Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Government Microsoft The Courts News

Corporate Espionage Involving a Patent At Microsoft 241

Posted by kdawson
from the balance-of-wrongdoing dept.
thefickler writes "Microsoft is taking a former employee, Miki Mullor, to court for securing a job at the company in order to steal information that would help with a patent infringement case he filed against PC makers Dell, HP, and Toshiba (in which Microsoft quickly became enmeshed). And while it appears that Mullor did the wrong thing, some pundits are asking: 'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Corporate Espionage Involving a Patent At Microsoft

Comments Filter:
  • Repeat after me... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:16AM (#26707315)
    "You can't steal information." It's intangible. Thank you.
    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:47AM (#26707503) Journal

      No, but you can steal someone else's labor, by not paying them for the information they produced, or the metal car pieces they welded, or the floors they sweeped, or.....

      Theft of labor is a human rights violation and if a person does produce a new idea or item, and XYZ corporation takes that idea/item without compensation for the labor involved, a crime has been committed.

      • by John Allsup (987) <s DOT chalisque AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:35AM (#26707801) Homepage Journal

        If you make something material and someone steals it, you no longer have it. If you have information and somebody copies it, you still have your copy. You lose exclusivity as to who know that information, but that exclusivity is not a material thing and cannot be stolen (since the person who makes a copy does not gain that exclusivity.)

        Material and information are totally different and it's a real shame that lawmakers aren't clever enough to see something so simple. That or they are too busy collecting campaign funds.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          >>>If you have information and somebody copies it, you still have your copy.

          Well then I guess we should have kept those unpaid laborers in the South. After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day. They still had all their material possessions (private hut, clothing, etcetera). The fact they labored for free is just a-okay, right?

          No.

          And neither is it okay for a modern-day "master" corporation to take man's labor without pay, whether that man picks cotton, or creates a sch

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day.

            What a stupid thing to say. Those "cotton-pickers" did all their losing a loooooong time before they hit the field.
            • So if they had not been slaves, but free individuals like us, it would have been okay for the plantation owners to not pay them? I'll assume you'll say "no" and ask for you to explain why it's necessary to pay people for picking cotton?

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                I'll assume you'll say "no"

                And you'd be wrong.

                and ask for you to explain why it's necessary to pay people for picking cotton?

                Why yes, it's called contract law. Been around, like slavery for a long time.
                • >>>>>it's necessary to pay people for picking cotton?

                  >>Why yes, it's called contract law. Been around, like slavery for a long time.

                  Well the Supreme contract of the land, the U.S. Constitution, states the people should receive payment for their books, patents, or other useful arts. i.e. Microsoft is wrong to steal another's man patented ideas.

          • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:42AM (#26708285)

            Well then I guess we should have kept those unpaid laborers in the South. After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day.

            They lost the cotton. The difference between tangible property and information is that if someone else takes your tangible property then you don't have it any more, and if someone takes information then both of you have it.

            Put another way: only one person can use a boll of cotton. An unlimited number of people can use an idea. Someone else using my idea does not preclude me also using it; Microsoft publishing a book I wrote does not preclude my also publishing it. It may make it impractical for me to profit from the book I wrote, but that falls under the category of "unfair competition," not "taking away a piece of property that I own." It's wrong, and it's also fundamentally different from stealing.

            The language of copyright holders - "own an idea," "intellectual property," "stolen ideas," "piracy," is calculated to make the public forget the fundamental differences between ideas and objects, and support laws and policies that equate intellectual property with physical property. This is to the benefit of copyright (and patent) holders, who can then rely on the government to bear the cost of enforcing their copyrights, among other benefits.

            The preponderance of people who claim that we have a "right" to "own" and profit from ideas shows how well this brainwashing is working. Apparently it goes so far as to make some think that a company can "steal" profits that haven't even been earned yet. The reality of intellectual property cases is quite different; see Polaroid v. Kodak. [nytimes.com]

            • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:00AM (#26708495) Homepage Journal

              An unlimited number of people can use an idea.

              As an aside, the value of an idea can be destroyed when more people know it - this is why we have trade secret law.

              Someone else using my idea does not preclude me also using it; Microsoft publishing a book I wrote does not preclude my also publishing it. It may make it impractical for me to profit from the book I wrote, but that falls under the category of "unfair competition," not "taking away a piece of property that I own." It's wrong, and it's also fundamentally different from stealing.

              I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.
              To your example, that we should use unfair competition tort law instead of trespass property law, I pose this easy hypothetical: Mr. A, with $10 to his name, "copies" your software. He then sells it to Microsoft for $100, and Microsoft publishes it as part of Windows, destroying your ability to sell it. Provided Microsoft can show reasonable ignorance of Mr. A's actions, you have no possible tort claim against them. Your only action in tort is against Mr. A, and the most you can recover is $100.
              Under property law, you'd have the right to exclude Microsoft from using your idea, same as you could kick Bill Gates off your lawn.

              The language of copyright holders - "own an idea," "intellectual property," "stolen ideas," "piracy," is calculated to make the public forget the fundamental differences between ideas and objects, and support laws and policies that equate intellectual property with physical property. This is to the benefit of copyright (and patent) holders, who can then rely on the government to bear the cost of enforcing their copyrights, among other benefits.

              The preponderance of people who claim that we have a "right" to "own" and profit from ideas shows how well this brainwashing is working.

              It's one of the few explicit powers of Congress in the Constitution, important enough that the Founders put it right there in Article I, Section 8. It's also an affirmation of a right that has existed for a few thousand years. The "I don't believe in intellectual property (in spite of making my living through its creation)" meme you're espousing is the new one, and yes, it does show just how well brainwashing works.

              • by SirGarlon (845873)

                I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.

                I don't claim authors have no rights. I only claim that copyright is not the same as property rights, and to confuse the two is a serious misrepresentation of both the law and the business climate.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Theaetetus (590071)

                  I don't claim authors have no rights. I only claim that copyright is not the same as property rights, and to confuse the two is a serious misrepresentation of both the law and the business climate.

                  No, it's a serious misrepresentation to claim that copyright does not involve property rights. Intellectual property in general has groundings in contract law (non-disclosure agreements), tort law (misappropriation, unfair competition), and property law (first to discover [see Pierson v. Post, a.k.a Finders Keepers v. Losers Weepers], right to exclude).

              • The preponderance of people who claim that we have a "right" to "own" and profit from ideas shows how well this brainwashing is working.

                It's one of the few explicit powers of Congress in the Constitution, important enough that the Founders put it right there in Article I, Section 8.

                It says nothing of the sort. In fact the word "idea" does not occur within it. It mentions Writings and Discoveries (produced by Authors and Inventors) but it seems dreamers are just SOL.

                • by greg_barton (5551)

                  It mentions Writings and Discoveries (produced by Authors and Inventors) but it seems dreamers are just SOL.

                  Good. We don't want people to just dream. We want them to do.

              • by PitaBred (632671)
                Because the code itself is not how we make a living. We make a living solving problems, not with copyright on stagnant works. A carpenter makes his living as much with his hammer as I do with code. It won't do anything without someone skilled operating it.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Theaetetus (590071)

                  Because the code itself is not how we make a living. We make a living solving problems, not with copyright on stagnant works. A carpenter makes his living as much with his hammer as I do with code. It won't do anything without someone skilled operating it.

                  Can I have all your code for free, then? Since I'm not a "skilled operator", I wouldn't be impacting your business, even if I give it out free to your customers, right?

                • It won't do anything without someone skilled operating it.

                  Incidentally, I'm amused to see that quote right above your signature:

                  Build your own world with easy to use 3D GIS/terrain software

              • I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.

                Perhaps because protecting imaginary property at the expense of real people is illogical.

                Honestly, I'm quite sick of all this intellectual property prattle. It's the ultimate hubris to claim ownership of an idea. I suppose all of human knowledge proceeding you had no influence on "your idea".

              • It's one of the few explicit powers of Congress in the Constitution, important enough that the Founders put it right there in Article I, Section 8.

                How in the world does a 100+ year copyright term "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"?

                • How in the world does a 100+ year copyright term "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"?

                  How in the world would striking out copyright and patents secure "for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries"?

                  The 100-year-plus time limit isn't in the constitution. A time limit is, however.

                  • Once again I bring-up the example of the author who spend a Year of his life writing a book. Many of ye seem to think he has no right to get paid for that year of labor, but instead should just give-away the book & labor free.

                    I strongly disagree.

                    And I wonder about the intelligence of people who think authors should not get paid.

                • How in the world does a 100+ year copyright term "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"?

                  It doesn't, which is why there are many of us reasonable people that think the most important piece of copyright reform that could be legislated right now is returning the copyright period to something sane (generally in the 10-25 year range).

              • by russotto (537200)

                I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.

                In as much as it is true, it is probably largely for two reasons. One, because we'd rather be free to stand on the shoulders of giants (or pyramids of pygmies, for that matter) than to have to stand on our own, even if that meant exclusivity in our work. Would you like to have to develop your own operating system, compiler, drivers,

                • Would you like to have to develop your own operating system, compiler, drivers, and every library you use in your code... or to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for each one? How much code would you develop on your own if every library and support tool you used cost cash money?

                  With no copyright or patent protection, everything would be closed-source and encrypted. You'd have to develop your own OS, compiler, drivers, and libraries, because everyone would horde theirs... and trade secret law tends to protect the large corporations, not the small players.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by steelfood (895457)

                As an aside, the value of an idea can be destroyed when more people know it - this is why we have trade secret law.

                Does this imply that the most valuable idea is one that nobody knows? I have to ask how valuable is something that has no purpose. It is only until a consciousness realizes the idea that it has a purpose. And I would argue that the more people who know an idea, the greater its purpose. And hence, the more valuable it becomes.

                ...the most you can recover is $100.

                The flaw in your example is that Microsoft is a monopoly. Ignoring what company it is, if your idea was sold for $100, then that's the free market value, and likely how much you're goi

            • Did they ever own the cotton? Does the act of picking transfer ownership? If so, then picking something off of a store shelf and walking away is not theft.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonbryce (703250)

            Slavery is not theft. That's why there is a different law to stop it.

        • That exclusivity is destroyed by process thou and can actually damage usefulness of information. Which can very directly map to profit loss and can be considered property damage.

          Only if information owner releases it of his own will information can be *considered* part of "free for all" buffet.

          You are mistaking trade secrets (good) and copyrights/patents (evil). Two different things.

          • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:20AM (#26708091)

            yeah, those evil copyrights. They stop me from being able to sell GPL code without giving back the source. I hope they abolish copyright soon because it's so evil.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

              yeah, those evil copyrights. They stop me from being able to sell GPL code without giving back the source. I hope they abolish copyright soon because it's so evil.

              There is always some joker who thinks the GPL is all about copyrights.
              You are wrong.

              The GPL is referred to as the "copyleft" because it is a hack of the intended purpose of copyright - to reduce the freedoms of the end user of software. Stallman's goal is to get the software industry to the point where the automobile industry is today. Nobody would buy a car with engine compartment welded shut, the market would not tolerate it. Similarly, the market for software should get to the point where nobody would

              • by LingNoi (1066278)

                You say I'm wrong but everything I said was correct.

                Without copyright law I could abuse the GPL.

                • by WNight (23683)

                  Without copyright law you couldn't stop us from abusing the results. Sounds fine.

                • by jvkjvk (102057)

                  Well, you may be correct but that doesn't prevent you from being an idiot. You seem to forget that the reason we need the GPL in the first place is because of copyright laws!

                  IOW, without copyright law there wouldn't be a need for the GPL.

                  Certainly without copyright law you could "abuse" the GPL. Now, what would that mean "abusing the GPL" in a world without copyright? Hmm. A world where anyone could copy any source code they like for any reason.

                  Hmm. Corporations could take your GPL code and just use it

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by alvinrod (889928)

                "Stallman's goal is to get the software industry to the point where the automobile industry is today."

                In horrible financial troubles and looking for a government bailout?

                I kid, I kid.

              • The total absence of copyright would leave the work in the public domain. That isn't the same as copyleft. Copyleft does make use of copyright law, if it is to be enforced at all.
              • by Zordak (123132)
                I can call my dog a cat too, but that doesn't make it a feline. The GPL is a copyright license. All the anti-establishment hippie rhetoric and cutesy names in the world can't change that.
              • >>>Nobody would buy a car with engine compartment welded shut, the market would not tolerate it.

                Actually the market tolerates it quite well. No the hood is not welded shut, but companies DO have trade secrets. For example, Toyota and Honda have very closely-guarded secrets about how their hybrids work, such that when Ford wanted to build a hybrid SUV, they had to license the patent from Toyota.

                And that's entirely fair. The engineers at Toyota put-in many, many years worth of labor - they should

          • by Elektroschock (659467) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:57AM (#26709387)

            Well, actually no one so far disputed the case Microsoft makes. Mullar does [gizmodo.com]:

            In response to numerous requests for comments regarding a lawsuit filed against me in Washington, I would like to make the following comments.

            I am the inventor of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 relating to software anti-piracy technology, and Ancora is my company.

            I applied for my patent in 1998. In 2002, the patent issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2003, I approached Microsoft and had several discussions with a Microsoft lawyer and employees of Microsoftâ(TM)s Anti Piracy group about my invention and the benefits Microsoft could realize by using it. Microsoft declined and said they had no interest in my invention.

            After 3 years of working at a start up without salary and benefits, and with a first child about to be born, it was time for me to move on and look for a job to support my family. We ceased business operations at Ancora in 2005, and Microsoft was the first company to extend me an employment offer. I accepted. In early 2006, I moved my family to Seattle from Los Angeles, bought a house and focused on my new career at Microsoft. I enjoyed my job very much, and Microsoft commended my work and even promoted me.
            When I joined Microsoft, I notified them in writing of Ancora and my patent in both my resume and in my employment agreement. In its complaint against me, Microsoft withheld the portions of these key documents that show this.

            At the same time I was employed at Microsoft, but unknown to me, Microsoft was developing what is now known as âoeOEM Activation.â OEM Activation is installed on computers made by HP, Dell, Toshiba and others (called OEMs) to prevent piracy of Microsoftâ(TM)s Windows Vista software installed on those computers. This work was being done in a different department at Microsoft.

            Now, I personally find there should not be patents at all [stopsoftwarepatents.org]. It is a shame to see the defamation campaign of Microsoft. The case shows that the patent system does not have any benefit at all for software. Small inventors cannot enforce them against ruthless big companies:

            OEM Activation is a blatant copy of my invention. In fact, the same Microsoft person that I explained my invention to back in 2003 was involved in the development of OEM Activation.

        • by LingNoi (1066278)

          It devalues the original work making the money the original creator would have gotten significantly less then what he would have got if the work remained a rarity.

          Same thing happens when you sell cheap fake rolex watches the company doesn't lose any stock however it cheapens the brand making their customer demand less.

        • by wjsteele (255130) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:30AM (#26708193)
          It is such a shame to me that so many people don't even know the rights and freedoms granted in the United States Constitution.

          The "exclusivity" that people get from the discovery of a new idea is guaranteed in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.

          "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

          It's that simple. It simply boggles my mind to see so many people who try to discount that. It's there for a reason. Inventors discoveries rightfully should be controlled by the inventor (for a period of time, which is usually 20 years.) There are checks in place that allow others to use those discoveries if the primary inventor does not maintain his "rights" by notifiying the USPTO they wish to do so via maintetance fees. There are also avenues in place to allow the inventor to gain from that discovery via various licensing models.

          And, yes, I am an inventor. I spent several years perfecting the technology I now have the patent on after my "inspirational moment" when I put two and two together. I also spent countless hours working on it trying to figure out all the ways in which my idea worked. I then filed the patent, disclosing all the vairous "embodiments" of my invention. If some of you got your ways, all that work and effort would not allow me to even recapture some of my investment.

          Someone said it, if that work was allowed to be copied by others without compensation, I in effect, would have done their work for them providing them countless hours of free labor. THAT IS WHY THE CONSTITUTION HAS ARTICLE I SECTION 8!!!

          Bill
          • by jonbryce (703250)

            There are two important points there. It is only for the purpose of promoting the progress of science and useful arts, and it is questionable whether software patents do that, and it is for limited times. Patents are for limited times, but copyrights effectively are not.

            • by wjsteele (255130)
              I personally believe you are wrong. What difference is there between a software patent and a hardwware patent? An "invention" is simply a new way of doing something, regardless of the technology. Software patents seem to me to be new ways (read 'idea') of doing something. In addition, they are also "works" written by someone. So, it would seem that they are actually covered TWICE by the Constitution. As an invention and a work of art. (You might not consider some software art, but I have definetly se
          • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:08AM (#26708591)

            "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

            Exactly; the difference between "exclusive right" and "ownership" is the difference between intellectual property and physical property. Using your patented idea without your permission is violating your exclusive right to that idea. It's not stealing the idea. Some people think the distinction is overly fine but I think it's critically important not to confuse control of an idea with ownership of physical property.

            If two people independently cut down trees and use the wood to build cabinets, each of them owns a cabinet. If two people independently come up with an idea, only one of them gets to patent it. So your "right" to get paid for "your labor" can result in your "stealing" the profits of the other guy, who thought of the same thing but applied for the patent one day later than you did. Does that seem right?

            Patents and copyrights serve useful purposes. But don't confuse them with physical property.

            • If two people independently come up with an idea, only one of them gets to patent it.

              Wrong. Neither does, because it's only an idea. It' not the application of an idea (an invention) nor the expression of one (which would be covered by copyright).

              So your "right" to get paid for "your labor" can result in your "stealing" the profits of the other guy, who thought of the same thing but applied for the patent one day later than you did. Does that seem right?

              How can they both have an exclusive right? Somehow,

              • by SirGarlon (845873)

                This case of coincidental independent invention that you seem to think invalidates the whole system - how often do you think it really occurs in practice?

                I don't think independent invention invalidates the patent system. I think it invalidates the idea that patents are a natural right and that holding a patent gives some kind of moral superiority to the patent holder. And to answer your question, I think it happens pretty often, which is why Slashdot has a whole category for patent-abuse stories.

          • by doug (926)
            True, it is in constitution. But remember that it was not universally liked by the founding fathers. Jefferson in particular did not like it, and argued against it. Some of us wonder if we'd be better of if TJ had won that round.
          • It's that simple. It simply boggles my mind to see so many people who try to discount that. It's there for a reason....Someone said it, if that work was allowed to be copied by others without compensation, I in effect, would have done their work for them providing them countless hours of free labor. THAT IS WHY THE CONSTITUTION HAS ARTICLE I SECTION 8!!!

            It's not quite that simple, because it's part of the US Constitution, and it helps to understand how the Constitution is written. Did you know, for example, that excluding the Ammendments, the Constitution does not specify the rights held by citizens? The Amendments were kept separate on purpose because the writers did not want to talk about the rights of citizens in the Constitution itself. In fact, they specifically didn't want to enumerate citizens' rights at all, but only list some that they were ada

      • by kwikrick (755625)

        There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour: when someone does not pay for a welding job or does not pay an employee, a contract between the parties has been breached. However, in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

        In fact, if I invent something independently, and it turns out someone else has already patented that idea, then I cannot use my idea for profit, since that would infringe on the patent. But I have certainly n

        • >>>in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

          Yes a contract has been breached in the Microsoft case. The national contract known as the U.S. Constitution (and State Constitutions as well) which serves to protect inventors' and authors' labor rights by protecting their labor-intensive creations. See my example below.

          >>>There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour:

          No there isn't. Example: Nobody wants to s

          • Aside: Why is there a "u" in labour? The original Latin word is "labor".

            Because we are communicating in English, and not in Latin. For many of us, "labour" is the correct spelling.

        • There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour: when someone does not pay for a welding job or does not pay an employee, a contract between the parties has been breached. However, in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

          Patent infringement is not under contract law, it's under property law. If you come into my backyard and start digging holes, I can kick you out, even though there was never a contract between us. In the same way, if you trespass on my intellectual property, I have the right to exclude you from it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by furby076 (1461805)

          In fact, if I invent something independently, and it turns out someone else has already patented that idea, then I cannot use my idea for profit, since that would infringe on the patent. But I have certainly not stolen any labour - quite the opposite.

          What did you mean by "quite the opposite"? Did you mean opposite as in THEY stole the labor or opposite as you GAVE them something? Because if I did independent work on project A and you did independent work on Project B (both which coincidentally are the same), you doing your work is not stealing from me, but it is also not the "opposite".

          Even when a patent infringement is clearly a case of using someone else's idea, you still cannot call it stealing someone else's labour simply because that person/company MIGHT have made money from it. There's no guarantee that investing in an idea will pay itself back.

          You are correct that a new invention may not earn any money - but by taking someone's work, without their permission, you have denied that person the right to make a

      • You earn 100. A year later it's only worth 91.

        Sorry, but if you think theft of labour is a human rights offence then, your political and financial leaders are also criminals, on an epic scale.

        The sad fact is that the theft of human labour is an intrinsic and well rewarded part of our society.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537)

        Sorry commodore, but you need to look up "theft of labor" again. Copyright or patent infringement is not "theft of labor".

        Theft of labor is when you get someone do work by force or deception. If I tell you I'm going to pay you for a job when I have no intention of doing so, or if I make you do work for me at gunpoint, then that's theft of labor. If you've done work voluntarily and I've pulled benefit from that work, after the fact, without your permission, it's a different thing.

        In most cases, it's com

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "
        Why are American citizens wasting money to fund President Obama's completely unnecessary Super Bowl party in D.C.???"

        Really? you really don't know? Is being social and politics really that foreign to you?

        A get together like this from both sides of the isle is a good thing.
        Even though he is the president, I'm pretty sure he gets some of his own time.

        When he starts taking weeks of vacation every year, then we have a problem.

        Seriously, try to find something of merit to complain about. I'm sure their will be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yttrstein (891553)
      I wish the truth reflected the reality.
    • "You can't steal information." It's intangible. Thank you.

      Sure you can if the information is in the form of a secret and obtained illegally. Could be a trade secret or it could be a state secret. Once it is stolen it loses its status as a secret and with it potentially significant value to the holder of the secret. That's what spies do, they steal information or more accurately secret information. There may be legal ways to obtain the information an that is not stealing but the illegal methods are colloquially (and accurately IMO) referred to as theft.

    • by westlake (615356)
      "You can't steal information." It's intangible. Thank you.

      Your bank account is information.

      Intangible.

      Nothing more a pattern of ones and zeroes, an entry in a data base.

      But when a hacker cleans you out, you expect to see restitution and a prosecution for the theft.

  • 'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'

    Has the inanity and anti-logic of the patent system finally become so bad that peoples' basic judgement is now impaired. Has the concept of "Intellectual Property" so twisted the fragile mind of the commentators, and public at large, that we now must see it not only as a fundamental right [blogspot.com], but as (Paraphrasing DeValera) an institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law and morality.

    Personally, no, I don't see that a patent is so important that I should break not only the law, but also the trust and confidence other people have in me, simply to defend my rights to some obvious "invention". I may be a little behind the times here, but I can't say I would be overly tempted, no.

    • by Stephen (20676)

      Personally, no, I don't see that a patent is so important that I should break not only the law, but also the trust and confidence other people have in me, simply to defend my rights to some obvious "invention". I may be a little behind the times here, but I can't say I would be overly tempted, no.

      Not to mention that when it comes to a fight between you and Microsoft, you're going to lose. Not smart. (If the allegations are true, that is).

    • by Dunbal (464142)

      Anything can be expected for people who are so arrogant that they believe they can "own" ideas. Which, after all, was never what the patent system was supposed to be about in the first place.

    • by MickLinux (579158) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:33AM (#26707789) Journal

      Of course, if you RTA, he didn't break the law. Moreover, he told Microsoft about the company and the patent in writing, possibly depending on the fact that such writing tends to get ignored.

      Moreover, it appears that he allowed his company to lapse (but probably not the incorporation to lapse, since lawyers advise against it), and had basically shut it down due to a complete lack of profits.

      Microsoft is trying to make it appear that he broke the law, to cover the fact that they really did break the law. They took his work, and used it without agreed-upon compensation. Now, I too do not hold patents to be natural law. They are only a construct of the current system that we are in, historically designed to profit powerful companies like Microsoft and other King's Friends. But they are a part of our current law, and Microsoft makes heavy use of them. And Microsoft did break the law, stealing his work without agreed-upon compensation, long before Mr. M. ever applied for employment there.

      I'd say that this one needs to go for full damages. Possibly triple, if the jury concludes that Microsoft has a history of criminal and corrupt behavior (though that would be harder to prove.) Hmmm... I wonder if there could be a class-action lawsuit by those whose work was stolen (including GNU and WordPerfect and Apple and others) against Microsoft. Go through their code and show that the majority of their work was stolen.

      Nah. That'd take an insider to prove it. And then Microsoft would scream bloody murder, even if they had themselves authorized the insider's access.

      • Thanks dude, finally someone gets it. MS was hoist by their own petard here, nothing more.

      • Now, I too do not hold patents to be natural law. They are only a construct of the current system that we are in, historically designed to profit powerful companies like Microsoft and other King's Friends.

        Intellectual property rights go back the Roman Era. And they're historically designed to protect small inventors from the powerful companies. You're a victim of FUD.

      • I wonder if there could be a class-action lawsuit by those whose work was stolen (including GNU and WordPerfect and Apple and others) against Microsoft. Go through their code and show that the majority of their work was stolen.

        Sure. As long as you're in support of class-action lawsuits against GNU and WordPerfect and Apple and others by Microsoft where and if appropriate, after all, good for the goose, right? After all, only the truly naive would believe that (if indeed true) MSFT alone is guilty of this k

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Don't draw the patent law into this, Corporate Espionage has been going on for a long time.

      No, I would not be tempted t commit a crime for these reasons. That has nothing to do with the patent process; which isn't nearly as broke as many posters seems to think.
      Of course, many poster don't even understand the most fundamental part of the patent system either.

  • by SeaFox (739806)

    And while it appears that Mullor did the wrong thing, some pundits are asking: 'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'"

    Who cares what a bunch of pundits say? Wake me when they become judges or congressmen and can actually make their notions count for something?

    Did these pundits question whether the patent should have been issued to start with?

  • by ACK!! (10229) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:40AM (#26707441) Journal
    I mean I could easily go woo-hoo fighting the man here. I got it in me no doubts. But there is something in legal cases called the Discovery phase and its illegal during a discovery phase to conceal information requested by the court for a case. If he thought Microsoft had information that would have helped his case his lawyers should have asked for such info in the discovery phase and been done with it. The spy cloak and dagger stuff is for the movies and just fucks you over in the real world. If its true he pitched the idea before he was even hired, then don't try to keep working at the same company you are trying to sue. The counter-suit will be coming that is for sure. Easier than firing him. Sue him instead.
  • by drunkenoafoffofb3ta (1262668) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:41AM (#26707455) Journal
    AFAIK, He had this technology before joining MS

    He claims he revealed his patent when joining MS.

    MS claim they were allowed to nick his IP rights since he failed to reveal this when he joined the company (although they also tried to licence the technology prior to him joining)

    So the wrong thing was viewing some documents he shouldn't have? Not having your IP rights stolen, then.

    • by Kindaian (577374) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:20AM (#26707709) Homepage

      If i recall correctly, MS can't claim such thing in the first place.

      If they tried to license the IP before contracting it, that is more then enough evidence that the IP in cause was pretty much disclosed and of the knowing of MS.

    • by wytcld (179112)

      What defines viewing "documents he shouldn't have"? Is that just post facto rationalization from Microsoft? The firm lists as one of its assets a superior knowledge of and huge investment in computer security. Its internal network, on which its documents are maintained, is entirely on software of its own creation and administration. By clear implication, any document which is made available for viewing by any staff member is authorized for viewing by that staff member.

      Does Microsoft really want to argue to

  • by skyphyr (1149207) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:18AM (#26707703) Homepage
    There's no evidence to demonstrate he did these things. So in order for us to assume he's guilty we have to also assume he's precognitive. It also describes it such that Microsoft "found" the evidence. That's got to be inadmissible, right? No chain of custody there it could just as easily be planted by them. Hope the trial has some evidence behind it as there's insufficient to point fingers either way, but more than enough doubt to clear him.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Trekologer (86619)

      According to the Ars Technica article (http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/02/espionage.ars), Mullor was a Program Manager in the Windows Security Group. It seems unlikely that he would all of a sudden later discover on chance that Microsoft was putting functionality into Windows that he (and his seemingly defunct company) has a patent that covers it. How is this different that Rambus not telling the standards body (that they were apart of) that SDRAM might infringe on their patents?

      I hate to say it

  • ... I might be tempted to kill the person I thought did it. That does not mean I actually would. In fact, I certainly would not.

  • Link to the patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by spitzak (4019) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#26708425) Homepage

    U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 [uspto.gov]

    Any opinions on whether this is bogus or obvious?

    IMHO he did a stupid thing by taking that job. He had to sign employment agreements and contracts and they most likely invalidated his claims. And he certainly copied documents he was not allowed to copy as an employee.

The one day you'd sell your soul for something, souls are a glut.

Working...