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The Dangers of a Patent War Chest 125

Posted by Zonk
from the not-more-powerful-quicker-easier-the-dark-side-is dept.
Timothy B. Lee writes "I've got an article in the New York Times in which I make the case against software patents. Expanding on a point I first made on my blog, I point out that Microsoft has had a change of heart on the patent issue. In 1991, Bill Gates worried that 'some large company will patent some obvious thing' and use it to blackmail smaller companies. Now that Microsoft is a large company with a patent war-chest of their own, they don't seem so concerned about abuse of the patent system. I then describe how Verizon's efforts to shut down Vonage are a perfect illustration of Gates' fears."
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The Dangers of a Patent War Chest

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  • who's suing who? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dioscaido (541037) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:34PM (#19451651)
    How often does MS sue smaller companies for petent infringement, compared to how often Microsoft is sued? I think software patents for the most part are bullocks, but given the system exists it would seem smart for any company to try to patent as much as they can to protect themselves, Microsoft included.
    • by rs232 (849320) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:51PM (#19451773)
      "How often does MS sue smaller companies for petent infringement, compared to how often Microsoft is sued?"

      How many companies apart from Microsoft make allegations that Linux violates their patents.

      every Linux customer has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability [virtuallinux.org]

      was Re:who's suing who?
      • "How often does MS sue smaller companies for petent infringement, compared to how often Microsoft is sued?"

        Not nearly as often as they threaten and coerce, heck just look back a few years at Virtualdub 1.3 or
        so.

        The gist was the streaming format .asf sucked for most uses (looked good for what it did) and only
        could be watched via WMP. Normal operation for Windows programs, save for Virtualdub could convert
        those .asf's into .avi's of your choosing/formatting.

        Worked well, but the ability was removed after MS p

    • by Trelane (16124)
      I don't recall MSFT having ever sued for patent infringement. OTOH, threatening is something that they seem to be doing every 5 minutes.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I don't think Microsoft is actually threatening to sue anybody over patents that GNU/Linux may violate. The reality is that if you distribute enough software you are bound to be violating some patents. Some may be easy to work around, while others cover core features. Look at the IE plug-in lawsuit that Microsoft lost (with $521 million in damages awarded). It doesn't matter that they changed the browser after being sued.

        In my opinion, it looks like Microsoft wants companies to think about what will happen
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Trelane (16124)

          I don't think Microsoft is actually threatening to sue anybody over patents that GNU/Linux may violate.

          Microsoft says they have 235 patents that seem to be violated,

          These two statements are contradictory.

          Who would step in when Dell gets sued for patent infringement in Ubuntu?

          How about we go with "Canonical"? Of course, Red Hat has patent idemnification as does Novell, so the answer for those distros is similar, but publically stated.

          With Linux I think there is a bit of uncertainty over who will take r

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Planesdragon (210349)
            These two statements are contradictory.

            Not in the USA they're not.

            There's a HUGE difference between Amy Lee saying "Hey, that guitar solo's right out of The Open Door" and her saying "I'm suing you for making an unlawful derivative work." Or, to use physical law as a property, how about the difference between "You're on private property" and "I'm calling the Sherrif."

            The victim of a tort, like patent infringement, always has the option of not going to court. The few apparent exceptions are cases where not
            • by Trelane (16124)

              There's a HUGE difference between Amy Lee saying "Hey, that guitar solo's right out of The Open Door" and her saying "I'm suing you for making an unlawful derivative work."
              Within your example, you're correct. However, in context, when Microsoft is saying that Linux infringes on some of their patents, their purpose seems to be threatening Linux users with the potential infringement lawsuits. Or why else would they be doing so?
              • by russotto (537200)
                Microsoft is not suing (yet), but they are _menacing_ other companies in order to get paid for a competitor's products. Nice work if you can get it.
            • by Trelane (16124)
              [nwsource.com]

              We spend $7 billion a year on R&D, our shareholders expect us to protect or license or get economic benefit from our patented innovations. So how do we somehow get the appropriate economic return for our patented innovation
              This isn't a mere statement of "fact". It's a threat. Or how do you construe this?
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by paladin217 (226829)

              I would have to disagree. If one has a reasonable apprehension of suit, one can file for declaratory judgment to invalidate the patent or in the hope that the court will declare the product non-infringing.The problem here is that what MS has done, so far, falls into the category of "oblique suggestion". That is probably part of the reason that MS has not and will not state which patents are believed to be infringed; doing so could be construed as a very specific threat.

              Saying "that work may infringe my IP

    • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Saturday June 09, 2007 @02:27PM (#19451991) Homepage Journal
      I recently went to a presentation on Verizon v Vonage, and one of the presenters said, "instead of patenting new inventions, companies are inventing new patents." That seems about right.
    • I think software patents for the most part are bullocks, but given the system exists ...

      If they are nonsense to begin with, why don't we just say so, change the laws to eradicate them and quit wasting time and money on them?

  • The biggest bully on the block never minds abuse of the rules, in their favor.
    • The biggest bully on the block never minds abuse of the rules, in their favor.

      That's a poor assessment of this situation. MS is a bully but they are not using their patents. Their patent warchest seems defensive in nature. MS has deep pockets and is a prime target for the lawsuit happy patent portfolio companies that create nothing other than lawsuits. For a company with deep pockets, the patent warchest is an unfortunate necessity.
      • by nurb432 (527695)
        They arent using their patents? Huh, what are you smoking?

        What was the 'linux violates our patents so pay up' statement from Balmer? Was i just dreaming?
        • by bvimo (780026)

          What was the 'linux violates our patents so pay up' statement
          I don't see Linux in any court's defending itself, MS is currently posturing.
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      True that.

      But why did I read TFT as 'The Dangers of a Patent War on Christ'?

      I mean, I'm not even Christian. Still, PP's comment still applies.
  • Thanks God, there are no software patents here ! For how long ? ...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For how long ? ..

      That would be about minus 21 years [ffii.org] at the first glance. May I please borrow your time machine?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mardin (976086)
        That's a strange thing over here. You can apply for a software patent and receive one by the EPO. BUT, software patents have no legal basis. The EPO (and big business) is trying to enforce software patents this way, hoping that one day a judge may find them valid. I surely hope they don't succeed. The only reason to apply for a software patent in Europe these days is that when software patents ever become legal a judge will make the already existing ones legal as well.
        • as far as i know (ie, just from reading stuffs online), that's prety much how it started here (in the us) too. the uspto was at first only occasionally awarding software patents, but eventually they were doing it in general. in the common law system, legality is determined more by the culture and experiences of judges, especially when laws are vague.
  • Microsoft should be forced to open up their source code, for all their products.. Office, Vista, search engine, flight sim, drm, media player, etc etc. Then we can find out which patented "methods" and algorithms they are infringing upon. Until then, they should STFU.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by bladesjester (774793)
      People with attitudes like yours are part of the reason so many businesses and people view open source as being run by a bunch of crackpots and people who live in their mother's basement.

      Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent. In fact, they don't even have to do that. If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all,
      • Re:F*** Microsoft. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by imkonen (580619) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @02:42PM (#19452075)
        "Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent."

        I think you misread the GP's point. He wants Microsoft to open their code base so other patent holders can pour through Microsoft's code to see if Microsoft is violating anybody else's patent. As in what's good for the goose is good for the gander Not that I agree with him, it is an extreme response, and he's kind of missing the point of the article which is that the current patent system actively punishes those who try to "remain pure" and not stockpile patents. But it does also seem a little unfair that it's easier to get away with violating a software patents by keeping your code hidden. After all, if you're going to own software patents, what's the point of keeping your code secret? You can sue for patent violation if anyone tries to steal what you've done. If you're going to do that anyway, maybe it's only fair that everyone else in the world who thinks you might be violating their patent can check it out before they decide to sue you.

        "If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all, a matter of public record."

        I also respectfully disagree with this point. You make it sound so simple. One of the basic complaints people have with the patent system in general and software patents in particular is based on the incredible amount of work involved with "digging through patents" owned by everyone in the world (cuz really, what's the use in just digging through Microsofts patents?) and making sure you're not infringing any. It's just horribly inefficient and bad for innovation if the man-hours involved in avoiding patent infringement are comparable to the amount spent just writing software in the first place.

        • After all, if you're going to own software patents, what's the point of keeping your code secret?

          Oh, I don't know. It could have something to do with the fact that some companies actually sell packaged software. Patents are used to keep other companies/organizations from stealing work and using it as their own. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they keep the software closed.

          I know the argument that will come from someone on here - that nothing is stopping them from open sourcing the sof
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            They are terrified of being found out about how much of their stuff is "borrowed", exactly the same as most other closed source companies.

            You make money with software by engaging in business where you use that software to do stuff. A to Z, get a yellow pages and find a business. Software as a stand alone business will be going the way of the buggywhip industry within this generation. Software will still be written, programmers will still be paid, but it won't be the business model of yore,nor the payscale t
          • by chromatic (9471)

            Patents are used to keep other companies/organizations from stealing work and using it as their own.

            Do you mean "copyright"? I can't see how you could look at a binary and determine that it violates a software patent. At least with a mousetrap, you can disassemble it and see that it does or does not violate a published patent.

          • by epee1221 (873140)

            keeping source code confidential is not something to get in a twist over
            They get patent protection on it and they get to keep it secret. I think that's going to get people in a twist.
      • I have no idea how you got modded up while clearly demonstrating that you did not read the comment you replied to...

        Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent. In fact, they don't even have to do that. If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all, a matter of public record.

        The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code,

        • by Gorlash (957166)

          The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code, neither does s/he wanna know what they have patented. S/he wants to see the code in order to know what patents they are infringing... for a level playing field (after all, MS can see the FOSS code, can't they?).

          Yes, we all know that "guilty until proven innocent" is the standard for Microsoft, never mind what the rules are for the rest of the world.

        • The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code *snip* S/he wants to see the code

          First off, the poster said that Microsoft should be *forced* to "open up" everything that they make.

          You may see a whole world of difference between that and open sourcing something, and you'd be partially right from a licensing standpoint. Open sourcing software is done voluntarily, and under an OSI approved license.

          However, realistically, once the source code cat is out of the bag, it's effectively in the same state of exposur
      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        Otherwise, all you do is make yourself look like a fool and alienate yourself from the rest of the world, including people who used to be strong proponants of the community until it started acting more and more like this.

        My favorite quote [quotationspage.com] regarding this:

        Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

        Abraham Lincoln
        16th president of US (1809 - 1865)

        • I used to be a big advocate of the community. Heck, I was the editor of a fairly short-lived open source enterprise magazine.

          I still think that open source can be a positive thing. Unfortunately the thing that is right about it (the community collaborating with each other) is very closely tied to the thing that is so very wrong about it (the gimmie gimmie people who think everything should be open).

          Before, it was only a few people out there who behaved like that. Now it seems like more and more of them a
      • by d3ity (800597)
        The arguement for open source everything is a waste of time. Not EVERYTHING should be open source. Microsoft shouldn't have to release thier source code to any product. However, when they are going out and suing companies for using linux in thier products as a result of software patents that are vauge to say the least, they should have to prove that there is in fact some sort of infringement. If I code a program that does task A, and Microsoft has a program that does task A, Microsoft should have to at
      • by ssorc (48632)
        Reading existing US patents is a pretty bad idea if you work in the field since it makes you liable for triple damages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treble_damages [wikipedia.org]).
      • by init100 (915886)

        If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls.

        Why? The open source community just uses the same policy as Microsoft with regard to possible infringements. The policy reads something like this: "If you claim that we are infringing your patents, you are welcome to come to us with details of those claimed infringements, and we'll try to find a solution for your problems".

        In other words, Microsoft always want people to come to them to negotiate, regardless of whether Microsoft is the infringer or the infringed. That's just hypocrisy, so the most reason

    • by Redacted (1101591)
      Good call. We'll do that. All Windows source, readily available for examination.

      Everyone can pore over it for months, find out which patents Microsoft infringes on (even though we all disagree with software patents right?). Of course, it is unlikely that the companies who own those patents will sue - the patent war that would arise from that would hurt all parties, so at most expect some token cross-licensing agreements.

      Then later, when some developer implements something Microsoft had in the code that was
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:39PM (#19451679) Journal
    "Two of its patents cover the concept of translating phone numbers into Internet addresses."

    Patents should not be able to cover concepts only very specific processes. If Gene Roddenberry's heirs patent the "concept" of a teleporter, should that give them rights over someone who actually figures out the physics and machinery to make one? Even if the inventor got the idea from watching Star Trek?
    • by D-Cypell (446534)
      Lets just hope they don't patent the concept of making some short-term hacky reconfiguration of something in order to solve some short term problem rather than solve the problem properly because that WILL kill the software industry.
    • best argument against software patents I've seen on slashdot. I've been against them from the beginning, but hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks!
    • by eht (8912)
      Actually they should get the money especially if they got the idea from watching Star Trek. And anyways patenst run out fairly quickly as far as hardware is concerned.
    • by Ghubi (1102775)
      Or, for a more historical example, did Thomas Eddison patent the concept of a device which emits light when electricity is passed through it, or did he patent the actual light bulb with the carbon filiment and the air sucked out of it?

      (It sounds like a rhetorical question, but technically it isn't because I don't actually know the answer)
  • by logicnazi (169418)
    I don't think we can fault Gates from using the current patent rules as best he can to create a profit from microsoft. After all microsoft is going to have to pay the toll to patent trolls like Eolas whether or not they use their own patents as weapons. If they refuse to use patent law as an offensive weapon it just means they are at a relative competitive disadvantage to their competitors who do.

    I mean I sure as hell don't think their ought to be a tax break for owning a home but you can sure as hell bet
    • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @03:39PM (#19452375) Homepage
      Since Bill Gates seems to still be pushing for patent reform I'm not sure what their is to fault him on about this.

      Hahahaha.

      Yes, Gates *is* pushing for "patent reform". As in pushing *for* global software patents, in particular pushing really really hard to impose software patents in the EU. Microsoft is *the* 800 pound gorilla driving the entire international pro-software patent lobby. Microsoft has been caught literally authoring supposedly independent government patent legislation and other government documents (ironically leaked by the internal revision history data in Microsoft document formats). Microsoft has been extorting European governments into playing puppet waging Microsoft's political software patent battles in the EU governmental process, threatening to screw with their economy if they don't follow Microsoft's demands to fight for software patents. Things have been pretty quite the last few months, but when all the EU software patent battle stories were popping up here on Slashdot, Microsoft was constantly cropping up and always on the pro-software-patent side.

      -
      • by logicnazi (169418)
        I don't necessarily agree with software patents but they are not what is wrong with the US patent system. The problem with the US patent system is that it grants obvious patents.
  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:54PM (#19451799) Journal
    that seeks to maintain the position of power. Politicians are always the quintessential example aren't they? Republicans in office seek to hold power just as the Democrats will do. In 1991 MS was hardly the dominant empire they are today and when the next Great Thing (tm) comes along they will do what previous entrenched powers have done. They sue. I say we get an amendment to some bill that changes our National Anthem's last line to "or the land of the free and the home of the litigious and overly patented". It doesn't rhyme.
  • For anyone who was unsure as well, the author is not TimBL [w3.org].
    • by imkonen (580619)
      I wondered the same thing myself when I first saw this guy's opinion in the NYT [nytimes.com] arguing against network neutrality. Amazingly enough he seems to be expressing an opinion here independent of the usual confusion conservatarian scholars tend to have that anything good for big corporations is automatically good for the economy as a whole.
  • At the risk of sounding corny, US President FDR had it right. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Microsoft has no colorable patent claims, IMHO, and I'm a lawyer. There are probably several good defenses to their patents: 1) prior art; 2) obviousness; 3) limits on patenting math. And right now there are 1,415 people who have signed a list asking Microsoft to sue them. We need business leaders to start signing this list, because plenty of grassroots people have signed the list already. You can find the sign-up page here:

    http://digitaltippingpoint.com/wiki/index.php?titl e=SMFM_list_page_12 [digitaltippingpoint.com]

    Of course, please consult with a lawyer if you are making serious plans to challenge Microsoft in court. Also, of course it goes without saying that you should probably consult other big players on the FOSS side, such as the Linux Foundation and the Open Innovation Network, etc. So while I can't give legal advice to anyone, really folks, I don't think there's any there there, to quote Gertude Stein. Just my two cents.

    In fact, I believe that Microsoft is doing this patent stuff because they want to ease into distributing GNU Linux themselves, and they want to be the market leading GNU Linux distro. They really kind of are forced to do it. GNU Linux and FOSS are eroding their revenue base. They have read Clayton Christensen's work. They know what a disruptive innovation is. They know that the only market leaders to have survived disruptive innovations are those who spun off an independent separate little company that sold the disruptive products or services. As that spin-off grew, the companies who were smart enough to do it, like Quantum spun off Plus, eventually found that the disruptive little company grew to a point where the two companies could merge, and thus gracefully transition to the new disruptive market. Microsoft is planning to buy a distro, and they are insulating themselves from legal attack once they get there. They are also probably planning to try to bust the GPL in court, which is why they need this legal protection. They are looking to bust the GPL down to something that they like, such as a BSD or MIT or Apache-type license.

    So in the meantime, let's make them earn their place. Let's challenge them. Let's unmask their FUD. Sign the list!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bjarke Roune (107212)
      > In fact, I believe that Microsoft is doing this patent stuff because
      > they want to ease into distributing GNU Linux themselves, and they
      > want to be the market leading GNU Linux distro.
      >
      That's absurd! It would be like Apple starting to use Intel CPUs - and I think we all know how likely *that* is to happen!

      Hey, wait a minute...
    • by einhverfr (238914)
      This patent issue is entirely FUD. It has every immediate appearance of a protection racket, but a lot of details are funny. For example, the fact that Microsoft paid Novell for the cross-licensing deal, and so fort.

      Mobster: Nice shop you have hear. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
      Store owner: No way. I am not paying into your protection racket.
      Mobster: Look, I have an image to maintain here. Don't get in the way.
      Store owner: Then I will see you in court.
      Mobster: Okay, okay.
    • by drsmithy (35869)

      GNU Linux and FOSS are eroding their revenue base. They have read Clayton Christensen's work. They know what a disruptive innovation is.

      What's the "disruptive innovation" coming out of "GNU Linux and FOSS" ?

      • What's the "disruptive innovation" coming out of "GNU Linux and FOSS" ?

        "High quality software for free" is the disruptive innovation. It is cutting into Microsoft's oxygen supply. When $100 computers become common (the OLPC is just the leading edge of a huge tidal wave), can any consumer justify spending $500 to $1000 on Windows and Office? The answer, of course, is no.

        The future is in the little portables like OLPC, and Linux will dominate that market. Microsoft knows it too, which is why it has be

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        When I personally use the term "disruptive innovation" here, I am using in the same way that Clayton Christensen uses it, because Christensen coined the term and he uses it in a highly specific way. Christensen identifies two types of disruptive innovations: 1) a low-end disruption; and 2) an emerging market disruption. He defines a low-end disruption as a product or service that is attractive to customers who are either not willing or not able to pay a premium for the market leader's enhanced products o
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @02:07PM (#19451881) Homepage
    The Constitution doesn't spell out the way IP has to work. Congress actually has the power to grant patents for only certain industries if it chooses to do so. Personally, that's the way I lean these days because so little seems to be new and innovative outside a select few industries. It would be perfectly fair--and legal!!--for Congress to issue 10 year patents for nanotechnology, 20 year patents for drugs and 2 year patents for software algorithms.
  • ...who wants to produce the proof?

    So instead we end users are forced to watch this insanity as we are prevented from doing things for ourselves that we would otherwise be able to do, as the proof would most certainly expose such a great deal of false constraints imposed upon the users that it would then be considered illegal consumer deception/fraud.

    In short, proof of the non-patentability of software would in part come from non-novel and obvious solution direction of anyone within the given field, not just
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @02:37PM (#19452051) Homepage

    Back when BillG made that comment, the primary threat to a company was another company who made things. In that environment a patent war chest is a defense: since that other company makes things, if they sue you you can search your war chest for patents they might infringe upon in return. Today, though, the primary threat is from IP holding companies. Against them, the size of your patent war chest doesn't matter. They don't make anything, they don't do anything, therefore there's nothing you can go after no matter how many patents you hold (unless you happen to be the lucky soul holding the patent on sueing people for patent infringement). I think even Microsoft is slowly coming to the realization that patents pose a greater threat to them than their value as a weapon.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Timothy Lee (from the Cato Institute :) )titles his piece "Patent Lie", which is very accurate because he lies about the price of a patent. See http://www.uspto.gov/go/fees/fee2007february01.htm [uspto.gov]

    small entity:
    basic filing fee $150
    fee after 3.5yrs: $450
    fee after 7.5yrs: $1150
    fee after 11.5 yrs: $1,900
    total: $3,650

    Is $3,650 spread over 12 years an onerous charge? :)
    Can you write your own patent? absolutely. I've done it 5 times.
  • Of course the American Government believes software should be patentable but are there any other countries who believe in this madness?
  • some companies deserve this. An example, Vonage they desearve to be taken down this way. Its as if you have little else left such as a patient war chest to put all things right. Vonage is a horrible, evil company. I experienced this personally. They adopt the same practices of other evil empires and make it nearly impossible for you to get 'excellent customer service'.

    After my problems with Vonage I did some research and found countless complaints against Vonage and there deplorable behavior in there t
    • Please write 10 times on the blackboard: "their".
      • by rts008 (812749)
        You missed this one...*patent*...add it to your blackboard list.

        "...patient war chest..."

        Why do I picture Bart Simpson in front of a blackboard writing now?
  • by kinglink (195330) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @03:31PM (#19452327)
    Someone has to patent something almost necessary. And sadly this isn't even "life threatening" We already have patents on treatments and no one really cares that they cost a lot of money, what we need is a patent on an everyday occurrence. Driving, walking, sitting, breathing something that we can't live with out but we expect to have. Then get the patent holder to litigate to the point you can never do it with out paying them some exorbitant feet. Only then will people understand why patent law is wrong.

    I've commonly pointed out that if the hammer was patented any other idiot could make hammers but they would be forced not to. However even that doesn't sell people on why patents are useless because people also see a need for patents. What needs to happen is people to realize exactly what can be patented, and how much you can charge for the use of a patent. We don't need to make them worthless, but litigation over them is easy because you don't have to make your patent available at a reasonable course, and you can infringe on a patent with out realizing it.
    • by donaldm (919619)
      Being an Electrical Engineer I actually designed a four terminal resistor as part of a project I was doing for my degree in 1982 and having worked at a Standards Lab were four terminal resistors were very common It was very easy for me to design and build a cheap accurate (parts in a million) and stable one out of what was to me "off-cuts".

      Take a look at this patent (2007) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/RE39660.html [freepatentsonline.com] (Surface mounted four terminal resistor - United States Patent RE39660). The organisation
  • by nsebban (513339) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @06:31PM (#19453559) Homepage
    Microsoft was already a big company in 1991. I don't think this can be called a "change of heart". It's closer to an "adaptation to the market", because they're not the only company to patent a wide range of processes and concepts, and because that's basically related to their business, as unfair and stupid as it seems. The problem is with patents and the patents laws, not with the companies who ask for them and obtain them. You won't fix that problem by forbidding Microsoft or Verizon or any big company from obtaining more patents, but by changing the policies of the patent office.
  • The American dream (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mathfeel (937008) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @06:35PM (#19453607)
    I love this aspect of American. We turn a blind eye to government policies that obviously favors the wealthy and the corporation at the expense of everyone else. Why? Because one of these day now, we might become rich and famous. It is the American dream that we are protecting...Same with patent. The current law might be flawed, but it favors patent holder. Maybe one of these days, I'll also hold a patent that's obvious but somehow worth millions!
  • "some large company will patent some obvious thing" and use the patent to "take as much of our profits as they want."

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=microsoft+%22 another+patent%22 [google.com]

    The Indians call this "speaking with a forked toungue". I wonder how they say "fuck you, bill" in Commanche.

    • by Torodung (31985)
      bl8n8r said:

      I wonder how they say "fuck you, bill" in Commanche.

      Since "fuck you" is an idiomatic expletive that cannot be translated, I'm pretty sure they'd just say "Fuck you, Bill."

      But the best way to say it is Apache ;^)

      --

      Toro
  • First of all, Steve Ballmer needs to shut the fuck up. There that felt better. In addition, I would remind everyone that Microsoft got where it is today by profiting from cloned versions of IBMs "BIOS".

    Regardless of what Microsoft's escaped zoo animals say, it has absolutely no interest in interoperability, their interest is to remain the only desktop and server software vendor, and NOTHING else.

    I would also suggest that open source developers don't actually need Microsoft's help or money, but if Microsoft
  • Was it an epiphany (Score:2, Insightful)

    by p.gogarty (684488)

    Do you suppose when Bill though "'some large company will patent some obvious thing' and use it to blackmail smaller companies" it was one of those evil moments of clarity, like when L. Ron Hubbard thought "The way to make real money is to invent a religion".

The amount of weight an evangelist carries with the almighty is measured in billigrahams.

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