Microsoft has filed an “emergency motion” to stay a judge’s ruling that threatens to prevent the company from selling its widely used word processing application. The issue boils down to a custom XML function in Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 that allegedly infringes on a patent held by Canadian firm i4i. Although Redmond claims it is expending enormous human and financial capital to come up with modified versions, failing to do so within the court’s 60-day deadline could potentially keep Word and even Office off the shelves for months.

In its motion, Microsoft asked an appeals court to halt that injunction and also to speedily hear the company's appeal once it is filed. The software giant argues that the patents in question are invalid and furthermore claims the injunction could cause "irreparable harm" to the software giant's business and to its partners.

The stakes are high and alternative productivity suites such as OpenOffice.org or even Google Docs certainly would love to capitalize on this. There are a few possible outcomes, though, and somehow I doubt Office ceasing to be available is one of them. Microsoft could still buy some time with the appeal to work on non-infringing versions of Word or perhaps reach an out-of-court settlement with i4i.