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Microsoft Word Patent Case Going To Supreme Court 207

jfruhlinger writes "Microsoft may have had to change Word after being found guilty of violating a Canadian company's patents, but it's still resisting paying for damages — and is taking the fight to the US Supreme Court. If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?"
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Microsoft Word Patent Case Going To Supreme Court

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  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @01:27AM (#34384876)

    If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?"

    The only side certain to win this.

    You can hope the patent and patents like it get invalidated, by the way. The patent can get invalidated with Microsoft still being liable.

    There are outcomes that satisfy anyone, unless you hate lawyers and multi-million dollar settlements with big corporations too, in which case, you are boned.

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?"

      The only side certain to win this.

      The lawyers?

    • by hazydave ( 96747 )

      The only side certain to win -- the lawyers. They're getting very well paid, on both sides of the case.

  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Slarty ( 11126 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @01:27AM (#34384880) Homepage

    You root for Microsoft, of course. If you don't like Microsoft, you can choose not to use their software. But everyone is affected by the ridiculous state of the patent system right now. I'm not optimistic that the Supreme Court can/will restore any sanity, but it's a much bigger problem than any one company.

    • Here here.

      MS is many things, but the enemy of a patent troll is.... useful.

      It says something when The Apache Foundation sides with you. God forbid you code a way to edit XML!

      • by butlerm ( 3112 )

        I completely agree. I hope Microsoft wins on this point, because it will make the patent system slightly more sane. More bad patents will be overturned. (I should mention that it is "hear, hear", not "here here", by the way).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by santax ( 1541065 )
      So, you root for the biggest patentwhore ever?
    • Re:Well, duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by naich ( 781425 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @04:33AM (#34386014) Homepage

      Not really. If Microsoft keep winning their patent suits then from their point of view the patent system is hunky dory and they will continue supporting it and using it themselves, to stifle their competition. If Microsoft lose and it hurts enough, then it might force them to rethink their patent strategy. If the US software patent system hurts them enough and keeps hurting them, they might start lobbying to change it.

    • I hope Microsoft loses, but only because I hope that if they keep losing to patent trolls like this, they will eventually realize that the system is horribly broken and will back up the movement to fix it.

      The more other big players lose to patent trolls, the sooner everyone will realize that the patent system itself is the problem.

  • Who to root for? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by repetty ( 260322 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @01:45AM (#34385006) Homepage

    If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?

    Just be satisfied that each has to deal with the other.

  • Emotions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @01:46AM (#34385012)

    If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?

    "Which position do your biased emotions tell you to take?"

    • LOL. Good one.

      A better discussion, however, would be one that relates to the specific issues before the court (i.e., the basis of the appeal, rather than the results of a Slashdot popularity poll). From the Wall Street Journal []:

      The high court said it will review a $290 million patent-infringement judgment against Microsoft that barred the company from selling certain versions of its Word software. A key question in the case is whether proving a patent invalid should require "clear and convincing evidence"

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @01:48AM (#34385038) Journal
    Hope that MS loses to a multi-billion dollar lose (say even 100 billion), and that afterwards, either SCOTUS or CONgress will kill forever the evil method patents.
  • Who knows. Maybe they will simply say, "hey we already ruled patents had to be tied to a specific machine, not a generic one like that used here", and rule the patent invalid, and thus set the precedent that all software patents on generic systems are invalid. But I guess that would be logical, and we can't use logic when talking about the US and Patents and Court.
    • Unlikely, for two reasons.

      First, this isn't the question that SCOTUS was asked to decide. They were asked to determine whether the "clear and convincing" burden of proof is the appropriate standard when a court is determining whether an issued patent is invalid, in those cases where there is evidence that the USPTO was not able to consider during prosecution. The court will generally limit itself only to answering those controversies specifically brought before it.

      Second, the whole point of the Bilski v.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

    It is time to sue the patent office, not the patent holders:

    The question the Supreme Court must answer is "What burden of proof is required to invalidate a patent?" The difficulty is that the *legal* answer may not match the *real world* answer. In theory, it should require a high burden of proof because the patent office already examined the patent application, determined it was patentable, searched for prior art, etc. But in reality, the patent office isn't doing that. I wish I could find the public s

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 )

      I wish I could find the public statement where they basically said it isn't their responsibility to search for prior art.

      My guess is that you're making an oblique, and somewhat confused, reference to the rules that were never implemented as a result of the Tafas v. Doll lawsuit, where some folks actually did sue the USPTO. Among other things, the rules would have required the applicant to perform a search and submit the results in cases where more than 5 independent and/or 25 total claims are filed. Since the USPTO lost the lawsuit, the rules were never implemented. Note that even if the rule had been implemented, it would

  • by sgrover ( 1167171 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:07AM (#34385144) Homepage
    I'm sure it has been said in other comments by now, but just in case. Let us not forget that the Canadian company in question actually DID have a product related to the patent. They DID work with Microsoft. Microsoft stopped dealing with them and then continued to use the patented technology knowingly without license. THIS is why the court of appeals UPHELD the court findings. MS still doesn't want to pay, so they are taking all the legal approaches available to them to avoid paying. The Canadian company (IMI) in this particular case is NOT a patent troll. In fact they are actually using the patent system the way it was intended - to stop the big boys from destroying the business of the little players. So, you'll excuse me if I root for IMI in this case. MS is not innocent here - the courts even said so. BUT, perhaps if MS is made to play by the same rules they want competitors to play by, perhaps they'll realize the current system is borked and increase their efforts to help change the system. We'll ignore for now MS's role in creating the current cluster-f#$@ system that is in place. Disclaimer - I'm a Canadian. But I don't care where the company came from. MS bullied the company pretty much out of business by stealing their tech, and now doesn't want to pay the piper for their actions. I don't have any respect for anybody that plays that way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Any competently designed binary representation of XML (either in memory or on disk) will infringe on their patent.

    • Whoever loses this will be totally rooted - just like the patent system. Maybe the Judge will tell MS to get rooted .....
  • Pretty much everyone around here loves to bash Microsoft but we will have to have a Microsoft party where we all do a Windows theme for a week on our Linux and Mac boxes if Microsoft does some serious damage to the patenting of software.
    Seriously, if MS trashes this whole deranged patent situation they will win the true title of "Do no evil masters of 2011". If you were to compare it to other things on our tech head collective wish lists this would rank at the top with Oracle fully opening up Java, or Netw
    • "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," eh? But I'll still stab him in the back if I get half a chance. That's how it works in the real world, and I'll tip my hat to Microsoft for this one (if they do something good), but I'll still spit on their grave if I get the chance and there's no way I'm ever going to throw a Microsoft party. Linux party, maybe. But there's a limit to my geekiness.
  • If you can't stand either MS or patents, who do you root for here?

    Whatever, that's easy. The supreme court knocks down all patent law, finding it unconstitutional, while simultaneously fining Microsoft a million billion dollars for contempt of court or something. Is this really that hard for you? The solution is so easy. You're welcome.

  • ... but not for their sake.

    If MS finds that they are losing enough from software patents, maybe they'll lobby to get them declared invalid.

  • If Microsoft loses, we get to take joy in the loss. If Microsoft wins, we get to take joy at Microsoft for narrowing patent law to its own long-term disadvantage.

    • How will this narrow patent law? I don't think that MS is arguing against the patent system. If anything, MS is arguing against this one particular patent. Whatever the outcome, it will have no effect on the patent system, or MS's future behavior.

      MS bullying does not depend on the final outcome of a court's decision. Lawsuits are so expensive that, once a company like MS sues you, you have already lost. You will eventually have to settle because the settlement is so much less than the cost of litigation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grond ( 15515 )

        How will this narrow patent law? I don't think that MS is arguing against the patent system. If anything, MS is arguing against this one particular patent. Whatever the outcome, it will have no effect on the patent system, or MS's future behavior.

        That isn't true at all. The issue at the Supreme Court is not this particular patent. The issue is what the burden of proof should be when attempting to prove a patent invalid, particularly when an alleged infringer brings evidence not considered by the Patent Of

  • Well, you have to bet on Microsoft. Come on -- it's our Supreme Court and the biggest corporation has the most rights.

  • It's not as if the patent system is on trial.

    MS will continue scamming, bullying, and extorting; regardless of the outcome of this trial.

    Other companies will also attack MS, but MS has the upper hand, because MS has more money.

  • Both Microsoft and software patents are evil and powerful, but Microsoft's power is ebbing away while the corrosive effects of the patent system are still hurting software developers. I'm rooting for Microsoft 100% in this case since the patent system, much more than Microsoft, is capable of leeching the lifeblood from software development.
  • by Grond ( 15515 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @10:15AM (#34387824) Homepage

    If Microsoft is successful here, then it will be easier to invalidate questionable patents, especially when using prior art or other evidence not considered by the Patent Office. This is significant because the Patent Office often does not have the time or resources to search all possible prior art, especially art that has not been neatly cataloged and indexed for search (e.g. that ancient piece of software you remember using in the 80s that did exactly what the patent claims but isn't sold anymore).

    An important feature of this case is that even if Microsoft wins at the Supreme Court level, the patent may still be found valid and infringed. If Microsoft wins and the case goes back down to the trial court, it's entirely possible that the judge will say "nope, the evidence still doesn't meet the new lower standard; pay up."

  • Relatedly, Harper v. Maverick Recording Co. (Docket number 10-94) [], an RIAA case which concerns the innocent infringer defense, was denied cert at the same conference [].

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone