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Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents 391

theodp writes "The NY Times looks at Microsoft's newly acquired passion for patents and wonders: What would Thomas Jefferson think if he were around to visit Microsoft's campus, seeing software patents stacked like pyramids of cannonballs? Jefferson might also be shocked by Microsoft's summer crop of patent apps, which includes Creating a note related to a phone call, Adding and removing white space from a document and Identifying when baseball is exciting. Gotta meet that quota of 60 fresh, nonobvious patentable ideas a week!"
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Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:33PM (#13208466)
    I'd patent first posting, but it's been patented. that's why I waited before posting this so it wouldn't be an infringing first post. Thank you.
  • Ofcourse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:33PM (#13208469)
    With so many small boring companies sueing them, they need to get more patents for self-defense. By the way Microsoft has never sued anyone on patents till date.
    • Re:Ofcourse (Score:2, Insightful)

      Isn't that the US patent system's fault in the first place? A software company shouldn't have to pay 10 billion $ to lawyers just to make sure it's not infringing and another 20 to settle over the actual infringments. Copyright is enough, patents are one of the reasons why Microsoft has a monopoly and THE reason why no USA medium sized company will ever be able to compete with them, even if it creates the best software ever. Thankfully we're not as unlucky in the EU.
      • Re:Ofcourse (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        patents are one of the reasons why Microsoft has a monopoly

        That's absolute Bull Shit. Microsoft's monopoly was gained by using its market share in the OS for PCs area (1) to make its own applications more accessible to customers over other vendors, and (2) to make hardware vendors favor selling its own aplications over their competitors'. See Wikipedia [] or any other site discussing Microsoft's monopoly.

        Micorosoft NEVER used patents to gain any part of its monopoly. In fact, it obtained its monopoly way befor
        • Re:Ofcourse (Score:5, Insightful)

          by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Sunday July 31, 2005 @03:31PM (#13209162) Homepage
          No, but they have repeatedly used their patents in an attempt to prevent competitors from creating compatible software.

          FAT fs

          You are correct. As they became more popular, their power and thus by extension their ability to force vendors and OEMs into using their software increased. The larger they got, the larger this influence became. Due to the necessity for interoperability, an OS monoculture was the easiest to maintain and consumers saw no problems with using only Microsoft OS's. If only they knew in the early nineties what we know now.
    • Re:Ofcourse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mike_the_kid ( 58164 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @06:51PM (#13210059) Journal
      By the way Microsoft has never sued anyone on patents till date.

      Its a bit like nuclear weapons -- You do not have to use them to serve a purpose. The threat of eradicating your enemies is quite powerful.
  • ... but nontheless the summary of what geeks like us always assumed.

    It is, however, interesting, that the US mainstream media actually writes about this problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That he could see patents physically stacked into pyramid form.

    Oh, and he'd be upset that he's in another place named Washington while there's no state name Jefferson.
  • by xxdinkxx ( 560434 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:34PM (#13208475) Homepage
    Doesn't the entire typography community have prior art by o I don't know a few hundred years? "starting on February 23, 1455."--wikipedia Or even sadder the koreans by atleast a thousand years? as seen here []
    • by xxdinkxx ( 560434 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:39PM (#13208504) Homepage
      I forgot to add: kerning [] and leading [] and tracking [] all are very useful in removing whitespace. Are these now infringements?
    • But to an extent, it doesn't really matter if prior art exists.

      Simply defending against a lawsuit from Microsoft would vankrupt a great many small companies. Unless the EFF make a point of overturning this one, there are still thousands of others they can abuse.

      And more every day...

    • Input indicating a first position or designation of content on a page of an electronic document and an amount of white space to be inserted in the page is received. Responsive to the received input, at least some of the content of the page of the electronic document is moved to insert white space. The moving starts from a point based on the first position. The portion of the content being moved is moved a distance based on the amount of white space indicated in the received input. The page is grown by an am
      • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @02:19PM (#13208735)
        And let's try comparing the number of patent lawsuits filed against Microsoft to the number of patent lawsuits filed by Microsoft. How does this translate to Microsoft abusing the system?

        This is exactly why I want Microsoft to lose one of these patent suits and lose BIG. I mean to the tune of billions of dollars. My opinion is that the only thing that will make the government stop the maddness will be when one of the big companies gets taken out behind the woodshed for a frivilous patent.

        I don't myself understand how anyone could even believe that software is really patentable. All modern computer languages are context free grammars, which is a subset of all grammars, and hence all language. Patenting the written software program for what is does it exactly like patenting the plot of a book, or a certain type of story. And while the written word is copyrightable of course, I've yet to see a patent on fantasy stories set in alternate versions of Earth, or stories involving wizards, or aliend.

        Software patents are absolutely wrong and the customer and market hostile american company today absolutely loves them because they eliminate the requirement to offer a quality product (or any product at all!).
        • I don't myself understand how anyone could even believe that software is really patentable. All modern computer languages are context free grammars ...

          We've got to stop thinking of the law in these sort of terms. The law isn't written in stone so that interpretations may be debated forever (e.g. patents only apply to X. let's argue about the definition of X). The law changes. If we decide we want patents to apply to language, then patents apply to language. If ambiguity exists in the law, we can argu

    • which are.. ... on a computer ... on the web

  • Baseball? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:37PM (#13208486)
    Identifying when baseball is exciting is not a trivial task, even for human cognitition. Trying to explain to a non-baseball-fan what's important about a given moment in baseball, is like trying to explain to a non-deadhead what was so great about one particular concert.
    • by Everleet ( 785889 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:46PM (#13208537)
      Identifying when baseball is exciting is not a trivial task

      return false;
    • Identifying when baseball is exciting is not a trivial task, even for human cognitition.

      Here's a heuristic suitable for human beings:

      If you're about whether something is exciting or not, it isn't exciting.

    • Identifying when baseball is exciting is not a trivial task, even for human cognitition.
      Neither is it an invention which requires monopoly protection because otherwise science and the useful arts won't advance. Patents aren't intended to cover everything and all that's not trivial for the mere sake that they are not trivial.
      • Re:Baseball? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @02:13PM (#13208689)

        But this IS trivial...ambient volume goes's exciting...volume goes down, boring. Have you even seen a group of fans stoic during an exciting event? They're probably all screaming their heads off, and the announcer probably sounds like he's about to have a coronary.
        • Triviality is something which only comes into play after it has been established that something actually is patentable subject matter. It is important to keep hammering on that, because many people (especially proponents of ever expanding patentability) tend to forget about that all too often.
    • Identifying when baseball is exciting is not a trivial task, even for human cognitition. Trying to explain to a non-baseball-fan what's important about a given moment in baseball, is like trying to explain to a non-deadhead what was so great about one particular concert.

      You can say the same about any sport. Unless you know what's going on, they all tend to be fairly boring.

      I actually think baseball is easier for non-fans to watch than, say, football, which requires a fair amount of sophistication to follow
    • "Trying to explain to a non-baseball-fan what's important about a given moment in baseball, is like trying to explain to a non-deadhead what was so great about one particular concert."

      The most boring band and the most boring sport - and someone might try to determine when either is exciting? Fuck - why not watch paint dry or one of those old movies by Warhol?

      "I like the part where the pigeons fly by."

      "Did you see that bug get stuck in the paint? AWESOME!"



    • I'm a baseball fan. I think you could come up with some simplistic algorithms for determining the exciting moments. The easiest thing to work off of would be the score differential, and whether or not the tying run is at the plate, on deck, etc. Or if the bases are loaded (heck I remember Hard Ball on the C64 would recognize that moment with added music). You could also key off of overall batter and pitcher stats, and game stats like if the batter could hit for the cycle on the next at-bat or the pitcher wa
    • But some things are just exciting, regardless of whether one is a baseball fan or not. The game is tied, two outs, two strikes on the batter ... the batter has a history against the pitcher, either successful or unsuccessful ... the delivery ... it's a breaking ball ... the batter swings, it's a more powerful swing than normal ... if he misses, it's a strikeout and the inning ends (exciting) ... if he hits it, it goes a long way ... if it goes over the fence, it's a home run and the tie is broken (exciting)
    • If the patent only covers baseball, then let's patent the idea of patenting algorithms for determining when anything else than baseball is boring. Just so the world has some patent to counter MS with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:37PM (#13208489)
    Here we have Microsoft, which has led to an enormous creation of
    wealth and jobs, and has been *good* for the US economy and some of
    the billions generated are being channeled to some worthy charitable
    causes as well. Clearly, 'more Microsofts' are needed and it would
    have an immense impact on the US economy, among other things. If there
    were software patents in the 60s and 70s, there would not have been a
    Microsoft, and the associated billions and the PC revolution. Some
    research intensive company would have held on to some critical patents
    and could have just sat on them and produced no meaningful products.

    However, the present Microsoft is doing almost everything it can to
    prevent another Microsoft from ever occurring, thereby causing a
    "future loss" of billions of dollars and harming the US economy. One
    company cannot be allowed to dictate the future of America. Microsoft
    is hurting America in a significant way since by being very aggressive
    and seeking a huge patent arsenal, it wants to almost ensure that the
    next tech revolution doesn't happen. It will happen, surely, but is
    more likely to happen in countries with nascent patent laws, such as
    in India and China.

    After Microsoft was found to be an 'abusive monopolist', it should
    have been barred from obtaining any patents. Infact, maybe that is
    what is needed, to target a big software company like Microsoft which,
    if barred from obtaining patents, would itself lobby very hard to ban
    software patents for all ! And a strong case can be made aginst why
    Microsoft in particular should not get the protection of patents.

    All it will take is a determined senator to recognize that America
    needs more Microsofts, and the current Microsoft should be reined in
    appropriately. It can barred from obtaining any more patents and/or
    it's current patent portfolio could be dissolved. Then let Microsoft
    spend some of its billions and unleash it's army of lawyers and
    publicists to try and convince the rest of America why software
    patents are bad and no one should have them. That would be

    Someone needs to tell Microsoft: "Abusive monopolist. No patents for you !"
    • You know im no Microsoft apologist, but it seems very odd that we bash microsoft left and right but never even mention IBM, which indeed is always number 1 every year in getting the most patents! What do we make of this bias here at slashdot?
      • IBM is to a great extent a research company; they do huge amounts of work in diverse fields. I remember when they were working on blue-laser optical disks back in 1998, for instance. Thus they come up with large numbers of what most Slashdotters see as legitimate inventions.

        Microsoft is a software development company. It's debatable whether the idea to perform a specific operation on a machine that has been shown to be capable of any operation constitutes a legitimate invention.
        • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @03:29PM (#13209149) Journal
          > IBM is to a great extent a research company;

          IBM makes $2 billion/year from patent licenses. With that amount of money and over 10000 patents in diverse areas, they make MS look like a grade-school bully.
          From: []

          After IBM's presentation, our turn came. As the Big Blue crew looked on (without a flicker of emotion), my colleagues--all of whom had both engineering and law degrees--took to the whiteboard with markers, methodically illustrating, dissecting, and demolishing IBM's claims. We used phrases like: "You must be kidding," and "You ought to be ashamed." But the IBM team showed no emotion, save outright indifference. Confidently, we proclaimed our conclusion: Only one of the seven IBM patents would be deemed valid by a court, and no rational court would find that Sun's technology infringed even that one.

          An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

          >Thus they come up with large numbers of what most Slashdotters see as legitimate inventions.

      • IBM have been far less destructive to using it's money/power/money sources to drive out competition out of market. Yes, they are no saints, but Microsoft eats and breaths by laws of war.
      • his argument is to abolish all software patents, not just MS.
      • A difference I see between IBM and Microsoft, is that Big Blue seems to have at least done some truly innovative cutting edge stuff, I've yet to see something from Microsoft that makes me go "yeah that's realy impressive they came up with that". Some IBM researchers have actually received Nobel prizes, I've yet to see a Microsoft employee do that.
        From []
        - Copper Chip Technology
        - Giant Magnetoresistive Head (GMR)
        - Speech recognition technology
        - Scalable parallel systems
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:38PM (#13208493) Homepage Journal
    Patents are government-certified monopolies. Of course Gates, commander of the greates monopoly empire ever, wants a fleet of targeted monopolies. The PTO Monopoly Department is Gates' bitch, working overtime on the public dime to keep Gates the only guy who gets to do those businesses. The rest of us have to figure out for ourselves how to earn the money for the licenses to use our own computers, listen to our own CDs, watch our own DVDs, play our own games, pay our own taxes...
    • You see the problem at the moment is that if MS doesn't patent those stupid ideas, then someone else will, and we'll end up with another Eolas-style farce that sooner or later will affect all of us (and not just Eolas's anti-MS stance, imagine someone getting a patent for forum software and demanding /. cease and desist using their patent).

      IBM, Novell, Apple, etc etc etc all have a huge library of patents partly to protect themselves from the other big companies using their patents.
      • The problem is the patenting of "ideas". Patents protect an invention. That's workable only as a device, a physical object. The system is manageable when at least working models are required for patent protection. Nonphysical expressions of ideas are protected by copyright; associations of expressions (names, pictures) with anything (ideas, physical things, business processes) are protected by trademarks. When they started patenting ideas not even expressed concretely enough to copyright, not even specific
  • frivolous patents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hungrygrue ( 872970 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:38PM (#13208498) Homepage
    I wonder what would happen if Microsoft tried to enforce a mearly questionable patent against a defendant, and the defendant were to use Microsoft's own patent arsenal as evidence? Just picture it, they take someone to court over a patent that to a non technical person might seem reasonable, and the defendant shows that it is an obvious idea and then shows for further evidance Microsoft's more ridiculous patents like the note related to a phone call thing to demonstrate that Microsoft has made patenting obvious concepts standard operating procedure?
  • Edison Labs (Score:5, Informative)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:39PM (#13208501)
    Gotta meet that quota of 60 fresh, nonobvious patentable ideas a week!
    The article submitter says this like it's some newfangled scheme freshly dreampt up by big bad Bill. It isn't. Around 100 years ago when Thomas Edison ran his lab it was a patent mill; hired inventors had to submit a weekly quota of patent applications.
  • OK, it's been said enough already. Can we move on?
  • by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <> on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:41PM (#13208516) Homepage Journal
    They got a patent on this?
    BOOL IsBaseballExciting()
    return FALSE;
    Wow. Just wow.
    • More likely, they got a patent on this.

      bool isexciting()
      /* If the game is exciting you can hear it from the screaming fans. 80% of max volume is probably a good threeshold */
      return (soundvolume() > 80);

      Or who am I kidding, it's Microsoft

      char* IsBaseballExciting()
      char temp[3];
      if((double)SoundVolume() / (double)100.0 > 0.8)
      sprintf(temp, "YES");
      sprintf(temp, "NO!");
      • Wow, the Microsoft code ALREADY has a possible buffer overflow in it. You work for them already, don't you?
      • by BusterB ( 10791 )
        Don't forget gratuitous hungarian notation and Unicode support. Oh, and SoundVolume is deprecated; use SoundVolume2 which requires a pointer (reserved for future use):

        tchar* _IsBaseballExciting()
        tchar strzTemp[3];
        double dblSndVol;
        dblSndVol = (double) SoundVolume2(NULL);
        if(dblSndVol / (double)100.0 > 0.8)
        _stprintf(strzTemp, _T("YES"))
  • I think I will patent Bill Gates' hair style....
  • Open your eyes! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dixie Flatliner ( 850959 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:45PM (#13208533)
    Software patents are tame and fairly meaningless in the out-of-control state that Patent Law is in; when GE won a patent in Appeals to the ownership of a bacteria that they "engineered" to eat oil, the Patent Office stated, "Everything save a full term human being is patentable." Since then almost 5% of the human genome has been patented by various biotech firms, under the basis of medical trade secrets and pharmaceuticals treatment. I'm not making this stuff up, The Corporation [] is a good non-technical learning start.
    • Thank you. I have no idea why you get comments like "Microsoft is the biggest evil ever", when there really more serious, wider-ranging evils just out there in front of people's eyes.

      One example is the one you gave, another common one is DeBeers. Also alot of chemical companies and "factory farms" practices are just shocking.

      But no, Microsoft, is evil just because of the number of patents appiled for? And why isn't IBM, which for the past 12 years the top company in terms of number of patents granted? (o
  • Identifying when baseball is exciting actually sounds like it could be useful.

    Wonder if it could be used on cricket?
  • We keep hearing stories about Microsoft or IBM or Amazon trying to patent these ridiculous things that people have been using in various forms for about 100 years, and I have to ask myself what kind of drugs these guys are on if they think they can get away with this sort of behaviour. Are any of these frivolous patents defensible in the context of a courtroom, or do they add effectively to IP warchests when it comes to cross-licensing deals? Are they just a shotgun approach on the off chance that some moro
    • Microsoft have the money to sit on the courtcase for years and years. Most people (and companies) can't aford to have a decade long legal battle without going bankrupt, so they stay out of Microsoft's yard. It's like saying "Tresspassers will be shot", it's very unlikely they will be shot, but do you risk your neck for it?
  • by Mawbid ( 3993 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @01:53PM (#13208569)
    From the one on whitespace:

    2. The method of claim 1, wherein the size of the page is reduced such that the size of the page is at least as large as the original size of the page

  • There a bunch of patents that slashdot should obtain:
    1. Method for obtaining a first post
    2. Method for writing a post that gets modded up
    3. Method for linking to
    4. Method for getting ASCII art past the lameness filter
    5. Method for replying to yourself anonymously to make it looks as if others agree with you
    6. Method for obtaining a buttload of mod points through multiple accounts

    These patents could then be used to selectivly procecute trolls and spammers.

    Currency calculator that understands 'convert 1 []

  • I fear this will be the latest step in their FUD linux campaign....... luckily the Penguin is protected by Big Blue and a few others who might have a few patents violated by Gates.

    But what about the rest of Open Source? What if they go against small to medium sized developers that dare to make things for Linux but not MS?

    The patent system as a whole need to be reevaluated. What's being patented in this list aren't new nonobvious processes or solutions to things anymore but just combinations of old things
    • You put too much trust into Big Blue. Unfortunately, their only incentive right now is "anything but fall prey to Microsoft." If Big Blue could be MS themselves, they'd be, in an instant This open source support seems just a defense for them. The motto: Better work for free and give the stuff away, then work for free and be hung out to dry at MS's whim.
  • With just about every company patenting crazy things these days, it's no wonder that this happens. It's like an evil cycle. Once one started it, they all felt like they had to just to protect themselves and now it has just spiraled out of control. Seems like the only place this can be fixed is at the patent office because companies obviously aren't going to behave.
  • maybe they want to show how screwed up the patent office is by getting a patent on something like making a note from a phone call ( duh ), so that the USPTO will actually reform and fix the situation.

    Maybe pigs fly ...

  • I love that imagery. It's too bad we can't reify patents so that they could really be stacked like cannonballs. Imagine Microsoft, IBM and other companies each surrounded by their stacked-up patents, fortifications, lawyers and lawsuits as cannons peeking over the battlements, threatening to rain down havoc on anyone who challenges them.

    Maybe once we have effective AR [] systems we'll be able to make manifest the underlying corporate realities which are all so invisible and intangible today. People passing by
  • I used to work at a software company that made contact management software. We had a mechanism built right into the main function of the software that specifically handled notes based on phone calls. The first iteration of that function we did in 1992.

  • The implication here is that Microsoft is piling up meaningless and obvious patents. Curious if this were the case, I picked the least meaningful-looking one, and read through the app: The Baseball Patent.

    Now, I hate MSFT probably a bit more than most people here, but this patent actually a good idea. It describes a technique which allows a computer to automatically show you the important parts of a game, saving vast amounts of time watching batters meander about and pitchers scratching their ass.

    The co
    • Rather than learn the rules of the game and a vast array of human likes and dislikes, it just listens for an excited-sounding announcer and flags those parts as being important.

      It's not an obvious technique, and it's almost certainly unique and novel.

      What nonsense. Of course it's obvious. Haven't you ever had a game on while you do something else, and then look up to watch when the announcer gets an excited tone in his voice? Or when you hear the crowd roar?

  • by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @02:11PM (#13208673)
    With not only the accelerated rate at which patents are being accumulated, but the changing nature of the things being patented, the barrier for entry for any inventor that cannot afford an entire legal team to check for possible infringement is getting far, far too high.

    In the past, if you wanted to make a better faucet, all you had to do was make sure your idea was so unique that it was unlikely that anyone had put something of that nature together before. Now, with the new attitude of the Patent Office, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that the very idea that water comes out of a pipe is possibly claimed by someone out there. The amount of squatting on basic concepts is going to doom innovation, as a great deal of truly innovative and world-changing inventions have come from a man or woman working in their basement or garage in their spare time.

    Just thinking to yourself, "Has the underlying concept been demonstrated before and left in the public domain?" means nothing, absolutely nothing. Prior art has grown increasingly meaningless. Hell, millions of year of prior art in each and every person that reads this has been patented.

    Company A discovers that gene X causes disease Y and patents this gene that has existed since the dawn of humankind
    Company B develops a test to establish wether gene X is present using nothing but their own methods except for the basic presumption that gene X will cause disease Y.
    Company A sues Company B for patent infringement because they violated their patent on the gene.

    This scenario has occurred before and Company A is the winner.

    While I respect the fact a market economy is a neccesity for the human race at the present time (I say that in the hope that replicators are invented at some point) I don't see the neccesity to blindly approve of the persuit of profit at all costs simply because people want to and "That's just the way things have been done". There is a cost associated with such activity, a cost for which we have no means to compensate. The free flow and generation of capital should never undermine or be put ahead of the greater free flow of ideas in society as a whole , or the freedom of individuals, or you inevitably end up with a "snake eating his own tail" situation.

    Locking down entire realms of study because of a overreaching patent does far, far more harm for us as a people than the good it does for the patent holder. It forces innovators to be reluctant or unwilling to pursue their ideas. The long term effects of this kind of stagnation should be self-evident.

    The desire to make a buck - which should be encouraged - does not validate the methods employed to do so. Right now, the laws are structured to permit and encourage the lack of any focus other than short-term gains for the investors. Short-term gains which will likely pan out to be massive losses financially and otherwise for many in the end.
    • I think your gene example is a very bad example of an obvious patent. It's NOT obvious what the function is. (If it was, or it was already published elsewhere, the patent should of course be void.)

      If the patent should cover tests, or just artificial use of the gene in other organisms may be worth some discussion, but there are many inventions that are mostly based on the fact that someone has tested a lot of stuff to find what works and what doesn't. The fact that a lot of people might have hit an optimum

  • by PsiPsiStar ( 95676 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @02:34PM (#13208819)
    "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

    "Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state. "

    "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive. "

    "An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."

    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. "

    "Any cute black slaves around? My wife is out of town."

    • by PsiPsiStar ( 95676 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @02:40PM (#13208867)
      "The saying there shall be no monopolies lessens the incitements to ingenuity, which is spurred on by the hope of a monopoly for a limited time, as of fourteen years; but the benefit of even limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:98

      "Inventions... cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody... The exclusive right to invention [is] given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 1813. ME 13:334

      "The following [addition to the Bill of Rights] would have pleased me:... Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature and their own inventions in the arts for a term not exceeding __ years, but for no longer term and for no other purpose." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:451, Papers 15:368

      "In the arts, and especially in the mechanical arts, many ingenious improvements are made in consequence of the patent-right giving exclusive use of them for fourteen years." --Thomas Jefferson to M. Pictet, 1803. ME 10:356

      "Certainly an inventor ought to be allowed a right to the benefit of his invention for some certain time. It is equally certain it ought not to be perpetual; for to embarrass society with monopolies for every utensil existing, and in all the details of life, would be more injurious to them than had the supposed inventors never existed; because the natural understanding of its members would have suggested the same things or others as good. How long the term should be is the difficult question. Our legislators have copied the English estimate of the term, perhaps without sufficiently considering how much longer, in a country so much more sparsely settled, it takes for an invention to become known and used to an extent profitable to the inventor. Nobody wishes more than I do that ingenuity should receive a liberal encouragement." --Thomas Jefferson to Oliver Evans, 1807. ME 11:201

      "No sentiment is more acknowledged in the family of Agriculturists than that the few who can afford it should incur the risk and expense of all new improvements, and give the benefit freely to the many of more restricted circumstances." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1810. ME 12:389 f1320.htm [] ... It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors.
      It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it; but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property.

      If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the pos
  • by cmd ( 56100 )

    It will take a company with a lot of money and a lot of lawyers to finally push the whole broken software patent system over the redline. When it becomes obvious to *EVERYONE* that the software patent system in the US is completely broken, Congress will be forced to finally address the issue. (Perhaps patenting the space " " character will do the trick.)

    I can only hope that all software patents are abolished. IMHO, software patents are bad, software copyrights are good.

    On the other hand, as long as the sof

  • "seeing software patents stacked like pyramids of cannonballs?"

    "Brass monkey."
  • They patented a shell script.
  • by ccady ( 569355 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @03:25PM (#13209132) Journal
    Alright people, this is stupid. Computer software patents in the U.S. have to be abolished. I've written my senators and representative. What else should we do now?
  • What would Thomas Jefferson think if he were around to visit Microsoft's campus, seeing software patents stacked like pyramids of cannonballs?

    Thomas Jefferson would be mightly unhappy!!! Origiannly TJ was against patents and copyrights however his friend James Madison eventually talked and showed him how they could be beneficial and support the creation of new art and objects. Once he was convinced TJ, using an actuary table, calculated patents and copyrights should only last 28 years, if I recall right 14 years with one 14 year extention possible.

  • by payndz ( 589033 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @04:11PM (#13209417)
    My prediction for the not-too-distant future...

    Non-Western SoftCo: We wrote some cool new software.
    US 'IP-directed' SoftCo: Ha! We have software patents that cover your program! Hand over all your money now!
    Non-Western SoftCo: Do we look American? Fuck you, and fuck the horse your lawyers rode in on.
    US 'IP-directed' SoftCo: B-but... you can't talk to us that way! We'll use our bribed, uh, 'lobbied' politicians to stop you entering our market!
    Joe Public: [Downloads software from non-US site]
    US 'IP-directed' SoftCo: Shit! Our revenue stream! If only we actually made something! Aiiieeee!

    ThiS, of COurse, may have happened already...

  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @04:44PM (#13209579) Homepage
    from back when Microsoft bought a license from SCO:

    "Asked to comment on the news of the licensing deal at a news conference today, Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison seemed to have no compunction about drawing a link between the agreement and SCO's litigation. "Bill [Gates] is innovating. Microsoft has always had incredible innovation. You've had advanced bundling, and what you see now is extreme litigation. They have a lot of experience with extreme litigation, actually," he said."

    What's the connection between this and TFA?

    I'll tell you.

    First of all, PJ at Groklaw wants the discovery in the Novell vrs SCO suit to take a deep long look at exactly WHAT "patents and IP" that Microsoft allegedly licensed from SCO for "millions of dollars."

    Secondly, this is likely to prove that Microsoft doesn't need to litigate open source based on their patents - up until now, anyway. They'd been able to pay other people to litigate FOR THEM.
  • by blackhedd ( 412389 ) on Sunday July 31, 2005 @06:49PM (#13210047)
    I'm a holder of several software patents, both issued and pending. I vehemently disagree with the whole concept of software patents, but in today's broken environment, you have to apply for these patents as a defensive measure. Otherwise you may find that someone else can prevent you from commercializing your own ideas.

    And having been through the process, I can tell you that most examiners at the USPTO are simple, unimpressive bureaucrats with nowhere near the capability and insight needed to evaluate software innovations. They are not operating in bad faith, they just aren't equipped to do the job that the big shots in our industry are asking of them. (Further proof of this point is that they usually retire as soon as they are eligibile, and ever-increasing numbers of them leave the service early. It's a crummy job.)

    The path of least resistance for the PTO is to just grant about 60% of the applications put before them and hope that the courts will sort out the conflicts. That's a great solution for the small technology shops and individuals that produce the real innovations, isn't it? Especially since you're now relying on an equally ignorant judge and jury, who will be favorably impressed by those nice, polished, well-dressed attorneys from IBM/Microsoft/Oracle/Toshiba/whoever.

    LEGISLATION is needed to solve this problem. The community needs to draft a revision of the patent laws and lobby its passage through Congress. Anybody interested in taking up the challenge?

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz