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Commonalities Between i4i and Microsoft

Posted in Courtroom, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents at 6:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Microsoft’s court loss as the result of “an eye for an eye” after lusting over software patents and abuse of partners

XML (or SGML) has made many headlines recently not because it’s a simple-yet-useful paradigm (or piece of knowledge) but because applied XML is encumbered by software patents. IBM’s Weir has just published some clarifications, stating that:

In the past few days we have had a bumper crop of pontification on the significance of two XML-related patents, one nelwy issued to Microsoft (7,571,169), and another older one (5,787,449) owned by i4i, whose infringement has resulted in a large judgment and injunction against Microsoft. I’ve found the web coverage of both patents to be an unmitigated muddle.

The patent of i4i is being severely criticised here:

I think the source of the problem in the patent system may be linked to a point Friedrich Hayek made long ago about our tendency to overrate the economic importance of theoretical knowledge and vastly underestimate the importance of tacit or practical knowledge. The non-obviousness requirement, tied to the standard of an observer skilled in the appropriate art, is supposed to make the patent system sensitive to this kind of knowledge. But if examiners have to defend their judgments of obviousness, they’re essentially being required to translate their tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge—to turn an inarticulate knack into a formal set of rules or steps. And Hayek’s point was that this is often going to be difficult, if not impossible. Just as a loose analogy, consider that in the Principia Mathematica, Bertrand Russell and A.N. Whitehead’s attempt to provide a rigorous, formalized basis for ordinary arithmetic, it takes several hundred pages to strictly establish the proposition “1+1=2.” It takes a fairly advanced mathematical education to understand the explicit elaboration of a practice (counting, adding) that we expect most children to master.

For background about the i4i trial, also see:

  1. Microsoft Engaged in Misconduct in i4i Trial
  2. The Microsoft Crowd Uses the Word Verdict to Throw FUD at ODF, More Spin Comes from Denmark
  3. The Patent Trolls and McKool Smith Show Why OOXML and Software Patents Should be Shunned
  4. Microsoft and Friends Want to Add More Bugs to OOXML
  5. Microsoft Will Not Comply with Software Patents But Will Eventually Comply with the GPL
  6. Microsoft Accused of “Willful and Deliberate” infringement and “Discovery Misconduct” in Another Patent Case
  7. XML Patents, Microsoft Aggression, and ODF Hostility
  8. Microsoft is Again Paying the Huge Price for Wanting Anti-Free Software Laws
  9. Reader Explains “Microsoft Innovation”

The following news channel is obviously taking Microsoft’s side.

Microsoft is no better than i4i by the way, as Microsoft too is collecting ridiculous patents on XML. Microsoft’s very latest XML patent we wrote about in:

Glyn Moody wrote about this patent as well.

As you can see, this is essentially a patent on those core ideas of XML+XSL that impressed me all those years ago – indeed, on the even older ones of SGML+DSSSL. How the US PTO could possibly grant it for something whose core idea has been around for years is just beyond comprehension, and indicates the parlous state of the US patent system.

But what makes this case even more perturbing is that the patent has been granted to Microsoft. Which means that it has another pseudo-patent in its armoury that allows it to indulge in the usual FUD of free software “infringing” on its intellectual monopolies.


Unfortunately, the EU alone won’t be able to sort things out here, because it seems that Microsoft is not the only company making absurd claims about owning intellectual monopolies on fundamental and obvious document technology.

Microsoft has some more XML patents that we wrote about in:

The office suite monopoly is not a victim in the i4i case. It is just tasting some of its own poison, so it would be hypocritical to complain about it. This was an eye for an eye action (i4i), which does not really affect ODF. Either way, this probably won't bother IBM.

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