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Microsoft Banned from Selling Word in the U.S.

In potentially troubling news for channel partners and operators offering smartphones as business productivity tools, Microsoft Corp. has been banned from selling or supporting some versions or Microsoft Word in the United States.

The news comes just as Microsoft and Nokia announced plans to make the Office suite and collaboration offerings available on Nokia handsets.

Judge Leonard Davis, of U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas, said Microsoft “unlawfully infringed” on a patent for “manipulating a document’s content and architecture separately.” He ordered the ban on Word 2003 and Word 2007, which takes effect in 60 days.

Dealers and enterprise sales divisions within operators have built a lucrative business offering high-end mobile phones that sync with Office applications, wrapping them in with support contracts and managed services. Many businesses are still running on those earlier versions of Microsoft Office, so a ban on Microsoft lending support for earlier versions of Word, might make those support contracts trickier for salespeople to fulfill.

On the other hand, a ban would also have the effect of forcing businesses to upgrade – a windfall for Microsoft partners, and wireless operators and their partners. Office took in more than $3 billion in worldwide sales for the most recent fiscal year, and that’s with many businesses choosing not to upgrade yet, thanks to the recession.

That could explain why Microsoft shares were up in Wednesday early afternoon trading. Additionally, a higher court could of course turn over the ruling.

A company called i4i brought the suit, which has been ongoing since 2007. As part of the ruling, Microsoft will also have to pay $240 million in damages, plus interest and court fees.


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