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Microsoft granted patent on double-click

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  • User profile image
    OldManCoyote

    It all comes down to bad PR for MS. It is a waste of money and resources, and can probably never be inforced.

    Reminds me of a corperation (I think it was Santo or AGM) a few years ago who tried (and failed, with alot of flack and PR) to patent Wild Rice, the crop. They cracked the genome for that perticular crop, and through to patent the whole crop.

    A Native Americal action committe took them to court and overwelming won...

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    Hmm, read an article on this patent a few days ago, then another on MS patenting the "To-DO list". Interesting stuff, and mildly entertaining. On one hand, MS has a responsibility to its shareholders and employees, to produce the largest profit possible. Securing IP that can be used them against falls under this directive. They do not want another Eolas situation on their hands, and that is understandable.

    On the other hand, patents like these (taken at face-value) make you question your own sanity. I mean, why do you need to patent what seems such a trivial method?

    What consitutes a 'good' patent? Patents are, by definition, new, original and unique. Modifications to existing processes fall under patent jurisdiction.
    The only 'bad' patent is one that is obvious (to one skilled in the art) or is covered under prior art.

    The biggest problem MS faces is not OSS people possibly infringing their patents (IANAL, but they appear not to care), nor is it another large company (like IBM, SUN) infringing (MS could just cross license for something they want). Their problem is one guy or a law firm that happens upon a patent they infringe upon, especially if it is a 'good' patent. Bad patents they can try to knock out with a re-examination. Good patents (something truly original) can withstand these attacks, and MS has a choice: pay up or face the possibility of a 'preliminary injunction'. And a preliminary injunction (a.k.a you can no longer sell your product, plus you pay damages) against...{MS Windows} would keep even Mr.G up at night.

    As a developer I've been through the patent process before. Writing a patent for a tech is akin to "Working in the Salt Mines", and doing a prior art search is no picnic either. God willing, in another year or so (if congress doesn't cut back more on the USPTO funding), my application for "4D OS Env" will be granted. That'll be fun to enforce.

    On a side note, (and I will take heat for this, from my fellow programmers) I think the current situation with the USPTO does provide some positive aspects: if you're an uncreative, unoriginal code-hack, you're going to scream and holler about how the world is going to hell. If you're a creative, original programmer, you'll find that patents can be annoying, but they provide a chance for you to come up with a better solution. In this way, the current system breeds competition.

    Cheers (runs for cover),
    Ryan Ross 

  • User profile image
    eddwo

    From a quick bit of Googling it seems the person responsible for reverse engineering the Long File Name support in Windows 95, which allowed a VFAT driver to be created for Linux, is Galen Hunt, who now works for Microsoft Research.

    http://research.microsoft.com/~galenh/

    http://www.cs.rochester.edu/u/gchunt/vfat.html

    I guess if you are looking for someone to sue over it you could start with him.

    It sounds like he is doing some very useful work on this managed code Sigularity kernel, so it would be a shame to fire him for revealing proprietary company information.

  • User profile image
    Tom Malone

    Can some one tell me why linux compatibility in the linux kernel, is breaking a patent, as linux does not use the fat file system.

    Patents are desgined for hardware like products, e.g. hoovers, not ip in the us you can patent human genes, does this mean that large parts of the earths population are in violation.

  • User profile image
    Jaz

    thats rather silly tom malone, of course it doesn't, however it means companies that want to use those genes for research or creating drugs or using in other products or similar, would need to pay the company holding the patent.

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    Are you saying FAT compatibility in the linux kernel?

    Under those circumstances, you would need to read the actual patent (i.e. claims) and design around them. A lot of manufacturers do this (for FAT), using their own 'unofficial' implementations. Remember, you can only patent a way/method/implementation of doing things, not the actual thing/idea.

    If the patent(s) said something like "We claim: a method by which a filesystem is implemented with a table, allocated in such a manner" and one of the subclaims was "a method by which files are accessed by looking up their real position via a table" and {Mandrake, Slackware, RedHat, Suse, Turbo, Debian, etc.} Linux, then they would/could be open to litigation. But most likely, the OSS developers designed the implementation different enough that MS will not bother them.

    Patents are designed to provide a state-granted monopoly on a particular invention, for a brief period of time, and at the end of that time, to become a part of the public domain.

    While software/biotech patents are questionable (the quality more than the idea), they do provide real benefits.

    <Flamebait>
    For some odd reason, every OSS developer I've met has a real thing for patents: given the choice between copying someone's hard work or being creative, they like to copy. And that's ultimately what these arguments are about (putting aside bad patents): they want to copy, and now they cannot. So they whine and complain about how unfair it is and how everyone should GPL their software, because software wants to be free.

    Sorry guys, my love of writing software is secondary to my needs of the green stuff (no, not hash).

    Try writing a patent sometime instead of reading comments on /. You'll gain some perspective into the real world.
    </Flamebait>

    In today's world, the largest companies rule. If you're not OSS (you like charging for software), then you start your own company. Your company can easily be crushed by MS: they could buy you out or throw so many developers at creating a competitive product, you'd be vaped in a month. The best defense in this case is patents: get a few of your own. MS, IBM, SUN will think twice about stepping on you. A patent is the equivalent of a WMD: to use only as a last resort.

    Good Luck,
    Ryan

  • User profile image
    sbc

    The FAT patent is now being re-examined. It's good that organisations like PUBPAT exist - to question wrongly issued patents.

    The problem with software patents is that they take a long time to go through the system - by the time they are through, many software products may be violating the patent, which may put those software companies out of business due to legal/license fees.

    Also, all software products are based on previous ideas that have been merged together to make an innovative product - if one of those ideas was patented then that product may never be released, thus depriving the market of a good product and stifling development.

    What would be ideal is if more software had a dual license - much like what MySQL does - GPL for those who want a free product with the freedom to do what they like with it (as long as they give the same rights to anyone who wants it), and a commercial license for those who want support and the ability to modify without giving back to the community.

  • User profile image
    lars

    rossryan wrote:
    The best defense in this case is patents: get a few of your own. MS, IBM, SUN will think twice about stepping on you.


    I seriously doubt that. If they think you're in their way they will tie you down in so much litigation that you go out of business.

    Technology is evolutionary. Not revolutionary. Everyone is standing on the shoulder of giants and claim to have "invented" the clouds.

    /Lars.

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    I seriously doubt that. If they think you're in their way they will tie you down in so much litigation that you go out of business.

    True enough. But it doesn't serve them any purpose. If MS is infringing on some of your patents (or wants to use them), and MS thinks you are infringing on some their patents, they will typically offer cross-licensing in the affected areas. You license them 3 patents, they license you 4. Everyone wins. And it does keep out a lot of the people who would just copy your work, but it does allow in a smaller group (of mainly lawyers) who want a quick buck.

    And yes, technology is evolutionary. And everyone thinks their idea or patent or program is 31337, so it is left up to the marketplace to decide whos the most important.

    As an aside, to SBC, I do something similar to the software I create (off the clock). Software is distributed under a non-commercial license, which freely accepts modifications. Software conflicting with patents you own are allowed assuming you grant a non-exclusive license for the project. Any commercial entities (MS, SUN, IBM, PeopleSoft, etc.) who want to use the software require a seperate license, and an agreement from all code contributors.

  • User profile image
    lars

    Guess you are trolling for flames. But what the heck, I'm bored. So here goes...

    rossryan wrote:
    But it doesn't serve them any purpose. If MS is infringing on some of your patents (or wants to use them), and MS thinks you are infringing on some their patents, they will typically offer cross-licensing in the affected areas


    Or they just drive you out of business and pick up the remains for a cheap buck. Or they force you to comply with their demands just to leave you alone. Look at what they are doing to LinSpire. Microsoft lost in court but they still had their way. Why? Michael Robertson explains it like this: 

    "The simple truth is that the sheer number of lawsuits launched by the richest company in the world is tough for any company to withstand."  

    rossryan wrote:
    And it does keep out a lot of the people who would just copy your work


    Since it is illegal to copy copyrighted code I guess you are talking about copying ideas. Then let me ask you, how many ideas have you used today that you didn't come up with yourself? How many ideas have you "copied" from other people? Do you use branching or loops in your code? Is that your idea? If you want to use other peoples ideas, and I can't see how you can live in a society if you don't, you should give something back. Just about everything you learned in school are ideas that other people have come up with and share with you for everyones benefit. Without building on other peoples ideas you have nothing. Still the idea you come up with is so special that you have to whine about someone potentially "coping" it.
    rossryan wrote:

    And yes, technology is evolutionary. And everyone thinks their idea or patent or program is 31337, so it is left up to the marketplace to decide whos the most important.


    Yes let the marketplace decide who can leverage the idea best. but it sounds to me that you are scared that someone will implement your idea better than you can do. So you want to hide behind an excusive right to use that idea. Copyright protects investments. Freedom of thought protect innovation.

    Your previous point about how patents are like WMD just proves just how bad that idea is. Patents turned into weapons and intimidation. Not to protect R&D and benefit the development of society.

    /Lars.

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    Guess you are trolling for flames. But what the heck, I'm bored. So here goes...

    Hardly. I enjoy discussions on the subject matter, as most people are so completely anti-patent (of the software kind), that I'm attempting to discover from where that bias extends.

    Or they just drive you out of business and pick up the remains for a cheap buck. Or they force you to comply with their demands just to leave you alone. Look at what they are doing to LinSpire. Microsoft lost in court but they still had their way. Why? Michael Robertson explains it like this: 

    A trademark issue (Lindows). While Lindows is an obvious play on 'Windows', such that it is open to litigation, Windows is such a common term that its trademark is very questionable. 

    Since it is illegal to copy copyrighted code I guess you are talking about copying ideas.

    True.

    Then let me ask you, how many ideas have you used today that you didn't come up with yourself?

    Many, as do you, and millions of other people.

    How many ideas have you "copied" from other people?

    That I lay claim to as my own? None. As a rule, I claim only that which I create.

    Do you use branching or loops in your code?

    Yes.

    Is that your idea?

    Not at all. But if patents are held on an implementation of loops/conditions that I use, and they are 'good' patents, I'd gladly pay for its use. I acknowledge the worth of such ideas, do you?

    If you want to use other peoples ideas, and I can't see how you can live in a society if you don't, you should give something back.

    Patents are a way of *giving back* to society. Long after you've died, your implementation will be on the books, for future generations to benefit from, freely. The same can not be said of someone who never files for one. When someone dies, any ideas not written down die with him. It's questionable if later generations will rediscover these ideas.

    Just about everything you learned in school are ideas that other people have come up with and share with you for everyones benefit.

    Hardly. I've found most schools to be severely lacking in any creativity. Most ideas are recycled from generations ago. If anything, schools are cemetaries for new ideas.

    Without building on other peoples ideas you have nothing.

    True. And if these people had patents on such ideas, and I needed their implementations, I'd pay for them.

    Still the idea you come up with is so special that you have to whine about someone potentially "coping" it. 

    "Copying". And haven't you ever come up with something worth protecting? An idea that you'd like to time to research, with the possibility that if it contributes to the market, you'll be justly rewarded? I'm not here to "Whine" about people copying an idea, I'm here to defend what is often times seen as a questionable institution. 

    People complain that patents should not exist because their contributions to society are "questionable", and "how can idea be patented?". First off, patent are implementations of idea. I can patent a green car, you can come out with a blue car, it's not infringing.

    The same argument used against patents is used against copyrights. If someone tells me an idea, they haven't lost anything, right? Incorrect. When one person has an idea, supply for such an idea is limited to one person. When you tell a friend, supply has gone up to 2 people, lowering its overall worth. It's how the market place works (Supply/Demand), and the worth of the idea has gone down. Such is one of the justifications for IP.

    Yes let the marketplace decide who can leverage the idea best. but it sounds to me that you are scared that someone will implement your idea better than you can do. So you want to hide behind an excusive right to use that idea. Copyright protects investments. Freedom of thought protect innovation.

    Hardly. I'd be more scared that given 10 years of research into the area, someone will come along and my work without adequate remissal.

    Your previous point about how patents are like WMD just proves just how bad that idea is. Patents turned into weapons and intimidation. Not to protect R&D and benefit the development of society.

    The point was that while patents are WMD, they are used as most countries use them (deterrents). You protect your investments, and provide benefits to those who seek to advance the field (they're not just there to make a quick buck).

    Without patents, there would be little or no R&D. In a commodity market, it's all about undercutting your competitors. And when your competitors can copy your technology for nothing, any R&D you spend to get ahead is entirely to the benefit of your competitors.




     

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    What is a patent?

    A patent for an invention is a grant of property rights by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. A utility or plant patent in force on June 8, 1995, is subject to either the 17 year term from grant or the 20 year term from earliest effective U.S. filing date, whichever is longer. A design patent term is 14 years from patent grant. The right conferred by the patent grant extends throughout the United States. The terms "Patent Pending" and "Patent Applied For" are used to inform the public that an application for a patent has been filed. Patent protection does not start until the actual grant of a patent. Marking of an article as patented, when it is not, is illegal and subject to penalty. 

    A patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion. Patent applications are examined for both technical and legal merit. Prior to filing a patent application, a search of existing patents can be conducted at the USPTO Patent Search Room or at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in your area. For additional information on patents, you may visit the USPTO Web site at www.uspto.gov/main/patents.htm.
    -----------------------------------------------------

    Implementations, not ideas, are what can be patented.
    The actual code can be copyrighted.

    I pointed out that other implementation may exist or be created (especially when encountering a patent), in one of my earlier posts.

    Do you really believe in what you're saying? Anything that isn't patented isn't written down? Knowledge isn't passed on to the next generation unless it is patented? How about science? Come on.

    I'm listing one of the more prominent ways, although writing a book, publishing a paper, etc. are comparable. The above is the justification (at the time) for IP in the UK.

    So I guess the first thing the people living in caves invented was the patent office? 

    I never said patents were the exclusive way to pass down knowledge.

    Ofcourse they are. That is the whole idea for crying out loud. If you had not got anything recycled from generations ago you would still be stuck trying to figure out how to read, write and do basic math. Heck, you'd be hunting buffalo to get something to eat. And if someone had the patent of the idea of language we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Recycled knowledge is the very reason you can touch the sky - you are standing on the shoulders of the giants created by every generation that came before you.

    Any patents would have expired ages ago. And as it stands, things such as language have prior art in nature, and hence are unpatentable.

    And you are already paying for the implementations. Just about everything you buy is an implementation of another person's ideas.

    True. I was referencing loops/branching, but this is also true. 

    You still fail to see the basic difference between owning the rights to a specific implementation of "the car", and exclusive right to the immaterial idea of a vehicle known as "the car". And why patents on the idea of a translucent window (patented by Apple) is bad, while Apple holding a copyright on their implementation of one version of translucent windows is good.

    I do not. Patents are about implementations (multiple), ideas should not/can not be patented. If there is a case where someone patents the idea, then that patent should be revoked. However, if that patent only covers a multitude of implementations, with no prior art, I see no problem.

    If 10 years of reseach does not give your copyrighted implementaion an edge over the competition maybe you haven't spent that time on something worth while. That just protects people that can't compete in a free marketplace.

    Hardly. In these days, a team of multiple programmers (like MS) could ice the work of any small firm. They have the man power. I'm beginning to think your definition of copyright differs from my own.

    You can undercut someone by having a more cost effective implemention of an idea. That is how the free market makes sure that the most effective company prevails. This is healthy and the opposite of a monopoly situation. Patents on ideas on the other hand interferes with the free market. In a free market the one with the best implementaion of the idea "the car" will prosper. If Ford held a patent for "the car" written in such a way that noone could make anything remotely the same, we would still be stuck with something looking like the model T.

    Let's say everyone patented software - not just copyrighting the implementations, but indeed patenting the underlying ideas - the way it is done now. And that Xerox PARC held the patents for the window, OOD and all the other stuff they came up with - what would we have now? No Mac, no Microsoft Windows. Maybe not even Microsoft. What if Alan Turing held patents on the idea of the Turing machine, and all the other Computer Science things he contributed with - and refused to licence them? Would we even have computers on our desks today? Probably not. There is an infinite number of possible examples on how someone could hold humanity back by claiming the rights to a general idea and not just one application of that idea. Software patents as they work in the US today is nothing more than a race to claim as much as you can get away with, and make a easy buck in the process.


    As always, patents are about implementations, not ideas. And cross-licensing would open up the competition (Sun-MS).

    -Ryan

  • User profile image
    lars

    rossryan wrote:

    A patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion. Patent applications are examined for both technical and legal merit. Prior to filing a patent application, a search of existing patents can be conducted at the USPTO Patent Search Room


    If they stuck to that in the real world there would be a whole lot less controversy.

    I think the one-click-checkout patent, the translucent window patent, the "click patent" are just that: mere ideas with very low technical merit. Still they get awarded broad patents on those ideas.

    /Lars.

  • User profile image
    lars

    rossryan wrote:
    I do not. Patents are about implementations (multiple), ideas should not/can not be patented. If there is a case where someone patents the idea, then that patent should be revoked.


    That is my opinion in a nutshell.

    /Lars.

  • User profile image
    lars

    rossryan wrote:

    Not at all. But if patents are held on an implementation of loops/conditions that I use, and they are 'good' patents


    I don't question your right to copyright your implementation of the idea "looping code". I am questioning the right to patent the underlying idea, saying that noone may loop their code in any way without first getting a licence. That is patenting a basic mundane idea.

    With hardware it's easy. It is okey to patent such things as a spanner: that invention is an implementation of the idea of making a tool that can handle more than one size of nuts and bolts. But a patent on that implementation does not grant exclusive right to the very idea of making a tool to solve that problem. If it would, noone could make a different tool that solves the same problem.

    With software, patenting an implementation and owning the copyright is the same thing. It solves the same problem. But patents on software takes it one step ahead, claiming not only the rights to one implementation but the rights of an entire domain of possible implementations by going after the rights for the underlying idea.

    rossryan wrote:

    Patents are a way of *giving back* to society. Long after you've died, your implementation will be on the books, for future generations to benefit from, freely.

     
    Do you really believe in what you're saying? Anything that isn't patented isn't written down? Knowledge isn't passed on to the next generation unless it is patented? How about science? Plato? Da Vinci? Come on.

    rossryan wrote:

    The same can not be said of someone who never files for one. When someone dies, any ideas not written down die with him. It's questionable if later generations will rediscover these ideas.


    So I guess the first thing the people living in caves invented was the patent office? Smiley

    rossryan wrote:
    Hardly. I've found most schools to be severely lacking in any creativity. Most ideas are recycled from generations ago. 


    Ofcourse they are. If you had not got anything recycled from generations ago you would still be stuck trying to figure out how to read, write and do basic math. Heck, you'd be hunting buffalo to get something to eat. Schools are there so you don't have to reinvent everything from scratch. It's the fundation of civilization. Recycled knowledge is the very reason you can touch the sky - you are standing on the shoulders of the giants created by the greatest minds of every generation that came before you. We recycle those ideas, change them slightly, and add new ones to them and make new implementations. Old ideas spawn new ideas.

    rossryan wrote:

    First off, patent are implementations of idea. I can patent a green car, you can come out with a blue car, it's not infringing.


    The only "idea patent" that is good is one that is so specific that it describes a single well defined real world implementation.  And in that case, copyright works just as well. That is why patents on the idea of a translucent windows (patented by Apple) is bad, while Apple holding a copyright on their implementation of one version of translucent windows is okey.

    rossryan wrote:

    Without patents, there would be little or no R&D. In a commodity market, it's all about undercutting your competitors.


    You can undercut someone by having a more cost effective implemention of an idea. That is how the free market makes sure that the most effective company prevails. This is healthy and the opposite of a monopoly situation. Patents on broad ideas on the other hand interferes with the free market. Hurting innovation and product improvements.

    Let's say everyone patented ideas. What if Alan Turing held patents on the idea of the Turing machine, and all the other Computer Science things he contributed with - and refused to licence them? Would we even have computers on our desks today? Probably not. 

    Software patents as they work in the US today is nothing more than a race to claim as much as you can get away with, and make a easy buck in the process. There are gold in 'em hills, let's rush and stake our claim. The problem is that it's possible to patent broad simple ideas, that sometimes even have prior art! It's just plain nuts!

    /Lars.

    P.S. Tried to clean up my post abit, but I was too late. Look at the next post instead for continuity.

  • User profile image
    rossryan

    Agreed.

    Post the links to those patents, and I'll take a look.

    -Ryan

  • User profile image
    lars

    Amazon one click checkout
    Apple Translucent Window
    Microsoft tap, double tap, hold aka "double click".

    /Lars.

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