In an extraordinary move, a court has banned Microsoft from selling Word due to the computer program violating a patent.

The patent in question is owned by a Canadian company, called i4i Inc, and is to do with the way the software allows you to edit XML, a feature of the rich text documents used in the latest version of Word.

This is all part of a on-going court battle which has been going on all year, and even though the company avoided a ban this October, it looks likely that Word will be taken off the shelves in January unless they tweak the problem.

Wheels in motion

A judge in Texas decided to make the call that, unless changes are made, Microsoft Word would have to be pulled from the shelves in January and the company is to pay a fine of $290 million to i4i Inc for patent violation.

Obviously, Microsoft is looking quickly to rectify the problem, with a spokesperson saying it has "put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature". This means that new versions of Word 2007 and Office 2007 without the piece of code owned by i4i Inc will be sold after the January cut-off date.

Microsoft has also been quick to point out that its upcoming Office 2010 software does not contain the code. And probably a good job too.

Microsoft has hinted it will look to appeal the decision but for the moment it has a lot of behind-the-scenes maintenance to do to make sure that Word stays on the shelves.

Steve Ballmer's speech at CES 2010 may have just got a little bit more interesting.