Microsoft Word, part of Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows (the world’s most popular productivity software suite) contains intellectual property belonging to a small Canadian company. Microsoft was said to be forced to pull Word 2007 from the shelves on January 11, 2010, and so the company has been preparing a patch since August of this year that would bring the word processing software into compliance with copyright law.

Microsoft Word 2007 runs only under the Windows operating system, not under Mac OS X (unless you have virtualization software like Parallels, VMware, or VirtualBox installed). Users of all versions of Microsoft Office for Mac will not be affected.

The patch simply removes the copyrighted functionality, which is something very few end users ever actually use. It’s probably safe to say that very few users of the software even knew this functionality existed. Word 2007 will be unable to read custom Extensible Markup Language (XML) elements in .docx, .docm, and .xml files once patched. XML is a lot like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language used to create the layout of a webpage through tags that direct the position of text and graphic elements. In contrast to HTML, XML’s “design focuses on documents, it is widely used for the representation of arbitrary data structures” (wikipedia).

While Microsoft was ordered to pay $290 million to i4i.com, but it’s not clear whether that will actually happen. Microsoft is pushing for further appeals at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and certainly might just wear down the smaller firm with an endless legal battle.

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