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Microsoft has a lot in common with the right wing of the Republican Party. First, their opponents are always wrong. Second, whenever there is an issue before the public, you will find their viewpoint everywhere, frequently in the form of letters to the editor or comments from sources not identified as Microsoft employees. But do not be fooled. Microsoft is not always right, and those comments are no more non-partisan than the guys with the guns at the health care town halls.

I've seen a couple of comments today on the current court case that made my Spidey sense tingle. One, a comment published by Rick Jelliffe in, says,

Reading the judgment, it seems that the judge took at every step the most ludicrous maximalist line. A metacode could be almost anything, a data structure could be almost anything, the content could be almost anything, there was no need to look at source code.

This seems a bit extreme to me. The judge's opinion is termed "ludicrous", a high-fallutin word for laughable, and maximalist, which the dictionary says is a synonym for "bolshevik", or extremist. Jelliffe goes on to say,

I was creating SGML systems from 1989, and the i4i patent is just as obvious then as it is now.

Of course, since the patent was obvious in 1989, why bother to try the case at all?

This being the Internet Era, I looked up Richard Jelliffe in Wikipedia and was not, I say, not shocked to discover this line:

Some considered Jelliffe too close to Microsoft to be impartial.

(The understatement is entirely Wikipedia's).

I found another comment in Facebook, from Sebastian Jawahrani:

No one owns XML it's freaking public standard. This whole lawsuit was ridicalous. Their only purpose was to get some publicity out of it.

While I do not suspect Jawahrani of working for Microsoft, I do suspect him of fuzzy thinking. In Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Online, Kurt Mackie quoted Loudon Owen, Chairman of i4i as saying,

XML is clearly in the public domain. What we have developed at i4i is what's customarily referred to as 'customer-centric' or 'custom XML,' which is allowing people to create customer-driven schema -- we'll call it templates or forms. So, while XML is used to tag and to mark the data that's created, our technology is used to create the whole schema and the management of the data.

The strategy of Microsoft's lawyers is clearly to claim that i4i's invention is just XML and therefore their patent is invalid. It's like saying that the wheel is in the public domain, so any device that uses a wheel can't be patented. Except of course if Microsoft holds the patent. Macke continues,

Ironically, earlier this month, Microsoft was granted a U.S. patent on a technology that's also concerned preserving document formats using XML.

The word ironically implies that Microsoft's patent is a coincidence. That seems unlikely. Rather, it is possible that Microsoft needs to defeat the i4i patent in order to profit from its own, similar patent. Microsoft will deny any wrongdoing, of course, but this looks like yet another case of Microsoft using its legal staff instead of its engineering department to obtain new inventions.

Originally posted to Allan Masri on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 12:26 PM PDT.

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