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Microsoft Patents Software The Courts Your Rights Online

Dell Says Re-Imaging HDs a Burden If Word Banned 376

Posted by timothy
from the what-you're-used-to dept.
N!NJA writes "In an amicus curiae brief filed on Aug. 24, Dell asked the judge overseeing the Eastern District Court of Texas to reconsider its order blocking sales of Word, part of the original ruling in favor of Canadian software developer i4i. In the worst case, the brief argued, the injunction should be delayed by 120 days. 'The District Court's injunction of Microsoft Word will have an impact far beyond Microsoft,' Dell and HP wrote. 'Microsoft Word is ubiquitous among word processing software and is included on [redacted] computers sold by Dell.' 'If Microsoft is required to ship a revised version of Word in Dell's computers, a change would need to be made to Dell's images,' Dell wrote. 'Making such a change would require extensive time- and resource- consuming testing.' An addendum to the brief notes that it was authored in Microsoft Word, part of Office 2003."
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Dell Says Re-Imaging HDs a Burden If Word Banned

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  • That's fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ubrgeek (679399) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:16PM (#29247043)
    So ship it but don't charge for the license.
  • by tyrione (134248) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:33PM (#29247173) Homepage
    That's par for the course when you become an OEM. Deal with it.
  • Cut the bloat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zen Hash (1619759) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:44PM (#29247275)
    If they hadn't preloaded all of their images with free trials and bloatware then this wouldn't be a problem in the first place. When I have to setup one of their machines, the first thing I always do is reformat and build a new image anyway without all of the extra crap that shouldn't be there.
  • Re:redacted word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reiisi (1211052) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:49PM (#29247315) Homepage

    Okay, I read it.

    Can't figure out what they could have redacted that would have been more damaging than the fact of the redaction itself.

    If these briefs aren't filed as evidence against Microsoft in all the anti-monopoly actions, I'm wondering why.

    (And we can start calling assertion contrary to evidence when people say Microsoft doesn't manufacture computers, since it sounds like Dell is just a subsidiary of Microsoft.)

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:14PM (#29247511)

    This court decision is being appealed and Dell is arguing that the injunction should be withdrawn until the legal process has been completed.

    Third parties will be harmed while the patent holder isn't likely to see anyone buying their product instead of Word.

  • by risk one (1013529) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:14PM (#29247517)

    No, it means "We have a single image that goes out to tens of thousands of customers in hundreds of different hardware configurations, If the software configuration in that image changes, we have to test with the maximum level of paranoia to ensure that we don't get a flood of complaints, and requests for refunds, that each have to be verified independently and will set us back millions of dollars."

    I'm sure their imaging system is in order and whipping up a new image will take at worst a few hours. But I can certainly understand the cost of testing will be considerable.

    And remember that this is an issue caused by absurd software patents, so for once the Slashdot groupthink is on the side of Microsoft.

  • Re:redacted word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:17PM (#29247547)

    It's most likely that Dell doesn't wish to publish their sales numbers outside of the normal reporting process, which isn't at all surprising.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:19PM (#29247561)

    I actually worked at a computer manufacturer. Regardless of whether you think computer manufacturers should test their software or whether they are doing a crappy testing their product, it takes a ton of resources to get a master image out. You are testing multiple masters, not just one, based on different SKUs, etc. I admit, some of the testing we did were stupid but when you are consider MM units shipped and if a stupid error goes through you might pretty much bankrupt the company, you want to make sure you get enough testing.

    As for OpenOffice, are you willing to ship out 1M+ units without good testing? Assembling your own computer is very different from shipping out 1M units all over the world + liability for computer tech support (regardless on whether you think Dell support sucks, it probably costs them $10~$20 per call; when you figure out a typical profit margin of 8% per unit, couple tech support calls will kill your margins).

  • by BobZee1 (1065450) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:23PM (#29247581) Journal
    How can REMOVING software from an image require testing? How does it make any sense that my computer will become less stable because it is missing LESS word processing software? Brilliant logic perpetuated by the microsoft apologists.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:32PM (#29247643)

    How does it make any sense that my computer will become less stable because it is missing LESS word processing software? Brilliant logic perpetuated by the microsoft apologists.

    English isn't your strong suit, Sparky: "missing LESS word processing software"? Very nice.

    Another high UID moron speaks up, and embarrasses himself.

  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:33PM (#29247649) Journal
    If you're coping images as fast as you can, if you need to shut everything down to make new images you will have a massive backlog. And you don't have corporate bureaucracy double- and triple-checking that you didn't slip malware onto the image while nobody's looking.
  • by vxvxvxvx (745287) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:35PM (#29247665)
    With as much crap as Dell includes on it's default computers, certainly something is always in need of an update. They must have new images several times a year to keep the versions all current. One more image doesn't seem like such a big deal.
  • monopoly situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drDugan (219551) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:37PM (#29247675) Homepage

    "Dear Court:

    Providing a different option will be hard for us.
    Please provide us relief."

    Seems to me like this issue is exactly why monopolies are bad for consumers.

    The last PC I helped someone fix (bloated and slow, crippled with malware) didn't even
    come with system reinstall disks - they had to order and pay for them separately once the
    computer arrived. Oops!

  • by kregg (1619907) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:42PM (#29247697)
    Maybe this is a wake up call for people relying on *.doc and *.docx
  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:47PM (#29247723)

    I'm sure someone with a hundred million dollars riding on a good image would do more regression testing than building 10 images in a day would imply.

  • Blame the patents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:52PM (#29247741)

    So now we see the far-reaching disaster that occurs when we enforce these stupid software patents - all the logistical nightmares, the impractical enforceability, the unwitting collateral damage, et cetera. Our greatest hope is that everything can blow up in everyone's face as big as possible with no real advantage to anyone in the end (that's right: dump as much spam in the fan as you can) and then we'll see how pointless it is to enforce software patents.

  • Boo Hoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:02PM (#29247793) Homepage

    Removing all the OEM crap is a burden as well

  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:17PM (#29247883)
    If someone steals a car, and I bought that car from the person, the original owner is still the owner of the car. If it's discovered that I have the car, I can't say "taking this car from me is really going to cramp my style." If the ruling is MS doesn't have the right to sell office, that's the ruling. Whether you agree with it or not, it must be enforced at all levels. Just because the ruling inconveniences others beyond MS has no bearing. They bought an "illegal" product.
  • by ColaMan (37550) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:41PM (#29248011) Homepage Journal

    How can REMOVING software from an image require testing?

    You've never heard of dependencies? I'd be willing to wager that in a typical Dell install there is at least one third-party app that needs some component of Office.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:45PM (#29248029)

    1 although if you had been paying attention you would have seen that i4i stated that OpenOffice does not infringe on the patent.
    2 the odt format is a standard, not a product, not exclusively owned by OpenOffice. unlike Microsoft products, you could get other products to read/write that format

  • by Feanturi (99866) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:47PM (#29248049)
    When Microsoft decides it's time to get more money and releases a new version of Office, as they have done several times in the past, does Dell charge them for having to change their image again? What about major OS service packs? They re-image for those too. It's part of their business. How is this any different from what would happen if MS released Office 2010?
  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zonnald (182951) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:49PM (#29248057)
    Dell is not Microsoft.
    If they have paid Microsoft for the right to Sell x Million copies of Office, then Microsoft has already sold x Million copies to Dell.
    Does the injunction apply to resllers?

    the injuction prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing

  • by computerchimp (994187) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:00PM (#29248123)

    What Dell and HP do not have faith that MS will put out a reliable replacement?

    Then stop shipping the product! Thats what the judges order says....its says do not sell anymore.

    If MS cannot provide what Dell needs they are out of luck for a bit....how about negotiating with MS and telling them they have to support this new version of Word for 120 days or its no sellly from Delly?.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbengt (874751) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:42PM (#29248345)

    Anyway, the injunction prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing. There's no reason that would enjoin Dell from selling their stock.

    It's doubtful that Dell has a pre-bought stock of CDs to sell for the preloaded software that is the subject of of their brief. They probably pay MS quarterly or monthly on the number of copies they make. That would make any copies Dell preloads onto their machines new copies sold by Microsoft.

  • by denobug (753200) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:48PM (#29248373)

    Can someone explain to me how a company can ask a judge to not apply the law for purely commercial reasons? Why not let proven big drug dealers go free because they fuel the economy while they're at it?

    During an appeal process the judge has a say on whether the previous judgement should be enforced before or after the appeal process. By law the judge has the authority to do so either way. So Dell is certainly within the boundary and the spirit of the law to voice their concern, especially when it has far reaching impact. It is an entirely different discussion if the judge would see the issue the same way Dell does.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbengt (874751) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:55PM (#29248409)

    If they have paid Microsoft for the right to Sell x Million copies of Office, then Microsoft has already sold x Million copies to Dell.

    That's quite a big "if" there. I doubt that Dell pays Microsoft 60 days ahead of time for software that they are going to copy onto a new harddrive when and if they sell it. They might have paid MS for the master, but the copy doesn't exist to be licensed until they make it - I would expect that moment of copying would be the moment the legal infringement takes place.

  • by Mista2 (1093071) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:58PM (#29248427)

    Nope, just see what happend with RIM and the claim against them for using a mobile device that gets mail pushed to it from a server. A small patent holder was completly screwed over, and the main reason there was no injunction - lots of US government offices use Blackberrys and would have been "crippled" without them.
    The whole thing with the patent laws as they are enforced today is they are really only a way for the rich to keep somone else form joining them at the trough.

    Microsoft to TomTom - hey, you use use a method of shortening long filenames to 8.3 characters that we patented for our FAT32 (not the code, just the same rule as to where to put the "~1". I know you use FAT as your file system and that is OK, but shortening your long filename like this is just not on. Please rewrite your primary product or pay us lots of money to settle"
    Or....
    Little guy to Microsoft - "Hey you know we descibed how to store format for an XML based document way back in the '90's You can't do this with your current version of Office."
    "Shut up" says MS. "Lots of people would find it really hard to keep getting richer off your idea if we had to stop selling Word or change the file format to a non infringing method right now. US courts! Make them stop bugging us."
    "OK, just let me roll over" Says Uncle Sam.

    Or am I missing something here?

  • Are you joking? Microsoft is a convicted monopolist. Their sentence may have been light, but they were convicted of a criminal offense.

    NO.

    Microsoft was found to be a monopoly, and to have committed the CIVIL wrong of using said monopoly to improperly affect other markets.

    If they had been found guilty of being a criminal organization -- you know, one that commits crimes by way of its business -- there wouldn't be a Microsoft right now, because their corporate charter would have been revoked, all their stock would have become worthless, and there'd be a big chunk out of the national debt.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:35PM (#29248587)

    First of all "convicted monopolist" is the most over-used phrase on Slashdot. Can we please come up with something new?

    Secondly, being a "monopolist" isn't a criminal offense, it's a civil one. So no, Microsoft was not convicted of a criminal offense. But thanks for playing.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thinboy00 (1190815) <thinboy00@gDALImail.com minus painter> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:37PM (#29248601) Journal

    Then i4i sues and wins (it's eastern texas. And no, I won't capitalize "texas" until the judges stop acting like twats.).

  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:18PM (#29248795) Homepage Journal

    I saw this article a couple times, and finally clicked it to see what's being said. Good post you've made there.

    I'd like to add though, that Dell jumped on the bandwagon years ago when MS demanded exclusivity agreements in exchange for distribution rights. Even if Dell were to suffer a loss if ordered to distribute no more Word products, I couldn't feel sorry for them. Dell assisted, even if indirectly, in creating the Microsoft monopoly. A little hardship might make them reconsider pushing Linux and No-OS machines a little harder. It would be good to see such offerings on their FRONT page. It would be even better to see the end of "Dell recommends Windows Blah" on every page.

  • by billsf (34378) <billsf&cuba,calyx,nl> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:19PM (#29248805) Homepage Journal

    Are software patents suddenly OK when MS gets stuck? I wouldn't use their 'copy-ware' myself but still aren't /. readers against this abuse
    of the patent system? There is a bigger story, but the press just haven't seen it yet. I think some of us know where the prior art is anyway for this idea that isn't patentable. Will Apple bring back 'look and feel' suits? Very bad idea, even if its just Microsoft.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:30PM (#29248867) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, your argument doesn't hold water.

    Let's look at the same argument used by Corporate America - specifically, RIAA. The statement that file sharers are "criminals" is common. It is a determined effort to alienate filesharers from people who genuinely respect the law. That inaccurate statement is incorporated into any and every PR release made by a majority of IP holders. "Criminal" are costing Corporate America billions of dollars annualy.

    I've argued and pointed out many times that file sharers may or may not be guilty of infringing on CIVIL LAW, but that does not make them "criminals".

    Honesty demands that we not use the same dirty trick against Corporate America. Microsoft is not a "convicted criminal". They may be a bunch of rat bastards, but being a rat bastard is not in and of itself a criminal offense.

    Please, don't put me in the position of defending Microsoft again.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:58PM (#29249009)

    Then let them sue. Until Dell is served with a court order they have no reason to go out of their way to help i4i.

  • by fly1ngtux (1504905) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:21PM (#29249121)
    Honourable Judges,

    Allow me to introduce myself. I am an MNC making a living through unlawful sale of copyrighted material. I heard that you are going to crackdown on people like me. Since I don't know a better way to earn a living, I request you to postpone your ruling for another year or so.

    Sincerely,
    MNC

    PS: Please note that if we don't sell our stuff for next 120 days, world will come to an end. And, I would not prefer to pay/reach a out of court agreement with the actual copyright holder to make the entire thing legal.
  • by Shados (741919) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:46PM (#29249219)

    Changing the master image is no big deal. Changing all the HDs of of thousands of PCs in the warehouse is another deal.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:02AM (#29249277) Homepage

    Don't preinstall the software, ship blank machines and separate media to be installed.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zkiwi34 (974563) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:25AM (#29249349)
    I still don't get why Dell, HP and whoever else aren't suing Microsoft for lost income. You know, kind of like the charges against Boeing for the repeated delays of their "dreamliner" for those who ordered them but still haven't got them.
  • Re:That's fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:55AM (#29249447) Journal

    There was no XML in the 80's, so your argument is way off. How is I4I supposed to predict the name of a product from the future? do they have magic premonition or are you full of shit? Oh right, I know the answer.

    There was SGML, which XML is simply a derivative of. Besides, SGML and its descendants are not the only type of markup languages. TROFF and its descendants are also forms of markup that allow metadata inclusions. This company did nothing that hadn't been foreseen since the 1960s. In short, the patent is absurd.

    Try to read about things here, the patent is indeed about embedding meta data, there wasn't meta data at allin the 80's, and there wasn't XML even until in the mid 90s.

    I4I said they would have sued sooner but were having financial problems. Gee, I wonder who might have caused those? Would it be MS who said "well, we had a business meeting with them, lets implement their plan without them and run them out of business"? Hmm. Now where is that lawsuit again? oh right.

    A couple of points:

    1. You're a moron who knows nothing about the history of markup languages. Before you pontificate or defend these guys, at least try not to look like a retard.

    2. Allowing any company to patent specific kinds of metadata in a markup language is insane, considering that markup languages, and in particular SGML (which XML is a form of) have permitted it for four decades. I4I did nothing that wasn't foreseen since the development of SGML (and even it, as I recall, had precessors).

    3. You're a moron. Or maybe you're a shill for these con artists. If you are a shill, then tell your masters that only the clinically stupid try to build real estate on concepts that probably predate half their engineers year of birth.

    4. Even if you're a shill, you're still an ignorant stupid moron.

    5. You're a moron. Now go away.

  • by Helldesk Hound (981604) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @01:12AM (#29249515) Homepage

    > First of all "convicted monopolist" is the most over-used phrase
    > on Slashdot. Can we please come up with something new?

    How about "re-convicted monopolist"?

    After all Microsoft has done this multiple times and has been convicted of monopolistic bullying tactics multiple times.

  • by dakohli (1442929) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @01:33AM (#29249637)
    Nobody except Microsoft.

    This was a company that was actually using their patent. I don't belive they fall into the "patent troll" definition.

    Microsoft stole their idea, and then competed with them.

    Lets face it, MS likes to play fast and free with the rules and this time they got caught.
  • causation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @02:07AM (#29249755) Homepage Journal

    'Making such a change would require extensive time- and resource- consuming testing.'

    Self-made problem, I'd say. If your procedures can't handle the process of removing a piece of software, or replacing it with a newer version of itself, then your procedures suck. We're not talking about a kernel change here, are we?

    Seriously? Car anology? "Dear Sirs, unfortunately, removing the radio is so much work, we'd have to remodel our entire factory."

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @02:14AM (#29249787) Journal

    I went and read the patent. It's actually about separating formatting from content. This is similar to CSS, but in this case, there would be no tags at all in the 'content' portion of the document at all. Instead, a 'metacode map' would be a code, like 'bold', and the start/stop address of the text affected. SFAIK, this is different than what other document formats do. I certainly haven't seen it before.

    However, I totally agree that this sort of patent is bogus, and scary. We should not be able to patent such nonsense. And, we have Microsoft largely to blame for this situation. Back when the debate over software patents was hot in DC, they swarmed all over the place lobbying for software patents. I have to chuckle a bit when I see what it's gotten them into. Microsoft had fooled themselves into thinking they were the ones with the innovation, and they'd be the ones with the most important patents. In reality, they are most famous for stealing the innovation of others, and for having deep pockets, a patent-troll heaven.

    Now we're seeing insane damages, like $240M. Microsoft isn't significantly benefiting from the idea in this patent, it just got caught accidentally in violation of a more-or-less useless idea. This patent only barely passes the 'is this useful' test required for patents. Now big companies like Microsoft who fought for software patents want to 'cap' damages, so settlements will be more reasonable. However, when Microsoft sues a small company, damages of even $1M could kill it. Simply capping damages would effectively make Microsoft immune to law-suits, while they trash all the little guys with their lawyers. It's the perfect situation for Microsoft, and the worst possible situation for innovation.

    The best solution is to stop issuing software patents. They hurt everybody.

  • by Tom (822) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @02:17AM (#29249793) Homepage Journal

    Third parties will be harmed while the patent holder isn't likely to see anyone buying their product instead of Word.

    Which is not the point.

    As much as I dislike software patents, if there's ever been a clear case regarding them, this is it. MS partnered with i4i, took their technology and included it in their software without an agreement.

    The penalty for being caught with the hand in the cookie jar can not simply be that you now have to pay for the cookies. If it were, then trying theft first would be the rational choice. A penalty like "no more cookies for you, not even if you pay, plus penalties and paying for those you took so far" sounds about right.

    MS is a company with tons of spare cash, literally. Hitting them with a monetary penalty will make them laugh, and continue on their merry ways. Telling them to actually get their damn dirty fingers out of the cookie jar is what hurts them.
    Yes, and their partners who sold the cookies on to others. Poor fellows. I almost feel sorry for you. It's not as if anyone would ever think that MS might be a company that's anything but spotlessly clean and nothing like this could ever happen, and contingency plans would be entirely unnecessary.

    New Rule: If you put all your eggs in one basket, you don't have a right to cry if it falls.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @07:17AM (#29250713) Homepage

    When it comes to Dell and HP, the majority of Word licences are part of works and not part of office. In that case works is just a wedge to get office in the door and is a marketing exercise on M$'s part and to keep OpenOffice.org out as such the price is likely to be very low, free and could even generate a discount on windows. So M$ makes a gain from word continuing to be installed, as such Dell's and HP's requests are likely not so much their own but being done a upon M$'s promptings.

    M$ lied cheated and stole and they are meant to be penalised for it, so in this case the problems caused to Dell and HP by M$, should be solved in court by Dell and HP suing M$. As for disgruntled customers Dell and HP can simply install OpenOffice.org in the interim.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JAlexoi (1085785) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @04:13PM (#29254453) Homepage
    You are missing the hidden point here. There is no technical reason why HP or Dell would do this. Only a political one. Microsoft "asked" them to do this, obviously. By "asking", I mean that they might have hinted that there might be some technical difficulties in calculating volume discounts, if companies do not spend just a little of their lawyer payrolled time.

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