Microsoft has started telling companies to begin using different versions of its Office collaboration software, having lost a patent dispute last year.
Microsoft has been forced to issue new versions of Office 2003 and Office XP, which both change the way the application suite’s Access database interacts with the Excel spreadsheet program.
Guatemalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado won a patent battle in a US court last year, after claiming he had written the code which allowed Access to easily interact with Excel.
Microsoft was ordered to pay him $8.9m in damages for infringing his 1994 patent, and companies using Office now have to upgrade to a new version of the software to avoid infringing Amado’s patent.
Microsoft indemnifies customers when using its products, but only if they use the latest versions available from Microsoft under their licence.
Microsoft said in an e-mail to customers: “It was recently decided in a court of law that certain portions of code found in Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, Microsoft Office Access 2003, Microsoft Office XP Professional and Microsoft Access 2002 infringe a third-party patent.
“As a result, Microsoft must make available a revised version of these products with the allegedly infringing code replaced.”
Existing customers can carry on using older versions of the software on current machines, but new installations of Office 2003 will now need Service Pack 2, which was released last autumn, and Office XP will need to be patched.
The necessary downloads are currently available from the Microsoft website.
Microsoft is readying the launch of the next version of Office – codenamed Office 12.