Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents

SQL Server Developers Face Huge Royalties 574

superpat writes "The Register reports that Microsoft licensed SQL Server technology from Timeline. Trouble is, they didn't license the tech for use by MS customers... After 3 1/2 years in the courts, the final judgement rules that MS SQL Server customers must pay Timeline patent royalties. The argument that Microsoft said it was OK is no defence, apparently." News.com.com.com has another story.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

SQL Server Developers Face Huge Royalties

Comments Filter:
  • Whoo. (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigfleet ( 121233 ) <jim&jimvanfleet,com> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:33AM (#5352014) Homepage Journal
    Time for Microsoft to step up to the plate. Why would you think that you had to read a EULA if they can get away with this kind of $hit?
    • Re:Whoo. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:42AM (#5352097) Homepage
      I'm not one of these extremists who will advocate free software for everything in the world, even if it doesnt fit a given situation, but this is a case in point for free software like MySQL et al.
    • Re:Whoo. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:47AM (#5352126)
      Hehe, funny thing is if it wouldn't raise the ire of antitrust lawyers is that the easiest and quickest solution would be for MS to buy this company. Why they didn't after incorperating their patented tech into their products and instead turned around and bought this companies biggest rival I have no clue on.
      • Re:Whoo. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mitheral ( 10588 )
        Probably because Timeline wouldn't sell out. The patents may be worth a lot more than MS was offering.
      • Re:Whoo. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by silverbax ( 452214 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:30PM (#5352929)
        If you read the article, Microsoft bought Timeline's biggest competitor and tried to develop technologies that would replace Timeline's. Amazingly, even though Microsoft has the resources to buy companies they can't develop anything worthwhile on their own?
      • by emil ( 695 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @01:00PM (#5353153)

        ...And then Microsoft would be in the unenviable position of advising its customers to migrate to free Sybase for Linux (11.0.3.3), since it is compatible with SQL Server 6.5.

        Why isn't Sybase having this problem? SQL Server and Sybase were at one time the same product (v 4.8).

    • Re:Whoo. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ManUMan ( 571203 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:47AM (#5352131)

      Great. I can just see it. Now my boss is going to have EULA's examined by the company lawyer before we can think about installing software.

      Now after you design a solution and pick the products, you get to hear the legal department say; "I'm sorry, the EULA for that software doesn't provide us enough protection. Find another platform."

      Sheesh!

      • Re:Whoo. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mmol_6453 ( 231450 ) <short...circuit@@@mail...grnet...com> on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:40PM (#5352997) Homepage Journal
        For the more risk-conscious companies, there shouldn't be any difference. For the companies that still don't look at licenses, it doesn't make any difference.

        For the companies that just now start looking at licenses, I see this as a good thing. After all, would you rather your boss be aware of the licensing options of OSS vs the licensing options of other software, or would you rather him blindly choose one or the other?

        I say that awareness is a better solution, and the fact that he's aware of the EULA will encourage him to shop around.

        Manager's will still make a decision yea or nay based on their own reasons (or reasons handed to them), but at least it's not as much of a shot in the dark.
  • This is wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jlharris_50010 ( 529143 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (01005_sirrahlj)> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:34AM (#5352028) Homepage
    Microsoft should be responisble... THEY infringined on the patent by selling it outside of the agreed scope!
    • by Skinny Rav ( 181822 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:46AM (#5352122)
      Hmmm... how about customers suing MS on a basis that they were misinformed? I am not sure if EULA covers this - and if it does then it is a good opportunity to challenge it in court. If enough big customers have to pay huge enough royalties we may see some interesting things happening in near future

      Raf
    • Re:This is wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:50AM (#5352158) Homepage Journal
      If you READ THE ARTICLE, it notes that Timeline's position is that Microsoft is not a law firm, thus customers who relied on Microsoft's assertion that everything was OK failed to cover their own butts properly, and are potentially open to treble damages in court.

      Cha-ching! [yahoo.com]

      • by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:00AM (#5352242) Homepage
        Microsoft is not a law firm

        Bull. Microsoft's legal division is probably larger than most law firms. And since when do you have to be a law firm to break a promise.

        *If* they had made representations to customers that they need not license patents from Timeline, then Microsoft should be responsible, *but* I really doubt Microsoft did so in a way that can be proven in a court of law. Also, it doens't follow that a promise to one customer is a promise to all customers. So, it is possible Microsoft could be liable to a handful of customers which were made that promise, but no other customers. IANAL
        • by mitheral ( 10588 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:11AM (#5352351)
          According to the article MS issued a press release, that was inspected by their legal department 11 times, and posted it on their site. Doesn't seem like there'd be many people the promise wouldn't apply to and the evidence has already been entered into court.

          Sound like legal at MS together with management decided to willfully misrepresent the situtation. I'm Shocked! Shocked I say that the honest corperate citizen that MS is would make this mistake :)
        • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:11AM (#5352353) Homepage Journal
          Timeline's point (which will surely be argued in court) is that Microsoft isn't qualified to make that promise in the first place, so the users can't get off the hook by saying "but Microsoft said...".

          Probably the best part of that strategy for Timeline is that they can go after the various users, rather than try to gouge money out of Microsoft itself. Microsoft could easily tie the case up in court for a decade or more, and make it apparent to Timeline that they'll never be able to make it worth the effort.

          • If you really believe that argument, then I've got some DVD players and TVs to sell you.

            No, honest, I promise I can sell them to you. What's that you say ... something about "back of a truck" ... what? Not at all!

            *cough*
          • Re:This is wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Melantha_Bacchae ( 232402 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:45PM (#5353036)
            TopShelf wrote:

            > Timeline's point (which will surely be argued in court) is
            > that Microsoft isn't qualified to make that promise in the
            > first place, so the users can't get off the hook by saying
            > "but Microsoft said...".

            One of Timeline's statements in a press release said that, yes. The court argument over it took three and a half years and is now over.

            Timeline also noted how Microsoft mislead its users, and they basically laid out the beginnings of a case users could put together (with a bit of research and a lawyer) and go after Microsoft to recoup the money they had to pay Timeline. That's kind of nice (to the users) of Timeline to do that, especially after Microsoft's deception kept them from getting paid for three and a half years.

            > Probably the best part of that strategy for Timeline is that
            > they can go after the various users, rather than try to
            > gouge money out of Microsoft itself.

            The users are the ones owing money, not Microsoft, thanks to Microsoft, their cheapskate ways and their lying. Timeline tried to offer Microsoft a package that would cover the users, but Microsoft would rather pay less, lie about the agreement, and pull a legal delay. Now its customers owe millions, and Microsoft walks away with some court charges (and a perjury offense to go with all those anti-trust offenses they are not having to be punished for).

            > Microsoft could easily tie the case up in court for a
            > decade or more, and make it apparent to Timeline that
            > they'll never be able to make it worth the effort.

            Microsoft didn't have to tie it up for more than three and a half years. Microsoft isn't the ones that owe the money, their users are. Read the article.

            Oh, and everyone keep in mind, SQL Server is soon to be the file system called Yukon, and join Palladium and its amazing friends in Microsoft's next operating system. Does this mean anyone who writes software for that OS that accesses files will be liable for these royalties?

            "Your way of thinking is completely different from mine!"
            Mac user Shinoda to PC user Katagiri, "Godzilla 2000 Millennium" (Japanese version)
            (From the world's biggest switch commercial, starring Apple's biggest fan: Godzilla!)
        • pointing to the article of course. microsoft released a press release in 99 stating that their customers didn't need to worry about the Timeline patent issues. It basically stated that their customers were free to use Timeline's patented product
        • Right, YANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:49AM (#5352609) Homepage Journal
          Microsoft is not a law firm

          Bull. Microsoft's legal division is probably larger than most law firms. And since when do you have to be a law firm to break a promise.

          IANAL, YANAL. If Microsoft retains one or one thousand lawyers, they are still responsible for notifying customers that certain value-additions to the server, sold or licensed by those customers (thus sub-licensing, what Microsoft has stated they are free to do 'unencumbered') those customers are liable. Apparently from evidence, Microsoft consulted on this statement before issuing it. That's what we call a smoking gun. I expect customers, if pursued will place the burden of treble damages, plus their own expenses and damages costs on Microsoft.

          This of course all depends upon Timeline pursuing a list of all customers and investigating their products for infringement. They could bankroll the process with a settlement from Microsoft, however, I suspect to protect their underhandedly won and significant market, Microsoft will attempt to settle with Timeline, paying some hefty fee and renegotiating the terms of licensing. Since Microsoft has attempted to cut Timelines own legs off (buying their main distributor) expect Timeline to request a pound of flesh.

          Lacking a settlement, here's yet one more argument in favor of buying software and services from Anybody-But-Microsoft. One would think they were coached on this whole preposterous strategy by the same team that coached them initially in the antitrust trial. i.e. some truly stupid, arrogant and overconfident lot.

        • by rseuhs ( 322520 )
          Actually it would be better for Microsoft to pay the licenses anyway. The PR-damage and loss of thrust in case of Microsoft's customers having to pay extra fees would hurt them probably more.
      • by civilizedINTENSITY ( 45686 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:03AM (#5352280)
        Yes, but since Timeline is not a law firm, any slashdot reader who relies on Timeline's assertion have also failed to cover their butts. Looks like its time to let loose the dogs (lawyers) of war (litigation) and let the games begin...
      • So what've they been doin in the courts so often? I thought they were just the best defense attorneys money could buy.
      • by qoncept ( 599709 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:11AM (#5352355) Homepage
        Microsoft sold licenses to use software it didn't have the right to sell licenses to. You can bet that if I was using an MSSQL database today, I wouldn't be tomorrow unless they cared to foot the bill for me.
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        In the hardware world if one of your vendors happens to infringe on someones patent and you are informed of that infringement but your vendor goes to court what would be a normal reaction? Would most companies follow their vendors lead or would they stop using the product in question, or would they seek legal advice, or possibly even reach their own liscensing agreement. I don't know the answer but I bet a patent attourney would and so could answer these questions. Of course anyone whos talked to a patent attourney has already met their responsibility and so they don't have to worry about these damages =) Then again I don't think there should be ANY patent's on software anyways, only copyright. Software isn't an invention it's a creative work using a lexicon other than English.
      • by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:26AM (#5352454) Homepage
        That is absolutely correct. Timeline can go after the end users. But the real question for the end users is can they then turn around and go after microsoft to recover their payments to timeline? The end users' reliance on microsofts comments doesn't indemnify them against timeline, but it might create a cause of action against microsoft so that the end users can use to get the money back from microsoft. It depends on the contract between the users and microsoft. It would be . . . interesting if microsoft had to pay timeline and then had to turn around and pay the end users as well. And in fact, that may be what timeline is assuming if they are going against the end users.
      • by barryfandango ( 627554 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:47AM (#5352594)
        My employer owns SQL Server 2000 license and we develop applications around it. I can tell you that my boss has no idea who made the components of the software, any more than an average consumer cares that that their Dell computer has a Fujitsu CDRom and a Maxtor HD, or that the frame of their Toyota Matrix came from a Pontiac assembly line. Microsoft is selling an integrated product and I don't want to worry about where the various parts came from. I bought one box and agreed to one license - i've never heard of TimeLine and I've never seen their logo or copyright anywhere in the product. If Microsoft illegally include patented technologies in their product without informing me I just can't see logically how I could be liable. But then the law can be illogical sometimes. At the very least, I think a suit against Microsoft on behalf of its customers would have a great chance of success.
      • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:49AM (#5352606) Homepage
        Scenario 1) You go into a computer store in a strip mall and a guy in a Babylon 5 T-shirt sells you a CD-R with Win 2K Pro and a serial number written on it in Sharpie. You ask him "Is this legit?" and he says "Absolutely, we're a licensed Microsoft distributor. We ran out of the packaged copies, so we burned a few until the next shipment comes."

        Scenario 2) You buy enterprise level database software from Microsoft, one of the largest corporations on the planet. They assure you that everything is legit and that you can do what you want with the software as a foundation of your small business.

        In scenario 1, you're an idiot. Just because the guy lied to you doesn't get you off the hook. You should have realized that things were fishy.

        In Scenario 2, you were acting in good faith. You have an expectation that a giant company is going to handle these kind of legal issues for you before you hand then 5 to 100 thousand dollars for a few CDs worth of software.

        So what other huge corporations that I deal with will require me to pay a lawyer 600 bucks before I do any business with again?

        -Barry
    • by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:52AM (#5352179) Homepage
      Microsoft should be responsible...

      I hope not. Beacuse if they are responsible for patent violations of their software by users then open source developers are going to be in for a world of hurt.

      THEY infringed on the patent by selling it ouside of the agreed scope!

      I'm sorry, but distributing code which violates a patent should definately not be infringing behavior; but IANAL. If it is, that is the nail in the OSS coffin. Now, if Microsoft explicltily claims that they will indemnify their users for patent violations... this is a different issue; but I very much doubt that Microsoft made any representations to this.

      God help OSS developers if Microsoft is responsible. The PTO is who is responsible... for most likely (given their track record) allowing a bull-shit patent to go through.

      And this is from a *confirmed* ANTI-MICROSOFT junkie, not one of your astro-turfers...

      • by jasonditz ( 597385 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:11PM (#5352754) Homepage
        Really it more underscores the completely assinine idea of patenting software algorithms when it means patenting what is essentially mathematic formulae.

        But still, if someone is going to get a beJebus sued out of them here its got to be Microsoft. Why you ask? Think of this little scenario.

        Suppose Microsoft wants to target unofficial Xbox developers (Xbox Linux and the like). All they need to do is: Create a subsidiary, have them patent a piece of code, stick it in a desired product (bootloader anyone?) and open source it.

        Then six months later they can sue the entire Xbox developers group into the poorhouse for not only using patented code but distributing it to potentially an enormous audience.

        Suddenly Xbox Linux dies out.
      • by mlong ( 160620 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:11PM (#5352765)
        I'm sorry, but distributing code which violates a patent should definately not be infringing behavior; but IANAL. If it is, that is the nail in the OSS coffin. Now, if Microsoft explicltily claims that they will indemnify their users for patent violations... this is a different issue; but I very much doubt that Microsoft made any representations to this.

        Um, no. Customers do not have access to Microsoft source code and there is no way for them to be able to determine if the product infringes patents. Microsoft was able to determine this and they should be held responsible for it. While I see your point about open source developers being hurt if they were made responsible, you also need to consider software ethics. If I make something that is illegal or hurts someone, etc. I should be held accountable, not the customer. The customer simply purchases it...the customer has no involvement in the creation of the product. But it seems slapping a EULA on there changes all of that.

    • Re:This is wrong... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nullard ( 541520 ) <nullprogram@NOSPAM.voicesinmyhead.cc> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:57AM (#5352221) Journal
      Microsoft should be responisble... THEY infringined on the patent by selling it outside of the agreed scope!

      Er... No they didn't. Thir licence allowed them to sell it. It didn't allow their customers to resell it. Microsoft should still be liable because they lied to their customers about this fact.

      More frightening than this is what MSFT did to try to destroy Timeline:
      During this three and one-half year period, Microsoft bought Timeline's largest competitor and aggressively developed many applications based upon data mart technologies. It also acquired Timeline's then largest international distributor. These activities give Microsoft a family of products and an enhanced distribution channel to directly compete with Timeline products and those of many of its other SQL Server development partners, a capacity it did not have when it started this long, drawn-out legal battle.
  • Dud FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:36AM (#5352044) Homepage
    IIRC patent insecurity was one of the MS FUD tactics not so long ago. They argued that you couldn't rely on OSS because someone might have a patent on it.

    Hoist by your own petard, boys.

    Paul.

    • Re:Dud FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tmark ( 230091 )
      They argued that you couldn't rely on OSS because someone might have a patent on it.

      But doesn't this ruling suggest that MS indeed had a valid point, and that the argument wasn't just FUD (because if it was FUD, SQL server customers wouldn't have been hit with this) ??
      • Re: Dud FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:47AM (#5352130)


        > > They argued that you couldn't rely on OSS because someone might have a patent on it.

        > But doesn't this ruling suggest that MS indeed had a valid point, and that the argument wasn't just FUD (because if it was FUD, SQL server customers wouldn't have been hit with this) ??

        It was FUD because they portrayed it as a problem specific to OSS. (Remember what "FUD" stands for.)

      • Re:Dud FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

        by farnz ( 625056 ) <{ku.gro.znraf} {ta} {todhsals}> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:51AM (#5352170) Homepage Journal
        The argument was that proprietary software was better than OSS because with proprietary software, the vendor guarantees that you won't be at risk from a patent lawsuit. OSS provides no such guarantee, and so you have to do your own patent audit.

        Had MS indicated that they would indemnify MS SQL Server developers against a patent lawsuit, the FUD would have been justified; as it is, the argument is invalidated in this instance, since the purchasers of MS SQL Server still have to audit it as thoroughly as they would have had to audit an OSS solution.

        • by Lucas Membrane ( 524640 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:19AM (#5352404)
          Here's an excerpt from an MS license agreement that's available on-line at Findlaw:
          Microsoft hereby agrees to defend, indemnify and hold company harmless from and against any and all claims arising as a result of any claim by a third party that the licensed software infringes any trade secret or copyright of such third party.

          Ooops. They said "copyright" and "trade secret", but they forgot to say "patent". Oops.

          • by term8or ( 576787 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @02:06PM (#5353734)
            Certainly in the UK there are contract terms that the courts can infer from the purpose of the contract

            One of the terms is that goods or services must be adequate for the purpose they are supplied for.

            SQL Server's developer edition should be able to produce software to develop and redistribute - that is the point of a development edition.


            Thus Microsoft would be failing to fulfill its contractual requirements in the UK, and would be liable for contractual loss
            I would have thought that the US would tend to have a similar requirement. It is, after all, the land of the lawsuit.
  • by agentZ ( 210674 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:37AM (#5352051)
    All of your database are belong to us!
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:39AM (#5352064) Journal
    >> The contract essentially prohibits third-party developers from creating customized technologies dependent on Timeline's patents without paying royalties

    So this doesnt affect people who merely bought SQL server and use it as is, but people who modify it?

    And by modify, do they mean extending it via SQL-DMO, writing your own libraries to wrap the server? Do they mean writing custom triggers or stored procedures? Creating your own tables?

    I, and my clients, have already licensed to use the technology once. If anyone owes Timeline anything its Microsoft.

    I mean Ford doesnt sell you a car, and 5 years down the road AC Delco pops up and says "hey you owe us 200 bucks for that CD player!"
    • by GMC-jimmy ( 243376 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:44AM (#5352109) Homepage
      If you use MS SQL "out of the box", then you should be alright.
      BUT, if you create custom code for it, and then SELL that custom code, then you could be in for some trouble.
      HOWEVER, if you keep your custom code for "in house" use ONLY, then you should still be alright.

      But don`t count on my advice, speak with an attorney.
      • by Ooblek ( 544753 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:05AM (#5352297)
        BUT, if you create custom code for it, and then SELL that custom code, then you could be in for some trouble.

        Well, from what I read, there are specific places you have to put that custom code. It didn't appear to mean if you created a stored procedure or made a program that accessed the database that you were infringing.

        The claims appear to be focused around the analysis services and the data transformation services. So if you used these things as a user by pointing and clicking (i.e. you imported a comma delimited text file into a table using DTS), you didn't do anything. If you wrote a middleware driver that, for example, created a data cube automatically from multiple sources, then you're liable.

        I work in a part of the industry that develops applications for their Great Plains ERP systems. The use of cubes and analysis services, at least from what I know in this particular corner of the industry, was not a wide spread thing. I do know a few vendors that did some analysis packages, and this will probably affect them.

    • >I mean Ford doesnt sell you a car, and 5 years down the road AC Delco pops up and says "hey you owe us 200 bucks for that CD player!"

      That's why I don't want to buy, sell, or process anything. I don't want to buy anything sold or processed, sell anything bought or processed, or process anything bought, sold, or processed, or repair anything bought, sold, or processed as a career.

      I don't think I can sum it up in one night sir, I just want to hang with your daughter.

  • by manyoso ( 260664 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:39AM (#5352069) Homepage
    This is laughably ironic given MS's past assertion that the GPL is viral and a threat to other organizations "Intellectual Property".

    Seems that SQL Server is viral and a threat to some organizations wallet ;)
  • Who's in trouble? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by derrickh ( 157646 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:41AM (#5352086) Homepage
    So from what I understand, this doesn't effect people who write apps that just use SQL Server as a database. It only effects people who write add-ons to SQL server itself. correct?

    D
  • by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:42AM (#5352093) Journal
    tmln is just squeezing the max out of msft. I seriously doubt any MSSQL customer will have to pay up. They'll reach a backstage agreement involving buttloads of cash and stock swaps.

    What I wonder about the most is : if msft willingly noodles up legal, hardcash contracts, I wonder how seriously they take the GPL & co... How much public source has been 'embraced' allready withou telling anyone ?
  • by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:42AM (#5352094) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is not a law firm.

    Judging by the number of lawyers working for them, they might as well be.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:44AM (#5352105)
    Someone needs to start a list of companies Microsoft has screwed over. It needs to be the first site that comes up when someone googles for "Microsoft Business Partner"

    Let's see:
    Citrix ("Yes, we're building virtual desktops into Windows now...")
    Sendo ("Hey, nice phone tech, we'll just be taking it, then. Enjoy your chapter 11.")
    Timeline, Inc. (New, from article)
    VMWare ("Oh, and virtual system imaging is going in, too. Thanks Connectix!")
    • by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:50AM (#5352157) Journal
      Hey, that's a list of people they've f'd THIs YEAR. :)

      There used to be a list on my BBS way-back-when that started with Seattle Software....

      Here's a partial list:

      http://five2one.org/stdio/index.cfm/daddy/show/m om my/85
    • Spyglass (Score:5, Informative)

      by esme ( 17526 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:08AM (#5352324) Homepage

      You forgot Spyglass -- the company setup by UIUC to manage and commercialize the Mosaic source code. When they negotiated with Microsoft, they thought they had done a really good job. They got a fixed percentage of the gross.

      And then MS gave it away for free, screwing not only Spyglass, but Spyglass's only other customer -- Netscape.

      -Esme

      • Re:Spyglass (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BlueGecko ( 109058 ) <benjamin.pollack@gmail. c o m> on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:43PM (#5353020) Homepage
        I never understood the Spyglass thing. Here's why: Microsoft, in court, has admitted that their browser is an absolutely integral part of the operating system. Therefore, Internet Explorer costs $250 a copy for the client versions, and something like $800 a copy for server products. Shouldn't Spyglass have made out great with that, or did Microsoft rewrite the rendering engine from scratch at some point?
    • You mean like This One? [vcnet.com]
      If enough of us link to it from our personal web pages, We could probably make it come up first on google.
      Be sure to use the words "Microsoft Business Partner" in the link!
    • Someone needs to start a list of companies Microsoft has screwed over. It needs to be the first site that comes up when someone googles for "Microsoft Business Partner"
      Here's my list of examples of Microsoft's predatory practices [kmfms.com] which is somewhat what you're asking for (Spyglass is on there). It's not complete because keeping it complete would be a full time job in and of itself, but I do try to add to it over time with high impact examples. If there is a more complete list of their predatory practices out there, let me know and I'll probably link to it (as for the other person who posted a link to the list of companies Microsoft has bought, I've already linked to that under the "lack of innovation" section as I felt it fit better in that section).
  • OSS Licencing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:46AM (#5352123) Homepage
    If these companies can sue Microsoft for distributing code which is burdened by patents; and if they win what does this do about OSS licenses? Does it matter if the developer knows a given peice of software violates a patent? We'd all stop making OSS software if we were liable for retroatively paying patent licensing fees for users to operate the software we contribute to.

    In particular, the BSD license doesn't say anything about patents, should it have a clause like:

    THIS SOFTWARE MAY BE COVERED BY PATENTS
    AND THUS MAY NOT BE USEABLE WITHOUT
    APPROPRIATE LICENSING BY THE OWNERS OF
    THOSE PATENTS; THIS LICENSE IS NOT A
    GRANT OF PATENT AND THE DEVELOPER
    EXPLICITLY DENIES ANY RESPONSIBILITY
    FOR PATENT LICENSING REQUIRED TO USE
    THIS SOFTWARE.

    Just wondering? How do other licenses handle it? Is there a clause in the GPL for this?
    • Re:OSS Licencing (Score:5, Informative)

      by broken_bones ( 307900 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:07AM (#5352319)
      Acording to Prof. Eben Moglen (general counsel for the Free Software Foundation) in this [slashdot.org] Slashdot interview:

      "Free software should be freely modifiable and redistributable by its users. Of course, any code once modified may practice claims of a patent about which the modifying user is uninformed. So anyone distributing free software is unable to assure his users that each and every modification they may want to make is noninfringing. But when someone distributes apparently-free software under actual but undisclosed legal restrictions preventing modification or redistribution, the software is not really free. GPL [fsf.org] tries to deal with this problem through section 7, which says that if code you are distributing is actually under restriction that is incompatible with the terms of the GPL, you can't distribute under GPL at all. So if you have accepted a patent license that prohibits you from reusing some of your code, or code you have received from others, in different contexts, GPL section 7 means that you cannot distribute under GPL. " (Emphasis and URL added)
  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:47AM (#5352127) Homepage
    How hard would it be for those companies using MS SQL to switch to a different SQL distro? That should eliminate the infringement, but how difficult is switch between one SQL distro and another?
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blowdart ( 31458 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:57AM (#5352222) Homepage
      very

      Every SQL "distribution" has it's own quirks. For example, Oracle isn't (or wasn't last time I looked) ANSI SQL 92 compliant. MS SQL does a better job of this.

      Everyone implements triggers diferently, or not at all, some SQL databases don't have stored procedures, locking mechanisms vary, even connection methods vary. The optimisations you have learnt, and coded for on one database server generally fail on another.

      I've been on the sharp end of migrating Oracle to MS SQL server, and in the end we threw the Oracle stored procedures away and rewrote the SQL.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:48AM (#5352136) Homepage
    This article just demonstrates the tip of the iceberg for the problems that are going to be cause by software patents. Its about time patent offices woke up and refused to patent *any* software or software techniques otherwise the only winners will be lawyers and the only losers will be consumers due to restricted choice.
  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:49AM (#5352144) Homepage
    This is what happens when the patent office changes its mind and starts allowing something new. Since no one had been sending in software patents over the last 50 years, they don't have a ready supply of prior art in the form of thousands (or millions) of declined patents.

    Once the business rules patents get into full swing, no small business will be allowed to operate at all without some risk of being sued out of existance. Once that happens, then the patent office will get fixed but I figure thats a few decades away.
    • by dunstan ( 97493 ) <dvavasour@NOsPAm.iee.org> on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:58AM (#5352667) Homepage
      This is the most insightful comment I've seen on the subject of software patents. Thinking back to my introduction to patents, for something to be patentable (in the UK at least) it must be:

      1. Novel
      2. Inventive
      3. Capable of physical embodiment.

      And over many decades (centuries even) patent practice has developed and matured. The same case can be made of trademark and copyright law - there is a long trail of established case law. This body of case law will help not only in dealing with disputes but also in guiding the patent offices when awarding patents. And not only case law, but maturity in the process of examining and granting patents.

      The advent of software patents (in the US, still don't have them over here) is a step change, and introduces the patent process to an arena where there is no case law, and no established maturity in the process of examining and granting patents.

      Now, the US patent office could tackle this in two ways:
      a) they could set the bar for the granting of software patents very high, and themselves get involved in wrangling with big corporations about patents which they have declined, or
      b) they could just grant any application which comes in, in which case they will not be involved in any disputes between patent holders and alleged infringers.

      Whatever the merits of the two cases, it is now too late: there is a large body of software patents which, instead of being use to protect an inventor from having his ideas copied, is used by large corporations to selectively bully other corporations (large and small) in a game of bluffing poker played with legal fees.

      The only silver lining is that all patents expire, and being able to cite an expired patent which covers what you're doing is a cast iron defence (assuming you waited until it expired before distributing your version).

      And the dark cloud on the horizon? The possibility of patent terms being extended, in the same way as copyright terms, by similarly Mickey Mouse organisations.

      Dunstan
  • by Jack William Bell ( 84469 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:50AM (#5352153) Homepage Journal
    After reading the article it seems clear that Microsoft's worst mistake lay in taking the legal route (attacking Timeline) instead of resolving the issue with new licensing when it had the chance.

    So, basically the problem is Microsoft hubris; first they signed a crap contract, then they refused to negotiate a better one. But Timeline seems to have ego (and truthfullness) problems of its own; spreading FUD among MS customers in a kind of 'good for the goose, good for the gander' approach. So this looks like a situation where there are no heros and Timeline may be the only winner.

    I wonder what long term effect this will have on MS SQL Server sales? The funny part is, this only directly affects a small number of developers modifying SQL Server in very specific ways. But the marketplace often operates on emotion rather than rational principles and this tarnish on the MS crown may have significant ripple effects.
  • timeline (Score:4, Interesting)

    by syle ( 638903 ) <syle.waygate@org> on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:54AM (#5352199) Homepage
    I'm confused after reading this: what defines a 'developer' who has to pay license fees? From the way the word is used in the article, it seems like they are using a different definition of the word than I would.

    They said people who 'added code' to the SQL server. Does this mean altering the source, or just using it from inside a program (ie, not SQL Explorer or whatever)?

    The article says:

    The number of SQL Server users who ultimately need a patent license from Timeline may be none, some (as Timeline assumes), or essentially all users as Microsoft led the court to believe.

    Who is to decide this? Another court ruling? MS? Timeline?

    I don't even understand this enough for IANAL. I need a new acronym: IHNFCATL. (I have NFC about the law)

  • query... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:57AM (#5352224) Homepage
    SELECT max(money)
    FROM ms.customers
    WHERE ms.cant_read_EULAs
    AND ms.really_wants_to_lose_market
    HAVING Slammer;
    • Re:query... (Score:3, Funny)

      by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

      ORA-20665: insufficient money to execute patented SQL command

      (I'd post a SQL Server equivalent, but I don't know SQL Server.)

  • by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:59AM (#5352234)
    If you read the memo on the timeline site [tmln.com], the patent only covers "automating the production of data warehouses/marts and the downstream delivery and enhancement of the information so obtained". Only a small amount of Microsoft customers probably use these features.
  • by zjbs14 ( 549864 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:02AM (#5352267) Homepage
    It appears that most of the patent issues center around the data mart capabilities in Analysis Services and its multidimensional query processing capabilities for SQL Server. Timeline doesn't have a problem if you're not using AS.

    So, for most SQL Server users it's not an issue, and since neither Postgres or MySQL have multidimensional capabilities, they're not really an alternative either.

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:08AM (#5352329)
    I've seen various posts about who 'wins' from this and my assesment is - no one.

    • End developers can get screwed by this.
    • There are probably other "time bombs" of this nature out there in other software, Microsoft or not. This may well start a round of "fad" lawsuits.
    • The idea this is going to hurt Microsoft and move people to Open Source is something I question. Microsoft is well-hated enough anyway, and not enough companies pay attention to Open Source - The latest SQL Server migration I've seen is to Oracle, not Open Source.
    • I can't see this having a big effect on patent reform because A) It's Microsoft, people are used to them being surrounded by legal gobbeldygook and B) It's not the kind of thing the general public gets riled about.


    Winners? Victors? I don't see any, I'm afraid.

    Though this WAS worth a hell of a laugh.

    Just my 1/250 of $5.00.
  • TCO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:09AM (#5352335) Homepage Journal

    Is nice to use the TCO argument against Microsoft.

    "MS SQL Server initially cost less than Oracle, Informix, etc, but if you use some features you could face aditional costs".

    Anyway, I don't think that this is the first time that Microsoft sold something that they don't really own.

  • by weez75 ( 34298 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:27AM (#5352467) Homepage
    The big losers here are going to be the vendors of large systems running on MS SQL and their customers. A good example would be some of the major ERP/CRM vendors who run on top of MS SQL. Those companies also are going to be targets of lawsuits. It most likely will not be the small shops who purchased MS SQL that will be hunted.

    I'm glad my systems don't run on MS SQL.
  • by msouth ( 10321 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:28AM (#5352474) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if this news will slashdot mysql.com and postgresql.com with people looking to switch...
  • by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:38AM (#5352542)
    Now would be the perfect opportunity for you to look at what features you are missing against MS-SQL and start implementing them. Nothing like a market waiting to be tapped.
  • by one9nine ( 526521 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:41AM (#5352561) Journal
    The vast amount of people who use pirated versions MS SQL must be having a good laugh. This is like a company charging me for extra miles on rental car that I stole.
  • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

    by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:47AM (#5352596)
    And I thought Slammer was going to be the way MS's SQL swerver was going to cost this company the most money this month....
  • by Godwin O'Hitler ( 205945 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:52AM (#5352626) Journal
    Let's see if that still holds after this, eh?
  • by bracher ( 33965 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:14PM (#5352792)
    so, how do the cost of ownership comparisons look now? ;-)
  • Tangled Web (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug@geekazon.PERIODcom minus punct> on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:31PM (#5352937) Homepage
    This is a good example of what I call peeing in the pool. Timeline claims that because Microsoft is not a law firm, SQL developers who believed Microsoft's statements about SQL licensing were acting irresponsibly. Wow! Score one for the ludicrous vision of each of us having a lawyer accompanying us everywhere like a guide dog.

    So SQL Server developers, fearing legal harassment, start lookin into alternatives like MySQL, encouraging the development of new features like triggers and native stored procedures, and making MySQL even more attractive as competition. See how IP encourages innovation? Uh, sort of?
  • Developers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guacamolefoo ( 577448 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @12:42PM (#5353013) Homepage Journal
    Osenbaugh appears to be threatening legal action against some SQL Server developers

    So...will Ballmer and Co. decide to indemnify the DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS when the DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS get SUED SUED SUED?

    Maybe, just maybe, this (or the Caldera situation) might spur some reform of the patent process vis-a-vis software and busines processes. I'm not holding my breath, though.

    GF.
  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @01:02PM (#5353175)
    I still remember days when being a programmer meant legal concerns were far distant from me.

    Now, I'm following news like this, and wondering what it means for my job. It means a time where patent law, copyright law, business games, and acts of Congress can vastly affect my job, and lawsuits and patent claims can suddenly pop up and change the playing field.

    I wonder at the CIS majors coming out of college are aware of the bizarre amount of issues that they may confront.
  • by DCowern ( 182668 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @01:27PM (#5353374) Homepage
    Can I pay less if I don't want the gaping security holes [slashdot.org]?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @02:40PM (#5354058)
    Using open souce software won't solve the fundemental problem here.

    Sure, Microsoft potentially screwed their customers. They'll fix it. Reason? If they don't, then *noone* will buy their software anymore. Stuff like this could kill Microsoft if they don't deal with it. No worries, either way.

    I own a small software company. I use microsoft sql-server (and, honestly, don't have much of a choice if I want to *sell* my software, but that's a whole different problem). Without reading the patents, I have no clue if my software infringes on Timeline's patents.

    But then again, none of us have any clue if MySQL violates patents. I'm willing to bet that it does. Someone out there has a patent for pretty much everything. Even if the code was written on a planet orbiting Vega, and, assuming for the moment that no-one on Vega's planet ever even heard of the earth, they could still write code on their computers (go with it, they have computers, ok?) that do something substantially similar to something that someone has patented.

    It's a fundemental flaw in our patent system... and ignorance is no excuse.

    Most software developers just ignore the whole thing, thinking (and in general, rightfully so) that they are safe if they didn't steal an idea from somewhere. And they are safe. No one notices most infringments. Occasionally, if you make it big, someone will notice your infrigement, and will basically want a piece of your action (i.e., a big settlement) and they will get it... even though you didn't steal the idea, you invented it yourself. Hopefully you can find prior art.

  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @02:41PM (#5354067) Homepage
    Until Microsoft finds a way to adequately compensate Timeline, there is simply no way out of this. Timeline is not about to initiate vast numbers of individual lawsuits -- they don't have to. All they have to do is cherry-pick a few customers here and there and use BSA-style intimidation tactics. The publicity from the lawsuits or payoffs in lieu thereof will trigger a crippling Fear/Uncertainty/Doubt about SQL Server, AND ALL THE OTHER MICROSOFT PRODUCTS THAT MIGHT HAVE LATENT PATENT ISSUES! No reasonable person can have confidence in ANY Microsoft product until this issue is settled and some reassurances are given about how future patent issues are to be handled.

    I can't help but think this entire situation would have been quietly settled if the offender was anyone other than Microsoft.
  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Friday February 21, 2003 @03:11PM (#5354537) Homepage
    For what it's worth: this only seems for US citisens, since f.e. in europe we don't have software patents nor are we affected by US only patents.

    Futhermore, how can a USER of a piece of software, which the user licensed in full (payed a license fee to MS), still be charged for patent-infrigment while USING the piece of software? This doesn't make sense. IF there is one company who has to pay for this patent infrigment, it's Microsoft: after all, it's not the end-user's problem MS didn't license enough from Timeline so the end-user is licensing software from MS which in fact isn't covering the whole package.

    What also seems odd is that the article mentiones SqlServer '7', not SqlServer 2000. '7' had an Add-on OLAP package while SqlServer 2000 has everything integrated. IANAL but this seems only to be about the add-on OLAP package for SqlServer 7, not about the integrated logic in SqlServer 2000.

    To the people who don't have a clue about databases and cry about MySql: please... come back when MySql has the features SqlServer provides.

It isn't easy being the parent of a six-year-old. However, it's a pretty small price to pay for having somebody around the house who understands computers.

Working...