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Judge orders Microsoft to stop selling Word

A judge has ruled that Microsoft cannot sell its flagship document processing application, Word, to customers, in a ruling stemming from a U.S. patent infringement lawsuit.

The decision rests on the program's ability to open .XML, .DOCX or .DOCM files, based on custom XML included in the filetypes. In the ruling, Judge Leonard Davis in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas — where patent suits are often filed for favorable rulings — sided with the plaintiff, i4i Inc., of Toronto, Ontario.

i4i has alleged that Microsoft violated a patent the company owns regarding the reading of XML files. Judge Davis's ruling, issued Tuesday, takes effect 60 days after the signing. Microsoft plans to appeal the decision.

The ruling applies to all versions of Word that can read XML. That includes Word 2003, Word 2007, and any future releases Microsoft may create that fall into the same category.

The ruling made no mention of Office 2008 for Mac or Word 2008 for Mac. Office 2010 for Windows is planned for release in the first half of next year.

"In accordance with the Court's contemporaneously issued memorandum opinion and order in this case," the ruling reads, "Microsoft Corporation is hereby permanently enjoined from the following actions with Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, and Microsoft Word products not more than colorably different from Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Word 2007 (collectively "Infringing and Future Word Products") during the term of U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449."

Earlier this year, i4i was awarded $200 million in damages in the same case by a jury. Microsoft has also appealed that decision.

On a separate — but perhaps related — note, Mac BU, Microsoft's Mac software development house responsible for Office for Mac (which includes Word), had previously scheduled a conference call with members of the press for Thursday afternoon. Prior to scheduling the event, Mac BU did not reveal what the announcement would be.