Microsoft began notifying on Monday its corporate customers worldwide,informing them they are required to patch new corporate installations of Office Professional 2003 and Access 2003 to install Service Pack 2 as a result of a recent legal setback.
Corporate customers with new installations of Office XP Professional and Access 2002 are required to install a special patch, Microsoft said.
The software maker said Monday that it has been forced to issue new versions of Office 2003 and Office XP, which change the way Microsoft's Access database interacts with its Excel spreadsheet.
The move follows last year's verdict by a jury in California, which ordered Microsoft to pay $8.9 million in damages for infringing the 1994 patent of a Guatemalan inventor.
Although existing customers can keep using older versions on current machines, any new installations of Office 2003 will require Service Pack 2, released by Microsoft in September. Office XP will need to be put into use with a special patch applied.
Microsoft is also recommending that customers update their existing software with the new code. The software maker is readying an all-new version of Office, code-named Office 12, that is due out later this year.
Microsoft would not say how many customers are affected, but said it is likely only a "small fraction" of Office users. However, the company appears to be requiring all companies to use the new version from now on, so most large organizations could be affected by the move.
All those affected will have been informed by next month, Microsoft said and the necessary downloads are available from its Web site.
The patch for Office 2003 is available at:
The patch for Office XP Professional and Access 2022 is at: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7497D7F0-BEF5-4054-B854-B1240B5135F5&displaylang=en