon Owen said his company will file its responding brief with the court on Sept. 8.
Microsoft has said it might have to stop distributing both Word and Office in the U.S. until it could redesign both products, but Owen wasn't buying it.
"Microsoft's scare tactics about the consequences of the injunction cannot shield it from the imminent review of the case by the federal circuit court of appeals on the Sept. 23 appeal," Owen said. "i4i is confident that the final judgment in favor of i4i, which included a finding of willful patent infringement by Microsoft and an injunction against Microsoft Word, was the correct decision and that i4i will prevail on the appeal."
"To paraphrase the great heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, 'They can run, but they can't hide,'" Owen added. "Microsoft's time will eventually run out."
Appeal, Then What?
From the onset of the case, Owen has said i4i is not trying to get Word taken away from consumers. Instead, he has said he wants Microsoft to tweak the technology so it no longer infringes on i4i's patent.
The question on many minds is whether this will be a long, drawn-out court battle.
Observers have suggested an outcome in which the deep-pocketed Microsoft buys i4i or settles out of court, giving i4i a large sum of money. Another suggested possibility is that the court could decide that taking Word away from businesses and consumers would be too risky and rule in favor of Microsoft.