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Microsoft Wants More Credit for Inventions 422

theodp writes "Bill Gates said Thursday that Microsoft expects to file 3,000 patent applications this year, up from a little over 2,000 last year and 1,000 just a few years ago. 'We think--patent for patent--what we are doing is, if anything, more important than what others are doing,' said Gates, perhaps referring to 'Organizing and displaying photographs based on time,' which the USPTO published just hours before Gates spoke."
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Microsoft Wants More Credit for Inventions

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  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:38PM (#9838938) Homepage Journal
    The authors of the chronological picture presentation patent:

    Sun, Yan-Feng; (Beijing, CN) ; Zhang, Lei; (Beijing, CN) ; Li, Mingjing; (Beijing, CN) ; Zhang, Hong-Jiang; (Beijing, CN)

    They must have looked at the source code M$ sold the Chinese. Good thing M$ co-opted them or they would have had to put SCO on their case for stealing ideas. I'm going to barf.

  • by homeobocks ( 744469 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:39PM (#9838949)
    As the old adage states, in its many forms, that the one thing ``they'' can't take away from you is knowledge. While true, Microsoft can still own it.
  • patently obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by uncreativ ( 793402 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:43PM (#9838972)
    I know this has been ranted about on slashdot, but why are patently obvious procedures patentable?

    I'd be curious if anyone can suggest a good rule for eliminating obvious patents. Perhaps a rule that states that a method which mimics electonically what is done by other means cannot itself justify issuing a patent.

    In the referrring patent, Microsoft pretty much has patented the procedure for looking at things with dates on them and sorting them in order of the date. Now, I understand if Microsoft patents the method they used to extract date information encoded into a photograph, but this patent is way too broad.
  • by adcm ( 117676 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:44PM (#9838978)
    You think the CIA can operate without software that manages photographs in a chronilogical order, how about the FBI.

    Next they'll be patenting the organization of paper. And, since they used Clippy, they'll claim a patent on paper clips which aren't in use.

    If the DOJ makes another move against them, MS countersues the government
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:52PM (#9839045)
    How is this modded interesting? They might be chinese but they're MSFT employees, they're not Chinese government bureaucrats looking at the Windows source code. And what does this have to with SCO??

    Why are you against offshore labor, or are you just racist? Chinese are also intelligent, capable people, you know?

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:05PM (#9839128) Homepage Journal
    Sure they wouldn't exist if software patents existed 30 years ago, but they now have domination of the market.. and they will stop at nothing to perpetuate their power and control... They could care less about the rest of the market's ability to grow...

    This is just another part of the long term strategy..
  • Extra cash for all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dourk ( 60585 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:05PM (#9839130) Homepage
    I used to work closely with an engineer from FANUC, and he claimed (heresay now) they each employee had to apply for a new patent each year. And those that had one awarded were treated well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:07PM (#9839138)
    'nuff said.
  • by john82 ( 68332 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:09PM (#9839155)
    I recognize your sarcasm, however reading the patent reveals that Microsoft lists GPS information repeatedly. There are several references to it in fact making the assumption that one day photos will incorporate, in their format or metadata, GPS data. At that point Microsoft will naturally assert that this new patent includes sorting by GPS as well.


    [0072] Although the systems and methods have been described in language specific to structural features and/or procedures, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or procedures described. Rather, the specific features and procedures are disclosed as exemplary forms of implementing the claimed invention.

    If we let anything out, yeah we meant that too. All your ideas are belong to us.
  • Re:Weak (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cheekyboy ( 598084 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:18PM (#9839214) Homepage Journal
    I think the patent application fee should be based on your overall company values, so make it 1% of monthly company revenue per patent app. This would

    A) prevent massive applications by big guns
    B) make it cheaper for the little guy (isnt that who it is for?)
    C) provide the office with many extra funds to do patent apps to real inventors for tiny $100 fees.
    D) provide office with enough funds to study apps in more detail

  • by turtleshadow ( 180842 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:36PM (#9839365) Homepage
    Microsoft aiming to build a portfolio of patents to licences is the product of Marshall Phelps [], a very shrewd multiyear plan.

    Software programmers, mathematicians and IT architects are either going to have to sell their souls out for a few coins of silver (patent incentive) or stand up now and state that software patents are detrimental to society and only benefit corporation coffers in the long haul.

    Be very sure the only ones that truely benefit long term are the corporations.

    Sure the initial team gets a $1K each however the 20 year monopoly that a patent ensures the corporate inventor is showered with more than enough management poo.

    MS will patent stuff from workers who make $7/us an hour and make millions for 20 years -- that is the truth.

    Here's the best way to benefit society with software patents -- Write your governement official to move software patents to a new class of intellectual property which guarentees a slice of the 20year revenue -- to the inventors not the company.
  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @09:53PM (#9839497) Journal

    Patents cost a bit of money, but nothing that is prohibitive enough to prevent an entity from submitting several thousand patent applications. Here is my idea:

    Keep the initial cost the same, be it $100 or $1000 an application (I have no idea how much). If the idea is found to be original and non-obvious, then the patent is awarded, yada yada yada.

    If the idea is found to have prior art, is obvious, or could be created by a natural process, then a fine should be levied. We'll say $5,000 a failed application, for the "waste of time" of the workers of the patent office. An additional $5,000 can be levied for every application that is illegible, or written in such a way that it could cover a broad range of things (ie, this process covers all entities, movements, and processes which don't not fall into the realm of physical and mental states.). Malicious pantents could be considered a capital crime, calling for the heads of the submitters (yes, extreme is nice sometimes).

    This will end up benefitting the private enterprises and small people, since they're the types that will spend a couple thousand, and put time into research that the idea is original... non-obviousness should be obvious (unfortunately, everything is non-obvious to USPTO employees). This will be prohibitive to those huge conglomerations that try to mass-patent everything in existance with tens of thousands of patent applications. If 1,000 of them are rejected, then the fine is around $5 mil.

    Lastly, if a patent is revoked, then the entity that filed the patent should be held accountable for the blockage of progress by society in general, and be legally and financially liable.

  • Prior Art (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:38PM (#9839863)
    I proposed this to the US Government in a proposal over 10 years ago with respect to an intelligence collection system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2004 @10:55PM (#9839955)
    Get thee behind me, ye friggin patent moron.

    How many times do we have to explain this to you? 10, 100, 1000?

    A patent claims WHAT IS IN THE CLAIMS. Nothing else.

    The best part is that you've picked the most generic portion of legalese that allmost all patent attorneys traditionally slap on the end of a description, like the breaking a bottle of bubbly on the bow of a ship, the "spirit of the invention" clause and variations thereof. This gets thrown on to the end of a desription as a not so subtle reminder to juges, juries, and patent noobes that the claims are the claims, the description is a description of a PREFERRED EMBODIMENT (i.e., an example) and Bob's your uncle, they're damn different things.

    I love Slashdot. Say something stupid about a computer and you're the goat, say something incredibly stupid about a patent and you're the hero. A bastion of intellectuals it is not.
  • by cranos ( 592602 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:17PM (#9840081) Homepage Journal
    I think you will find that most of us attacked the patent holder rather than microsoft in the case of stupid patents.

    Microsoft isn't trying to point out the failings of the USPTO, it's trying to build itself an armoury of patents it can use against any and all who try to compete.

  • by baxissimo ( 135512 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @11:26PM (#9840137)
    I hear this argument a lot. "We don't intend to enforce this patent -- it's just the current business climate that forces us to build up a huge patent profile".

    Maybe one way to start changing things is to make this type of "defensive" patent an explicitly separate type. Create a category of patents that it's not possibile to sue anyone for infringing, unless they sue you over IP first. And this provision would remain attached to the patent no matter who bought the rights.

    Then we'll see who really is just pattenting nonsense because they "have to."

    Of course it'll never work. No company is going to volutarily give up the power to sue the living daylights out of a competitor just because they can.

    On the other hand, maybe there could be some incentive for filing the "no-offense" type of patent, like shorter turn-around time or cheaper filing fees.
  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) * <> on Friday July 30, 2004 @12:34AM (#9840582) Homepage

    I'm sure I don't have to tell you that when a patent application arrives on an examiner's desk, the basic operating procedure is to assume up front that every last single claim of that application is going to be rejected. In fact, examiners are in the business of rejecting. Allowing a claim is an incredible exception that basically ONLY happens after months of communications with lawyers and excruciating analysis. To an examiner, allowing a claim is admitting defeat; but it can't be helped. Sometimes the factory makes a defect, sometimes you deploy software with a bug, sometimes a train crashes.

    Oh? What percentage of patent claims are rejected? How much investigation does USPTO do outside of the bounds of its own patent database in determining whether something is novel and non obvious? Patenting displaying pictures by date sounds like the real innovation is in being ballsy enough to file for monopoly protection on such an obvious technical design..

    As I understand the statistics, half of the patents that are contested are ultimately thrown out, at something like an average in $2 million in litigation costs by the contester. If half of the challenged patents don't stand up to scrutiny, is USPTO really doing appropriate due diligence in approving patents?

    Rather than ranting, I think we'd all love to hear some inside insights into these kinds of questions.

  • A BETTER plan... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by d.valued ( 150022 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @01:10AM (#9840807) Journal

    You wanna change the world, you gotta do it yourself.

    We have to challenge EVERY ONE OF THESE APPLICATIONS.

    Not just the behemoth from Redmond, though. I mean all software patents.

    The nice thing about the patent system is this whole public review period before some bureaucrat rubber-stamps and OKs it, and the ability to claim prior art afterwards.

    It's a better to prevent a patent than to cancel one. Enough of us, who have the technical knowledge and some form of literary skill needed to educate the patent clerks, can prevent an request for a patent from hurling its way through.

    I know that I don't speak out much anymore, but this was too friggin' important for me to stay silent (especially with my good-karma mouthpiece).

  • Re:Weak (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @01:54AM (#9841037)
    The only reason Microsoft is filing all these patents is because they want to get ahold on every freaken idea that anybody could *ever* come up with. That way, when someone else decides that they want to create something (AKA, create a new OpenSource project), they may just not be able to do it anymore.

    This is more than likely the case. Even if the majority of the patents would never stand in court, they may be intended to cause a chilling effect. In a sense, it's not good that Slashdot is even reporting on this nonsense because it may be scaring away people who are on the fence.

    Our proper collective response, as the OSS community, is:

    1.) Make a huge push to get OSS solutions into the business marketplace. This will create allies and do the most to loosen the monopolists' grip. The best defense is a good offense. First step is perfecting OpenOffice. Second step is sweetening the Linux desktop with more specialized, professional business software. OSS as a movement has not reached critical mass where it truly begins to take over the industry. This needs to happen ASAP. Geeks, listen up: leave your silly vanity projects for now and get behind the solid projects that are making a real difference. Make OSS your career, not pasttime. We need more consultant-developers.

    2.) Start anti-software-patent prior-art databases where people can publicly brainstorm every possible advancement of the current software state of the art. This would have a two-fold benefit of making new ideas more visible and eliminating the most obnoxiously obvious patents.
  • by Li0n ( 110271 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @02:51AM (#9841229) Homepage
    not necessarily

    they rode the wave at the right moment, that's for sure. There are many things that contributed to their intial momentum. For example the advances in creating cheapo x86 clones. Their agreements with OEMs from early on (IBM for example). People use whatever comes with the machine. The fact that apps such as WordPerfect and Lotus 123 ran on their system as well as popular computer games.

    Initially they did acceptable products, but after a while they started to crank out crap shamelessly (win98, 98se and me come to mind). This is the inertia I'm talking about. They've been riding the wave for almost 10 years now.
  • by Da_Weasel ( 458921 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @08:09AM (#9842304)
    While I agree they used questionable tactics to get computer sellers to bundle windows, and penalized them for offering alternatives, this was not the sole reason for their dominance. Visual Basic, as sucky as it might be, made graphical development so easy that any idiot could make an application for windows. More application = more users, regardless of their quality. For Microsoft is always been about market saturation.

    Have you ever noticed that certain products have such incredible market saturation that the brand name become synonymous with general product. I.E.
    South East U.S.:
    soda (carbonated drink) is often referred to as Coke.
    NYC Area:
    Ice Tea in a bottle often referred to as Snapple even when talking about another brand.

    This is what MS is going for but worldwide.
  • by chris_mahan ( 256577 ) <> on Friday July 30, 2004 @12:06PM (#9844542) Homepage
    At first I saw a troll in all his glory.

    Then I asked myself to look at this as an exercise in business management.

    I saw that what the parent said just might be the long-term microsoft strategy.

    Think about it. You can go to wikipedia and see a ton of aircraft manufacturers over the years in nearly every country. Now, however, there are but a few, because the cost of entry (complexity of the aircrafts, security, licensing, and upfront costs) are staggering.

    The same thing applies to software.
    I love the ADO thingy, yet, it's microsoft-only, and I had to aquire a license (although free but with restrictions) in order to use it at all. The alternative is to use SQL statements, or use a different toolkit (like python's DB api).

    But I like ADO!, Why can't they allow me to use it to do what I want?

    The more inventions they "create" and protect with patents, the less I can do without living in the MS world.

    I say: Thow off the seductive velvety gautlet that garrots your neck ever so slowly and march in the mud to the land of the 'nix. Let the air you breathe and the software you write be free as the wind, so that eagles may soar in it. Let your shoulders grow wide and inviting for others to stand on without feeling violated by your "restrictive terms". Let there be freedom of expression, in thought, in writing, and in software, the very essence of the working mind laid out logically, plain to see by all.

    I fear for them who come after us, for they will look back on our generation and see pioneers who were swallowed up by corporate greed. They will see men of ingenuity who fell for the lies of the salesmen. They will ask themselves how millions of people smart enough to program computers could be stupid enough to believe that patents will protect, and copyright will grant rights. Patents and copyright protect only money, not ideas.

    When I hear that a {cr|h}acker has taken down some corporate system, I cannot stop myself from thinking about the minutemen who ambushed the British army columns near Boston. What were they thinking? That they could win against the best equipped, best trained, best funded military in the world? And for what? For this elusive idea that men are born free and equal? How was that going to stop the british musket fire? Well, it was human flesh that stopped british fire. And when that flesh had fallen off under the surgeon's knife or on the field of battle, another came to replace it, and another, until at last the odious and oppressive occupier had left the shores of our fair land.

    Software developers, unite! Let not the suits who sit smug in the salons sipping bourbon served by sultry waitresses in sequin dresses steal the fruit of your labor and make you slaves to their rapacious desires for wealth and power. Let them not pay you off with bribes of options and gifts of bonuses, knowing that they invade your very private thought and seek to own the very mind you now possess. Let them not own, throught legal wranglings and trappings, the means of your livelihood, the tools of your trade, the passion of your hears! For they will, in the Almighty Name of Profitability, reduce your contribution to mankind to a mere direct-deposited pittance.

    My fellow geeks and coders, men are alive in this world today who live in ease and comfort at our expense. We can let them continue to live off our hard work, or we can take back what's ours and let them get their own damn job.

    Sig Out!

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