HP And Dell Join Microsoft In XML Battle


Microsoft found itself joined by two new allies, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, in its Texas court battle against a small Canadian company, i4i, which says Redmond violated its XML-related patent

Microsoft has two new legal allies, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, who both intend to file amicus briefs in a patent-infringement case that could see copies of Word pulled from store shelves within weeks.

The briefs to be filed by Dell and Hewlett-Packard will support Microsoft’s appeal brief, filed on 25 Aug, asking a Texas court to reverse its verdict that Microsoft violated a custom XML patent held by i4i, a small Canadian company. That verdict stipulated that Microsoft Word, which allegedly utilises the technology behind the patent, would need to be yanked from stores within 60 days.

On top of that, the court also ordered Microsoft to pay nearly $300 million (£184m) in fines.

As distributors of Microsoft software, Dell and Hewlett-Packard both face the prospect of massive financial damage if the verdict in the case is allowed to stand. Even if Microsoft altered Word to sidestep the patent, both companies would need to expend a good deal of cash and time in order to reintegrate the productivity platform into their devices.

Meanwhile, i4i had its own reaction to Microsoft’s appeal, which is set to be heard in Federal Court on 23 Sept. An eWEEK breakdown of the patent itself can be found here.

In a 26 Aug statement, i4i Chairman Loudon Owen said that Microsoft’s newest brief “captures the hostile attitude of Microsoft toward inventors who dare to enforce patents against them.”

“It is also blatantly derogatory about the court system,” Owen added. “We do not have the gargantuan financial resources of Microsoft, but i4i has the protection of fairness under the U.S. justice system. Microsoft is not above the law.”

Microsoft’s 101-page brief suggested that the presiding judge had failed as a “gatekeeper” and that the court had erred “in its interpretation and application of the law.” The appeal suggests that i4i failed to collaborate the creation date of the technology behind the patent, which was filed in 1994, and that the court had accepted “manipulated” surveys of infringing-patent use.

“This is not justice,” Microsoft’s counsel wrote in the preliminary statement for the brief. Justice or not, Microsoft also has relatively few options on the table for avoiding the verdict’s repercussions; a technological workaround for Word may not be feasible given the time constraints, and i4i’s executives indicated in an interview with eWEEK that they may choose to pursue the case rather than settle out of court.

“Where we come from, if someone tries to take something that belongs to you, you stand up to them; you don’t just reach for the calculator,” Owen told eWEEK on 14 Aug.