A federal court has found Microsoft liable of infringing a patent held by a Canadian technology company, i4i, and has assessed the company about $290 million in fines. More surprisingly, however, was that the court blocked Microsoft's sale of its Word word processor.

Microsoft was found to have infringed U.S. Patent 5,787,449, held by Michel Vulpe, the founder of i4i, which covered the "manipulation of the architecture and content of a document, particularly for data representation and transformations." Judge Leonard Davis, who oversaw the case, however, interpreted it as a patent that Microsoft's Word products infringed upon.

As a result, Judge Davis ruled that Microsoft could not sell Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, and future Microsoft Word products that might infringe on the patent.

Specifically, Judge Davis ruled, the Word products may not "have the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM file ("an XML file") containing custom XML." The court is requiring Microsoft to comply with the injunction within 60 days.

However, there is a loophole: if Word was modified so that it could open the files through a transformation that would eliminate the custom XML, the judge ruled, the injunction would not apply. Likewise, the injunction would not apply if the document were opened as plain text.

Full story: PC Magazine