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Microsoft Frowned at for Smiley Patent 369

theodp writes "ZDNet UK reports on criticism of Microsoft's attempt to patent the creation of custom emoticons. 'I would have expected to see something like this suggested by one of our more immature community members as a joke on Slashdot,' quipped Mark Taylor of the Open Source Consortium. 'We now appear to be living in a world where even the most laughable paranoid fantasies about commercially controlling simple social concepts are being outdone in the real world by well-funded armies of lawyers on behalf of some of the most powerful companies on the planet.'"
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Microsoft Frowned at for Smiley Patent

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  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:18AM (#13143530) Homepage
    Microsoft must actually want for us to hate them. Protected video path, lies and litigation about Linux, patenting fucking smilies.

    Stop it, Bill!
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:25AM (#13143563)
    Indeed. IBM registers a couple of thousand of patents each year, and in the (relatively distant) past has been just as evil as MS is percieved to be today. MS, on the other hand, has not (to my knowledge) used a single patent offensively.

    Besides which, yes it's a dumb patent, but is that MS's fault, or the patent office's? If I ask you for a thousand dollars and you give it to me, thus ending up unable to pay bills, isn't that your fault for being stupid enough to do it?
  • by Flyboy Connor ( 741764 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:47AM (#13143653)
    Uh, defensive patents are a common thing in all industries. People just enjoy jumping down Microsoft's throat because they have nothing better to do.

    No, people just don't like a company -- any company -- get a patent on something which (a) the company did not invent, (b) already existed more than a decade ago, (c) is really really obvious, (d) is in common use by nearly every computer user today.

    It's like Microsoft said: "Hey, nobody got the idea to patent smileys yet! And everything should be patented by SOMEBODY! I mean, we can't have any concept not OWNED by someone, can we? So let's see if the patent office is stupid enough to grant us exclusive rights to something that is currently in the public domain! We can see what we do with such a patent later."

  • 2 things: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dreemernj ( 859414 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:52AM (#13143670) Homepage Journal
    1. Does this mean that users of the ASCII smiley will retroactively owe M$ a chunk of their soul? 2. Doesn't the creator of the 'Have a Nice Day' smiley have anything to say about this? I mean he invented the business of making money off of smileys...Unless he has already been hired by M$. Hmmmm, that could be. If they went after the pet rock inventor next it could be a problem. MS logos on pavers and skipping stones. Hmmm.
  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:02AM (#13143712)
    ( o | o ) Oh yeah, I almost forgot, CLEAVAGE!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:05AM (#13143724)
    From the patent

    [0001] The subject matter relates generally to instant messaging and more specifically to custom emoticons.


    [0002] Emoticons have acquired immense popularity and hence importance in new email, chatroom, instant messaging, and even operating system applications. The variety of available emoticons has increased tremendously, from a few types of "happy faces" to a multitude of elaborate and colorful animations. In many cases, an increase in the number of available emoticons has been a selling feature for new releases of communications products. However, there are now so many emoticons available that some applications may be reaching a limit on the number of pre-established ("pre-packaged") emoticons that can be included with or managed by an application. There is an exhaustion point for trying to provide a pre-packaged emoticon for every human emotion. Still, users clamor for more emoticons, and especially for more nuanced emoticons that capture the subtleties of human emotions and situations.

    The patent itself has some information of the background; does that not in itself supply EVIDENCE OF PRIOR ART?

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:18AM (#13143776) Homepage Journal
    You still missed a few:

    (Q)(Q) - pasties/pierced

    (@)(@) - clipped

    (+)(+) - erect

    (0)(0)(0) - Eccentrica Gallumbits
  • by Imposter_of_myself ( 636697 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:29AM (#13143814)
    Sending identifiers to represent graphics has been around for a while. Isn't that how network games work - the images are not actually sent over the wire - an identifier is sent that represents the scenery image - NOT THE ACTUAL SCENERY IMAGE. How can Microsoft patent this use - there is tons of prior art.
  • by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:54AM (#13143911) Journal
    If you were some overworked patent clerk facing an ARMY of well-paid, well-funded and determined MS lawyers are you so sure you'd be able to stand up to them?
  • by tolkienfan ( 892463 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:58AM (#13143930) Journal
    1. If it's likely to make money for Microsoft, they'll sue. The only reason they won't sue it if it would probably fail in the courtroom.
    2. What this does mean is that someone wishing to create an instant messenger with custom smilies is in for trouble. No lawyer is going to advise possible infringement.
    3. So with this Microsoft may be differentiating their products, making it impossible for other products to have the same feature.
    4. Worse, there is no legal requirements (IIRC) on licensing. In other words, although the patent system was instigates to promote publishing ideas in such a way that more companies implemented them, there is no requirement for the patent holder to actually allow it (with or without a fee).
    5. Is it MS's fault or the patent office's?
    Abusing a broken system is immoral and unethical. Microsoft have shown themselves to be both, which is why I will never buy or recommend their products.
  • Re:Uhoh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cortana ( 588495 ) <sam.robots@org@uk> on Saturday July 23, 2005 @11:40AM (#13144108) Homepage
    Please explain how implementing the same method for selecting a smiley deprives the method's "owner" of its use?
  • by ThisIsForReal ( 897233 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @11:54AM (#13144179) Homepage
    Here's something that just popped into my head:

    What about capping the number of patents a single company can own? What if, in order to gain a new patent, one must release an old patent into public domain?

    It wouldn't be too much different than our current use of the judicial branch to regulate monopolies. Any thoughts?
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @12:13PM (#13144269)
    1. If it's likely to make money for Microsoft, they'll sue. The only reason they won't sue it if it would probably fail in the courtroom.

    Microsoft already makes tons of money off the Windows monopoly and that is what all of their actions are about. Since the early 1990's, Microsoft is more worried about protecting their monopoly than expanding in other areas. Expansion is secondary IMO. They spend a couple of $billion per year on losing markets outside the desktop/server but THAT is more about keeping budding technologies/companies from getting too much power and marketshare in the PC periphery sectors. Look at their recent earnings report. ~30% from MS Windows, ~30% from MS Office for Windows, ~20% from MS Windows Server/software, and until last year, EVERYTHING else was losing hundreds of millions each year. MSN advertising brought MSN into the black finally( popup ads maybe? ). Also, failing in the courtroom is not a big concern for MSFT since they'll be using much of this stuff as threats. It only has to LOOK like it has teeth in order to work as they intend it to. With $40 Billion in CASH, they can sue til the cows some home and not make a dent in that cash horde.

    IMO, the current IP patent land grab is about protecting the Windows monopoly and very little about making money from new sectors or business markets. Never have I seen Microsoft support a none-Windows based product having over 50% marketshare. Even when Palm had 80% marketshare, every dbase vendor had a PalmOS based micro-dbase except MSFT. They came out with MS Access for WindowsCE when that only had 5% marketshare. The key to understanding Microsofts actions is to know their motivations and that is protecting the Windows monopoly. THAT is their business.

    Everything else you wrote is right on target.


"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus