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Microsoft Found Guilty of Patent Infringement 342

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
Spy der Mann writes "Microsoft has been found guilty of patent infringement and ordered to pay a Guatamalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado almost $9m in damages. The US District Court of Central California court ruled that Microsoft had infringed on his intellectual property and ordered it to pay him $8.96m. The patent in question is a method to transfer data between Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access using a single spreadsheet."
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Microsoft Found Guilty of Patent Infringement

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  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:29PM (#12764663) Homepage
    In other news, Guantemala's gross domestic product tripled today...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:31PM (#12764676)
    So wait, does this mean patents are good now?

    I'm so confused!
    • Like most things at Slashdot, there is a double standard at play here. In other words, the Slashdot fanboys are not as pue as they like to think of themselves as. If it's bad for MS, it's good "just because". Pay backs, you know? Like little children...
      • by dnixon112 (663069) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:17PM (#12764977)
        Wrong.

        The reason it's 'a good thing' is because the more small companies, in some cases companies who are little more then patent whores, can successfully sue the big companies who actually have a say in government policy the better chance we have of reforming the patent system. If this ruling leads to more and more ridiculous rulings costing MS and other big companies millions upon millions of companies, hopefully it will get to the point where the people in power will be hit hard enough in the pocket book to finally have the motivation to change software patents.
        • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:35PM (#12765086) Homepage
          The reason it's 'a good thing' is because the more small companies, in some cases companies who are little more then patent whores, can successfully sue the big companies who actually have a say in government policy the better chance we have of reforming the patent system.

          No. What will happen is that big companies that have influence over government policy will lobby to have the bar raised so high that small patent holders ("whores", as you say) will not be able to prove a case in the first place.

      • by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john.oyler@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:35PM (#12765082) Journal
        Yeh, the same double standard that says landmines are always bad, but that we can ignore temporarily if say, Pol Pot gets one accidentally stuffed up his ass.

        Oh wait. That's not a double standard, that's just us cheering when bad things happen to bad people. Whooddah thunkit?
      • by Darby (84953)
        If it's bad for MS, it's good "just because". Pay backs, you know? Like little children...

        No, if it is bad for a criminal monopolist who bought their way out of any punishment whatsoever for their knowingly illegal actions then odds are it *is* good for everybody (are you seriously saying criminals should never be punished for their crimes?).

        That is the adult idea that people should be responsible for their actions combined with an honest approach to the attitude that honest people being able to have any
      • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @03:51AM (#12766175) Homepage
        Hardly.

        The highest rule is that we all have to live by the same rules.

        There is nothing wrong with:
        (1) Saying a certain rule is bad and should be changed
        *and*
        (2) Appreciating the JUSTICE of someone being forced to face the consequences of supporting a bad rule

        I say Microsoft should not get hit with software patents - ON THE SOLE CONDITION THAT NO ONE GET HIT WITH SOFTWARE PATENTS.

        Microsoft supports software patents and they have absolutely no right to complain or play the victim when the very rule they support comes and bites them in the ass.

        -
  • by spagetti_code (773137) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:31PM (#12764677)
    that MS is firing a few thousand patents a year at the USPTO - protecting themselves.

    You gotta have some sympathy for MS about this.
    • by TWX (665546) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:52PM (#12765197)
      "that MS is firing a few thousand patents a year at the USPTO - protecting themselves."

      EEEEH! Wrong! All that they have to do is demonstrate prior art if they're charged with patent infringement. If they can show such then they should be able to win just about any lawsuit alleging wrongdoing. The entire point of a patent is to claim exclusive original rights or exclusive use.
      • by DoctorHibbert (610548) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:31AM (#12765703)
        All that they have to do is demonstrate prior art if they're charged with patent infringement

        Sorry, but that's simply not the case, as I'm currently serving as an expert witness for a defendant in a patent case. It's not enough to have prior art, you must also convince a jury that you have prior art. Good luck getting a jury of everyday schmoes to understand some complex technical issue.

        You see both sides will have expert witnesses, and they will both say how much they believe they are right. Both sides will spout technical jargon and the juries eyes will glaze over. And the jury will determine the winner based on things like who most likable. So if you can paint yourself as some poor schlub who got ripped off by MS, then the technical stuff really doesn't matter. Really. It's fucking sad, but that's how it works.
  • "Damn! Should have settled. They were offering me $10 million."
    • Assuming M$ is a $30,000,000,000 company and they make .01 percent interest in the bank this month. That easily takes care of that $9 million.

      Judges need to figure out how to put a dent on these guys. Like take excel out of the office suite.

      • No, they don't need to figure out how to put a dent in these guys. Aside from the issue that this is over a software patent (something railed against so often, but since this is against Microsoft it must be OK), actual damages, and perhaps some punitive damages should have been applied, but the Supreme Court has in a way limited advised damages to nine times the actual damages in guidelines from the last few years (a case about a scratched BMW, IIRC).

        Getting back monies lost is fine. Getting some additio
        • Aside from the issue that this is over a software patent (something railed against so often, but since this is against Microsoft it must be OK)

          Actually it's more than OK, it's GREAT - but not for the reasons you think.

          The patent system is completely screwed up. The only way it will ever get changed is if we see some negative effects on big industry as well as small. The way the US government currently works it will do anything to protect big business and the precious economy. If stupid patents star
        • (something railed against so often, but since this is against Microsoft it must be OK)

          It reminds me of a scene from a movie. I forgot what movie, and I'll have to make up some details, but it goes something like this...

          You have one person (the shark) being very freindly and helpful teaching someone else (the victim) "how to play poker". They of course are playing for money. The shark is being particularly helpful, even placing the vitim's money into the pot for him... helping him bet.

          As the poker lesson
  • Poetic Justice. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kryogen1x (838672) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:32PM (#12764686)
    'Nuff said.
    • Re:Poetic Justice. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:47PM (#12764794) Homepage Journal
      Poetic justice?! Hardly!

      The only good that could come of this would be the remote chance that it could convince MS that software patents are a terrible idea and prod them into backing Red Hat and Oracle's push to reform patents in the US [yahoo.com] and Europe [reuters.com].
      • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:03PM (#12764894) Homepage
        Unfortunately if you look you'll notice that as the number of frivolous patent lawsuits against Microsoft has gradually increased over the last few years, Microsoft's response has been... to suddenly start filing a whole bunch of patents. Lots of patents. Even more than before. And making a big deal in the press about patents and how important they are. And making a big deal to Europe about why they need software patents. Whereas before software patents was something they didn't really give much public indication of caring about one way or the other.

        Microsoft obviously isn't doing this for protection, since the only people who've been suing Microsoft have been tiny parasite IP companies-- the kind of people who a patent shield is useless against. Instead it almost kind of seems to me like Microsoft is brushing off the patent judgments like an elephant swatting flies with its tail, but meanwhile going "wait... you mean patents can be used for evil? Interesting...", as if even though the lawsuits may sting a little they don't mind so much because it's given them some ideas of their own.

        I hope to whatever Gods may or may not exist that this is just my overactive paranoid imagination.
        • Microsoft obviously isn't doing this for protection, since the only people who've been suing Microsoft have been tiny parasite IP companies-- the kind of people who a patent shield is useless against.

          No - if MS patents everything it can, then there's less chance of such a parasite from obtaining a patent that it can use against MS. Hence, it *is* (or at least *can be*) a defensive measure.

          Denying your would-be attacker any way of attacking you is just as effective as being able to retaliate, if not more
  • umm... no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by geoffspear (692508) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:32PM (#12764687) Homepage
    Patent infringement is not a crime, so they were not, in fact, found "guilty".
  • by bersl2 (689221) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:32PM (#12764690) Journal
    Not that MS cares, or anything, seeing as no one can push them around at their own game.
    • 7.5 days (Score:4, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:53PM (#12764830) Homepage Journal
      seeing as no one can push them around at their own game

      If I ran the numbers right, based on their third quarter earnings this will set Microsoft's profits back 7.5 days. That's profit, not revenue.

      That worked out to $329/second, or about $40 grand by time Slashdot will let you post another comment.
  • WHAT? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by halo8 (445515) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:33PM (#12764691)
    So.. he patented a way for Microsoft Excel to work with Microsoft Access.. both products that Microsoft makes.

    Then he sued Microsoft???

    I know.. i patent a way for Apple Intel to work with Apple PowerPC, no one would ever think of that.

    • You did't get it (Score:5, Informative)

      by xbsd (814561) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:37PM (#12765093) Journal
      So.. he patented a way for Microsoft Excel to work with Microsoft Access.. both products that Microsoft makes. Then he sued Microsoft??? I know.. i patent a way for Apple Intel to work with Apple PowerPC, no one would ever think of that.

      You didn't get it:
      1. The guy came up with a technique to interact with Access and Excel while doing graduate studies and gets a patent.
      2. He approached Microsoft Corp. in the 90s and offered them his patent. Microsoft rejects the idea and say they're not interested.
      3. About the same time, Microsoft adds the same technique to his products, makes a great deal of it and gets millions in revenue.
      4. Then, and only then, the guy went to court, proved that he was the first to come up with the technique , proved that he approached Microsoft, proved that he showed it to them before they ever thought about it and then gets a fair amount of money.

      I don't support software patents, but if Microsoft is promoting that nasty game, they have to obey the nasty game's rules.
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:33PM (#12764693) Journal
    As much as I hate Microsoft, I hate people who think they can use patents to cash in on something after the fact. Rambus did this in its ambush of memory makers. Eolas did this to Microsoft. Intertrust is doing this now to MS.

    These companies sit around and brainstorm ideas without ever coming up with anything tangible, then they receive patents on their broad ideas. With the patent in hand, they can then sue anyone and anything that looks to be infringing. It's really sad.

    At least when IBM or Microsoft or Sun patent something, they have some tangible product they look to implement. The patent leeches just look for traps they can set for big payoffs later on.
    • Software patents suck. I don't care who is trying to use them, they suck. Microsoft is the victim today, tomorrow it could be you.

      It is like patenting how I make my breakfast in the morning. It's just stupid.
    • Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by game kid (805301) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:45PM (#12764777) Homepage
      I'm afraid of making any sort of software, even for fun. If it somehow leaves my PC goes public, someone could notice I made it, dig up some old patent, and sue my ass to Hoboken, New Jersey. [google.com] This leeching is far worse than file leeching, and it's always sad to see that something intended to advance science and the arts [house.gov] (see Sec. 8, Clause 8) is impeding it instead. If it can happen to "M$" with their many IP/etc. lawyers, it can happen, and cause far worse damage, to us. That's -1, Scary to me.
    • by the gnat (153162) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:04PM (#12764900)
      At least when IBM or Microsoft or Sun patent something, they have some tangible product they look to implement.

      Um. IBM was infamous for filing patents like crazy and then using these to shake down competitors. The worst as called the "fat lines" patent; I think it essentially covered drawing a line twice with a pixel offset. There was a story in Forbes (posted on Slashdot) a few years back about how IBM decided to extort money from Sun for violating the patent. Sun's engineers gave them a lengthy explanation and told them "see, we're not infringing." IBM's lawyers just shrugged and said "We're just going to find something else you're infringing, so you might as well pay us now."

      Gates once remarked (back in 1990 or so) that if the patent situation had always been this bad the computing industry would have been stillborn. He also said that Microsoft needed to get patents purely as a defensive measure. As far as I'm aware, despite Microsoft's generally sleazy business practices they've generally been one of the least vicious and exploitative patent holders.
  • by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:33PM (#12764694)
    i like this idea you are trying to sell us. but it reminds me of something we are already working on. you may leave now, no need to take your folder with you.
    • Well thats no joke, but they word it differently...investors will give you some money, but not enough to make your product successful... your company folds eventually, investors take your product and make 100-fold their initial pittance.

      You would agree too, since you'd say to yourself "well if it folds, then I don't need product rights anyway..."

      There's only one way to make big bucks...luck. Hard work, intelligence, and preperation are meaningless - everyone has that. So play the lottery if you want t
  • I know people always point out how bad Microsoft is, but, I'm seeing plenty of advertising about all kinds of research sponsorship Microsoft does, and wondering if I should enroll (at least try) in some of them? I also have few new algorithms that people pointed out to me "try selling that to Microsoft".

    Can anyone tell me more about their good/bad experiences regarding IP and Microsoft ? And I'm not talking only for the bashing part, Microsoft is a big company and plenty goes on with them, anything posit
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:35PM (#12764710) Journal
    That isn't American dollars. He "only" got $1,166,448 [oanda.com]
  • by Admiral Justin (628358) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:36PM (#12764712) Homepage Journal
    Jackson found innocent, invites school bus full of children to his ranch to celebrate.

    Yahoo decides to give up fight against Google and shifts all it's resources to making small toys for the quarter machines at grocery stores.

    Gnome and KDE finally resolve differences and merge, new name to be KnomE

    Secluded inventor in Guatamala buys entire country a round.
  • by Halcyon-X (217968) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:36PM (#12764718)
    Microsoft expressed disappointment at the verdict

    Why, aren't they usually happy when software patent rights are recognized?

    • Microsoft invents Microsoft Excel.
      Microsoft invents Microsoft Access.
      Guatamalan inventor patents method of transferring data between the two programs.

      Does that make any sense to you? Guy didn't invent either program. He's not some disgruntled ex-Microsoft programmer out to get his just dues. He's not some super, uber-leet programmer who came out with "Carlos's Excel" or "Carlos's Access" years before Microsoft did and simply didn't succeed due to lack of marketing. This is some Joe Nobody who filed a bro

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:48AM (#12765771)
        Microsoft invents Microsoft Excel.
        Microsoft invents Microsoft Access.
        Guatamalan inventor patents method of transferring data between the two programs.

        I don't know if you remember 1992, but back then, you couldn't get Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word to talk. Believe, I tried. I was going to college back then and for one of my engineering classes, I tried to embed an Excel spreadsheet into Word. The spreadsheet has come complex calculations in it and I didn't want to type in the values by hand. Eventually I had to save Excel as text and then open that up in Word. So this getting two MS programs to interact was non-obvious.

      • Microsoft invents Microsoft Excel.
        Microsoft invents Microsoft Access.
        Guatamalan inventor patents method of transferring data between the two programs.


        And exactly what is the difference between inventing Excel, or C / C++, Java, Perl, and have people loading software patents based on that technology?

        None. This just shows why software patents is bad. It's all mathematics, and they're trying to sell what we already own, to us..

        Microsoft deserves this, because they're in the forefront of software patents i
  • Classic! (Score:2, Insightful)

    Microsoft sued over a patent concerning *its own* products! CLASSIC!

    Nandz.
  • wow.. silly patent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pavera (320634)
    Ok,
    so transfering data from an excel spreadsheet to an Access table is patented... Hmmm I've been using copy/paste to do that since forever. What "technology" is this? You've been able to export a spreadsheet to comma delimited and import to Access since forever as well... How do you get a patent on importing a comma delimited file?
  • by keepper (24317) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:45PM (#12764784) Homepage
    Carlos Armando Amado devised a way to connect Excel with Access using a specially crafted spreadsheet during his tenure as a graduate student at Stanford University. After applying for a patent in 1990, Mr. Amando approached Microsoft to license the software, but was denied.

    Microsoft then used the same exact method.

    Now, while i totally disagree with the idea of patents like this... It changes the story a bit doesnt it?
    Heh, after all this is slashdot.
    • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:00PM (#12764877) Journal
      How does it change anything?

      Microsoft built a suite of integrated Office applications with built-in functionality that allows seamless transfer of data between the apps. Amado uses the built-in functions to do exactly what those features are designed to do, receives a patent from the braindead patent office, then tries to present his "discovery" to the people who invented the thing in the first place.

      There's nothing to understand here except that Amado's idea was exactly why Microsoft put those features into the applications in the first place.

      If this doesn't push Microsoft to patent every single thing they ever do or plan to do, I don't know what will. How can they protect themselves from these fleas? The only way is to hold those patents.

      These types of lawsuits are what is leading to the demise of intellectual property, not the other way around. It is when people abuse the system by applying for things that are either obvious or developed by someone else that this type of lawsuit occurs.

      I hope Amado is happy with that money because he doesn't deserve it.
      • "If this doesn't push Microsoft to patent every single thing they ever do or plan to do, I don't know what will."

        Exactly. Moderators, take note of parent.
      • It is when people abuse the system by applying for things that are either obvious or developed by someone else that this type of lawsuit occurs.

        Yes, now every asshole CS student in the country is going to start patenting any tweak to MS software that they think might possibly be worthwhile.
      • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:41AM (#12765747) Homepage
        If this doesn't push Microsoft to patent every single thing they ever do or plan to do, I don't know what will. How can they protect themselves from these fleas? The only way is to hold those patents.

        Your logic is invalid. Patenting stuff in no way defends you against getting nailed for patent infringment. If this guy came up with it first (which the court ruled he did) then Microsoft COULDN'T have patented it, and filing for other patents in no way helps Microsoft against this. If Microsoft had come up with it first, it STILL wouldn't matter if they patented it or not. Either this guy whould not have been able to patent it, or Microsoft could have gotten the patent tossed out as invalid simply by producing reasonable records documenting that they did it first.

        The *only* time patents are useful for "defense" is if you can actually file a counter suit... and you could-have / should-have filed that "counter" suit even if you have never been sued in the first place. You could-have / should-have sued to obtain the money you were owed anyway. Moreover "defensive" patents are usless against "fleas" because the fleas is not offering any product themselves and therefor not infringing any patents at all.

        The problem here is that the US SCREWED UP in REVERSING established patent law and EXTENDING patents to software. Math / logic / calculations / mental steps are not inventions.

        If patents are going to cover software, well this guy's patent is valid. In fact this guy's patent is better than half the software patents out there. Better than many of the patents Microsoft is getting.

        -
      • by Steeltoe (98226) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @04:55AM (#12766338) Homepage
        So why is Microsoft pushing for software patents in Europe and USA?

        They deserve no sympathy, and besides, adding value to existing implementations is all the patent system is about. You cannot invent something in vacuum, it HAS to be built on top of existing technology.
      • by gosand (234100) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:13AM (#12769213)
        Microsoft built a suite of integrated Office applications with built-in functionality that allows seamless transfer of data between the apps.

        Bzzzzzzt. They were not an integrated suite in 1990. They were separate products. What allowed them to be integrated into a suite? Maybe ideas like the one this guy patented and Microsoft infringed upon.

    • He couldn't have done what the text says. Access 1.0 was released in 1993. Basically the Register stories boil down to goo. Does anyone have a link to a story with come actual content and information?
    • First, what the fuck are you quoting?

      Second, no, it doesn't change the story at all. The notion of a Stanford grad student trying to license a trivial technology to Microsoft is just as silly as the notion of "stealing" a trivial technology.
    • by cicho (45472) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:05PM (#12764905) Homepage
      It does, but only superficially. What about that "specially crafted" spreadsheet? Exactly how did he "craft" it? By entering a bunch of formulas or macros? They may have been complex and they may have been non-obvious and they may even have been ingenious. But unless he hand-hacked the bits of the 'sheet, it seems to me he just used existing features built into the software. Even as software patents go, this is sick. He should never have been granted a patent for this.

      • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @02:00AM (#12765815) Homepage
        Even as software patents go, this is sick.

        No, as far as software patents go this is about pretty average.

        What about that "specially crafted" spreadsheet? Exactly how did he "craft" it? By entering a bunch of formulas or macros?

        In other words ordinary programming. What you are pointing out is that he happened to do it in a spreadsheet programming language. No different than programming in C or machine language or perl or PHP. And yes, spreadsheet programming language generally is a univeral programming language capable of absolutely anything you can program in any other language. If you can program speach recognition software in C then you can program it in spreadsheet language. It will merely run more slowly in a spreadsheet.

        This is exatly why programmers are almost univerally opposed to software patents. They directly SEE that it is the exact same thing, that programming in ANY computer language is no different than filling in equations in a spreadsheet or writing a complex math equation on a sheet of paper. If one is patentable then they all are. Any program is nothing but a fancy math equation. Numbers come in, you do a long list of basic math steps, and numbers go out.

        *If* software is a patentable invention, *if* doing math calculations is a patentable invention, well.... then this guy has a perfectly valid patent.

        he just used existing features built into the software

        Just like any programmer writing in BASIC or any other language is just using the "existing features built into the [compiler or interpreter] software". It's merely writing instructions in a different language to be run on top of a different host system. No difference.

        This is why software patents are fundamentally broken.

        -
    • NO IT DOESN'T. IT MAKES IT WORSE! Look over the last year we've seen microsoft patenting what seems to be really stupid things like that not statement in basic. Why is that? Because it could have been an idea they've had for a while, some idiot goes out and patents it then when ms implements it lawsuit! So every stupid thing they can think of now they patent, just so joe blow can't do what they just did right now.
  • Just another cost of doing business. Put it down in the books as a business expense for a tax write off.
  • by bollucks (450288)
    And does anyone think Microsoft would even notice a $9 million bill? Their phone bills are probably larger than this.
  • by ArielMT (757715) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:52PM (#12764824) Homepage Journal
    As much as I hate the company and its products, and believe me I do, this is a case that should've either been thrown out or used to nullify the patent. Instead the judgement strengthened the concept of software patents and non-novel patents, which in turn strengthens Microsoft's position as a monopoly, for a sum of money that's just barely half a single day's take.
  • 1) Invent something
    2) Sit on your invention and never plan to market it
    3) Let someone else use your invention and keep quiet
    4) ???
    5) Profit!!!
    • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:52AM (#12765785)
      2) Sit on your invention and never plan to market it
      3) Let someone else use your invention and keep quiet

      RTFA, after he invented and applied for a patent, he approached MS with it. They declined to buy it. He was awarded the patent. He claims that MS used his patent. When he found out, he sued.

  • Patents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OverflowingBitBucket (464177) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @10:57PM (#12764855) Homepage Journal
    Now I like Microsoft as much as the next IT geek (ie. not at all) but I no longer have a clash of conscience over patent issues. The patent system is completely out of control and is causing terrible damage to the industry. As a small developer, patents terrify me. And who are patents supposed to protect in the first place?

    Now I don't know the specifics of the case, but given the current rampant abuse of the patent system I'm going to side with the Evil Empire here by default, until I see a decent argument over why this is a fair patent. Most are not. Mind you, MS probably do deserve this sort of thing given their support for software patents.
  • As much as I like to see Microsoft lose one, I'd say this case is actually, on balance, a bad sign. Let's review: A patent is awarded covering data portability between two microsoft products, Microsoft is sued when they actually implement this pretty obvious idea. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking maybe I should grab a patent on the idea of using a PSP to wirelessly control a home game console (the PS3) and suing Sony just in time for Christmas 2006 so that I can afford to buy one of each.

    Anyway, th
  • In 1990 Carlos Armando Amado filed a patent for software which helped transfer data between Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft's Access database

    Wasn't Microsoft Access 1.0 released in 1993 or so?

  • I hate to write in sympathy for MS, but this exploitation is something that I personally wouldn't wish on anyone.

    It seems to me that this guy just thought of something that he knew Microsoft had to implement on their own sometime and then blackmailed them for it. This tactics of explicitly mentioning someone's products in a patent and demanding that they pay to simply add an obvious feature is something that not even MS has stooped to yet. I really hope that this teaches Microsoft that patents are not the

  • by carcosa30 (235579) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:04PM (#12764897)
    I guess that's what they get for being ubiquitous.

    Kind of ironic and strange that they can be sued for patents on interactions between their own software packages.

    Could I patent, just as an example, methods for converting between PDF and PSD files, and then sue Adobe for infringing when they do the obvious?

    Something not right about this; I guess it's just showing up yet another problem with copyright law. Pretty thorny one if you think about it.
  • So, we know what this guys invention accomplished, but did he actually get a patent on moving data from a database to a spreadsheet? Or did he patent some method for doing this? The link doesn't lead to the patent or mention the patent number.

    This is a really annoying habit in /. patent stories. Yeah, we all hate them. But the patent at stake is seldom described very precisely. In fact, it's usually mis-described to make it sound even worse than it is.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:24PM (#12765013) Homepage
    Just as US companies can put the pressure internationally on other countries with patent reform, the opposite works as well. Imagine that, other countries create and patent stuff too.

    In capitalist America; after you beat the system, the system beats you.

  • by cfalcon (779563) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @11:41PM (#12765118)
    Basically, it went like this:

    Microsoft obtains software product A.
    Microsoft obtains software product B.
    Microsoft begins making them work together.
    Guy beats Microsoft to market.
    Microsoft continues making their products work together.
    Guy sues Microsoft, wins millions for being first to patent obvious method made "novel" by the fact that it works on those confusin' new computers.

    This would work against Linux.

    This crap would work on anything.

    Microsoft did *NOTHING* wrong here. They didn't steal his stuff or anything. They just made their own products work together. It probably wouldn't even have been an issue if Excel and Access had been marketed under the same freaking product name.

    Ludicrous.
    • if Excel and Access had been marketed under the same freaking product name

      Microsoft Excess? Sounds oddly appropriate...
    • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @02:27AM (#12765936) Homepage
      Microsoft did *NOTHING* wrong here.

      Sure they have. Not only do they actively support and defend this sort of patent as valid, they are actively pressuring and extorting other countries to change their laws to make this sort of patent valid.

      As far as software patent go, this one is pretty typical. He wrote some software to transform data in a new and useful way. He merely wrote it in spreadsheet programming language rather than BASIC or C or perl.

      I agree this should not be a valid patent - NO software patets shoudl be valid. But so long as Microsoft wants a FUBARed patent system then they deserve what they get when they are forced to live inside that system.

      -
  • by jspectre (102549) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @12:37AM (#12765468) Journal
    apple goes to intel!

    microsoft found guilty of patent infringement!

    i've woken up in bizzaro world!
  • by blincoln (592401) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @12:52AM (#12765543) Homepage Journal
    5,537,590, 16 July, 1996 [uspto.gov]

    The same guy appears to have been granted a more recent patent for a related process:

    5,701,400, 23 December, 1997 [uspto.gov]

    The wording of the second one is very buzzword-laden and overblown ("artificial intelligence"? whatever). I'm still looking over both of them.

    The news articles seem to have a number of other things wrong. First, no one with the last name Amado applied for a patent in 1990. The patent which appears to be being discussed was filed for in 1993 (After Access was released).
  • Reform! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Groote Ka (574299) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @07:20AM (#12766910)
    Which might be one of the reasons that Microsoft is backing proposals for a reform of the patent systems, according to this article [zdnet.com].

    Microsoft is now getting one of those giants like IBM who will constantly be bugged by private patent owners (bogus or real) for money. My experience is that though large companies have many patents, the quality of their portfolio is relatively low as they like big numbers. Small companies, on the other hand, have either a completely worthless portfolio or a small but very powerfull portfolio. And a small production, so the backfire risk of a patent lawsuit towards Microsoft is negligible.

    But I do not think a (the?) new US patent system backed by Microsoft will solve that problem for Microsoft. It will probably make it worse. Suffer, dudes...

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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