Court Blocks Microsoft Word Sales in U.S.

Microsoft received a surprise blow on Tuesday when a U.S. District Court Judge ordered the company to stop selling Microsoft Word in the United States. The order came as part of a ruling in a patent infringement case launched by i4i.

According to i4i's suit, the company owns a patent that saves users from having to embed command codes in their documents to control text formatting, and Microsoft's XML formatting feature infringes on that. The patent in question, number 5,787,499, describes a system that removes the need for individual, manually embedded command codes to control text formatting in electronic documents.

The Judge's order blocks Microsoft from selling or importing into the United States any version of Word that can open documents containing custom XML which includes .XML, .DOCX and .DOCM files. While the injunction blocks the sale of Word in its current state, it doesn't prevent Microsoft from selling versions of the application that open XML documents as plain text.

The court ordered Microsoft to pay over US$290 million in damages. Microsoft has 60 days to comply with the court order, and the company plans to appeal the ruling. Microsoft has not yet publicly responded to the ruling.