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More Microsoft Patents

© September 2006 Anthony Lawrence


In July of 2004, Chairman Bill Gates said that "over the next year, Microsoft will file for more than 3,000 patents- up very dramatically -and make us one of the top companies in the world in terms of innovative activities." Microsoft Applies for Language Technology Patent

As Humpty Dumpty said, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." When Bill conflates patents with innovation, he only does so out of necessity: having nothing else to work with, but desiring to be innovative, patents must fill the void.

That some, perhaps many, of these patents strain credulity is a given. That the patent office nevertheless seems to rubber stamp them begs for a round of IQ tests at those offices. As noted before, there is perhaps potential good some years in the future: as companies like Microsoft spare no expense in writing their patents to be as broad as possible, the eventual expiration of these will open up equally broad areas of free rein. It's a long wait, though.

In the meantime, we can look forward to patent holders exercising the rights the patents grant. In the case of Microsoft, that means employing them against Linux and Apple where possible. Apple pretty much has to stand on its own, but Linux can hope for some help from IBM threatening tit for tat ("You call that puny thing a patent? That's not a patent - THIS is a patent!").

I do have to wonder: does (ex?) Chairman Bill really think Microsoft is an innovative company? Yes, yes, I understand the the great unwashed think Microsoft invented everything, but Bill doesn't have the protection of ignorance and innocence. Bill knows what was stolen, borrowed, coerced, bought and copied: heck, he started it all! Does he give great weight to Clippy and Microsoft Bob?

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Sat Sep 9 00:08:55 2006: 2445   dhart

The latest foolishness is "Microsoft patents verb conjugations" ( (link) Really, though they are attempting to patent "Microsoft tries to patent system "for selecting and conjugating a verb"( (link) The problem here is that the patent filing is in english; presumably separate patents apply for other languages.

I'd like to see those scurvy knaves try that for Mandarin Chinese (no verb conjugations at all).

On the other hand, maybe someone can cite prior art. Hmmmm?

Sat Sep 9 14:28:19 2006: 2446   BigDumbDinosaur

Billy-boy's crowing about the 3000 or so patents that Microsoft will file (most of which, I'd dare say, won't be worth the paper on which they have been printed) reminds me of an old story concerning the Roman emperor Hadrian.

One of Hadrian's generals came to him, seeking a promotion. Stating his case, the general cited his many years of service to the emperor.

"My dear emperor," he exclaimed, "I am very experienced. I have been in 10 major battles."

Hadrian, who didn't think the general was qualified for a higher rank, dismissively waved his hand at some donkeys tethered nearby.

"My dear general, do you see those donkeys standing over there? Each has been in at least 20 battles, but all are still donkeys."

Quantity != Quality

Tue Sep 12 05:23:48 2006: 2451   drag

Innovation? Bullshit.

The real motivation is to use Patents as a weapon to exclude compitition. Anybody need proof?

Bill Gates with his 'Challenges and Strategy' memo from 1991
for full text: (link)
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most
of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry
would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large
company will patent some obvious thing related to interface,
object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique.

If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then they
have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want.

From one of the infamious 'holloween' leaked documents from HP.

"HP is we believe, protected by our previous cross license for patents filed by Microsoft up to June of 2001, to ship open source software that violates Microsoft patents that was developed or shipped prior to today. This means that we can freeze on today's open source functionality and we are protected.

The new cross license does not protect us against new Microsoft patents filed after June 2001 against new open source product functionality shipped or created after today. So we have a two year window before HP has exposure on new Microsoft patents against new open source functionality, but we have exposure because of the MAD clause in the GPL if Microsoft attacks another entity with existing patents. See next section.

Open Source Software is described as a license that follows the intent and process of GPL or GPL lite. Additionally several major products are explicitly called out as not protected by the cross license, such as Samba, Wine, KDE, Gnome, Apache, Sendmail, and Linux.

Microsoft's Intentions:

Microsoft could attack Open Source Software for patent infringements against OEMs, Linux distributors, and least likely open source developers. They are specifically upset about Samba, Apache and Sendmail. We believe Samba is first, and they will attempt to prove it isn't covered by prior patent cross as a so called "clone" product carve out in the previous agreement.

OEMs that don't have a cross(like SUN), or OEMs like HP that they force a change in their cross license to exclude open source software are probably the first target. Intel, Red Hat, SuSE, UBL, Oracle are probably in the first wave as well.

And further along:

"At this point we have no information on who would defend open source with another patent portfolio. IBM does not appear to have a plan. Dell backed out of a lot of Linux activity and laid off their Linux marketing group, and Intel went radio silent on Linux publicity in March( I guess that they figured this out before, possibly from a new patent cross license activity!!!)."

and again:

"Microsoft intends to sue companies shipping Open Source products that potentially violate their patents. Even though we have short term protection, we need to lower our profile while still shipping products. We need to examine reducing our exposure on pre-loading Linux by off loading it to the channels exclusively."

What fun!


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