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Microsoft Patents

Microsoft's 'IsNot' Patent Continued... 566

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-don't-worry-it's-only-for-basic dept.
An anonymous reader writes " According to the patent application--filed in mid-November by Paul Vick, lead architect for Visual Basic .Net at Microsoft; Amanda Silver, a program manager on the Visual Basic team; and an individual in Bellevue, Wash., named Costica Barsan--the IsNot operator is described as a single operator that allows a comparison of two variables to determine if the two point to the same location in memory." This article continues the tale started last november, and here is an eWeek story on the same subject.
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Microsoft's 'IsNot' Patent Continued...

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  • Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:30AM (#11743621) Homepage Journal
    the IsNot operator is described as a single operator that allows a comparison of two variables to determine if the two point to the same location in memory.

    Oh please. I remember our programming instructor in sixth grade teaching us about this logic operator is BASIC. This is simply an effort (albeit transparent) for Microsoft to continue to duplicate pre-existing code for Microsoft specific code to ensure that programs written with Microsoft specific tools will maintain future market share for the company. In other words, the creation of a Microsoft specific "equals" means that code years down the road will require Microsoft specific tools to edit/change/run this code. I call shenanigans! This is not innovation in any technical sense and indeed is not even innovation in a business sense.

    • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by luvirini (753157) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:32AM (#11743638)
      But it application of a basic law of monopolies: Lock in customers.
      • You forget the most humerous part.

        Microsoft is patenting an operation which basicly is CMP at assembly level. This means that Microsoft is patenting something they are using obvious prior art to acomplish. Now, if this goes trough, Intel and AMD will have to pay Microsoft royalties, for Microsoft to have an OS on the x86 platform!

        As far as patent abuse and patent chaos goes, this is without a doubt the best, the most stupid and most tailbiting shit I've seen so far.

        So far, because I don't rule out

      • Microsoft IsNOT seeing that the always popular C++ (or even C#) IsNOT having their IsNOT operator, AND the global village IsNOT ignoring other solutions (like wxPython) .. AND the market IsNOT getting any nearer Microsoft - specially when their Operating system IsNOT becoming any safer for viruses... I wonder why it IsNOT reaching bankrupcy yet.

        But I bet it IsNOT too far until they do.
        And I think this IsNOT a far-fetched scenario. Face it, Billy. The world IsNOT meant to be run by one company.
    • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ravenspear (756059) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:33AM (#11743645)
      This is not innovation in any technical sense and indeed is not even innovation in a business sense.

      On the contrary, it seems that being able to slip surious patents through the system is an important business skill these days. If something isn't done to clean up the USPTO it might even become an essential skill for any business's survival.
      • Re:Oh please! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by luvirini (753157) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:35AM (#11743661)
        The business plan of this decade:
        1) Find something that is well known and patent it.
        2) Sue some big company for using your patent.
        • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494)
          You forgot:
          3) ???
          4) Profit!

          Where '???' probably involves ensuring you can pay at least as much for your lawyers as the big company you sued.
        • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <<rich> <at> <annexia.org>> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:17AM (#11743986) Homepage

          The business plan of this decade:
          1) Find something that is well known and patent it.
          2) Sue some big company for using your patent.

          Actually, the business plan for several decades has been:

          1. Get a patent of dubious merit.
          2. Find lots and lots of companies who are too small to defend themselves, but large enough to pay out a few thousand $$, and send them a demand for royalties.
          3. Profit.

          See Patent Nonsense [fourmilab.ch] for an example of how this happened to Autodesk just before they went public.

          Rich.

          • by Frymaster (171343) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:54AM (#11744317) Homepage Journal
            of course, refactoring ms source code to elminate isnot should be easy.

            sed -e 's/isNot/!=/g' msCode.c > ./gnuCode.c>

        • Not quite (Score:4, Interesting)

          by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:34AM (#11744133) Journal
          It is major companies that are trying to aquire patents to be able to stop small start-ups. Basically, MS is moving into a defensive posture. That makes sense WRT the article that was written earlier about MS starting to decay. [slashdot.org]
      • yes but it's done so much that you can hardly call yourself innovative if you do it.

    • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BradleyUffner (103496)
      "IsNot" is different from "Not equal to"
      • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:40AM (#11743690)
        "IsNot" is different from "Not equal to"

        But it is the same as "Not equal to" applied to the address of the variable:

        a isNot b
        is equivalent to:
        &a != &b

        So, it's still a pretty trivial concept...

        • by kkovach (267551)
          ... on what your definition of the operator isNot, is. :-)

          - Kevin
        • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Informative)

          by WillerZ (814133) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:59AM (#11743851) Homepage
          The IsNot operator described in the patent also differentiates between objects with the same address in different memory spaces. They mentioned running a cluster-aware program which could manage objects on multiple machines simultaneously.

          So, it's equivalent to:

          ((&a != &b) && (a.host != b.host))

          Which is yet more complex but still not worth patenting a simplification on.
          • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Interesting)

            by LizardKing (5245)

            The IsNot operator described in the patent also differentiates between objects with the same address in different memory spaces.

            I'm sure CORBA has been doing this for years with one of the methods in the base CORBA::Object class. I think the method's called equivalent(), but it's been a while since I did any CORBA - in fact I'm having to endure the pathetic MicroSoft alternative that is SOAP.

        • Re: Oh please! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:01AM (#11743862)


          > But it is the same as "Not equal to" applied to the address of the variable [...] So, it's still a pretty trivial concept...

          There's also single-operator prior art in the Scheme neq? operator.
          (I don't know whether it's standard, but it is provided by some interpreters.)

        • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Informative)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:13AM (#11743938) Homepage
          a isNot b

          is equivalent to:
          &a != &b


          Well, in C, if a and b are strings, structures, or arrays, then the variable name is the same as the address.

          Therefore a != b when you're testing if the 'two variables point to the same location in memory' is covered by friggin' PDP-11 architechture. It's basically a comparison of two integers and a BNZ (branch non-zero) instruction.

          They can make all the claims they want about how they've done all sorts of innovative stuff to make the link novel, it's still comparing a pointer reference in a programming language as far as I can seem.

          What's next, start patenting the AND, NOT, OR family of operations? I hope not!

        • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rseuhs (322520)
          This is exactly what I was thinking, this is just a shortcut (well, actually &&!= are 4 letters and isNot are 4 letters, but you know what I mean...), since when can you patent shortcuts?
          • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Informative)

            by networkBoy (774728)
            "this is just a shortcut (well, actually &&!= are 4 letters and isNot are 4 letters, but you know what I mean...),"

            isNot != 4 letters :-)
            -nB
        • Re:Oh please! (Score:4, Informative)

          by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:25AM (#11744621) Homepage Journal
          Actually, the grandparent post was right...

          a and b are references, which are pointers in the C sense:

          So the C code would be:

          int *a, *b; ...

          if (a != b) { ...
          }

          The extension to C++ usage is obvious to a skilled practioner.

          And the (new, patent pending or granted?) Microsoft BASIC approach is:

          if a isNot b then ...

          The equivalence is EXACT between != and isNot. I am a skilled at programming, and I find it obvious.

          Microsoft will NEVER defend this patent. 'Cause they will lose.

          PS. Object equality vs. Value equality is carefully delineated in "Smalltalk, The Language and Its Implementation" (just the reference I had at hand, there are HUNDREDS of other discussions -- usually for stuff a bit more interesting though).

          Ratboy.
      • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Depends on your language. In a language like Java, all object variables are references, so saying Object1 != Object2 is asking if both variable point to the same object. The same is true in Objective-C, where all object variables are pointers. In these languages, you need to invoke a method defined in the object itself to compare objects by value.
    • by shenanigans (742403) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:45AM (#11743731)
      In other words, the creation of a Microsoft specific "equals" means that code years down the road will require Microsoft specific tools to edit/change/run this code. I call shenanigans!

      Well I can't help you. Stop calling me!
    • Re:Oh please! (Score:3, Informative)

      by berglin (846569)
      > I remember our programming instructor in sixth grade teaching us about this logic operator is BASIC.

      Actually, it's not the same operator.

      They're talking about creating an operator that can say if two objects are the EXACT same object or not.

      In C++ terms this is the equivalent of doing *ptr != *ptr (!=) vs. ptr != ptr (IsNot).
      As you all know, int a = 1 and int b = 1 does mean that &a != &b whereas it does not mean that a != b.

      So, basically they're trying to patent a new keyword wi
      • They're talking about creating an operator that can say if two objects are the EXACT same object or not.
        That's basically what == does in java if you apply it to objects.
        If you want to compare contents you use the equals() method.
  • by Council (514577) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (eornumr)> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:31AM (#11743634) Homepage
    So what's the smallest pattern of bits that Microsoft can fairly claim to hold a patent on?
  • We will all have to pay royalties to MS when using the English language. The fees are based on Scrabble's point system, with 1 cent per point. Pls. sign up at www.microsoft.com with your bank-account or credit card information and will send you our patented verbal-word-counter to be attached to your brain.

    Thinking the words are discounted at 10% over spoken words!
  • by Thyamine (531612) <(moc.snogardfo) (ta) (enimayht)> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:33AM (#11743648) Homepage Journal
    MS announced today their plans to patent the string object, the ampersand, coffee, comfy chairs, and the letter 'T'.
  • Uh, oh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by WebMasterJoe (253077) <[moc.renotseoj] [ta] [eoj]> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:33AM (#11743651) Homepage Journal
    I'd better finish filing out my patent application for "Is" before MS finds out. It's pretty brilliant, if I do say so. "Is" compares two pointers and returns "true" if they contain the same value.
    • German ex-monopolist Deutsche Telekom already copyrighted that "T" and the color "magenta". And won lawsuits defending them. We're already there, folks...
    • if you get that through soon enough, you could sue MS on their IsNot as it's a derivative of Is, and can't be used without Is, therfore yours must be prior art (it comes before the Not), and they owe you money big style.
    • Ok, so... what now?

      We're going to have a Supreme Court case arguing either what Is is?* Or, to be more direct, you need to argue that Is is not IsNot? But then if IsNot is something, then it Is something?

      Yes, this makes perfect sense.

      * See Clinton's Grand Jury testimony.
    • by Otis_INF (130595)
      VB.NET already has a keyword 'Is', which does exactly that. However to execute a code block if 2 references aren't the same, you have to do:

      If Not foo Is Bar Then ...
      End If

      Which is apparently too hard to remember for these VB.NET programmers. In a way it's awkward of course, you write as a C#/C++ programmer: If Foo ... oh darn, I need 'Not' in front of Foo... and you swear and hate VB.NET forever.

      So VB.NET designers thought... what about an IsNot operator? This really shows their inability to think: Coll
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:34AM (#11743652)
    It all depends on what the meaning of the word IsNot, is not.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:34AM (#11743656)
    ...Ridiculous IP claims will be the death of Microsoft.

    When they're resorting to patenting what appear to me to be boolean operations with an object-oriented twist, that's a bad sign about what real plans the company doesn't have.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:04AM (#11743886)


      > When they're resorting to patenting what appear to me to be boolean operations with an object-oriented twist, that's a bad sign about what real plans the company doesn't have.

      Yes, but think how useful it could be in their advertising campaign:

      IsNot reliable
      IsNot secure
      IsNot a good idea
      ...

    • by mrtrumbe (412155) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:25AM (#11744065) Homepage
      I disagree.

      I think SCO had been in decline for years before resorting to frivolous IP claims. It seems to me that their business model (sell a mediocre version of Unix on highly specialized machines to retailers) wasn't working well, their profits sank and they saw the writing on the wall. In comes a new CEO known for pushing IP litigation and *bang* they have a new business model overnight.

      MS is in a different place. I think they will probably go into decline eventually, but they have a long way to go before their business model fails the way SCO's did.

      Taft

  • I don't see... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xbrownx (459399) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:36AM (#11743666)
    ...why any rational company would actually be afraid of this.

    People didn't take the hyperlinking patent seriously did they?
  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:36AM (#11743672)
    I used to work for a company that trademarked the word "xor" (that was the name of the company, now defunct, 450 souls at the height of the dot-com boom). BTW no one (outside of the computer industry) knew how to prononunce xor, so they ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal explaining that it is prononuced "X like the letter, or like the word"
  • by Willeh (768540) <rwillem@xs4all.nl> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:37AM (#11743674)
    I'm not much of a BASIC programmer, but i fail to see how this would seriously worry the people that make RealBasic. If they don't want to see the patented operator in their language, then I'm guessing neither willmost of the other BASIC vendors. Hence, Microsoft will have built another one of their famous Islands (word macro language, implementations of various standards in IE being other islands) that won't be so easy to turn into a Continent (the dominance of IE in the browser market) of Vendor Lock-in.

    And thus Microsoft will have another patent paper to toss onto the pile like so many unwanted gelatine Desserts.

  • by WombatControl (74685) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:42AM (#11743700)

    Rumor has it that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Honest Politicians Society and Slashdotters with girlfriends are all filing suit claiming that they're proof of prior art...

    In all seriousness, the fact that a patent like this is even entertained is a more than a bit disturbing. How in the world one can patent a logical operator is simply beyond me...

  • Wow, nice bias (Score:5, Informative)

    by rabtech (223758) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:43AM (#11743723) Homepage
    I like how the submitter conveniently left out Paul's blog entry on the subject:

    http://www.panopticoncentral.net/archive/2004/11 /2 0/2321.aspx

    He says, among other things that software patents are a "bad idea" and that he did not "feel particularly proud of my involvement in the patent process in this case".

    So there you have it, from the horse's mouth.
    • Re:Wow, nice bias (Score:2, Insightful)

      by radja (58949)
      he thinks it's a bad idea, but did it anyway. He could have refused. he didn't. that's like saying: well, I don't like murder.. but I did it anyway.
    • isn't that even worse?

      "hey, i thought it was something that one shouldn't even have been able to do with good intentions.. but well, you know.. i did it anyways. helps my bonuses you know. then i procedeed to sue the orphanarium because that was also a bad idea but hey, it was worth some bucks and technically legal"
    • What about Europe? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by argent (18001) <peter AT slashdo ... taronga DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:31AM (#11744110) Homepage Journal
      Hold on, if Microsoft is just developing a patent arsenal in case someone else uses software patents against them, how come thay're pushing so hard for software patents in Europe? If this is just a matter of defense, Bill Gates should be asking European ministers to oppose the software patent process, not twisting their arms to push it through against the will of the European Parliament.

      What am I missing?
  • Dear MS (can I call you MS?)

    I heard about your new IsNot, I think it is so elloquent and r33t, but someone has gone and copied you with a '==' object comparator that decides if the references point to the same memory area!

    I say sue!

    Yours,

    A Microsoft Fan-Boy
  • by wren337 (182018) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:51AM (#11743770) Homepage

    Let's pretend this patent goes through; could RealSoftware Inc. sue the patent office for failing in it's duty? I mean, there has to be some liability here. If Microsoft can start patenting any crazy thing with their immense resources, and then everyone else has to scramble to get these patents knocked down, something has really gone wrong. Raise the patent fees so the USPO can really examine these patents. Make them liable for costs when a patent gets stricken for being obvious.
  • by Michalson (638911) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:51AM (#11743778)
    In the last month alone the software patent bastards also gained patents on:

    Network drives and folder mapping [uspto.gov]
    The Photo Album Software that came with your digital camera [uspto.gov]
    The clickable progressbar found in all video and music playing software [uspto.gov]
    The "recent" menu [uspto.gov]
  • Europe (Score:4, Funny)

    by photonic (584757) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:52AM (#11743785)
    It is about time that Europe puts some tough law on software patents in place. Otherwise I fear that VB programmers will emigrate en masse to Europe. Please keep them over there!
  • Prior art? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrogers (85392) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:53AM (#11743790)
    Can anyone explain why IsNot != !=?
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:4, Informative)

      by vrt3 (62368) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:12AM (#11743937) Homepage
      IsNot compares the addresses of the variables, not the value. The equivalent in C is &a != &b instead of just a != b.

      It's just like the equivalent in Python: a is not b (or not a is b, I don't really understand the need for a separate operator). Only difference is that it's one word instead of two. And different capitalization (but isn't Basic case insensitive?)
  • by Tom (822)
    Ok, what's the full story on this? I personally think the USPTO has been out-sourced to the ape cages of the Washington zoo in 1997 or so, but they can not really have patented what's essentially &a!=&b, can they?
  • I'm all for it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:54AM (#11743806)

    Go IsNot patent, go!

    The sooner the industry is choked with these obvious lock-out bullshit patents, the sooner development will grind to a total stop for fear of litigation. And as soon as that happens, the system will have to be reformed.

    Well, either that or we all give up tech completely and be farmers. It's in the court's hands now.

  • by windowpain (211052) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:57AM (#11743831) Journal
    Microsoft IsNot sane.

    Microoft IsNot reasonable.

    Microsoft IsNot ethical.

    Why shouldn't they get to patent "IsNot"?
  • I found some M$ notes inside a copy of Book Delta of the Metaphysics:

    1. beginning (//START)
    2. Cause
    3. Element (+Arrays)
    4. Nature (tyupe)
    5. Necessary
    6. One (probably prior art here)
    7. Being (perfect! self-evident, but not obvious!)
    8. Substance
    9. The Same (PENDED: IsNot)
    10. Opposite (Not)
    11. Prior and Posterior: (patent this one first to protect against "Prior Art"))
    12. Potency
    13. Quantity
    14. Quality (no rush on this one)
    15. Relative ($$$)
    16. Complete (n.b., get 'perpetual beta' first and nail those Google g
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:00AM (#11743856) Homepage
    is for the Linux Corporation to patent the IsTo operator and the competition can devolve to a completely childish level.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They can always be overturned. The problem is the non stupid patents. At LinuxWorld last week, I was discussing a relatively new and unknown technique with someone. They asked if it would work with something else. I didn't know the answer then, but thinking it over I realized it was a huge unexplored area of application. Anybody who got there first could patent everything in that area simply because they got there first. It's pretty close to patenting a new technique "in conjunction with" an existing
  • by phuturephunk (617641) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:04AM (#11743883)
    It is up to YOU the people to elect at least half-way savvy human beings who can change the system. Whining about it on /. isn't going to solve shit. For all the complaining that geek types do, I see scant few of us actually organizing and trying to make a difference.

    Do I think Microsoft should be able to patent this? Absolutely not, because I don't believe the basic core functions of the computer should be patentable. Now taking those functions and tying them together into a cohesive program should definitely be copyrightable, but patenting a computer adding two numbers together (This will happen eventually, I'll bet a C note on it) is ridiculus.
    • hear, hear! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shis-ka-bob (595298) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:37AM (#11744156)
      I think that this is one of several patent applications for software that should be used to shame the patent office and the corporations that apply for software patents on other people's work. Consider US Patent 6,775,781, with was filed by Microsoft on August 10, 2004. From the abstract:
      A computer such as a network appliance executes an administrative security process configured to run under an administrative privilege level. Having an administrative privilege level, the administrative security process can initiate administrative functions in an operating system function library. A user process executing under a non-administrative privilege level can initiate a particular administrative function that the process would not otherwise be able to initiate by requesting that the administrative security process initiate the function. In response to a request to initiate a particular function from a process with a non-administrative privilege level, the administrative security process determines whether the requesting process is authorized to initiate the particular administrative function based on information accessed in a data store. If the requesting process is authorized, the administrative security process initiates the particular administrative function. In this manner, the administrative security process facilitates access to specific administrative functions for a user process having a privilege level that does not permit the user process to access the administrative functions.
      This is a patent on their 'runas' command. But how is this different from the 'sudo' command that has been present on Unix-like systems since 1986. ( See http://www.courtesan.com/sudo/history.html for a history of sudo.) How dare Microsoft so blatantly steal the work of others, in this case the work of Bob Coggeshall, Cliff Spencer, Garth Snyder, Bob Manchek, Trent Hein and Todd Miller. Hypocracy must be opposed, it is immoral. This is not only 'money gurbbing' at its worst, it amount to a theft of other people's work. We must all complain loudly and often to our elected officials.
  • by sammyo (166904)
    If this is held up, it help define the precision of software patents. IsNot must be spelled exactly that, isnot would be ok. Ergo any innovation that contained a single letter different than the patten would be safe. Well that sounds silly but if it requires patent applications with every permutation of spelling a capitalization, each weighing in at 75 tons of paper, it may make the USPO revise some rulings. :-)

  • by Vinnie_333 (575483) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:42AM (#11744196)
    If a patent is given for this, then it proves that the patent system is truely broken beyond repair.
  • by Jedi_Knyghte (763576) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:52AM (#11744299)
    According to Thomistic philosophy, being and good are equivalent. Therefore, not-being is evil. Therefore Microsoft is attempting to patent evil.
  • by Flyboy Connor (741764) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:01AM (#11744389)
    It would be a great boon for the anti-software-patent lobby if this patent would be granted.

    Think of it: it should be easy to convince even a judge that this is an absolutely ridiculous patent claim. So invariably the judge will arrive at two conclusions: (a) this patent is invalid, and (b) the USPTO cannot do a good job. Especially (b) will go a long way in going back to a saner patent system.

  • by WaKall (461142) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:54PM (#11746269) Homepage
    (From the Google Cache, couldn't find it on onion.com)

    Microsoft Patents Zeroes, Ones [64.233.161.104]
  • by Dammital (220641) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:35PM (#11749168)
    ... which returns true if both arguments are the same object.

    Common Lisp has a number of equality operators (eq, eql, equal, equalp, =) which are subtly different. CL differentiates among objects that are equal in type and value, equal in value regardless of type, are identical, or some combination of these.

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