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Microsoft, Apple Sued Over Software Update Patent 532

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stupid-patent-hurt-the-big-guy-too dept.
mark_wilkins writes "Microsoft and Apple have been sued by Teleshuttle Technologies, LLC, alleging that their online software updating technology infringes a patent on providing online updates to software with a menuing system to permit the user to pick the updates. Apparently the work on which the patent is based supposedly goes back to 1990."
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Microsoft, Apple Sued Over Software Update Patent

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  • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:18PM (#9760443) Homepage Journal
    with a menuing system

    At least we don't have to worry about "apt-get update" :-)

    • Re:Menuing system (Score:2, Insightful)

      by T3kno (51315)
      Or emerge -vu world for us Gentoo freaks out there.
      • Re:Menuing system (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:57PM (#9761642) Homepage Journal
        Those of us who have enough experience with gentoo to learn not to trust portage will probably have to worry. Emerge -up offers a "menu" of what's to be updated...
    • Re:Menuing system (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:26PM (#9760567)
      No, but RedHat's automatic update thing at least is almost certainly in violation...
      • Re:Menuing system (Score:3, Informative)

        by AndyElf (23331)
        And so is RedCarpet, and so can be FireFox theme/extension updating...
      • Re:Menuing system (Score:4, Informative)

        by Phillup (317168) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @03:55PM (#9763014)
        Does it send a list of software installed on your system to RedHat?

        And, then... does the RedHat server send a customized list of software based on the uploaded list back down?

        That is my reading of claim # 1 of the patent.

        And, both MS and Apple update do just this very thing.

        I've not used RedHat since 6.0... but, I am familiar with Mandrake and Debian update systems. And, while IANAL, I don't see them in violation of at least claim # 1.

        These systems send a generic list of available software to any computer requesting the list... and the client determines what to download.

        Never is a list of installed software sent to the "update server".
    • Re:Menuing system (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jb.hl.com (782137) <.joe. .at. .joe-baldwin.net.> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:31PM (#9760635) Homepage Journal
      No, but it could kick the shit out of aptitude, dselect, synaptic et al; maybe even Gentoo's porthole.
    • Re:Menuing system (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smallfries (601545) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:32PM (#9760660) Homepage
      This patent has to be struck down for being overly broad. It patents the entire idea of looking at information already on the local station and then downloading new stuff from a server. Surely USENET is prior art for this even though it wasn't specifically limited to software, and didn't automatically install the software.
      • Re:Menuing system (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:41PM (#9761470)
        This patent has to be struck down for being overly broad.

        Don't worry, it will, on the basis that Microsoft is likely to have more money than TT. There is no firmer legal defense than deep pockets nowadays.

        It patents the entire idea of looking at information already on the local station and then downloading new stuff from a server.

        Well, if you define "server" and "local station" loosely enough, you could use the table of contents in almost any book as prior art. If you don't define them loosely, then most web pages would be prior art, by the virtue of having links that can be used to download more data.

        Better question is, does it matter ? I gave up hope on USPO after realizing that yes, swinging sideways in a swing is really patented in the US.

        Surely USENET is prior art for this even though it wasn't specifically limited to software, and didn't automatically install the software.

        Based on all those messages that claim to be important updates from Microsoft that keep floating around the binary newsgroups, and the fact that Outlook is capable of viewing said newsgroups, I'd say that yes, Usenet can automatically install software...

      • Re:Menuing system (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FirstOne (193462) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @02:42PM (#9762157) Homepage
        "This patent has to be struck down for being overly broad. It patents the entire idea of looking at information already on the local station and then downloading new stuff from a server. Surely USENET is prior art for this even though it wasn't specifically limited to software, and didn't automatically install the software."

        Agreed ... from RFC977 [faqs.org], Brian Kantor (U.C. San Diego), Phil Lapsley (U.C. Berkeley) February 1986

        "NNTP specifies a protocol for the distribution, inquiry, retrieval, and posting of news articles using a reliable stream-based transmission of news among the ARPA-Internet community."

        Note: Usenet was not limited to TCP/IP. Before the internet was deployed we used modems, 800 numbers and uucp to transfer the article streams. The protocol allowed the receiving system to specify which newsgroups to fetch articles and updates from. Each server only fetched what it didn't have. And one shouldn't forget about the NNRP protocol used between server and clients which uses many of the same principles.

        B.T.W. In unix land we used CRON to automatically schedule NNTP/UUCP updates.

        Also from the RFC.."Such news provides for the rapid dissemination of items of interest such as software bug fixes,"

        As for menu based stuff.. Virtually all of the old text clients RN, Tin, NN news readers had curses driven menus (text of course). Xn and large [newsreaders.com] number of other news readers cover the GUI arena. Heck, I've been using the Agent [forteinc.com] since 1995.

        The patent appears to have been filed in Apr 20, 2000.
        Microsoft had their windows 98 update feature deployed long before that date.
        I think that just about covers most of the Method and Apparatus claims.

        As usual, the USPTO has once again demonstrated it's gross incompetence.

  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:18PM (#9760452) Journal
    The link presented is what, a press release by the company doing the suing? That's a nice, unbiased viewpoint, there. I like how the "article" states "This move follows Microsoft's and Apple's delay in entering into licensing agreements with BTG on commercially reasonable terms." In other words, "we're suing them because they told us that we're full of crap and please get lost." I skimmed through the lengthy patent in question, and it's so insanely broad that I cannot imagine that it would survive a court battle with its claims intact. There's not one single mention of how any portion of the "technology" in question would actually do anything. It's just a description of how it would be used. It looks like someone patenting a type of car by claiming, "It has wheels, and it moves forward and backward and can be steered by a person or by some other type of steering control, give me a billion dollars right now, I'm a genius."
    • by einer (459199) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:25PM (#9760559) Journal
      "It has wheels, and it moves forward and backward and can be steered by a person or by some other type of steering control, give me a billion dollars right now, I'm a genius."

      Are you mad? You've just revealed Step 2!
    • There's not one single mention of how any portion of the "technology" in question would actually do anything.

      That's because you don't patent the software technology itself -- you patent the business process for using the software. Yes, this means you can have a patent that covers use of software owned by someone else, and written by them long before your patent, so long as your use is "non-obvious and novel" or some such. The technology itself is irrelevant to the patent, as is the implementation or lack

      • you patent the business process for using the software.

        One of the things you explicitly CANNOT patent is a business process. A business process is not considered a device or invention. To patent something, you must describe a physical device (which software has been redefined to be) that performs a specific, non-obvious task.
      • What happened to that "non-obvious" part?

        Computers need updates. Obvious. There needs to be a way to display these updates. Obvious. This can be done in a moronic way: play an animation of all the products scrolling along on a conveyer belt, or sensibly: in a list. Also. Obvious.
        The computer doesn't need software it already has. Don't display it. Obvious.
        The list has to get from the remote machine to the local one. Obvious.
        The updates also have to be sent. Obvious.

        Claim 4 means an "Are you sure?" Dialog.

        I think I've justified what I'm going to cry in a few moments.
        ...
        ...
        BULLSHIT!

    • There's not one single mention of how any portion of the "technology" in question would actually do anything. It's just a description of how it would be used.

      Pretty much describes 90% of the technology patents out there... And anyway, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Do you think Microsoft (on any other major corp.) would think twice about jumping all over someone for a patent like this that they held? Sure the whole thing stinks and it doesn't make it right just because they are suing T

    • Regards wheels; look at the Steering wheel. Henry Ford had a patent on that little device. the Stanley Brothers who at the time were marketing a car called "the Steamer" were SOL and went out of business.
    • The claims are not what the invention is, but indeed what the "inventor" wants a monopoly on in return for the publication of the description of how his "invention" works. As such, claims are always broader than the invention itself (the reasoning is that otherwise, someone can get around the inventor's patent by just changing one small detail of the invention).

      With non-software patents (i.e., where the invention/innovation lies in a novel way of using physical forces/material), how far exactly you are allowed to abstract is mainly limited by three things:

      1. You can't abstract the claims until only the forces of nature you are harnessing remain, because those are not patentable;
      2. You can't abstract the forces of nature you harness out and remain with some generic algorithm/method that could apply to anything, because then your invention (novel way to use those forces) is no longer part of the claims;
      3. You're of course also limited by prior art (you invent a new car, but other cars already exist -> you can't claim all 4-wheeled vehicles etc) and whatever the patent office deems too general (after all, society grants you a monopoly in return for disclosure of an invention, so those two should -in theory- be proportionate).
      However, if you look at software patents, then
      1. There are no unpatentable basic "forces of information";
      2. Since what you start with is already some abstract method/algorithm, no matter how much you abstract it further, you can always argue that your invention is still embodied in those claims;
      3. This one is the only thing left.
      The net result is indeed that you end up with ridiculously broad claims in pretty much all cases with software patents, even if the innovation itself was not as stupid as in this case. An example is the base patent on MP3 compression [espacenet.com], whose claims cover all iterative music compression schemes in which an entropic encoder (such as Huffman encoding) is used in the loop and whereby the loop stops when you've reached the desired bit rate.
  • by superpulpsicle (533373) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:19PM (#9760453)
    There are too many holes and gaps in the patent system. Everything is so vague you can patent a flying car... just on a plastic model alone with some BS blueprints.

    • ...just on a plastic model alone with some BS blueprints

      Technically, I don't think you even need the model, just the blueprints. You basically have to give a good enough description that someone with a reasonable understanding of the technology could produce a working model.
      • Is this true?

        I remember reading of a patent granted for an "invisibility cloak" that would refract light around you so you couldnt be seen.

        I highly doubt anyone on earth has a reasonable understanding of the "technology" which doesn't exist, and I'm damn sure noone could produce a working model.

        One day in the future perhaps some brilliant technician will actually invent this device, only to be sued into oblivion by the patent holder.

        The systems busted, which is sad, because the original intent of patent
    • you just need to say something like:

      "A vehicle which will transport passengers and cargo trough via a non-proprietary air. It includes steps for providing a distribution service that distributes people and cargo for a plurality of different destinations"

      That's it, I own the flying car. All you bitches pay up.

  • Soooo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FrO (209915) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:20PM (#9760474)
    What the hell are we supposed to do when this company seeks an injunction against Microsoft's Windows Update?

    lots of people will be royally f*cked...
    • (a) Cheer?

      (b) Hope Microsoft wins?

      (c) None of the above?

      Personally, while I don't use Windows, I vote for (b).

      • Re:Soooo (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tim C (15259)
        Definitely vote b). I've not read the patent (well, this *is* /.), but assuming that there's nothing OS-specific in it, this would apply to just about any GUIfied automatic update tool, including those that are increasingly featuring in applications. (Doesn't Eclipse have an option to check for updates at startup?)

        Not only that, but RedHat at least has an equivalent tool to the Windows automatic updates tool, at least as far as I can tell from looking over a coworker's shoulder (I'm a Mandrake guy myself,
    • And by "lots of people" you mean the 10-15% (estimate) of us who probably actually know what it is and use it?
    • Re:Soooo (Score:3, Funny)

      by MP3Chuck (652277)
      Well, when everyone realizes that their Windows box is at a significant risk without updates, they'll switch to Linux, right?

      RIGHT?? ...
  • by cartzworth (709639) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:20PM (#9760477) Journal
    Where would you like to stifle innovation today?
  • ...did they even try to sell the rights to the patent to either or both company, or just take them straight to court?

    Either way, they must believe they have a really strong case to go up against two of the biggest cash reserves in the entire Western hemisphere at the same time.
  • ... in case you are interested [uspto.gov]
    • "The retriever tool uses the search tool and crawls across the Web, like a Web spider, to locate and retrieve desired or suitable content, based on defined criteria, in HTML format."

      Well, it's nice and overbroad, as the above example shows. I'm wondering if it's a valid tactic to make the document so repetitive and boring that someone just rubberstamps it and sends it out.

      Isn't there a defense of laches that protects against this?

  • by oldosadmin (759103) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:20PM (#9760488) Homepage
    This patent looks in order. Early enough that there's a low likelyhood of prior art, and it pretty well covers any auto-updating system.

    My only thought is that maybe we could kill it with the obviousness clause.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:26PM (#9760571) Journal
      Exactly. It's way too obvious.
      This is like saying "I patent the act of getting a new muffler for my car by using an auto mechanic"
    • by kisrael (134664) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:27PM (#9760579) Homepage
      You're crazy.

      No one would have EVER thought of doing updates over a network if these guys hadn't shown the way.

      Just like I'm very grateful to the nice gentleman who explained I could mow the lawn with a kind of back and forth motion...I was on the verge of turning off my lawnmower, bringing it on my back to the other side, and then starting it up again.

    • (Obviousity?)

      At the time the patent was filed the idea probably was not as obvious as it seems to be now. In 1990 connectivity (and the resulting security issues) were present on a much smaller scale than they are today. (Note that I did not say the issues did not exist.)
      • Except that the patent in question [uspto.gov] was filed in 2000 and cites a 1994 paper titled "Automatic Patch Retrieval & Installation."

      • It doesn't have to be obvious in the usual sense of the word. Basically, the question is, if you asked an expert in the field in 1990 what the best way of solving the problem (e.g. how to distribute multiple software updates over a communications network) was, would they immediately come up with the same answer. I think they would.
    • It's a rather complicated patent, with many claims, some dating to 1996, some dating to 2000. Untangling the applicability of prior art will be a difficult job.
    • My only thought is that maybe we could kill it with the obviousness clause.
      That's not very easy, you'd have to show it'd be obvious to the average practitioner at the time the first disclosure was made. Generally, that only happens if there are lots of similar examples so the innovative leap is very very small.
      • That's not very easy, you'd have to show it'd be obvious to the average practitioner at the time the first disclosure was made. Generally, that only happens if there are lots of similar examples so the innovative leap is very very small.

        Does updating my copy of Commander Keen when I was 4 count?
    • by Brand X (162556) <nyospe@@@mac...com> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:35PM (#9760717) Homepage
      IMNAL, and I don't play one on TV, but...
      Actually, the filing date is April, 2000... the 1996 filing that this is a continuance of doesn't mention any of the relevant claims, aside from the selection of updates (hello, anyone remember the pre-web info-mac archives?!), so the actual claims they are saying Apple and Microsoft violated were filed after the first beta versions of their respective update technologies shipped!!!
      Sounds like someone got greedy...
    • by prgrmr (568806) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:39PM (#9760771) Journal
      There's enough prior art from the BBSs of the late 70s through the 90s. Hardware manufacturers, e.g., Seagate, would have their own BBS from which drivers and patches could be downloaded. Sure, it was dial-up, but it meets the requirements of being networked, menu-driven, with user-selectable updates. Prior art should kill this dead, followed by obviousness stomping it into the earth for good. I download my security patches from HP using an on-line, menu-driver, user-selectable process too.
    • 376 Claims (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:45PM (#9760884) Journal
      I agree. There are 376 claims to this patent, which is quite spectactular - most patents have a few dozen. However, claim 1 must stand on its own, and it really does not seem terribly inventive.

      This is a disease which afflicts the patent system. People are not patenting brilliant, innovative, inobvious ideas, but just "staking out territory".

      Also, this patent was filed in 2000. If this work dates from the 1980's, as is stated in the post, then an enabling disclosure or marketing of the technology may have occurred before 1999, and the patent will be questionable.

      It may be that Applie and Microsoft think they can attack this patent, which is why they didn't cut a deal.

    • It looks to me like they asked for and recieved a patent on the ability to update software remotely regardless of the actual method used or the target device, they list:
      pre scheduled
      unscheduled
      user scheduled
      server scheduled
      etc

      and for devices they list:
      computer
      cable television controller
      video game player
      information kiosk
      wired personal communicator
      wireless personal communicator
      personal information communicator
      personal digital assistant
      information appliance
      and system controller


      How the heck c
    • Prior Art (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mycroft_514 (701676)
      I described such a system in a short class I was doing on a whiteboard in 1982. Prior enough to the patent for you?
  • by Synn (6288) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:21PM (#9760511)
    No doubt the "patent" also applies to various Linux distributions, but obviously they're not being sued because there's little money in them.

    With all the hubub over software patents being a danger to open source software, you have to wonder whether or not they're a bigger danger to commercial companies. After all, if you're going to sue someone you're going to go after a company with money. Even better if they're public, as you might be able to extort them into settling behind the scenes since a lawsuit might hurt their share prices.
  • by scoot241 (794509) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:21PM (#9760512) Journal
    "*Sneeze* Oh, I'm sorry... I'm allergic to bullshit." --Will Smith, "I, Robot"
  • Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luveno (575425) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:23PM (#9760525)
    Mundane Concept = Mundane Concept

    Mundane Concept Online = Patent
  • Shakespear was right (Score:2, Informative)

    by BCW2 (168187)
    Lets kill all the lawyers, kill them tonight.

    Just like every other tort or liability lawsuit, the lawyers on both side will get more money out of this than anyone else. Lawyers don't file suits about right and wrong, just about their bank accounts.
  • As much as I love to watch Microsoft feel financial pain, this is still yet another example of why software patents are a lousy idea. I shudder to think how much worse virus episodes would be if windowsupdate wasn't as convenient as it is.
  • All of their patents mention the client automatically querying the server to present a list of software to add to the client. So, I think the windows update site itself is not covered by the patent, but the automatic feature might be. I've only played with macs for a little bit ( I'm allergic to Apples) I know they have an automatic update, but do they also have something simular to MS's Windows update site?
  • by dcstimm (556797)
    maybe this is why microsoft is buying all these patents, so stuff like "SCO" and this doesnt happen to them..
  • by Facekhan (445017) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:28PM (#9760595)
    Programming Language creators should include a provision in their license that forces programmers to use the copyright system and not the patent system with programs written in their language. In addition all software patent applications should require actual working code that is complex and novel enough to actually warrant a patent for the idea itself and not just a single expression of the idea as in copyright.

    In the meantime congress should simply ban new software patents until the USPTO can be fixed.
    • Programming Language creators should include a provision in their license that forces programmers to use the copyright system and not the patent system

      Non-starter. Programming language creators don't have the power to dictate how their language is used after the fact, and if they try to make people sign a contract before giving them a compiler, no one will use their language.

    • No...see, the prototype delivered has NOTHING to do with its final implementation. Prospective patenters would just use one of the many un-licensed programming languages out there. I can't even fathom the difficulty of building an interface in Fortran 77...but if it meant being able to receive an enforcable patent rather than a flabby, uesless copyright, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

      Plus, patents don't last as long as copyrights.
  • This was filed in April of 2000. Windows update definitely precedes this date. I'm not an expert on patent law by any means, but can you really do this? That is, invent something and then patent it ten years later after infringing products have already come on the market?
  • A menuing system that loose you choose something? Wow, how novel.

    I wish they would get rid of patents that merge two things that have already been invented. i.e., the fork with the fork on one side and knife on the other. Forks and knives have already been invented. Welding them together is not an invention.

    Menus have existed for a long time, downloading software has existed for a long time. Using a menu to download software has existed since the 300baud BBSs I used to call.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:32PM (#9760655)
    I really don't get it. I could see if the code was ripped off line for line, but if two different programs have the same effect, but get it with two different ways, shouldn't they be concidered two different pattents? As an anlogy, a record player, a CD player, and an mp3 player all have the same basic function, to play back audio recordings. But thy're all protected by different patents. If I invent a new way to play back sound recordings, I can't be sued by the mp3-player patent holders.

    However, if I write a piece of software, and include a function that someone has already patented, even if I write my code from scratch, I can be sued?

    Isn't this the same as patenting an idea? Isn't there something in the patent law against this? Am I Missing something?
    • by V. Mole (9567)

      You've completely confused patents vs. copyright. Copyrights protect the expression of an idea, and your arguments are more-or-less correct w.r.t. copyrights.

      Patents exist to protect an idea. And yes, you can come up with the idea completely independently, and express it differently, but still be in violation of a patent. That's pretty much a requirement for patents to be useful. Otherwise you could just look at the patent but claim you hadn't.

  • by Dekar (754945) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:32PM (#9760668)
    From the patent [uspto.gov]:

    "A method for distributing information to a plurality of uncoordinated user stations each of which is configured for communications with a multiplicity of independently-operated servers via a non-proprietary network includes steps for providing a distribution service that distributes updates for a plurality of different products, and providing a transporter software component to each of the plurality of uncoordinated user stations, wherein the transporter software component at each user station automatically effects communication sessions with the distribution service via the non-proprietary network for the purpose of obtaining updates for each of at least a subset of the plurality of different products that are installed on that user station."

    It sounds awfully complicated, and that's only the first sentence. They could probably claim they own pretty much every updating technology with that...

    Seriously though, providing "updates to software with a menuing system to permit the user to pick the updates" has been in every system I used, and I don't believe that adding the word "online" in front of it makes it a new super-innovative technology.

    Even if it's Microsoft, if they were to lose on this one, it would be a shame.

  • Presuming that people here are linking to the right patent (and it looks like they are, the patent number matches that in the press release) it quite clearly gives the filing date as April 20, 2000. Does that mean they worked on it for 10 years, and got around to patenting it? Does that make a damn bit of difference with regard to prior art?

    And then there are some wonderful bits of drivel in the summary, which pretty much screams "utter bullshit". Prime example is the following ...storage medium for aut
  • Quoting the official [teleshuttle.com] site, about Richard Reisman (the "inventor"):
    "This work draws on a decades of thinking about new media combined with diversified practical information technology and business experience - and on a visionary mind-set tempered by a sense for effectiveness honed by training in analytical methods for optimization. (see bio). Reisman also has a broad interest in the creative process and the business of innovation - and organized and moderated a symposium on "Patents for Dot-coms [teleshuttle.com]" for the
  • It could not have happened to two nicer companies. I hope Bill Gates and anyone else who ever used "fat line" patents, is thinking about their efforts to use patents as an anti-competitive weapon.

  • I'd get an injunction against each and every one of you.
  • That's tough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flez (463418)
    While it seems that this Reisman guy may have been working on this technology since 1990, the patent wasn't filed until 2000.

    So I think MS and Apple would just have to show they started using this tech before 1999 - i.e. it was public IP before the patent was filed.

    Lesson: Patent early, patent often.
  • From the patent:

    This is a combined Continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/641,010, filed on Apr. 29, 1996, and entitled "COMPUTER-IMPLEMENTED TRANSPORT OF ELECTRONIC INFORMATION OBJECTS," which is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/251,824, filed on May 31, 1994, and entitled "SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATIC UNATTENDED ELECTRONIC INFORMATION TRANSPORT BETWEEN A SERVER AND A CLIENT BY A VENDOR PROVIDED TRANSPORT SOFTWARE WITH A MANIFEST LIST," which as U.S. Pat. No. 5,420,820 on May 30, 1995

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:43PM (#9760832)
    It's so easy today to say it's an "obvious" idea to send software updates over a network with user selection and confirmation. But was it really so obvious in the early 1990's?

    I hate software-related patents as much as the next guy, but the continual cry of "That's obvious" is getting tiring. If it was so obvious, why was there such a long period of time between the patent and when MS and Apple started using a similar system? Clearly, it took them years before they "saw the light."

  • Past damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yeremein (678037) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:45PM (#9760863)
    The suit asks for unspecified damages for past infringing activity and an injunction against future use of the technology.

    This is ludicrous. BTG shouldn't be allowed to wait for ten years to enforce their patent, and then sue for past damages. If BTG were being damaged, BTG should have filed suit earlier. This is nothing but a shakedown.

    The good thing about it is that if Microsoft gets pissed off about submarine patents, they have the money and political influence to do something about it, like lobby Congress to reform patents. Unless, of course, the perceived benefits of their patent arsenal outweigh the occasional nuisance lawsuit.

  • Prior art. (Score:4, Informative)

    by miguel (7116) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:48PM (#9760922) Homepage
    Just for the sake of recording prior art:

    HelixCode (then Ximian, then acquired by Novell) produced an installer and updater that shipped in March 2000 and pre-dates the patent applications and did what is described there:

    * tracking existing software.
    * identifying new software packages.
    * identify software updates available.
    * install those, resolve dependencies.
    * communicated with a server to fetch this information.
    * Worked for Debian and RPM systems.
    * It used HTML to render the information (like
    this patent claim says).

    This patent contains 376 claims, most of them
    regurgitations of the previous one, and most of
    them were done.

    I remember that MandrakeSoft had something
    similar, but I can not remember if they had it
    before or after, I remember thinking that this
    was a significant value added over the Red Hat
    distribution (back in the day when Mandrake
    was a relatively small fork).

    Miguel
    • Re:Prior art. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @12:58PM (#9761036) Journal
      This is a combined Continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/641,010, filed on Apr. 29, 1996, and entitled "COMPUTER-IMPLEMENTED TRANSPORT OF ELECTRONIC INFORMATION OBJECTS," which is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/251,824, filed on May 31, 1994, and entitled "SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATIC UNATTENDED ELECTRONIC INFORMATION TRANSPORT BETWEEN A SERVER AND A CLIENT BY A VENDOR PROVIDED TRANSPORT SOFTWARE WITH A MANIFEST LIST," which as U.S. Pat. No. 5,420,820 on May 30, 1995, and U.S. application Ser. No. 08/982,157, filed on Dec. 1, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,125,388 and entitled "COMPUTER-IMPLEMENTED TRANSPORT OF ELECTRONIC INFORMATION OBJECTS," which is a Continuation of the aforementioned Ser. No.08/251,724 filed May 31, 1994 (now U.S. Pat. No. 5,694,546). All of the above-identified applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

      This "iteration" of the application was filed in 2000, but to show prior art you probably have to untangle all of that crap, and show something that existed back before May of '94.

      Oh, and go fix mono, it's broken. Thx.
  • BTG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krygny (473134) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:01PM (#9761068)

    "BTG creates value by investing in intellectual property and technology development, and ... " blah blah blah

    Translation: We sue people.

  • by Mordaximus (566304) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:01PM (#9761069)

    About BTG
    BTG creates value by investing in intellectual property and technology development, and in early stage ventures. We realize value through technology licensing, patent assertion and sale of equity investments. Through a multidisciplinary approach, we apply intellectual property and commercial expertise, together with specialist skills in science and technology, to create major product opportunities in the health and high tech sectors. BTG has commercialized important innovations, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging, working closely with Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, who was jointly awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Medicine, and others who made contributory inventions to MRI. BTG has also commercialized Multilevel Cell Memory, Campath(R) (alemtuzumab), the first monoclonal antibody treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and recombinant Factor IX blood clotting protein. BTG operates through wholly owned subsidiaries BTG International Ltd. and BTG International Inc. in the UK and USA, respectively.

    Or, to summarise, they do nothing.

  • by cavac (640390) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @01:51PM (#9761584) Homepage
    ...here is it.

    In an 1980 article about Bulletin Board systems (which are more or less "menu driven" by selecting from the few commands available, displayed at start-up), there was already the idea of swapping files - a way to do software updates: "We also are considering a function that would allow swapping complete programs."

    Here's the full article:
    http://www.portcommodore.com/commodore/bbs/cbbs.ht ml [portcommodore.com]

    Here's even more information on early BBS and even the invention of the XModem-Protocol:
    http://www.portcommodore.com/commodore/bbs/bbshist .html [portcommodore.com]

    As even some of the earliest implementations of XModem-capable programs showed you a list of downloadable files that you could select with your cursor keys and download by pressing a key - presumable "d" - you could speak of speak of "menu driven downloads". And as this was used by developers to share patches and updated programs it was certainly "menu driven updates over a network".

    Given the above facts, they can put their patent where the sun doesn't shine - if there's still space left, that is.
  • by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @06:07PM (#9764465)
    It's been almost two decades, but I there was a menuing update software that was in use in a school's Apple II computer lab near me back in the 1987-88 timeframe when I was just moving on to college.

    The machines were networked with twisted pair cable and used an AppleTalk protocol to communicate with an AppleShare server. When booted from a (slightly customized) floppy the machines ran a startup program that pulled a list of software from the server and compared to what was on the floppy. This wasn't commercial software, these were programs and docs the teachers had written and were capable of being downloaded to the boot disk. The idea was that since this wasn't copyrighted software, the students could take home their floppy if they had access to a home computer. Because floppy disks couldn't hold much information, the system only downloaded or updated the particular files the user chose from a menu (it was too small to mirror everything from the Mac II hard disk). The ability to update already downloaded programs and docs was absolutely a necessity since teacher written code would often have bugs and need to be re-distributed multiple times per week. (These were teachers NOT programmers.)

    Was this a commercial utility? Was this a facility of AppleShare? Was this something that one of the smarter teachers just cooked up on his own? I have absolutely no idea. It was just a very simple, obvious, menu-driven, networkable, software-update system that was in use in the eighties.

    Would this pre-date the claim made in this patent? If more information could be tracked down about this, it sounds like it might destroy the patentability of a 1990 claim to the idea. But I'm not a lawyer so this may very well not meet the legal standards to call into question the patent.

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