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Microsoft's 911 Patent 391

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-a-little-odd dept.
The register is reporting "'Microsoft was today granted a patent for accessing data used by the emergency services.' They quote from the application 'In sum, what is needed is a way to provide users with access to needed emergency information. This should be simple from the user's perspective, so that even very emotional users can find what is needed in a straightforward, yet comprehensive process.' Apparently the patent was filed one month after 9/11."
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Microsoft's 911 Patent

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  • by Nairoz (856164) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:32AM (#12291660)
    Microsoft, for all your counter-terrorism needs.
    • by Gentlewhisper (759800) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:59AM (#12291929)
      I really find it disgusting how patents can be filed with no implementation in sight. So how does Microsoft intend to provide such a service?

      Or did they file to patent to blackmail^Wpersuade the Government into buying their products because theirs is the only chip on the block?
      • " I really find it disgusting how patents can be filed with no implementation in sight."

        Welcome to the world of govt employees! You get great bennifits, and don't have to really do shit, understand shit, or care about shit, because you don't really answer to anyone unless your branch gets their budget cut, and that won't happen as long as you spend all your current budget on dumb stuff.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:52AM (#12292393) Journal
          Yes, budget burning is somethign i never understood and think that it should be criminal if they are caught doing it.

          We recently had a tax levi on the ballot were i live and it failed. The schools started canceling certian popular after school activities like football and such (that or requiring outragious fees to participate). Some book keeper requested budget and expense information for the previous several years and pointed out that in the last fiscal quarter of each year, the schools were spending on average of 25% more money on supplies and other stuff that doesn't need approval for purchasing then the previous 3 quarters. Then in the begining of the next quarter they would respend on much of the same items. It apears that when school is being let out for the year, they go thru more supplies then when it is in session and they use all those supplies up while the children are on break. Some of the expenses appeared to be obvious budget burning too.

          Its no wonder the government costs so much to run. Our local police and fire have threatened to strike for more pay and some idiot made the fire contract's payroll contingent on the police's pay so an increase in one automaticaly increases the other. We waist so much money that it isn't right.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:00AM (#12291940) Journal
      Equipment that pops up ads while I'm shooting at and being shot at by the Taliban.
      THAT'S what I need.
      • You have to see the big picture... While you are fiering away at the Taliban while talking to the nice lady at 911. The automatic sofware will ensure that you will also get comersials for the latest asault rifles and body armour.... How great is that :D

        Press 1 to order this product now, delivery time 1 hour, payment directly on you phone bill :D
      • by orthogonal (588627) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:51AM (#12292381) Journal
        "Equipment that pops up ads while I'm shooting at and being shot at by the Taliban."

        Hi! I'm Clippy!

        You seem to be in a firefight with Muslim extremists. Would you like to:
        • Hit the dirt?
        • Blow away Mohammed?
        • Ask George Bush why 1317 days after 9/11, Osama bin Laden still hasn't been captured, even though we've given the Iraqis "The Gift of Democracy"?
        • Surrender your essential liberties for a little temporary security?

        Or do you want to change your Clippy Patriot Avatar into:
        • the animated head of Alberto Gonzales?
        • an Iraqi with his head in a hood at Abu Ghraib pissing himself?
        • "the Army you have, not the Army you want."
        • a bouncing video disputing whether John Kerry bled enough to deserve a Purple Heart when he volunteered for duty in Vietnam?
        • a spinning copy of George Bush's mysteriously incomplete military service record?
  • Like OnStar? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:34AM (#12291680) Homepage
    In addition to PDAs, Microsoft suggests that the system could be built into rental cars.

    Would this be like OnStar? Not the navigational OnStar, the part where even if you don't have a subscription and hit the button they will supposedly guide you out of trouble or call for EMS?
    • Actually no you have to have a subscription to even get the auto airbag call. The only thing that you can do without a subscription is sign up for a subscription so I guess in an emergency this can be done, but difficult to say the least.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:34AM (#12291681)
    In post 9/11 world Linux is just no good.
  • by WebHostingGuy (825421) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:35AM (#12291685) Homepage Journal
    Actually it looks too complex from the screenshot. It should be something simple like a big button for 911. Press it and your GPS sends an emergency to 911. Most emergencies are not going to allow you to type with a stylus. Further an one button approach makes it easy for children to do (if you are going to use this in a car).
    • by mishehu (712452) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:03AM (#12291978)
      How about a button with "Don't Panic" written in large, friendly letters on it?
  • Good and bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:35AM (#12291687)
    It's good that they're developing something like this, but it's sick that they're trying to patent it. Next they will try to make money from it. An extension to something as important as 911 should not be corporate.
    • Like that evil OnStar. Or that evil cell phone company with the preset 9 to dial 911 huh?
      • The difference is that OnStar and cell phones do different things than just help with 911.
        • Re:Good and bad (Score:3, Informative)

          by AviLazar (741826)
          Ok so if Bill adds Solitaire to this program will that make you happy? The fact that OnStar and cell phones do different things does not make a difference - they are patented products that deal with 911.
    • Re:Good and bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zkn (704992) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:41AM (#12291768)
      I think you miss the whole point of 9/11. It's US(the coporate world) against THEM(People who live in caves and apparently haven't got any nulearweapons).

      If Microsoft DIDN'T make money off of this, the terrorists would be winning!!
    • Re:Good and bad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:47AM (#12291814)
      Next they will try to make money from it. An extension to something as important as 911 should not be corporate.

      You mean, like the corporately made, and profitable rescue vehicles that are driven to the scene of the emergency? Or the corporately made, and profitable Motorola gear that the responders are using? Or the coporately owned and managed telecomm systems that actually carry the 911 calls? Or the countless consulting and systems integration companies that help build and run the emergency dispatch systems that handle 911 calls?

      This Corporate = Inherently Bad sentiment has become an embarassment. So, if the exact same patent had been filed, and business plan had been dreamt up by just Little Old Me, would it be Bad then? How about if me and two other guys formed a small incorporated group to do it? Is it bad then? How about 30 of us? 300? 3000? What exactly is the inherently bad corporate number, anyway? There must be some cosmic constant that much of slashdot is working with, and it should be shared for peer review.
      • by cloudmaster (10662) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:06AM (#12292001) Homepage Journal
        49. Less than 49 people = good, more = bad. Exactly 49, though, that depends on whether or not they're open-sourcing the product.
      • Re:Good and bad (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Blastercorps (762119)
        This has nothing to do with WHO is developing this technology, it's about what their practices are. All those examples you list are material objects. Microsoft plans to patent the idea behind a 911 style plan.

        You are right, if a municipality wants a police cruiser or ambulance they have to pay for it. What they are paying for is the metal and labor that went into producing that vehicle. But what if the idea behind a police cruiser was patented as microsoft plans to patent this. Then a municipality that wan
    • It's good that they're developing something like this, but it's sick that they're trying to patent it. Next they will try to make money from it. An extension to something as important as 911 should not be corporate.

      You could say the same thing about curing cancer, but see how far that gets you with the pharm industry. Fact is that it isn't cheaper to solve important problems than it is mundane ones - usually the reverse. If you expect a solution, and the government can't do it alone, the private sector n

    • Re:Good and bad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MartinG (52587)
      They are not developing it. They are patenting the idea so they can enslave anyone who does develop it.
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:35AM (#12291692)
    And I thought it was just a joke when people said that Microsoft was working to kill Apple and Linux users. Seriously though, I wonder how many people will die because other people with similar lifesaving products for OS X and Linux won't be able to release them because of this patent.
    • And as a follow up question, I wonder how many people will die because of whatever crappy product Microsoft releases. I can't wait until someone prematurely stops administering CPR because this MS program told them that their were preforming a socket operation on something that was not a socket.
    • Seriously though, I wonder how many people will die because other people with similar lifesaving products for OS X and Linux won't be able to release them because of this patent

      Plus, you should be able to file a seriously profitable law suit because your iPod won't interact with the OnStar network, thus risking your life, which would have been, what, less risky before that product existed (and thus couldn't be used), and but is now more risky because there'll be a new product you don't want to use?
    • Insightful? How is the parent blather insightful? Obviously, no one will die because 911 systems are not run on Linux or OS X (should that become a reality, although I don't really think OS X plays much of a role in the world of 911), because obviously, everyone involved with 911 will be using M$ over Intel. Sure, this isn't the way it should be, but obviously if you run a 911 system and your software is made by M$, you will not be running it on Linux or OSX. Talk about meaningless blather, the parent shoul
  • I'm sorry, but isn't the actual 911 (not 9/11) emergency services network considered prior art? And what about this makes it patentable, other than the complete insanity of the US Patent Office. This seems almost as rediculous as "One Click Shopping". Or hey, forget about originality, what about non-obviousness?

    Jeesh.
  • Makes sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by millennial (830897) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:36AM (#12291703) Journal
    Although I'm not sure that Microsoft is the right person for the job, I agree that this was a huge need right after the attacks. Cell phone and land line exchanges were absolutely flooded with calls, and couldn't handle all the traffic.
    My question: How, exactly, is a PocketPC application going to help with this? I mean, really - do they expect us to all rush out and buy one so that we can have access to emergency information? How would putting it in a rental car be of any use to the people who own the car they're driving when an emergency occurs?

    I think the timing is pretty distasteful as well - almost as if they're saying "We could have done it better, and here's how!"
  • Transcript (Score:5, Funny)

    by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:36AM (#12291705) Homepage
    "911 Operator. What is the nature of the emergency?"

    "HELP! There's a criminal trying to break into my house!"

    "We will have someone there right away, Ma'am. Just tell me your name, your address, and your patent use approval identification number."

    "This is Mary Smith of 123 Maple Drive, and what?-- patent thingamabob?"

    "Your patent use approval identification number, the proof that you can properly use this protected 911 service."

    "He's got a gun! Hurry!"

    "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but this seems to be a patent violation. Our enforcement officers will be out there immediately to collect payment plus penalty."
    • by tgv (254536)
      Although it's funny -- and ironic and sarcastic -- this post sadly deserves something more than "funny".
      • Although it's funny -- and ironic and sarcastic -- this post sadly deserves something more than "funny".

        No it doesn't. It has no relation to reality. Patents don't inhibit end users, onlt manufacturers. It may be funny, but in order to rate an insightful or interesting mod it'd actually have to make a cogent point.

  • by jam244 (701505) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:36AM (#12291708) Homepage
    Caller: "Help, my house is on fire!"

    911: "You appear to be making an emergency call. Would you like me to set up a template?"

    Caller: "A what? Help me!"

    911: "Accessing help..."

    911: "..."

    911: "Socket timed out, retrying..."

    Caller: "Augh!"

    911: "Welcome to the 911 help system. Please say your search terms now."

    Caller: "....... FIRE!"

    911: "Searching..."

    911: "FIRE up your browsing experience with the new MSN Search, your comprehensive portal to the web!"

    Caller: "Augh!"
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:37AM (#12291711)
    "... I can get the fire service to you by, erm, next Thursday afternoon?"
  • by PurpleXanathar (800369) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:37AM (#12291712)
    Where do you want to go today ?

    [ ] Hospital
    [ ] Police Station
    [ ] E.R.
    [ ] Fire Station
    • From the screenshot, that's exactly what it is. My first thought was; this is the 911 emergency version of Clippy.

      Imagine Clippy popping up when your mother's leg has been torn off in a car wreck. There are some places that Microsoft shouldn't go on any day.
  • Uh ohh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by neutz (587023) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:37AM (#12291718) Journal
    Blue Screen of Death... _literally_.
  • I'm confused kinda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nate53085 (782588) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:37AM (#12291720)
    The article starts by making it seem like if you call 911, then Microsoft can access the data. But the patent makes it seem more like its a new 911 system, simply built by Microsoft. If its a new system that works better, then in this case I will side with Microsoft and say good for them, the 911 system is innefficient in some places. On the other hand, if they can access private data...to hell with them. "They that give up liberty for security deserve neither" - Benjamin Franklin
    • The article starts by making it seem like if you call 911, then Microsoft can access the data.

      Sure, what's the problem?

      After all, if your PC burns to cinders in a house fire, they're going to want to get there quick to sell you a new Windows XP license!

      And think about being rushed to hospital in childbirth? Get that newborn signed up to MSDN the moment it's head pops out!

    • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:48AM (#12291825) Homepage Journal
      I sort of agree with you, with one massive proviso:

      What's the non-obvious novel invention here? Answer (as far as I can tell): there isn't one. It's an IP land-grab that's an attempt to to gain a 20 year monopoly on computer-facilitated Emergency Service response.
    • by m50d (797211)
      Do you not think it's kinda wrong for them to be patenting and making money off an improved 911 system? I suppose the people who make fire engines etc. are also making money off the emergency services, but still, it feels like it shouldn't be subject to ruthless profiteering like everything else.
  • location aware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Keruo (771880) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:39AM (#12291740)
    Is that guide location aware aswell?
    I don't need to know that 911 is emergency number in USA if I need to call 112 for ambulance in rest of the world.
  • Yano.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phuturephunk (617641) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:39AM (#12291742)
    If this isn't a clear call to overhaul the patent system, I have no idea what is. In a way it should be amusing to see what happens with this..if say another firm tries to give support or build a system for a municipality that's looking to upgrade their response systems and Microsoft sues them.

    I think, in that case, it would crack the whole controversy wide open. Think about the field day the media would have the first time a county commissioner or a mayor gets on the national news and says that they have to spend ridiculous amounts of money, or forego upgrading at all because some private firm isn't allowing them to without first paying them extortion money.

    And don't even start about if those systems were to fail at a critical time such as during a disaster. The fallout would be hugely destructive to MS.

    Microsoft would be foolish to try to enforce this...but a certain part of me wants them to deny reason and try, if for nothing else but the huge media circus that would ensue.
  • by gearmonger (672422) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:43AM (#12291789)
    This is absurd. Unless the full text of the patent contains some highly restrictive language or incredibly innovative concepts (both unlikely), there is no way this hasn't been patented by some higher-level concept before. Aggregating information into a single place? Come on!

    Absurdity aside, what isn't patentable now? I'm getting more and more convinced that the limits on patentability are quickly dwindling to nothing. I'm not sure if it's the patent clerks trying to ensure job security or a misguided vision that the USPTO's job is to approve patents and that the courts should settle disagreements. Whichever it is, or both, needs to be addressed ASAP.

  • by Minupla (62455) <minupla@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:43AM (#12291792) Homepage Journal
    I see from the diagrams from TFA, that one of the predefined emergancies is financial.

    Now I agree that there are financial emergancies, but most do not require a first responder.

    Unless maybe the program is sponsored by CapitalOne.

    "We need a loan officer here STAT!"

    The mind boggles.
  • Cases like this should answer the question whether using just "may" instead of "shall exclude" in Art. 27.2 TRIPs [wto.org] was a mistake. :-(

    How precisely does a 20-year monopoly on ways of accessing emergency information benefit society at large? If it doesn't, it never ought to have been granted.

  • Clippy 911 (Score:5, Funny)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:47AM (#12291815)
    (animated picture of Clippy)

    "Hey there, partner...it looks like you're trying to call 911!"

    Does your emergency involve:

    A car accident

    Chest pains

    A guy with an axe

    None of these - search Microsoft

  • Oh holy stupidity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChaosCube (862389) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:49AM (#12291840) Homepage
    From the actual patent, numbered 6882706:

    What is claimed is:

    1. A computer-implemented method, comprising:

    maintaining a plurality of records in an emergency data store, each record comprising emergency data and having type of emergency information associated therewith that classifies the record as corresponding to at least one type of emergency;

    providing an emergency page, the emergency page including a plurality of emergency type links, each emergency type link corresponding to a particular type of emergency;

    receiving an indication that an emergency type link was actuated, and in response,

    accessing the emergency data store to locate at least two records that are each associated with the type of emergency that corresponds to the actuated link;

    aggregating the data from each located record into aggregated emergency data; and

    providing an emergency sub-page based on the aggregated emergency data.


    The abstract is even more vague. So, I don't see any invention here, nor any innovation. It sounds like a database with a simple user interface. I'm working on such a system right now. Am I violating Miscrosoft's patent? Sure, my system deals with proletariat efficiencies, but it's basically the same idea.

    I don't see how a patent can be granted for this. Emergency services have been doing this for years, just on paper and with log books. Sure, it's good to have needed information in one convenient place, with a simple interface, but I fail to see any innovation or invention. How can one patent something that is simply logic? Can logic really be patented? I know it has been, but that doesn't mean it's not asinine. Maybe I read the patent wrong, but I just see this as simple logic.
    • I don't see how a patent can be granted for this. Emergency services have been doing this for years, just on paper and with log books. Sure, it's good to have needed information in one convenient place, with a simple interface, but I fail to see any innovation or invention. How can one patent something that is simply logic? Can logic really be patented? I know it has been, but that doesn't mean it's not asinine.

      A recent decision from the other side of the Pond says it all:

      4.6

      The Board is aware that its c

    • by optimus2861 (760680) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:17AM (#12292078)
      Apparently throwing the word "emergency" in there all over the place makes it patent-worthy in the eyes of USPTO. Seriously, there's no functional difference between this statement:

      maintaining a plurality of records in an emergency data store, each record comprising emergency data and having type of emergency information associated therewith that classifies the record as corresponding to at least one type of emergency;

      And this one:

      maintaining a plurality of records in a data store, each record comprising data and having type of information associated therewith that classifies the record as corresponding to at least one type of event;

      I chose the word "event" but you could probably substitute any number of words there. Either way, removing all the extra "emergency"s exposes this thing as a very transparent attempt, as you said, to patent a database with a user interface. (Is "emergency" even defined in the patent claim?)

      And the USPTO bought it.

      Sheesh.

  • Thanks to Microsoft for patenting this very much needed technology and thus protecting it from exploitation. Clearly, Microsoft has held the patent for a long time and has not attempted to gain financially from it, allowing the public to benefit fully from the innovation without worrying about someone coming along and attempting to make a profit from it. In the wake of 9/11, Microsoft used its significant legal muscle to protect the public from those who might wish to profit from other peoples' misfortune
  • by Mikito (833242) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:53AM (#12291875)
    I would be very concerned about the potential abuse of this type of technology. Imagine the following scenarios:

    1. Immature person tries out the emergency call just to see what happens or if it really works.
    2. Creative but malicious person writes virus that triggers this technology.
    3. Someone triggers the emergency call in one place, using this as a distraction away from where a real emergency (burglary, for example) is taking place.
    4. Creative but malicious person writes program that blocks this technology.

    These are just a few random things that come to mind. Numbers 1 and 3 can be done today using a regular phone, but numbers 2 and 4 are what concern me--the idea that someone could potentially make it look like you or I were "prank-calliing" the police or fire station, or interfere with a real-life emergency.

    This is all hypothetical, of course.
  • by IdJit (78604) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:55AM (#12291893)
    Operator: 911...What is your emergency?
    Caller: My wife is having a heart attack! Please send someone!!
    Operator: It seems you are using 911 for the first time. Would you like some help?
    Caller: YES!! Send someone NOW!!
    Operator: In order to complete this call, you will have to restart your phone. Please hang up and call again.
    Caller: WHAT??!!
    Operator: Your phone is now restarting...(click!)
  • by Alephcat (745478) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @09:58AM (#12291916) Homepage Journal
    20 minutes... 25 minutes... 23 minutes... 14 minutes... 2 minutes... 40 minutes...
  • Really! Armstrong could have been made a millionare by patenting "Walking on the Moon". And Suing Buzz Aldwin.

    Everyone in the queue for "Walking on Mars" Patents. And they are discovering new planets every {day|week|month}. Get yours today!!!!

    Maybe I should make a template patent and sell that!! All that's left is to say -
    3. Profit!
  • Its broad, but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by mikeborella (118715)
    There is only one set of independent claims. Usually that means that there were other sets ruled unpatentable by the PTO, which may later find their way (in a more limited form) to a continuation patent.
  • by stlhawkeye (868951) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:03AM (#12291965) Homepage Journal
    Other companies have proposed patents, also since 9/11, in an effort to improve the reliability of the emergency response system. Some have been extensions of existing technology, some have been replacements for existing technology, some have been efforts to bolster the reliability of existing technology.

    One of the more well-known was the one that VoIP filed [techweb.com], meant to stabilize the usability of internet phones for emergency calls by rerouting VoIP calls to emergency numbers through the conventional phone system.

    Microsoft's patent isn't quite like VoIPs but my point is that if this was, say, a patent being filed by Google, a number of you who decry this move would be celebrating their the foresight and genius.

  • Re-Register... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672)
    Microsoft patents 911 [theregister.co.uk]

    Please, at least change the alarmist title... come on /. is becoming El Reg's mirror, or what? and no, Microsoft is in no way patenting 911, 999. It does not have anything to do with telephone numbers...
  • There's flames up in the bedroom
    My cat's stuck up a tree
    My brother's bleeding on the ground
    He's cut an artery

    The dog's just chewed a cable
    My neice has cut her head
    There's axemen in my garden and
    They're burning down the shed

    My middle finger's severed
    As I dial my bloodied phone
    Tap nine-one-one on keypad
    But all I get's ring tone

    While Billy makes his billions
    My house is getting fired
    I should have paid the monthly fee
    Before my code expired

  • Not having to send in a working model, is there anything to stop someone coming up with a new, plausible idea, write out an application, and get patents for stuff that really hasn't been invented yet, wait for someone to *actually* invent it, and bilk the guy for money?
  • Invention? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sepluv (641107) <blakesley AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:29AM (#12292172) Homepage
    It must be a slow news day.

    Needless to say, this is yet another patent that does not cover an invention (which is supposed to be the point of patents), but (arguably) a discovery--although it is more like common knowledge than something only Microsoft have discovered.

    Once again like most U.S. patents:

    • there is no physical object
    • it did not take time, money or effort to hone and eventually produce this pathetic `plan' [uspto.gov] of an `invention'--it is just an idea
    • this actually impedes the "progress of science and the arts" [U.S. constitution] (and, in this case, the emergency services) and in no way gives anything back (e.g.: by actually including useful plans to help someone make such a system after the patent has expired)
    • it would be trivial for someone to come up with this independently (without realising they were breaking the law)
    ...and U.S. politicians wonder why people think their patent system is so insane...

    The reason why patents were invented was to stop people keeping the workings of their inventions trade secrets which would never be released to the public (whereas--the then new-fangled--patents actually run out) thereby impeding the "progress of the science and the arts", therefore patents are only supposed to cover something that a company might be able to keep a secret. In this case, the idea (which is what they are trying to patent; as opposed to the specific invention that Microsoft has or has not yet--as the case may be--produced) would not be coverable by a trade secret as once they produced such a product it would be common knowledge (and thefore no longer a secret) that such a product could be produced. Whereas, if Microsoft were patenting the specific workings of their invention, these would be harder for someone with one of their products to hand to work out--thereby potentially patentable as they are potentionally able to be kept secret (while Microsoft sell the product).

    Making a (possibly poor) analogy with the field of consumer law, this is a bit like Microsoft trying to trademark the generic term for the class of their product as opposed to a name for a particular brand (e.g.: hypothetically, if Microsoft were in the automobile maunfacturing industry, trademarking the word, "car"; or, again hypothetically, if Microsoft were in the operating-system engineering industry trademarking the word "windows" for a windows system...o, nevermind...).

    The patent is entitled "a method and system of providing emergency data"; however reading it one realises that (in common with most patents using those magic `method' and `system' words in their titles) it is not actually a patent on "a [particular] method and system of providing emergency data" but actually a patent that stops anyone else from producing any "method and system of providing emergency data".

    This is backed up by the way that, throughout the patent, it says that "this invention [sic.] covers [foo], [bar] and [baz]" or similar language (where foo, bar and baz are sorts of inventions that might be made in the future by others) instead of describing the actual invention that Microsoft have produced (or, I suspect, have not actually produced) so that others can gain from this knowledge after the patent expires.

    There are many other ways in which this, once again, goes against the basic principles of the patent system. However, as I suspect (hopefully) everyone will laugh at any (unlikely) attempts by Microsoft to enforce this patent, I will not spend more time analysing this drivel (that Microsoft and other large corporations produced by the dead-tree load on a daily basis).

  • Hideous interface (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbanzai (596355) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:32AM (#12292212)
    That little picture is just about useless as a tool to make emergency communications easier.

    I was a 911 dispatcher in L.A. (including during the riots) and I can tell you that in an emergency the average person sometimes forgets basic information such as: their address, vehicle type, child's name, etc.

    If such a tool could ever be made to work it would need as few buttons as possible, as large as possible, with as few words as possible.

    Maybe if you hit the good sized emergency button you immediately get two big buttons that almost fill the screen.

    (POLICE)
    (FIRE/AMBULANCE)

    In a decent dispatch environment if someone hits the wrong one they can quickly be routed to the right one.

    Anything else is basically not an emergency and doesn't belong on the tool.
  • Great... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann@slashdot.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:36AM (#12292256) Homepage Journal
    millions of citizens are scared to hell, the towers fall, and Microsoft is thinking about making money.

    Way to go, Billy!
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwood (25379) on Wednesday April 20, 2005 @10:38AM (#12292270)
    I can't figure out what they patented. Is it the concept of querying a database and displaying the results in a form? That's what the text sounds like. Or is it Apple's dream keyboard (the one you have to click with the mouse in order to type)?

    Either way it sounds much more cumbersome, error-prone, and generally distressing than "seize a telephone; press 9, 1, 1; tell the dispatcher what your problem is."
  • In an emergency, I don't want a user interface of ANY kind. Just send a fucking pig with a gun, and send him now!
  • No, Thank You.

    Please do not install this is my schools, in public places, or government offices.

    Please do not install this in my place of work. Please do not install this in my residence, or any of my relatives/friends residences.

    If there is someone out there dumb enough to use a Microsoft designed system for their emergency response, go ahead. The day my town starts pushing the Microsoft Emergency Response system is the day I move for the hills.

    Statistics be damned. Test results be damned. I don't care if they prove that this system is perfect. I do NOT trust them enough to run my emergency services (or even be involved at all), and YES, it is purely a corporate trust issue.

    There is good reason Microsoft is not involved in the design of mission critical life support medical systems.

    Similarly, we saw how the Microsoft "next generation" naval warship (in conjunction with the U.S. navy) worked out (if you don't know, go check google).

    There is good reason Microsoft should NOT be involved in the design of mission critical emergency systems.
  • Microsoft still hasn't patented the idea for toilet paper rolls. Rolls of TP are way better than the old way where the toilet paper was just in a pile on the floor. They might also look into patenting the primary use of TP which would give them some more territory for 'digital rights management.'
  • I have read the actual "patent" here [uspto.gov].

    The patent does not actually focus so much on the user interface, which seems to have the most comments, but rather on the idea that some "data" can be "tagged" in some manner as "emergency data", and pooled, presented, and then sent when a "emergency event" is invoked.

    My favorate quote from the patent While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof are shown in the drawings and have b

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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