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Patents Education Microsoft

MS Seeks To Patent Education-Feedback Software 197

theodp writes "The USPTO disclosed Thursday that Microsoft is seeking an early childhood education-related patent for Providing instructional feedback to a user, which the software giant says covers the use of computers to teach little tykes to form the letter 'b', make a 'ch' sound, and divide 321 by 17. Let's hope LeapPad-toting preschoolers are indemnified against Microsoft lawsuits." "Unstructured" is the key word in this patent, which (like most) is written in language that does more to obscure than illuminate. Just how structured was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? How about GCompris?
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MS Seeks To Patent Education-Feedback Software

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  • What a Downer! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:12PM (#10933699)
    This may be the big one folks. There is so much prior art for this that its not even funny. Not only that, this is the backbone of the world's economy and its rigorous enforcement may well wake up the world to the problem of broad software patents and bring about quick change to the patent system.

    May it be rigorously enforced for the good of humanity.
    • What prior art? (Score:2, Informative)

      Everything mentioned in the original post is structured. What the patent covers (to the best of my understanding of the legal mumbo-jumbo) is kind of software parent-teacher-clippy: "Oh, that looks like 'B'! Let me help you to write that again! @"
    • Re:What a Downer! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This patent will not be rigorously enforced. Microsoft would not be that stupid.

      Microsoft will only use this patent to increase the strength of legal threat against any specific (and in M$' opinion poor) entity that competes against M$.

      "According to our lawyers, your product violates seventeen separate patents held by us, listed herein:"

      It may very well be that every single one is superfluous, but very, very few entities have the kind of bucks necessary to successfully legally challenge the grounds for
      • They'd be foolish to try and restrict access to educational software for children.

        (Tongue in cheek) Mind you if kids lose out on a good education they might be dumb enough to keep buying Microsoft software :)
    • You see they patented Clippy .... and of course the "Press F1 for Help" stuff ... :)

      Thankfully now no-one will use a clippyesque helper .
  • Oh great! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MeatBlast ( 834728 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:14PM (#10933710)
    Oh great now Microsoft is making crappy kids software. I'm waiting for the Mozzila version.
    • Now? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Did you forget Microsoft Barney [geekchic.com]?
    • Re:Oh great! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by meburke ( 736645 )
      OK, I read the patent app and came to the following conclusions:

      First, the biggest threat is to "simulation" education, not regular teaching systems, and it looks like they are trying to patent a simulator. As the world becomes more complex, many things will be better taught by simulation than rote learning. The images didn't work well in Mozilla, but I get the impression that MS is proposing a stand alone unit over the broad scope of the early claims. IBM and Control Data may have the "prior art" for s
      • Re:Oh great! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NoTheory ( 580275 )
        You are very very wrong.

        Microsoft is attempting to patent all intelligent systems. Their patent would essentially given them rights to any system that has a robust linguistic system and some sort of task oriented backend that explains things to people.

        As a computational linguist who's interesting in making peoples lives better (through things that would fall under this patent), i think this would be a really horrible stifling idea. As a result i'm glad that the patent is so stupid, because i'm sure i
  • Good move! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:14PM (#10933714) Homepage
    I hope they get the patent and litigate heavily. Then perhaps parents will spend time with their children, rather than plopping them in front of various boxes that they believe will do the work for them.

    If only...
  • by eeg3 ( 785382 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:15PM (#10933716) Homepage
    But, no reason for them to stop if they can get away with it and make money off of it.

    Write your congressman and plead for reform.


    • Not living in the US, I don't have a congressman to write to and yet, ultimately, these patents will affect us here in the UK.

      Perhaps if we were to become the 51st state, at least we would be able to properly lobby for reform. (Although, right now, 'A fate worse than death' springs to mind).
      • Perhaps if we were to become the 51st state

        Oi, Australia is the 51st state and don't you forget it mate!
    • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @10:18PM (#10934640)
      "Write your congressman and plead for reform."

      I hate to break it to you but it won't help. Your congressperson doesn't give a shit about you. Read this [usatoday.com] article. Here is a quote.

      While all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election in November, the truth is that only about 25 to 40 seats are truly contested


      So unless you live in one of those 24 t0 40 districts your congressmen gets re-elected automatically. As they say their only risk is to be caught with a dead girl or a live boy.

      MS is bribing them, they know they will get re-elected no matter what.

      When push comes to shove they will simply say that if you vote for their opponent gays will marry and terrorists will kill you and voila! They will get re-elected. Your neighbors are dumb and are much more concerned with preventing gays from being married then patents.

    • How do you expect them to be able to fix the patent system when they don't even know that burning radioactive metal produces more nitrates than extrapolation from light elements would imply?
  • by kzinti ( 9651 )
    ...Microsoft will be trying to patent the see-n-say. Is nothing obvious?
    • The horse saying "neigh" was not obvious. It's not even close to how I would've spelled/pronounced it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Of course nothing is obvious.

      Patent law firms make MORE MONEY if they process your patent than if they explain to you why your invention cannot be patented.

      So it is the job of the patent attorney to rationalize away such things as prior art or existing conflicting patents, rather than to seek them down and prevent the conflict.

      This works since the firm that processed the patent doesn't have to defend it if it is challenged in court.

      Just follow the money...it's all quite plain...
  • Another one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (l3gnaerif)> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:16PM (#10933720) Homepage
    Another stupid software patent. Its an everexpanding mess which shouldn't have existed in the first place... can you really qualify software as an 'innovative invention'? Should it be protected for 20 (or whatever) years so no one can duplicate your code?

    In my opinion, it should be protected like books (and such) by copyright law only. If I can recreate the same effect without seeing your code, I can't see how your patented software is innovative. 'Normal' inventions are a different story altogether; they can be disassembled, reverse engineered, etc. (Ok, Java code too).
    • It is so much broader then that : Its about 'concept duplication' and prohibiting that..

      Should simple concepts be patentable? I donno, but should people be able to profit off their ideas, yes....
      • ------ What part of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" do you not understand ----

        I'm sorry, I have a patent on the concept of keeping and bearing arms. Please surrender your weapons and munitions immediately.

    • I personally have three patents at various points in the process of filing - one for a hardware design (radar related), one for a search algorithm for a LIDAR, and one for a software MMI (Man Machine Interface) technique. The software patent would seem very obvious to anyone and in fact I was surprised I had never seen it before - it would be ridiculously easy to reverse engineer because its so simple and obvious, does that make it not innovative ? - I won't actually benefit from the patents other than a
      • one for a software MMI (Man Machine Interface) technique. The software patent would seem very obvious to anyone and in fact I was surprised I had never seen it before

        The fact that you haven't seen your patented MMI technique used anywhere doesn't mean no one has thought of it, and if the USPTO grants a patent on it doesn't mean it should have been patentable. I mean, you say so yourself: it seems very obvious. Would it seem very obvious to someone else skilled in the art of programming interfaces who was

        • you make a valid point, I would rate what we came up with as very creative versus very innovative - it certainly provides a more intuitive way of interacting with our data than other techniques that have been done before - and it is very possible that it exists somewhere already but was never patented - as you say we shall wait and see :-)
  • No Way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pbooktebo ( 699003 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:16PM (#10933724)
    I can't believe that this could possibly withstand any attack. Education literature is filled with feedback technologies for learning, from B.F. Skinner's "Technology of Teaching" to attempts to teach vocalists with biofeedback.

    I know little about patent law, but as an educator, the world is filled with many prior attempts (some very successful).

    Anyhow...
    • Yes, literally hundreds of M$ patents probably have prior art, does the patent office know/care? No.
      Does Microsoft care? No.
      Should anyone else care? No.
      If you are ever threatened over it, refuse to pay for the right to do whatever it is (or pay, if you feel it isn't worth the hassle), and if you get taken to court over it, go ahead, prove prior art (and complete absurdity.. come on, patenting feedback / double-click / to-do-list / tab to swap between hyperlinks in a brwoser, etc... Piss off MS) and their pa
    • I can't believe that this could possibly withstand any attack. Education literature is filled with feedback technologies for learning, from B.F. Skinner's "Technology of Teaching" to attempts to teach vocalists with biofeedback.

      Yeah, that's how I feel. [readsay.com]

    • My PhD research centers around a system that provides pronunciation feedback in response to a task-oriented dialogue situation. Assuming that MS considers speech to be unstructured input, I can cite several instances of systems similar to what microsoft is describing. Some of them are a couple DECADES old.

      Their patent is bullshit.
  • by oexeo ( 816786 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:17PM (#10933731)
    In a few decades when books have been practically replaced by software, the only education available will be from Microsoft. *Everyone* will be retarded!
  • Post dept (Score:3, Funny)

    by ZZeta ( 743322 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:18PM (#10933737)
    Shold have been: "Posted by timothy on Saturday November 27, @08:11PM from the patent-system-could-use-some-learning-soft dept."
  • what about tachers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#10933748)
    [...]education-related patent for Providing instructional feedback to a user, which the software giant says[...]

    And I thought parents and teachers were the ones to provide instructional feedback to the us... uhm, sorry child.

    As regarding MS & patenting: nothing to say here, /. has already expressed the opinion most os uf have regarding the matter: crapheap.

  • The PalmOS Graffiti tutor - very structured, obviously it's not prior art!

    And, these much older teaching tools are also obviously too structured and not prior art!

    Madlibs, a game from the Apple II days! - Obviously too structured.

    Lemonade stand - Apple II

    . . . Other examples, too numerous to waste time on! There is so much prior art on this, that maybe it will wake someone at the US Patent Office up!
  • Very Prior Art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JohnPerkins ( 243021 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:21PM (#10933760) Homepage
    I know there's going to be a raft of prior art examples, but what leaps to mind first is the use of email back in the days when there were only a few universities connected together. Would using email to ask one of your professors fit as prior art in this case? What about using email to ask a question of a fellow student or anyone at another university? For that matter, how old is email itself? How old is the oldest know student-to-professor email?
  • Speak and Spell? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:25PM (#10933782)
    Speak and Spell [mac.com] came out in 1978. This is about as plain an example of "prompt user, wait for reply, respond" as you can get. Is MS claiming they came up with this concept before 78?
    • Re:Speak and Spell? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bigberk ( 547360 )
      Speak and Spell came out in 1978
      That thing is still gold, if you can get your hands on one. I used to sample the robotic audio into techno music. Then I started hearing it in the clubs, and I'd be like, damn is that a Speak n Spell? "D. F. F." anyone?
    • Well, the difference is that is structured input. Their patent is for unstructure input... whatever that means. I assume they mean stuff like english sentences, speech, drawings, etc...

      but those have structure... infact, the only way to get unstructure input would be to hook up a radioactive sample to the machine... /lamejoke
  • Yawn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:25PM (#10933783)
    Another evil MS patent story.

    Wake me up when one of these is upheld in court. That will be news. The patent office still hasn't even approved this one (and with its current rate, it will likely take a few years before it is).

    I can apply for a patent for starting a fire with two sticks. Its even possible the patent office will rubber stamp it a few years later. But it is meaningless because there is no way a judge would accept it.

    • Unfortunately, even a totally bogus patent is a stick with which to beat someone. You have to spend a lot of money to defend against it, even if you do eventually win. And it can cost so much that you drop your case because of bankruptcy.

      And if the patent is ruled invalid, I doubt that MS would end up paying court costs, because you couldn't show malice. If the USPTO said that they had a good patent, then they have a perfectly legal right to act as if it really IS a valid patent. Even if what they pate
      • Re:Yawn... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @08:08PM (#10934010)
        Except it will cost MS money to defend it. Whats more, after they lose they no longer have the patent which defeats the point of getting it in the first place.

        I believe the common practice is to use these patents as bargining tools with other companies. Such as "I want your patent for really cool item, so I'll trade you rights for really cool item for the rights to all this crap that I got through the patent system." It really isn't going to be worth it to go after small companies, especially when the patent is such that even a novice lawyer could defeat you. Also they can point to their long list of patents for pride reasons.

        I can tell that while I was working at a certain large company with an extensive patent portfolio (not MS, BTW), they encourage their employees to seek patents for anything they think might be novel. Otherwise someone would likely come up with a real patentable idea but fail to report it thinking that it isn't worth it.

        • Except it will cost MS money to defend it.

          Ohhh yeah, here's a chance to bleed them dry! With $50B in the bank, they probably can't afford any more than 50,000 of these lawsuits before they run out of cash.

          I believe the common practice is to use these patents as bargining tools with other companies.

          Or use threats of litigation to nip any new potential competitors in the bud while they're still small. This will become increasingly important since Microsoft is now under scrutiny from anti-trust enforcers

          • "Ohhh yeah, here's a chance to bleed them dry!"

            Do you seriously think MS became the world's largest software company by throwing money into lawsuits they know they will lose?

            "Or use threats of litigation to nip any new potential competitors in the bud while they're still small."

            Believe it or not, most companies MS (or IBM, or HP, or GE, or virtually any other company out there) might consider a potential competitor can afford a lawyer or two (as my peers on /. have indicated ad nauseum, finding proble

            • Re:Yawn... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Waffle Iron ( 339739 )
              Do you seriously think MS became the world's largest software company by throwing money into lawsuits they know they will lose?

              Why not? That's been their basic strategy until recently, and it has served them well. See the Stacker case for example. They have ultimately lost many expensive lawsuits. However, for each case they lost, they have undoubtedly intimidated or financially drained into submission many other legal opponents. By showing their willingness to dump a lot of money even into losing cases,

              • "See the Stacker case for example."

                Could you please be more specific? Clearly you cannot mean Stac Electronics vs Microsoft over the patent for Stacker, as that was a patent lawsuit initialized and won by Stac for their patent.

                "They have ultimately lost many expensive lawsuits. "

                Sure they have. But how many of those did they initialize knowing they had no chance in hell of winning.

                "If stupid patents could really be taken out by a couple of small-time lawyers, then things like the one-click patent

                • It doesn't matter who initiated the case. The issues are the same. They've stuck with many cases that they had no "chance in hell of winning" until the bitter end.

                  It also doesn't matter if Microsoft has no chance of winning. If their opponent runs out of cash before the end of the lawsuit, they're toast, and the question of whether they could ultimately win the case in theory is moot.

                  • " It doesn't matter who initiated the case. "

                    Yes it does. MS cannot control who sues them, unless you believe they have some sort of brain control device. The issue was whether or not they would sue someone when they knew they could not win.

                    "If their opponent runs out of cash before the end of the lawsuit, they're toast, and the question of whether they could ultimately win the case in theory is moot."

                    You are aware that in the case you cited, Stac Electronics did not run out of money? Because it so

                    • My assertions work even better when Microsoft sues others. In that case, Microsoft has nothing to lose other than court costs, and their targets have nothing to win. They'd won't be able to get law firms to work for them on contingency, and they'll have to find the cash up front. Most will just capitulate rather than face bankrupcy.

                      I referred to the stacker case because it was an example of Microsoft aggressively throwing money into a losing case, something that you claim they would never do.

                    • Are you aware what did happen?

                      First MS encorporated Stacker into it's OS without Stac's approval or agreement, and basically challenged them to do something about it.

                      Second Stac filed the suit.

                      Third MS replaced Stacker with an inferior competitor who *would* agree to their terms.

                      Fourth, since the now bundled software did approximately the same job as Stac's product, their market disappeared. The company headed for bankruptcy.

                      Here I loose track, but I believe that at this point Stac settled with MS. I
                    • " My assertions work even better when Microsoft sues others."

                      Then why don't you find an example of that?

                      "I referred to the stacker case because it was an example of Microsoft aggressively throwing money into a losing case, something that you claim they would never do."

                      No, thats not what I said at all. I said they wouldn't initialize a lawsuit they knew they had no chance at winning. The Stac case does not count as
                      A) They didn't initialize it, Stac Electronics did. If they are sued they have to de

                    • Then why don't you find an example of that?

                      I don't need to find a current example because it's a prediction. Recently, they've cleared their decks of outstanding antitrust lawsuits (which they had been stubbornly fighting), and they've been cranking up the IP litigation FUD machine. It's not unlikely that this is in preparation for a new patent-based offensive against their smaller competitors. Time will tell whether I'm right.

                    • " First MS encorporated Stacker into it's OS without Stac's approval or agreement, and basically challenged them to do something about it."

                      Actually it was DoubleSpace, which Stac claimed infringed on its patent. There is a difference between stealing code and infringing on a patent.

                      "Third MS replaced Stacker with an inferior competitor who *would* agree to their terms."

                      While I am not entirely familiar with this particular event, are you under the belief that Stac should have been granted a monopoly o

                    • No. I'm of the belief that a company holding a monopoly should not be allowed to extend it's monopoly. Thus once MS had become a monopoly (NOT when a court had decided that it was one!!) it should be forbidden to add new features into it's operating system in such a way as to interfere with the business of any competitor.

                      I.e., MS should not have been allowed to include EITHER DoubleSpace or Stacker into it's OS. Or to sell or recommend either product. Or to pay them any money for advertising. ... unles
                    • So you are saying that once MS became the largest provider of operating systems (strictly speaking, they are and never were a true monopoly, there have always been alternative OSes, including the one I am using right now), they should have been prohibited by law from improving their product (any improvement would of course have a negative impact on a competitor)?

                      I guess we will just have to agree to disagree in that area.

        • Many of Microsoft's new software patents
          are (arguably) based upon "prior art" that
          the USPTO should have recognised. Microsoft
          (and any other company seeking very general
          software patents) are presumably working on
          the premise that during the time between the
          "patent pending" status, gaining USPTO approval
          and a patent, and its eventual elimination
          through the judicial review process, the ability
          to "restrict & prevent" other companies' access
          to the "software patent" is worth a lot of
          money. So long as the leg
    • Re:Yawn... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by legirons ( 809082 )
      "Wake me up when one of these is upheld in court. That will be news. The patent office still hasn't even approved this one"

      I think the "news" is that Microsoft are trying to get as many patents as possible, as quickly as possible.

      The apparent stupidity of some of the ideas they've come up with (patenting the comparaison of numbers?) implies that they're not trying to pretend that any innovation is happening at the company, they just want lots of patents.

      Notice the timing though. Europe is in the middle
      • "they just want lots of patents."

        I still think that the primary reason why Microsoft is filing patent applications is to avoid future Eolas issues. If they have all the stupid patents already, then they know that no one else will get them. This is also why they don't care if patents hold up or not. If the patent is ruled invalid, then that protects them as much as a valid patent does.

        The bad part here is that instead of trying to fix the system, they are trying to participate in it. This is unfortunat
    • Another evil MS patent story.

      Considering the raft of stupid patent applications in the system, it is a wonder that only the MS ones get play. Oh, wait, this is /. ! Silly me.

      Take the number of MS's application and subtract two, for instance. What do you get?

      System and method for generating and providing educational exercises [uspto.gov]. From the sounds of the legalese, basically a program (sorry, "method" :vomit:) that will spit out multiple-choice tests from a bunch of preprogrammed questions and answers. O

  • by Ptraci ( 584179 ) * on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:26PM (#10933789)
    The patent is for the computer responding to "unstructured input" with an instructional response.

    "It looks like you're trying to..."
  • and a bunch of other Texas Instruments instructional toys from the last century.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:31PM (#10933812)
    next up on the microsoft patent list:

    "Utilization of circular object to limit friction"

    (the wheel)

    Soon to be followed by a public pronouncement by Steve Ballmer that "The governments of many nations should be wary that they may be infringing on MS patents and could be sued".
  • There will also be a lite version of this patent freely available to everybody, limited to the letters needed to say "open source damages innovation" and "intellectual properties are an essential part of the economy".

    A.CDEFG.I..LMNOP.RSTUV..Y.

    Well, not so lite but the joke is there.

  • by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <<moc.eticxe> <ta> <lwohtsehgrab>> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:35PM (#10933841) Journal

    I wrote a program that did this for my daughter in my own voice. If Microsoft wants to come sue me, they're welcome to go ahead and try.

  • by Saeger ( 456549 ) <farrellj @ g m ail.com> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:37PM (#10933853) Homepage
    Q: 1 + 1 = ?
    A: 2?
    ## We've got a bright bulb here! fork to college-level section.
    Q: In the following sentence, fill in the blank with the word that makes the most sense: "Software patents _________ innovation."
    A: kill
    ## Oh dear, it seems we've got an open source communist on our hands. silently fork to MS re-education section.
    Q: True americans believe in the Constitution, baseball, apple pie, capitalism, private property, and a healthy ecosystem of private intellectual property which promotes progress.
    A: fuck this propaganda!
    ## profanity detected. lost cause. BlueScreenOfDeath(WITH_A_VENGENCE);

    --
  • I wrote a typing tutor-esque program at least a decade ago, using GW-Basic no less. It provided educational feedback of various kinds to both students and teachers.
  • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:39PM (#10933863)
    This patent app is referring to a (possibly networked) pen and tablet type device used as an educational tool. As this person [slashdot.org] points out, one can think of possible prior art here. But really, this is just an ordinary straightforward patent. It's not any more evil than any other patent application.

    If anything, it looks to me like MS is trying to end-run some of the Nintendo DS's possible functionality.
    • And furthermore, referring to Mavis Beacon in the summary just goes to show that the submitter didn't even bother to read his own fripping sources. The patent application specifically refers to prior art using keyboard charaters as input and claims that it is an improvement to that kind of method. So no, MS is clearly not going after typing programs. At least, not here.
    • From the patent application, filed in 2003:

      One of the reasons that computers have not had as great an impact on education is that computers have traditionally imposed very structured requirements on input, and, as such, are result-oriented. For example, educational software focusing on mathematics typically evaluates the ultimate answer a user enters (via a keyboard), rather than the process by which the user arrives at the answer. Similarly, a user does not actually write a letter "B" out on the screen, b

      • ...was that the patent seems to address a very real problem that doesn't have any obvious, well-established, solution.
        • Sure it does (have a solution).

          Dont try to use a computer to teach writing - use a goddamn pencil and paper.

          I'm a computer geek, linux geek, net geek, etc. But shoving more computers in classrooms, especially in the grades below about middle school, is a BAD idea.

  • by northcat ( 827059 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:41PM (#10933876) Journal
    I looked at the slashdot comments for useful information and opinion on the patent, but found some worthless posts meant to better the poster's karma and some humourless funny posts. I don't know how to read patents, so can anyone please make a useful comment about what the patent actually says? Please don't make funny replies to this with posts like "you must be new here".
    • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @08:14PM (#10934041)
      There's plenty of opinion. As the summary points out, the important word is "unstructured". Unless it has a technical meaning in the context of patents, it will surely require interpretation by the courts eventually, because anyone sued for infringement will be able to make a good case that all computer IO is structured.
  • by cloudkj ( 685320 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @07:43PM (#10933883)
    As I grew up using Microsoft software, one thing I have learned is how to get my computer screen to turn all blue.
  • Back in 1992 I wrote a flash card program for a girlfriends daughter. I used a non-M$ BASIC language that has a compiler (ASIC I think).

    I still have the program and source code if we need to show prior art to the id10ts at the USPTO. The program worked by displaying the letter or number (real big) the kid press on the keyboard. It also had basic shapes and colors (i.e. red triagle blue square, yellow circle etc.) It was interactive with he kid and parent.

    I hearby patent cows farting. Every farmer
  • where the unstructured input is from a computing device, possibly but not necessarily the same as respondant computing device...

  • Is it just me, or is there some connection between this patent and the $100 PC (http://linuxpr.com/releases/7357.html), which mentions its use as an educational tool in schools, possibly using networks/internet to create or find educational tools for use on these DSL computers? Whats next, will microsoft be telling developing China that it cannot buy/use these computers for educational purposes (whatsoever, due to the broadnes of that patent) without the danger of patent litigation? It seems Microsoft is
  • According to Timothy's comment on the submission,

    "Unstructured" is the key word in this patent, which (like most) is written in language that does more to obscure than illuminate. Just how structured was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing?


    Actually, Mavis Beacon was very structured (I worked for Software Toolworks/Mindscape for a number of years, and am very familiar with that product). The patent app describes "unstructured" as input specifically not from a keyboard, but from a stylus or a microphone. In Ma
  • Prior art: 1968 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @11:10PM (#10934884)
    Jeebus, this is basic stuff that's been done in CAI for decades. The firmest prior art is probably IBM CourseWriter [murdoch.edu.au] which dates back to 1968, maybe even farther. I worked porting some CourseWriter programs back in the early 70s, they did exactly what the MS patent describes. In fact, that was the whole POINT of CourseWriter, to branch to extended instructional material depending on user input.
    IBM even had a little "voice unit" for synthesized speech output from the old Coursewriter machines, but I forget the model number of the CPUs, I think they were 1401s. I have a nameplate from one of the old voice units somewhere, I found it lying on the floor when the old machines were decommissioned and the new DECs were installed.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @11:27PM (#10934973)
    I am going to patent taking a shit. I'll title the patent: Method and Apparatus for Removing Human Feces from the Human Body and Placing Same in Feces Collection and Disposal Apparatus.

    Then, I'll install a money collector, along with a credit card machine, on every toilet sold in the U.S. I'll make millions!!!! Bwaaaahahahahahahahahahahah!

    I'd bet you that the USPTO employees won't EVER figure out that some amount of prior art (though I won't tell you where it is) already exists.

  • I remember seeing a language/system on the GE/Honeywell mainframe at Griffass AFB/RADC called exper designed and used for instruction around 1970-1972 timeframe.

    I worked for a company in 1999-2001 that specialized in multimedia instruction/training software.

    I also seem to remember an instructional system called PLATO (?) supported/done by CDC sometime in the 60's through 70's timeframe. I've only heard/read about it, never used it so maybe this might trigger someone else's memory.

    Not being a lawye
  • This kind of "instructional feedback" has been going on at least since the early 1960s with programmed instruction (started wtih book format, but also the teaching machine). Jaw dropping that this could be patented by Microsoft. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe.
  • Patents are not a way for the first person who does something to stop everyone else from doing it. It's a way to stop everyone after you from doing it with your invention, long enough to make back your investment, so people are protected when they publish the blueprints for their unique device. When they patent processes, human interactions, they are stopping the "progress" in arts and science that the Constitution defines as the value of the compromise in the government creating that temporary monopoly. Ev
  • and Control Data already did that in the early 80s. I think that qualifies as prior art. Bad monolith, BAD. No cookies for you.
  • ...17 doesn't divide 321

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