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Groklaw Says Microsoft Patent Portfolio Now Worthless

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the along-with-most-patents dept.

Patents 219

twitter writes "P.J. concludes her look at the Bilski decision: 'you'll recall patent lawyer Gene Quinn immediately wrote that it was bad news for Microsoft, that "much of the Microsoft patent portfolio has gone up in smoke" because, as Quinn's partner John White pointed out to him, "Microsoft doesn't make machines." Not just Microsoft. His analysis was that many software patents that had issued prior to Bilski, depending on how they were drafted, "are almost certainly now worthless." ... He was not the only attorney to think about Microsoft in writing about Bilski.'"

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Frosty Bilski (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875079)

Patent law is yummy!

Rats Flee the Sinking Ship. (-1, Troll)

Erris (531066) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875085)

This is good news but patents are still harmful and M$ executives have already found a new boat to float on [slashdot.org] . There's a lot of work left to do before patents are no longer an extortion tool.

twitter: A True Asset To Free Software (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875125)

Full Disclosure. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875239)

You would like to attribute all of the published stories from twitter [slashdot.org] and Erris [slashdot.org] to one person? Nice, can you collect the other puppet stories togher? Who pays you to do this? Do your hobbies include torturing small animals? What are you going to do with yourself when M$ goes bankrupt?

Re:Full Disclosure. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875523)

Hey twitter! I had a really good time last night. The way you rimmed me out, darting your tongue around was just amazing. But why are you posting anonymously?

Re:Rats Flee the Sinking Ship. (0, Redundant)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875751)

As of the time of my reply, I see that you've got a "-1, Insightful" score on your post.

Congratulations!

Please twitter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875755)

Limit yourself to a single [slashdot.org] sockpuppet account per article, like everyone else. Thanks.

Re:Rats Flee the Sinking Ship. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25876117)

uh, everyone knows that 'Erris' here is the same person as 'twitter' who submitted this story, right? why is he being modded up? reward for using multiple accounts to play around with slashdot, or what?

Re:Rats Flee the Sinking Ship. (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876461)

And the point is? Microsoft have never used it's patent portfolio for profit(directly anyway). Those are in almost all cases defensive patents, which, unfortunately, are a necessary evil for large enterprises these days, no matter how the economy situation is.

What is a machine? (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875105)

Does Turning Machine counts as a machine?

Re:What is a machine? (5, Funny)

LinuxIdiot (708662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875123)

I sure dont know about a Turning Machine, but a Turing Machine [wikipedia.org] just might count!

Turing machines and turning machines (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875161)

Yes, a turning machine, also called a lathe [wikipedia.org] , is a machine. A Turing machine [wikipedia.org] , on the other hand, is an abstract mathematical construct. A real Turing machine cannot exist in a bounded universe because by definition, it can store an unbounded amount of information. You might be looking for a linear bounded automaton [wikipedia.org] , which is this universe's closest counterpart to a Turing machine.

Re:Turing machines and turning machines (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875241)

Linear bounded automaton, AKA Joe Six-pack

"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (4, Informative)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875495)

dont they make XBOXs ...

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (2, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875735)

I have RTFA but not the legal documents it references, so what I say here is based on speculating on a few lines in TFA.

It looks to me like any method patent which isn't specific to a particular lump of hardware which implements it (ie. a pure software patent, as opposed to, say, a patent covering a piece of software which is then loaded onto a device sold by the manufacturer) is invalid.

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (5, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875835)

let's have a look at the innards of my son's xbox crystal which he just drowned in orange-flavoured soda...

HDD: Seagate. No.
Processor: Intel. No.
Memory: Samsung. no.
Northbridge: NVidia. No.
GPU: NVidia. No.
various I/O, timer and controller chips: Texas Instruments. No.
Controller ports: I have no idea. Possibly not, although they are in essence, usb ports with slightly more robust terminal connections. ...in fact, I don't see one single component in there that has a Microsoft logo on it. Given that the HDD and some other components actually state "made in Taiwan" somewhere on the label, I can only conclude that the box was assembled in China. The software, on the other hand...

kernel/UI: is a multiboot system. He has the choice between the classic xbox Win2K kernel/UI (Microsoft), the extended interface that allows him to copy games directly to the HDD and do all manner of other wonderful and weird stuff to the system and play any of several thousand in situ games via any of the dozen or so emulators (almost certainly not Microsoft), and Linux (ha!).

So no, they don't make machines. Their scrollwheel mice were built by Logitech (albeit maybe to Microsoft's specification). The kernel software that shipped with the xbox classic was... well, sort of. Microsoft codeveloped NT with IBM under the label "OS/2". OS/2 died a horrible death, NT was a victim of its own success.

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875975)

So no, they don't make machines. Their scrollwheel mice were built by Logitech (albeit maybe to Microsoft's specification). The kernel software that shipped with the xbox classic was... well, sort of. Microsoft codeveloped NT with IBM under the label "OS/2". OS/2 died a horrible death, NT was a victim of its own success.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it was the DOS/3.1/95/98 series of operating systems that was co-developed with IBM. From what I understand, the NT code base was basically a re-implementation of VMS. MS was unable to develop what they wanted with the staff they had, so they poached a bunch of developers from a competitor and had them re-write their competitors internals, then stick the Windows legacy and marketing crap on top.

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (2, Informative)

baud123 (977365) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876151)

didn't you read the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS/2 [wikipedia.org] before telling this ? only os/2 has been codeveloped by IBM / Microsoft, then dumped by Microsoft to work on windows only and only implement some good things from their participation with IBM in NT 3.51

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (5, Informative)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876233)

no, NT was a rename of the OS/2 3.0 development snapshot which Microsoft ended up with after their spat with IBM in the early 1990's and continued to evolve into the NT kernel, which they first used in NT3.1, released on 27 July 1993.

The reason NT started at version 3 is because versions 1 and 2 were already released as the collaborative effort and named OS/2 versions 1 and 2.

(sources: MSDN, Technet, Wikipedia - all correspond with each other timeline-wise and factually, so they can't /all/ be wrong).

Re:"Microsoft doesn't make machines." (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876485)

And input devices. No pun intended. Really. I wasn't making an allusion to dildos at all, nor implying any undesired method of delivery.

No way (0)

hellfire (86129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875535)

I'm sorry... but Joe six-pack does not pass the turing test. There's that little detail about the machine having to display intelligence...

Re:No way (2, Informative)

haystor (102186) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875721)

I don't think there is anything about intelligence in the test, merely that the taker be indistinguishable from a human.

Re:No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875789)

He doesn't pass the turning machine test either. Throw him in one of those and he'll be ripped to shreds.

Re:No way (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875973)

Well damn, you just excluded over 50% of the human race. Gratz.

Re:Turing machines and turning machines (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875553)

Thought Joe Six-pack was unbounded, or at least perpetually expanding...

Re:Turing machines and turning machines (1)

aeoo (568706) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875641)

A real Turing machine cannot exist in a bounded universe because by definition, it can store an unbounded amount of information.

You messed this up a little. The universe is unbounded (this is easy to show if you analyze boundaries -- you have to conclude that boundaries are all imaginary and non-physical; sorry there's no room for full analysis), and the machines, by definition, are bounded, since they are products of bounded human labor with bounds on their behaviors, which is what makes them so valuable.

The problem is that the tape going into the Turing machine is unbounded, and on the account of its theoretical endlessness is not part of the machine as such. Were the tape bounded, it could be considered to be a part of the machine. If the tape is endless, then the Turing machine is a machine like a water mill is a machine and the tape is a non-machine like the river is a non-machine.

Not so fast (3, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876209)

Turing machine cannot exist in a bounded universe because by definition, it can store an unbounded amount of information.

What if you use virtual memory?
Ha!

Re:Turing machines and turning machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25876307)

Misconception. The only thing required to be unlimited by a Turing machine is the address space. That address space doesn't physically have to exist because most computer programs that are useful either terminate or repeat infinitely (while operating on a finite address space), so for all intents and purposes they only stop 'existing' when tedious CS nerds come along and write impossibly pointless programs.

Re:Turing machines and turning machines (1)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876455)

I don't know about you, but I live in an unbounded Universe. ;) Of course, The Turing Machines here take almost all the space available, so it's no big deal.

Re:What is a machine? (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875215)

Having your AI arbitrarily misspell important terms is not an effective way of passing the Turing Test. You fail. Your post was quite obviously generated by a machine.

Re:What is a machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875317)

short answer: "no"
long answer "TBD"

Re:What is a machine? (1)

penguinbroker (1000903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875417)

only if koala bear counts as a bear

Re:What is a machine? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875533)

What about xbox....is that not a machine....oh wait I am only referring to the xbox ELITE.
The rest of the xbox family, are dillusions of what a console should be like.

Re:What is a machine? (1)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876203)

Does it runs Limux?

It doesn't matter... (5, Interesting)

nebaz (453974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875127)

I think Microsoft wins either way. They are not generally a patent troll company, nor are other large companies (IBM) with massive patent portfolios. If their strategy was to countersue little companies which had (somewhat) frivolous patents as a defensive measurement, they win either way. Either their patents are valid, in which case they have a good defense strategy, or they are not, and neither are the patent-troll lawsuit patents. I read somewhere it costs $10,000 or so to file a patent. This is chump change to Microsoft.

Re:It doesn't matter... (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875309)

It depends on how you file, whether you use a law firm etc. What is certain is that defending a patent is NOT cheap. Going up against MS is kind of like a college kid who can't really afford school trying to defend themselves against the RIAA.

If software patents fall away to only those that actually make sense, or fewer, perhaps the industry can get back to making innovative software and creating value rather than working on protective measures to stave off patent suits.

Thinking laterally, this means also that smaller developers won't have to worry so much about falling foul of patents. This is nothing but a good thing.

Re:It doesn't matter... (5, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875325)

Yes, but MS has thinly veiled patent threats against Linux which are now even weaker. Before it was just FUD to keep people from moving to Linux. MS could never actually launch any suits because their partners like HP and IBM have huge Linux investments and large patent portfolios and would have to get involved. Now, MS can't really bring use these threats as effectively because people would point to the Bilski decision to counter.

Re:It doesn't matter... (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875821)

Right. But it's effectively no change... Microsoft really can't afford to piss off IBM with a patent suit against anyone over Linux. That's what SCO v. IBM has shown the world -- IBM is the world's largest patent holder, they've staked a good portion of their business on Linux, and if you mess with Linux, IBM is going to send their Nazgul after you, just as they 'blackened the skies of Lindon, UT' with lawyers.

Even Microsoft can't go up against IBM in a patent fight. Tring to beat IBM in a patent fight is like trying to take down an F-22 with a slingshot.

Re:It doesn't matter... (1)

Wildclaw (15718) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875859)

Now, MS can't really bring use these threats as effectively because people would point to the Bilski decision to counter.

Microsoft can't use those threats? Pretty much all such threats I have seen have been from Free software supporters who don't like projects like Mono or wine.

Still, there is some truth in that when such threats (whatever the source) don't have less to back them up, it does present a slight negative for Microsoft. But in reality that is a very small difference, because those threats have always been kind of paranoid.

Re:It doesn't matter... (2, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875917)

If the threats are just paranoia, why is Novell paying Microsoft for patent coverage for all their GPL distributions?

Re:It doesn't matter... (1)

FooGoo (98336) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876525)

I doubt Microsofts patent portfolio has been keeping people from moving to linux. All those companies that want to use it are already using it. Those that don't have other business reasons for not using it and I doubt the patent portfolio is high on the list.

Now if you are talking about inhibiting development and the development of new applications that may compete with the big players you may have a point.

The only thing innovative about linux is the business model and that doesn't count for much. IBM and HPs investment in linux is in people and resources which really only benefit their customers. Linux as an independant platform/brand rarely benefits in comparison to the benefits received by the "proprietary" investments of IBM and HP beyond marketing.

Linux gets adopted because its cheap and the community is good at marketing itself. Microsoft, IBM, and HP get adopted because they sell complete integrated solutions which Red Hat and the like will never be able to compete with because their pockets aren't deep enough to afford that kind of innovation/integration. Integrated solutions are expensive and they pretty much sell themsevles to the companies who need them. That additional income allows the big players to market and advertise on a scale OSS as a platform will never be able to do.

Re:It doesn't matter... (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875373)

I read somewhere it costs $10,000 or so to file a patent.

I think the costs (depending on if you qualify as a "small entity") vary on filing fees [uspto.gov] ... you should really point out that the $10k figure comes from patent lawyers you hire to make sure your patent comes through in a timely fashion. If you don't have an army of those, the smallest slip of forgetting to cross reference another patent could cost you decades. Yes, refiling and additional services listed on that page will drive the price up but a timely patent is probably worth much more than what you would save if you didn't have a patent lawyer. If it's a one time thing, I would suggest finding a firm.

This is chump change to Microsoft.

If you're applying for 10 or 20 patents a week then this isn't "chump change." It's more than likely several million dollars a year for an entity like Microsoft. I think it's still important to Microsoft because of what investors see a patent portfolio as: pure assets.

Re:It doesn't matter... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876253)

Several million dollars a year really isn't all that much significant to a company like microsoft than 10k. Either way its chump change.

As for the filing fees for the rest of us, for the price of filing a patent yourself by hand you could buy a used car for your teen.

They Die Both Ways. (1, Flamebait)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875403)

M$ dies both ways, by devaluation and loss of extortion threat. You think M$'s patent portfolio is "chump change"? It could be, after all their research costs are primarily advertising and product acquisition. Just the same, it's good for freedom and competition that M$'s attempt to threaten commercial users of free software have aborted. Non free software can't compete in a competitive market and M$ just lost tens of thousands of patents, not chump change even if you are M$. 10E4x10E4=10E8, if you are right but the FUD removal factor is priceless.

Re:It doesn't matter... (2, Informative)

leenks (906881) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875411)

They aren't a patent troll company? Short memory?
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/14/0018242 [slashdot.org] etc.

Re:It doesn't matter... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875673)

You evidently have no idea what a "patent troll" is. It is a company that licenses patents from others, and makes its money enforcing them. By definition, a company using patents that it is the inventor on is not patent trolling.

Re:It doesn't matter... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876285)

Apparently you have a far too narrow idea of what a patent troll is. Anyone who uses bogus and/or overly broad patents to try to extort value from others is patent trolling. Who filed for the patents is irrelevant.

Re:It doesn't matter... (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875783)

Well, they have not actually sued anybody, and that article you link to is pretty old now. I think the observation that Microsoft mainly uses its patents for bargaining and FUD still stands.

Some patents still apply (4, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875143)

Sure, but the Microsoft Butt hinge with integrally formed butt straps [patentstorm.us] patent is still valid, so watch out for Microsoft cornering the world market on butt hinges! (I suspect Microsoft does have a fair number of hardware patents for mice, keyboards, etc.)

Re:Some patents still apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875199)

Both keyboards and mice have been around for a while now however. Patents don't last nearly as long as copyright however, thankfully.

Re:Some patents still apply (0, Redundant)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875217)

I think I see something with butt hinges coming this direction ... it looks like ... a shower of chairs. [Gets under desk]

Ballmario (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875541)

Reading your comment makes me envision a Mario parody game, where Ballmer throws chairs like Mario used to throw hammers.

I guess he'd be a boss, though, rather than the protagonist.

Re:Some patents still apply (4, Informative)

EmTeedee (948267) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875439)

Actually, this either never was or isn't anymore a Microsoft patent. It's now assigned to Kawneer Company, Georgia. See page 15 here: http://www.google.com/patents?id=14gCAAAAEBAJ&printsec=drawing&zoom=4&dq=Butt+hinge+with+integrally+formed+butt+straps#PPA15,M1 [google.com]

Re:Some patents still apply (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875567)

They've got a patent on an optical mouse using a blue LED, don't they?

Mice, keyboards, xbox, ... (4, Informative)

xbytor (215790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875169)

Microsoft has put out some good hardware over the years. They must surely own some patents that cover this stuff.

Re:Mice, keyboards, xbox, ... (2, Funny)

hachete (473378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875423)

patents on mice. That'll keep their monopoly intact.

Re:Mice, keyboards, xbox, ... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875793)

It might; assuming I remember correctly and they have the patent on wheel mice... which they license to everyone except Apple.

Re:Mice, keyboards, xbox, ... (1)

remmelt (837671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875985)

URL or it didn't happen.

Re:Mice, keyboards, xbox, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875555)

Xbox? Xbox 360? Good hardware?!

ROTFLOLWTFBBQ?!

justice is for the rich (0, Troll)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875189)

Apple won't have these problems because Apple likes to sue individuals and small businesses who can't put up enough of a legal fight to contest their patents. Like RIAA, they've made a killing off low legal literacy in the private and small business sector. And each case that gets settled or steamrolled in court can then be used to set precident. There is no justice for the poor and the patent system is the second-best example of this. The first, of course, being family court. -_-

ReJoiceReJoiceReJoice 'Tis the time of the season (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875213)

We are living in a wonderful time. To witness this Microsoft blessing firsthand is no doubt equal to witnessing the birth of our lord and saviour! ReJoice!

MS wins with relaxed IP (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875231)

The whole reason the patent system exists is so that the "little guy" will have incentive to make a product without fear of the big guy stomping them. Of course, it turns out that the big guy with a 1000 patents a year deters any competition, so, there's obviously going to be more competition if this ruling means as the article says. But, at the same time, if I genuinely do make a product that is new, then, big companies will be allowed to take it. In fact, anyone will.

As such, patents aren't -that- bad, but just imagine if copyrights were also deregulated to a degree. Yeah, people might be able to copy madonna songs more freely (as terrible a thing to do as that is), but, at the same time, the GPL would lose quite a bit of its teeth as its only as good as the rights the code authors have. If you are MS, looking at a billion in Windows development costs a year, suddenly a few hundred million in political "donations" in favor of candidates that are willing to legislate in that open source means public domain, and suddenly Linux is on everyone's desktop, but, it's closed source!

Good (4, Insightful)

dedazo (737510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875263)

It's always invigorating to read twitter flamebait in the morning, but I doubt anyone can make a case that Microsoft (or, before CmdrTaco's edits, "M$") is a patent troll, or that it uses patents offensively. Even that FUD about Linux infringing 200+ patents is nothing more than hot air.

If anything, Microsoft has been a large target for patent trolls, and they have been rather successful at it IIRC. I think it's amusing to see people like our notorious troll here obsess with Microsoft's patent portfolio when there are smaller and more dangerous fish to fry in this delightful niche.

Someone might want to call IBM and let them know about this though. And Google. If Microsoft's patent portfolio is "worthless" then so is everybody else's. Which is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but I think it will be a while before courts start punishing actual patent trolls.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875545)

Even that FUD about Linux infringing 200+ patents is nothing more than hot air.

If it's backed, however tepidly, by an army of Microsoft lawyers, does it still count as hot air?

Granted, Microsoft's stance is far removed from the sniping virulence of the average patent troll. Still, a troll's a troll, even if it's the lame level 5 in the dungeon entryway.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875551)

He, this article is flamebait (PJ said something completely different, but the poster probably didn't RTFA), but that doesn't makes your comment less so. Microsof can't really sue FOSS for patent enforcement, but that doesn't make their actions less damaging. Also, most people don't care about trolls that go after big companies because, well, they don't administer big companies themselves. Most people care about people, and small companies, so they care about big companies that go out of their way to put small companies out of business.

Re:Good (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875679)

I think that after all that was said and done, people realized that whole thing about Linux infringing patents was, again, nothing but hot air. A rather lame attempt at a troll, if you will.

Their patent protection plans with Novell are going to be a good indicator of how worried the average CTO/CIO is worried about that sort of thing.

I honestly have not seen any of that affect how companies adopt and use free software. Have you?

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875591)

It's always invigorating to read twitter flamebait in the morning ...

Actually, it's well known that Twitter is a reverse astroturfing marketing attempt designed to generate sympathy for Microsoft.

It was an idea Ballmer had after he was so enraged by the Mac commercials that he killed his whole marketing staff in a flurry of chairs. As he stood over their dying bodies he noted that for once in his life, he felt bad for somebody--maybe even wanted to help them. And then had the brilliant idea to launch a brand new kind of marketing where you unfairly rip on a company to generate sympathy for them (and increase sales). And that's how the twitter flame account was born.

This is good news! (3, Insightful)

aceofspades1217 (1267996) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875303)

It is great that software patents are finally being examined and reformed. Software patents are incredibly stupid as they can be incredibly broad and are for the sole purpose of stifling innovation. Instead of keeping large corporations from stealing and others inventions and making the inventors effort worthless, software patents do the opposite and allow large corporations from patenting broad techniques that almost always have prior art and leeching off other large corporations or hurting the American Consumer by stifling innovation and creating monopolies.

Patents in themselves and Intellectual Property are good at times but when it comes to software patents, all they do is cause abuse. For example many of our largest corporations have had a lot of their money stolen by patent trolls.

Patent law needs to be reformed and the Government needs to something about how large corporations are taking advantage of their resources to prove that they have the right to do techniques such as "webpages", "structured documents", or "contextual advertisements". Such broad things like that really shouldn't be reserved by anyone.

Patents are useful and are necessary in order to reward people and companies for spending R&D money to fund a lab or years of research. But software patents are basically a race for the first patent troll to type up an idea and spend the money to patent it. They don't have any benefit to anyone and they don't encourage anything except for companies to bully others and to squash competition.

Bilski wasn't about software patents (5, Informative)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875315)

Bilski was about business method patents not tied to any machine. The Federal Circuit tried to make this clear in the In re Bilski opinion [uscourts.gov] itself (page 21):

We further reject calls for categorical exclusions beyond those for fundamental principles already identified by the Supreme Court. We rejected just such an exclusion in State Street, noting that the so-called "business method exception" was unlawful and that business method claims (and indeed all process claims) are "subject to the same legal requirements for patentability as applied to any other process or method." 149 F.3d at 1375-76.[Fn23 Therefore, although invited to do so by several amici, we decline to adopt a broad exclusion over software or any other such category of subject matter beyond the exclusion of claims drawn to fundamental principles set forth by the Supreme Court.]

It is true that the validity of many broadly drafted claims may be at issue, but many software claims just do not make sense unless the claims are understood to be tied to computational devices. For example, Beauregard claims, which are claims on a computer readable media adapted to implement a method or system, are considered patentable [patentlyo.com] by the PTO. These kind of claims are very popular because they allow patent holders to go after the software distributors rather than end-users.

It will be harder to enforce software patents, now that the defense lawyers can wield Sec. 101 with more power. But it is a mistake to declare victory against software patents based on a case where all the PTO wanted was for the patent applicant to add "computer implemented" to the claim language.

doesnt matter (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875341)

My company's lawyers wont even challenge a badly-drafted or incorrect patent until there is a six-figure upside. Lawyer costs quickly approach that. More likely the threat results in cross-licensing royalties, usually both ways.

What I really want to know (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875371)

Does this mean mp3 playback 'out of the box,' for Ubuntu, Fedora?

Re:What I really want to know (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875447)

Yes, I would like to know this and whether or not GiMP can now have CYMK support in it now.

Re:What I really want to know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875513)

No.

Re:What I really want to know (3, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875603)

No. The decision affects business method patents, not software patents. Software patents will probably get a direct challeng at some point, but that point is not today.

Re:What I really want to know (3, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876389)

The decision directly affects business method patents but also overrides a standard used to test the validity of process patents and that standard has been used as the basis of a great deal of software patents. Apparently, including a large portion of Microsoft's portfolio.

Re:What I really want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875911)

What's the difference whether Ubuntu has mp3 playback "out of the box" or after 2 or 3 clicks?

Re:What I really want to know (1)

armanox (826486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876317)

Depends on if you have an internet connection available. I know some Linux users that don't.

Re:What I really want to know (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876403)

2 or 3 clicks, the requirement of an internet connection, the functions behind those clicks working properly, etc

Actually a great deal.

"rent-seeking patent jackals" (2, Funny)

xbytor (215790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875385)

Heh, heh. Phrase-of-the-day, for sure.

SCAM 3.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875427)

Well, somebody had to realize it eventually, and it really isn't isolated to Microsoft; the problem of SCAM - a ubiquitous program which is intrinsic to every element of our society, especially the insurance companies. I'm not sure exactly who originated this, but I have a strange sense that there might be some serious bugs and flaws.

Aside from being quite possibly the most inefficient program in the universe, SCAM, a self-perpetuating indefinite loop which exists solely to transfer "your" money to "my" bank account, suffers from several drawbacks, most especially being an egregious lack of definite terms, not to mention that the code is so obsolete that the rust is causing silicon degradation at the hardware level, something that a piece of software shouldn't physically be able to do.

While props must be given to whoever originated this program for overall brilliance of avarice, it is unfortunately a rather inelegant algorithm, and I think its time may be waning.

Obvious ...... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875429)

Hello, people..... without a judicial system, courts of law,patents are meaningless.

This is nothing new.

And for those of you arguing otherwise? In this modern age, if the judicial system wasn't in place to protect patents, what lengths would you go to, to protect a patent? Would you really take up arms against someone?

Sigh... it's Groklaw... (3, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875435)

Is there some reporting and analysis of this matter from a more impartial source than Groklaw? I'd love to believe what PJ writes, but the history of software patents is one of cleverly worded applications exploiting and widening every possible loophole to expand the scope of patentability. I think Groklaw is putting a very optimistic spin on this.

Re:Sigh... it's Groklaw... (3, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875491)

Well, no. At least with Groklaw, you can read the decisions and briefs directly and make up your own mind if you don't like the commentary and analysis.

Re:Sigh... it's Groklaw... (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875589)

If we were all lawyers, our opinions might even matter!

He's looking for a lawyer's opinion on this... Preferably one with less bias than Groklaw has.

Re:Sigh... it's Groklaw... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25876337)

Well, no. At least with Groklaw, you can read the decisions and briefs directly and make up your own mind if you don't like the commentary and analysis.

You can also read the commentary on Groklaw, including this priceless retort:

Any (embedded) Turing Complete programmable device is a Computer.

And, yes, it was a retort to some equally lame assertion that embedded computing is not computing.

Re:Sigh... it's Groklaw... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25876037)

Patently-O blog -- no spin there. And Groklaw's problem isn't bias, it's a lack of understanding.

Re:Sigh... it's Groklaw... (3, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876343)

I don't think Groklaw is being overly optimistic, I think the summary is.

PJ essentially said that this further erodes software patents and that it may well invalidate one particular type of software patent. A type that Microsoft apparently has a great deal of because they filed a brief saying that ruling the wrong way on this would hurt them.

PJ did not say that all Microsoft patent are belong to us or all software patent are belong to us. The article is implying that far more strongly than PJ.

Uh, they make lots of "machines"... (-1, Redundant)

rwrife (712064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875497)

Mouse, keyboard, joystick, computers, carrying cases, xbox, etc....are these not considered machines? At some level they're consuming energy to performing a mechanical process.

So, who wants to go first? (4, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875757)

So... Who wants to be the first one to try violating one of Microsoft's software patents and test it in court? Hmmm?

Re:So, who wants to go first? (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875919)

According to Microsoft, most of us violate their patents by simply using Linux. 235 patents or what the count is now? We have done our part. Now it is up to Microsoft to sue.... which it has been for a long time. They do not seem very eager to me... Come to think of it, there are many companies out there who have sactually sued for software patent violations (model railroads anyone?). So why are we talking so much about Microsoft?

Re:So, who wants to go first? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875981)

Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy already violated 200 patents. The only thing protecting them is that MS cannot find their addresses to deliver the summons.

PJ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25875855)

This whole "Microsoft is out to get Linux with patents" thing is so 2 years ago. Does anyone care what PJ has to say anymore? She's somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3 as relevent as Sarah Palin at this point, and that's saying a lot.

Astroturf... (0)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876239)

Astroturfing is so '90s, dude.

its not all bad news for MS... (2, Interesting)

Harin_Teb (1005123) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875857)

A ruling came down from the board of patent appeals and interferences (BPAI) allowing Beauregard claims. a Beauregard claim is a claim for the steps of a method stored on a "computer-readable medium." The FedCirc could rule that the BPAI is wrong on appeal, but for the time being the PTO will still be allowing software claims using the computer readable medium language.

Practical effect: any patent using that language will still be enforceable. Since you can't violate a software patent without storing it somewhere, there is no downside to including that language in the claims.

Anything can be turned into a "machine" (2)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25875871)

Algorithms are not patentable in many countries. So what people do to patent them is they say that they apply for a patent on a "computer system running the algorithm described". Which is a reasonable thing to do since it's pretty hard to run algorithms on a sheet of paper these days.

If the only hammer you have is a tool... (4, Interesting)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876509)

Algorithms are not patentable in many countries. So what people do to patent them is they say that they apply for a patent on a "computer system running the algorithm described". Which is a reasonable thing to do since it's pretty hard to run algorithms on a sheet of paper these days.

The counter attack there being the "not obvious" leg of patentablity. Using a tool for it's intended purpose is considered obvious, and therefore not patentable. Since running algorithms is what computers do, by definition, it's a short step to an "obvious, therefore not patentable" attack.

Basically, the argument is if you have a nail that isn't patentable and a hammer that was specifically designed to hit nails with then hitting the nail with the hammer is obvious and not patentable.

--MarkusQ

Cleartype/Font Rendering (0, Redundant)

dbcooper_nz (782764) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876015)

So, will the font rendering technologies patented by MS and Apple now be free to use in freetype/gnome/kde?

Re:Cleartype/Font Rendering (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25876451)

What difference does it make? Anti-aliased fonts have looked fantastic in Linux for a long time. Of course, the fonts themselves suck but you can bend the rules and load the Microsoft font pack and have font goodness all day long.

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