Monday, 17 August 2009

Microsoft Word, XML & patents

Last week a court in the claimant-friendly state of Texas ordered Microsoft to stop selling or importing into the USA recent versions of Word (2007 and 2003), because Word versions which can open documents in the .XML, .DOCX, or DOCM format containing "custom XML" allegedly violate a patent granted to a Canadian company called i4i - the best report is by The Register; see also SCL, Ars Technica.

The implications are broad, especially as the planned Office 2010 is to use custom XML too. But Microsoft hasn't stopped selling Word and is appealing against the judgment; worse comes to worse it could just disable the Custom XML feature, if it doesn't settle. Ironically, Microsoft was recently granted an XML-related patent itself.

For those who don't know it, the XML standard is an increasingly popular way to exchange and transfer data in electronic documents, especially over the internet.

I don't think anyone should be allowed to own patents related to XML, which is now a very important technology; it would inhibit the free use of XML and the free exchange of information. That of course is a personal view on the policy; the legal situation is, as we know, different.

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