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Microsoft Patents

Microsoft Retracts Patent 182

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the too-hot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has retracted their recent controversial patent application. The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday. Today, Jane Prey of Microsoft announced the retraction on the SIGCSE (Special Interest in Computer Science Education) mailing list. 'Many thanks to the members of the community that brought this to my attention — and here's the latest. The patent application was a mistake and one that should not have happened. To fix this, Microsoft will be removing the patent application. Our sincere apologies to Michael Kölling and the BlueJ community.'"
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Microsoft Retracts Patent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @01:59PM (#17802244)
    My cynical reaction: The patent application would not have been pulled except for the written admission on the part of a Microsoft developer that the feature was copied from BlueJ.
  • by Aladrin (926209) on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:08PM (#17802410)
    When Slashdot did the 'bringing to light', it was Saturday. The developers 'brought it to light' for their crowd on Friday. To 'bring it to light' means that you've made some portion, usually a significant portion, of a group of people aware of it. The majority of the Slashdot crowd did NOT know about this before it was announced on Saturday, so it WAS 'brought to light'.

    Happy?
  • by nametaken (610866) on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:14PM (#17802494)
    Erm, there's a good chance it would have gone largely unnoticed for months if the story hadn't made /.

    To be fair, months can mean the difference between sinking thousands of dollars into a patent and deciding to defend it, or cutting it loose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:25PM (#17802646)
    At Disney Internet Group, we actually receive an award if we develop something we can patent.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:29PM (#17802710)
    Just to play a little devil's advocate:

    Nobody is going to sue MomAndPop.com for patent infringement because its not profitable. They sue the Microsofts and the Apples who have the deep pockets to shell out big settlements. With software patents being the legal quagmire that they are, the only protection these corporations have from others abusing the system is to be the patent holder themselves. So they apply for a patent and this ends in one of a few ways:

    They can't get the patent because someone else has it.
    They can't get the patent because it is not patentable.
    They get the patent.

    They've avoided legal confrontation by having the patent office identify the first case. Either of the other two cases means that they can do whatever they were planning on doing without worry of getting sued for millions upon millions of dollars.

    If the "little people" are so proud of their inventions, they should patent them. If they are such great ideas they will profit from licensing fees. Willfully choosing to not use the system means willfully choosing to not benefit from the protections and advantages it was designed to offer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:03PM (#17803168)
    To the user who said `each applicant for a U.S. patent has to sign on the dotted line saying that they believe what they have invented is unique...' -- In even semi-large corporations, this is not always true. I have filed a patent (in automated theorem proving / program verification) while at a semi-large company and never had to sign such a thing. I did of course believe my work to be novel at the time, still do though I have issues with software patents. But it definitely is NOT the case that such an oath must always be signed. The process for filing for patents at large companies is so automatic and lawyer-centric; I remember all I did was write up the technical achievements for the patent, send them to the team of lawyers, and they produced a 150 page document within a matter of weeks with background information, all sorts of other research couching the content of the patent in context, etc.

    I am against software patents in many respects, but it is a tricky game. If you aren't Microsoft, but are a semi-large software company with tons of employees and share-holders and all of that, you really *do* have to file patents regularly for your work JUST to PROTECT yourself from someone like Microsoft later developing the same thing and patenting it when you didn't. Just like with this BlueJ example. I'm finally resolved to believing that the real problem is within the *law*, smaller companies, whether they disagree with the law or not (most of us did), have to some extent play within the rules of the game to make sure they stay afloat. I hope that changes, but I think the biggest change needs to be a legal one.

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