Storing text docs in XML may run afoul of Microsoft patent

7 08 2009

In the middle part of this decade, Microsoft engaged in an extensive effort to create open standards derived from its own XML-based file formats, such as XPS and Office XML. This work was widely interpreted as an effort to forestall adoption of competing formats, such as the Open Document Format, and concerns were raised about whether the Office XML format was severely encumbered by the company’s patents. Despite these fears, Microsoft ultimately saw its efforts succeed. A recently granted patent, however, reveals that the entire effort took place while Microsoft had a patent pending that covers nearly any use of XML for storing word processing documents.

The patent was filed back in late 2004 and was apparently approved only this month. It’s entitled “Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML,” but it appears to cover the use of an entire class of XML documents by any word processing program.

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