Coffeehouse Thread

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Please don’t sue me….

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  • User profile image

    First, I do not want to turn this into a legal thread... I'm not "having-a-go" at anyone (or MS).

    I recently read an article about Microsoft patenting "Discoverability and navigation of hyperlinks via tabs.".

    I think things like channel 9 and the DotNET show are is doing a great job of showing the "human" face of Microsoft to developers (I really like Erica Wiechers interviews at the end). I think you should all be commended for what your doing. However, do you guys-n-girls @ MS realise what bad feeling patenting stuff like this generates in the “normal world” and the amount of fear it gives us developers.

    I know so many developers right now who are terrified about developing things in the fear that a big company is going to come along one day a take them to court. It is one thing to be worried about "new inventions", but when a company comes along and patents things that have been around for years it does nothing to make us feel more comfortable.

    After thinking about this, I thought.... "well, perhaps companies (not just MS) just do things like this to protect themselves from a law-suit and they don't actually intend to sue someone else". I can understand this (and I, pretty much, don't mind it) but the fear is still there in everyone else.

    I have loved programming since I was 12, but these day I really fear that one day I might get sued because someone patented using the tab key, etc.

    I know that people are probably reluctant of comment on anything "legal" these days... but I thought it was worth a try. I just wanted to let you know how some of us feel and ask if developers [inside and outside of MS] feel the same?


  • User profile image

    ..."but these day I really fear that one day I might get sued because someone patented using the tab key, etc."

    Which means you're showing exactly the type of reaction "they" want you to feel. I think your assessment of corporate patent policy is correct - over the long term. I guess we still have a few years before the big guys effectively shut down independent software developers. Don't be afraid of the lawsuits ruining you per se though. "They" most likely will let you off the hook as soon as you drop your product and disappear from the market.

    Please do also note that MS is not alone in this AND that MS has a relatively good track record with patent suits. However, it looks like they are planning on changing this. As long as they can make do with "natural" superiority in the market, they won't use patents that much. But this is, of course, just a matter of time and MS like any other big house is certainly preparing for war.

    You do, however, have several options if you are really scared. First, you or your company can always join a big software corporation, they will protect you from any claims. Even if you don't, you can achieve reasonable protection if you use "approved" technologies to develop your software. (For example, you likely won't get sued for doing business apps with .NET any time soon. Using development tools that are a big market by themselves likely won't get you in trouble as long as you use them for what they are intended to do.)
    Second, you are free to at least complain about patent law to several politcal persons and organizations. Of course, that doesn't mean anything to anyone, but at least you'll be able to say "I was always against this".
    Third, you can join the game and acquire some trivial software patents yourself. As this depends only on your imagination and boldness, there are virtually no boundaries to what you can patent! Of course you need a little money, but a few wisely registered, broad patents can save your butt once another player comes knocking on your door.

    So yep, resistance is futile, BUT you can survive if you don't anger any of the big boys - and keep building stuff that is based on their stuff, it should keep you safe.

  • User profile image

    This is one of the good things about being in the UK right now. We don't have patents (on software)! And even when the morons in Europe add it (and they will / are) all current technology can't be patented so it will only cover future new technology.

    My biggest concern is they will do what is happening to Australia and have US Patents be UK inclusive. I would be kicking down my MPs front door before long because US patents suck and I feel sorry for the Australians who have to put up with them.

  • User profile image

    Memo From Microsoft Corporation (TM) Legal to Mr Jelly:

    Mr Jelly,

    It has come to our attention that you are posting official trademarks of Microsoft Corporation (TM) onto the media system known as the Internet, or World Wide Web.  We would like to warn you that the way you are expressing these trademarks is against the registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation and would like to warn you that unless you change every instance of "Microsoft" or "MS" to "Microsoft Corporation (TM)", we will be forced to take legal proceedings against you.

    Furthermore, we will be passing a copy of your post across to our good friends at The Estate of Roger Hargreaves Legal as we believe you are using a registered trademark (a cartoon character known as a "Mr Man") as your online persona.

    We'll see you in court, buster

    Mr Faceless Lawyer,
    Microsoft Corporation (TM)

  • User profile image

    Hah hah,

    I agree, patents suck!

    Patents are the brakes to innovation.  I imagine somebody will soon patent the wheel.  Then everybody will have to reinvent it.... or pay up big time.

    Patents = Rich Lawyers
    Patents = The Death of Innovation

    If you can't build on the previous knowledge of those that came before you then innovation will forever be dead unless you have enough money for the lawyers.

    Thus the rich get richer, and the rest of us are screwed!

  • User profile image

    Manip wrote:
    And even when the morons in Europe add it (and they will / are) all current technology can't be patented so it will only cover future new technology.

    Software patents is something that is hard to explain to ordinary people and that makes it even harder to get the politicians to listen. I'm very disapointed that my own government voted in favour of software patents. On the other hand a lot of our MEPs did not. All over Europe people throw up their hands and say that it's something that's decided by the EU and the individual countries can't do anything about it. We can't let our politicans of the hook that easy!

  • User profile image

    You should take some time to study patents and how they're used.  Intellectual property has many nuances, and will probably never affect you in your entire life (in spite of the paranoia that others would want you to feel).

    Here's a great post from Chris Pratley about open source and patents:


  • User profile image

    It's not a matter of patents or no protection at all. Copyright is a powerful, and in my opinion sufficient way to protect IP. The IP laws are supposed to benefit not only the individual but also the society as a whole. A good portion of the software "innovations" being patented in the US are mundane ideas and things that already exist and have been used for years. The only ones that benefit from that are gold digging lawyers.
    There are several interesting points in that blog post. I however disagree with the conclusion that a flawed patent system is better than no system at all. The current European proposal is one that has been rejected several times by the directly elected members of the European Parlament. Then some of the Big Boys made a generous contribution to the Irish presidency dinner party and all of a sudden it got overruled by the Council of Ministers. I'm pretty confident that most of them didn't even care enough to fully examine and understand the proposal. Including my own government. It is just not a high profile issue. Afterwards the Dutch Parliament went so far as to force their minister to withdraw support after the meeting. I can't recall this happening on any issue before.

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