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Microsoft Wants More Credit for Inventions 422

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the without-microsoft-around-no-one-would-think-of-it dept.
theodp writes "Bill Gates said Thursday that Microsoft expects to file 3,000 patent applications this year, up from a little over 2,000 last year and 1,000 just a few years ago. 'We think--patent for patent--what we are doing is, if anything, more important than what others are doing,' said Gates, perhaps referring to 'Organizing and displaying photographs based on time,' which the USPTO published just hours before Gates spoke."
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Microsoft Wants More Credit for Inventions

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  • by jomas1 (696853) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:34PM (#9838907) Homepage
    And the best part of the article:

    The link to this other article http://news.com.com/Apple+patented+by+Microsoft/21 00-1008_3-5205574.html?tag=nl

    "Apple patented by Microsoft

    Apparently, intellectual property does grow on trees.

    Microsoft, amid an IP spree that has won the company patent protection for everything from XML dialects to video game storage methods, mistakenly received a patent on Tuesday for a new variety of apple tree.

    U.S. Plant Patent 14,757, granted to Robert Burchinal of East Wenatchee, Wash., and assigned to Microsoft, covers a new type of tree discovered in the early 1990s in the Wenatchee area, a major commercial apple-growing region. Dubbed the "Burchinal Red Delicious," the tree is notable for producing fruit that achieves a deep red color significantly earlier than other varieties. It is sold commercially as the "Adams Apple."

    Yes I know the patent has been acknowledged as a mistake but it makes you wonder how many of these 3000 patents are going to be approved because someone got tired of paying attention to the fine print.
  • Photo Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dotwaffle (610149) <slashdot@nosPam.walster.org> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:34PM (#9838911) Homepage
    Showing photos according to when they were taken? PRIOR ART!!! Photo developers have been doing this for ages, in software and on actual film! PhotoCD anyone???
    • by jrockway (229604) *
      Yeah, Nautilus has a "sort by date" option. Works for regular files too...

      X_X
    • by Azureflare (645778) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:52PM (#9839041)
      That the patent also probably includes additional factors, like the exact velocity and angle at which you push your mouse across the table (or the angle and velocity with which you flick your ball for you trackballers out there), the phase of the moon in the lunar calendar, the current estimated life of the CMOS battery, as well as the number of keys you've pressed on the keyboard today, among others....

      Patents are a joke, and they need reform.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        The published document from the article is NOT a U.S. Patent...it is a patent application publication. All applications for patent are published within 18 months of filing, and publishing the application doesn't mean the USPTO thinks the invention is patentable. It just means some inventor is trying to get an invention patented. The PTO has it's problems, but it's not THAT bad...
      • by jrockway (229604) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:00PM (#9839092) Homepage Journal
        > Patents are a joke, and they need reform.

        You're right about this. Patents are a good idea, but leave it to big companies to fuck over whatever meaning they once had. Now I think it would be better for society (and specifically OSS people like me) to just do without them. Too bad for Apple if someone steals their (good) idea for spring loaded folders or the ipod's click wheel.

        It's like driving while using a cell phone. A few people can't do it, so now everyone suffers (i.e. a few people died, now it's illegal). M$ can't play nice, so everyone loses their privleges. Sad state of affairs, really.
      • by john82 (68332) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:09PM (#9839155)
        I recognize your sarcasm, however reading the patent reveals that Microsoft lists GPS information repeatedly. There are several references to it in fact making the assumption that one day photos will incorporate, in their format or metadata, GPS data. At that point Microsoft will naturally assert that this new patent includes sorting by GPS as well.

        CONCLUSION

        [0072] Although the systems and methods have been described in language specific to structural features and/or procedures, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or procedures described. Rather, the specific features and procedures are disclosed as exemplary forms of implementing the claimed invention.


        If we let anything out, yeah we meant that too. All your ideas are belong to us.
        • I recognize your sarcasm, however reading the patent reveals that Microsoft lists GPS information repeatedly.

          There is absolutely NOTHING new or innovative about sorting by either time or gps data. If you have been involved in the aerial photography at all for the last 20 years, then you've done this a LOT. Prior to the turn on of the GPS system, we used LORAN C systems to fly a track, taking photos. When gps came around, the military started using it for this purpose as soon as the system was turned

    • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Informative)

      by darkewolf (24563)

      Of course, upon reading the patent (gods they are boring to read) it says that the sorting is based on the following potential factors:

      • A image date stored in the image (unsure if jpeg does this now) as meta data
      • Extracting the date from an image (using a OCR type arrangement for those cameras that data stamp the visual part of the file)

      So technically, they have a valid patent. Unless of course the meta data already exists in common file formats to allow date information to be extracted.

      Sorting by sy

      • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

        by k98sven (324383)
        Damnit, I also sounded pro-MS there.

        Only to Slashbots..

        Most of us understand the difference between acknowledging an idea as original and acknowledging that an idea as patentable.

        I think it sounds interesting too. But I certainly don't think it warrants MS having a monopoly on the idea and its implementations for the next 20 years.
      • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Informative)

        by jallen02 (124384)
        Check out ExIf data. Digital Cameras have been storing tons of meta data for years. Shutter Speed, Lens Speed, tons of other little things.... including date/time.

        Jeremy
      • Re:Photo Patent (Score:4, Informative)

        by Huogo (544272) <adam@thepeacockS ... net minus distro> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:11PM (#9839175) Homepage
        Almost all digital camera store EXIF metadata in their jpegs, which contains, among other things, the date the picture was taken. It also contains things such as shutter speed, apature, and whether or not the flash was used. The full spec is available on exif.org [exif.org] here [exif.org]
        • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Informative)

          by ViGe (49356)

          Almost all digital camera store EXIF metadata in their jpegs, which contains, among other things, the date the picture was taken. It also contains things such as shutter speed, apature, and whether or not the flash was used. The full spec is available on exif.org here

          And from the patent claims:

          6. A method according to claim 5, wherein the digitally-encoded time information comprises information recorded according to an EXIF standard.

          I suppose this basically means that all our base are now belong to

      • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flacco (324089)
        Still it is a cool idea,

        your threshold for cool is extremely low then. i would classify it as a mildly interesting hack in the implementation, but absolutely not patentable, for fuck's sake.

      • Re:Photo Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JamesKPolk (13313)
        Why is that a valid patent?

        Isn't using OCR to extract text data an obvious application to an expert in the field?
    • Re:Photo Patent (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pgnas (749325)
      I liken patents to innovation and microsoft would like it's customers to view them as innovative. I have participated in many surveys for them and this is important to their identity as a corporation.

      Is Microsoft innovative? at one time, not too much now. I would like to see a site completely dedicated to mapping out the timeline and the "features" that make up their software in an effort to demonstrate where their "innovations" actually come from (other innovative people), the answer is simple, they are
    • Actually, I think they're claiming displaying them in a calendar view. So pictures from 4th of July appear in that area, pictures from July 11th below those, etc.
  • Photoshop Album? (Score:5, Informative)

    by flimnap (751001) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:35PM (#9838914) Homepage

    Is it just me, or is the display of photos by time on a calendar exactly what Photoshop Album 1 did?

    Hurrah for innovation!

  • by rel4x (783238) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:35PM (#9838916)
    when we relate/measure producitivity with patents...
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by z0ink (572154) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:35PM (#9838918)
    When will all of this be stopped? How can a company hold thousands of patents on software. Is anything that unique? What does it even matter, they are closed source. Nobody can steal code from them, but they can look at OSS and say "thats our idea."
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dotwaffle (610149)
      I think it's about time patents were scrapped and replaced with something that benefits the people, not the corporations. A patent should help get a product started, not to stifle competition through licensing and royalties... Until recently I would have favoured the UK patent system, but with recent EU software patent crap... Who knows...
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nobody can steal code from them, but
      they can look at OSS and say "thats our idea."

      Yes, that's the general idea.

      But it's not a new idea. You're just now getting outraged about this because Microsoft is doing it? I'm sorry, but if you were not already outraged by this VERY COMMON PRACTICE then I have to question your motives.
      IBM does this all the time. IBM has patents on freaking everything, way more than Microsoft. You know what they use them for? A bludgeon, to beat smaller competitors down and

      1. Software companies buy senators.
      2. USPTO grants hundreds of thousands of patents that only have a use in litigation to large companies, at patenting prices that only large companies can afford.
      3. Large companies use patents to crush competition, non-profit or otherwise.
      4. PROFIT!
      No ??? necessary.
    • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#9839229) Homepage Journal

      The USPTO is populated by people who don't grasp the fundamental concept that IT systems and programming are about abstract concepts applied to specific requirements. Object oriented programming, GUI event frameworks, network interfaces, RMI, RPC, XML, it's all about abstraction.

      The application of those abstract techniques and utilities to solving a particular business problem is not a patentable idea. It is a fundamental concept of the industry.

      We now have the USPTO not merely patenting business concepts, but architectural concepts and theoretical interfaces like the association of time with an image. It's absolutely insane -- they are allowing Microsoft to patent a naturally observable attribute of a real-world object. Everyone knows a picture has a time associated with it -- even portraits that were painted over the course of weeks are still associated with a fuzzy time value. How the hell can you possibly patent the idea of associating time with a picture, no matter what the media, formats, or protocols involved?

      Patent law itself states that you cannot patent a natural process, and the application of a general tool to a specific function is a natural process of computing.

      From this fundamental misunderstanding, we end up dealing with a patent system that allows a company like Amazon to patent the use of abstract behavior templates in regards to a real-world object, the shopping cart.

      That's just insane. You cannot patent something which any IT resource with a knack for abstraction can observe, and there are hundreds of thousands of such people. You cannot patent the idea that a car has a color, nor could you patent the idea of a picture of a car changing color each time you click on it. Yet some USPTO employee without a wit of sense or understanding of fundamental computing techniques and philosophies thinks that it's reasonable to think an abstract action like a mouse click associated with a catalog object is a patentable concept.

      It's nuts. It's just insane. The USPTO needs to distinguish between use of abstract concepts that are a natural part of computing, and genuine art in implementing general-purpose abstractions.

      No matter how disagreeable it might have been, the specifics of how a GIF image file is constructed and compressed is a patentable expression of an abstract image. So is any other image file format.

      But the idea that it is an image file, that it has attribute values such as author or creation date embedded in it, or that it has an associated set of attributes like creation date, storage size, etc. are not patentable concepts. They are just natural attributes of an abstract image.

      *sigh* We are truly doomed, not because of OSS or Microsoft or because the corps pay off the government so they can use the legal system and patent office as a business model. We are doomed because the people responsible for protecting the people from being fleeced by the con-artists don't have a freakin' clue how to recognize aggressive abuse of the legal and patent systems.

      Even when it is recognized, we have governments who are paid off by the corps who benefit from the abuse of the very social systems that are supposed to protect us from such abuse. Or do you think it was an accident that Microsoft's penalty for blatant illegal action was reduced to monitoring and a wrist slap, while IBM and AT&T had been broken up for far lesser offenses? Change of government, change of legislators who've been paid off, and the penalties go away.

      Thanks to a legal system that allows corps to drag things out long enough to buy themselves a change of law or government before a ruling or settlement are issued, and you have a system that is ripe for abuse, and the largest of predator corps are abusing it for every dollar they can hope to garner. Nor am I singling out Microsoft -- SCO, Enron, and dozens

    • by Holi (250190)
      I thought Pateents told you how to do something and had to be explicit enough that you could build it. Most of the software patents that I've seen describe an idea but in no way describe how to implement it.

      So saying using a do while loop to increment a counter to count records (ok major prior art I know) would be a valid patent. Saying a method of clicking a button to add an item to a shoppiung cart and check out would not.

      Shouldn't you have to describe in depth the method.

      Thats the problem with softwar
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:36PM (#9838921)
    with the most lawyers always wins.
    rule # 1 kiddies - if you cant invent, buy more lawyers. and then claim you invented it.
  • risible (Score:5, Funny)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:36PM (#9838922)
    If you've ever seen the movie High Fidelity the main character decides to organize his albums not by title or genre, but by autobiographical so that if he wanted to find an album he had to remember when he bought it. Well just for fun I decided to do the same thing with my porn collection using iPhoto. Now I can see how my tastes in porno have changed and grown more sophisticated over the last 7 years. And wow I was into some pretty kinky shit as a 12 year old.
  • Weak (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jim_Hawkins (649847) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:36PM (#9838924)
    The only reason Microsoft is filing all these patents is because they want to get ahold on every freaken idea that anybody could *ever* come up with. That way, when someone else decides that they want to create something (AKA, create a new OpenSource project), they may just not be able to do it anymore.

    Also, Bill...hate to break it to you, buddy. But you're doing just what a ton of other people are doing every day. Get a grip on the ol' ego.

    I never had a real problem with MS before -- but this just takes them down quite a few notches. (About 3000 notches to be exact.)
    • Or they could be doing it to keep from getting owned in court again by someone else, such as in the Eolas suit. Patents can work both ways, just just in offense.
    • Re:Weak (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cheekyboy (598084)
      I think the patent application fee should be based on your overall company values, so make it 1% of monthly company revenue per patent app. This would

      A) prevent massive applications by big guns
      B) make it cheaper for the little guy (isnt that who it is for?)
      C) provide the office with many extra funds to do patent apps to real inventors for tiny $100 fees.
      D) provide office with enough funds to study apps in more detail

      • Re:Weak (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tftp (111690)
        That would not be very useful. Any big company would immediately spin off a daughter company with zero revenue, and that company would own all the patents. The daughter company can be fully controlled by the parent company (by nature of owning all its stock, for example.)
    • Re:Weak (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ogerman (136333)
      The only reason Microsoft is filing all these patents is because they want to get ahold on every freaken idea that anybody could *ever* come up with. That way, when someone else decides that they want to create something (AKA, create a new OpenSource project), they may just not be able to do it anymore.

      This is more than likely the case. Even if the majority of the patents would never stand in court, they may be intended to cause a chilling effect. In a sense, it's not good that Slashdot is even reportin
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:38PM (#9838935)
    In their defense, they got hit by very absurd patent lawsuits. So now they want to grow fangs of their own. I don't blame them.

    I blame the stupid patent system and I'm very amazed and disappointed that Congress and the American people seems to think it's all good (or are oblivious to the problem).
    • ...they got hit by very absurd patent lawsuits. So now they want to grow fangs of their own.

      Oh, boy, an arms race. That always works out for the best... Nothing like Mutual Assured Lawsuits to foster inovation.

      p.s. I'm applying for copyright on the phrase "Mutual Assured Lawsuits."

    • Yup, what does anyone expect? First /.ers were happy as a clam that Microsoft (previously ignored by the feds) took one up the tailpipe. Now that Microsoft's realized that they HAVE to play the game, and have decided to play it to win, folks are unhappy that the government is actually following the stupid rules that US citizens allowed, forgetting that the same stupid rules were some of the ones they were cheering for when they went against Microsoft.
  • It's hard to swallow (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:38PM (#9838937)
    Microsoft really wouldn't be where it is today if software patents existed back when they started.

    http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Patents/knuth-to-pto.txt

    They should have a little more respect for the name of Technology.
    • Good point. I think they've realized that laws could change in the future so this is why they're patenting everything. The reason these patents are so unfair is because small companies can't possibly afford the legal expense to fight a possible microsoft's patent of "a good way of doing things with a keyboard on a sunny day."

      I don't mean to sound redundant, but that's the big problem with patents. Anyone can get them, it seems, but only the big shots can afford to fight and uphold them. In essense, the
    • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:05PM (#9839128) Homepage Journal
      Sure they wouldn't exist if software patents existed 30 years ago, but they now have domination of the market.. and they will stop at nothing to perpetuate their power and control... They could care less about the rest of the market's ability to grow...

      This is just another part of the long term strategy..
  • by twitter (104583) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:38PM (#9838938) Homepage Journal
    The authors of the chronological picture presentation patent:

    Sun, Yan-Feng; (Beijing, CN) ; Zhang, Lei; (Beijing, CN) ; Li, Mingjing; (Beijing, CN) ; Zhang, Hong-Jiang; (Beijing, CN)

    They must have looked at the source code M$ sold the Chinese. Good thing M$ co-opted them or they would have had to put SCO on their case for stealing ideas. I'm going to barf.

    • Microsoft Research China is where almost all of MSFT's multimedia researchers live. When competing in NIST's Video TREC [nist.gov], MSR China are the people who go. Granted, all the cool stuff comes from either IBM (New York), Berkerley, or CMU.
    • Why do all these people in China get idea-protection in the US? Can't they *gasp* get a Chinese patent instead?

      Or come work (and pay taxes) over here instead?

      (If you're an innovator, I have no idea why you would want to work in China anyway. Sounds like if you come up with something the government doesn't like your family mysteriously disappears one night.)
  • by jms258 (569015) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:38PM (#9838939)
    once their patent on the blue screen of death goes through ...

    they will be getting payouts left and right for that ...

    it is by far the most ubiquitous of PC conventions that has ever been seen.
  • by homeobocks (744469) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:39PM (#9838949)
    As the old adage states, in its many forms, that the one thing ``they'' can't take away from you is knowledge. While true, Microsoft can still own it.
  • by illerd (579494) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:41PM (#9838957)
    it took four people to come up with that!
  • patently obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by uncreativ (793402) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:43PM (#9838972)
    I know this has been ranted about on slashdot, but why are patently obvious procedures patentable?

    I'd be curious if anyone can suggest a good rule for eliminating obvious patents. Perhaps a rule that states that a method which mimics electonically what is done by other means cannot itself justify issuing a patent.

    In the referrring patent, Microsoft pretty much has patented the procedure for looking at things with dates on them and sorting them in order of the date. Now, I understand if Microsoft patents the method they used to extract date information encoded into a photograph, but this patent is way too broad.
    • Re:patently obvious (Score:4, Informative)

      by Wolfbone (668810) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:19PM (#9839225)
      "I'd be curious if anyone can suggest a good rule for eliminating obvious patents."

      It's very simple: 'Software' ideas should never have been made patentable in the first place. Look at the monitor in front of you and ask yourself this: "Is this a general purpose electronic computer I see before me or is it just another consumer appliance?" Are you free to use it as the invention it was originally intended to be or have large corporations now almost managed to metamorphose it into just another consumer appliance - a box into which you may plug only the software products that they deign to supply? Are you free to programme it as it was meant to be programmed or are there daily more and more restrictions on what code you can type in? Is this an acceptable state of affairs - do novelists and musicians have to put up with this kind of 'ownership' of the ideas of their crafts? Could 'inventions' like this one and many others like it only have been made by expert software designers or could a child have done it - or a law firm? And don't even think about the usual: "Well there are some clever mathematical algorithms that deserve to be patentable" - no there are not, they are mathematical ideas and belong to mathematics, which in turn belongs to us all. How many times need it be repeated that software is properly and appropriately a copyright protectable area of endeavour?

  • You think the CIA can operate without software that manages photographs in a chronilogical order, how about the FBI.

    Next they'll be patenting the organization of paper. And, since they used Clippy, they'll claim a patent on paper clips which aren't in use.

    If the DOJ makes another move against them, MS countersues the government
  • 'Organizing and displaying photographs based on time' surely has some prior art??!!
  • Countries like China and Russia, that are powerful enough to stand up to the US, will simply ignore those so called patents and innovate. to better their peoples' lives. We in the "third world" will follow. The Chinese are already in space, don't you think they have "trampled" on some US patents? The world will move on one way or another...with or without M$ and its patents.
  • Am I the only one who thinks there should be a yearly limit to the number of applications one company/person can file? 3000 seems excessive.
  • I know it sucks at the moment, but what about when they all expire? Unless the extend the time of patents (which wouldn't suprise me) then all of this will be out of patents in about 15 years. Sure it's a while but from what I can see well have alot of patents for the next 5 years or so until most of the normal stuff has been patented then we'll wait for another 15 years then anyone can use them.

    In the short term it's annoying but in the long term it's not that big a deal.
    • by Tony (765) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:58PM (#9839082) Journal
      In the short term it's annoying but in the long term it's not that big a deal.

      Are you insane? 15 years is a long, long time for computers. 15 years ago was 1989. That year, the 80486 was introduced. The web was two years off. Microsoft sales topped one billion dollars for the first time. The internet tops 100,000 hosts. IRC is introduced. Seymour Cray developed the Cray 3. MCI and Compuserve become the first corporations with email connections to the internet.

      See what I'm getting at? A "limited" monopoly can be harmful, not just annoying. Even dangerous, when you are talking about the future of the most flexible tool known to man-- knowledge.
    • It is the principle of the matter. The fact that it takes 15 years to expire is not the issue, but rather that common sense ideas are now owned.

      To make matters worse, all these common sense ideas will not be aviable for 15 years. Wow. That's insane. Who will care in 15 years? By that time it won't matter as things will have progressed so much.

      Everything that seems to happen in the IT industry happens overnight, and after as little as three months, its already to late.

      For Microsoft to do this as a busines
    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:40PM (#9839383)
      I don't mind waiting fifteen years to organize my photo collection.
  • by SteroidMan (782859) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:50PM (#9839032)
    Microsoft patents three finger salute. Whiny boy scouts claim prior art. Bill Gates derides scouts as religious cult, and threatens to sue the pimply freaks into oblivion.
  • oh wait, they "innovate" by stealing everyone else's ideas. Maybe they will put out a patent on that.
  • Dear Bill, (Score:2, Funny)

    by nbert (785663)
    I always knew your company is inventing superior things every day. I just wonder what kept MS from implementing any of them? Sincerely yours -
  • Extra cash for all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dourk (60585)
    I used to work closely with an engineer from FANUC, and he claimed (heresay now) they each employee had to apply for a new patent each year. And those that had one awarded were treated well.
  • by sinner0423 (687266) <sinner0423@gmail . c om> on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:06PM (#9839133)
    For those that are too lazy to RTFA, this is probably the most important part of it :

    The push for more patents comes as Microsoft is trying to boost the licensing of its intellectual property to other companies, an effort that began last year.

    That pretty much sums it up right there. Exactly what do these guys want? Being one of the largest, most proliferated company on the planet isn't enough, apparently.

    Don't think this is freaky yet? Check out this article [com.com] and realize the strategic use of patents in influencing a market. They have all the money to do this too, which is the scariest part. Patents aren't about protection any more, it's about CONTROL.
  • by Transcendent (204992) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:11PM (#9839169)
    Although I don't endorse patent whording done by microsoft, the title for the patent is grosely misleading. It makes it sound like Microsoft just patented all motion pictures... but not quite.

    The patent application states:

    "For instance, the technique determines whether the time information is digitally encoded in the image file, or whether it is embedded within the image data itself. The technique next includes extracting the time information from the photograph image file using a technique appropriate to the identified manner in which the time information is stored, to produce extracted time information."

    Simply put, the pictures are organized and displayed in a manner according to data embedded in the image file itself... which is halfway innovative.

    Although pretty basic and easy to do on your own, it, I assume, can warrant a patent.
    • by ewhac (5844) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:32PM (#9839330) Homepage Journal
      Simply put, the pictures are organized and displayed in a manner according to data embedded in the image file itself... which is halfway innovative.

      No, it's not. They're simply scanning the EXIF headers [exif.org] (that is, after all, one of the things EXIF headers are for), and sorting on one of the fields in the header. There are about forty fields in an EXIF header; I suppose they're applying for forty more patents, one each for sorting on each field.

      That's Microsoft "innovation" for you.

      Schwab

    • My picture gallery sorts pictures by date embedded in the EXIF metadata of the picture, and has done so for years.
  • The only truly unique technology Microsoft ever invented is their secret algorithm that is able to generate errors in such a way that every user experiences at least one unique problem never seen by anyone else. Microsoft's software beats all others in this aspect. No other software can match the sheer randomness of the errors produced by Microsoft operating systems, which is why people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars more for it than they would have spent on otherwise superior Open-Source operating
  • Patents still expire in about 20 years. unlike say copyrights that will last longer than you will. Like something that Microsoft has patented, you can safely put it in open source 20 years from now, a long time, but most of us will live 20 more years. (barring the end of the world or some such of course)

    So far Microsoft has just collected patents, generally only using them for defense. If the trend continues you might get by with using that Microsoft patented thing today since Microsoft doesn't really

  • by Keck (7446) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:24PM (#9839270) Homepage
    'Organizing and displaying photographs based on time,'

    ls -ltr

    Bam.
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:28PM (#9839298)
    Anyone can file a patent or seek protection of a technology. The question is - will people pay to license it? Look at IBM - research pays for this firm as they rake in massive licensing revenues every year. What does MS have that others will pay to license? Thats the rubber/road issue for any protected tech.
  • by whovian (107062) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:38PM (#9839374)
    "We think--patent for patent--what we are doing is, if anything, more important than what others are doing."

    Sounds to me somebody needs a hug?
  • Silly Patent (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bruha (412869) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:38PM (#9839377) Homepage Journal
    I believe there's already prior art with digital encoding of information within a image. It's been done.
  • by RabidPuppetHunter (620593) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:43PM (#9839410)
    A quote from IBM [ibm.com]: "For each of the past 11 years (1993 - 2003), IBM has been granted more U.S. patents than any other company. During that period IBM has received 25,772 US patents. In 2003, IBM received 3,415 U.S. patents, breaking the record it set previously for the most US patents received in a single year."

    Gotta admit thats kinda impressive...

    Microsoft may want to earn more respect now that they have started to share their $60+ billion war chest with their stock holders. Fair enough. But they can't earn my respect my just saying that they did 2,000 patents last year, and may do 3,000 this year -- so what? Lets see some sustained performance or at least publish their sustained historical performance...

    The question is can they deliver patents over the long haul... they already got the easy ones... Patent No. 6,748,582 (Microsoft's patents the "to-do list [theinquirer.net]").

    I am forgetful but not yet impr,eTOEd...

  • by Slime-dogg (120473) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:53PM (#9839497) Journal

    Patents cost a bit of money, but nothing that is prohibitive enough to prevent an entity from submitting several thousand patent applications. Here is my idea:

    Keep the initial cost the same, be it $100 or $1000 an application (I have no idea how much). If the idea is found to be original and non-obvious, then the patent is awarded, yada yada yada.

    If the idea is found to have prior art, is obvious, or could be created by a natural process, then a fine should be levied. We'll say $5,000 a failed application, for the "waste of time" of the workers of the patent office. An additional $5,000 can be levied for every application that is illegible, or written in such a way that it could cover a broad range of things (ie, this process covers all entities, movements, and processes which don't not fall into the realm of physical and mental states.). Malicious pantents could be considered a capital crime, calling for the heads of the submitters (yes, extreme is nice sometimes).

    This will end up benefitting the private enterprises and small people, since they're the types that will spend a couple thousand, and put time into research that the idea is original... non-obviousness should be obvious (unfortunately, everything is non-obvious to USPTO employees). This will be prohibitive to those huge conglomerations that try to mass-patent everything in existance with tens of thousands of patent applications. If 1,000 of them are rejected, then the fine is around $5 mil.

    Lastly, if a patent is revoked, then the entity that filed the patent should be held accountable for the blockage of progress by society in general, and be legally and financially liable.

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