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Microsoft Patents XML Word Processing Documents

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the no-problems-there-nothing-to-worry-about dept.

Patents 357

theodp writes "Embrace. Extend. Patent. On Tuesday, Microsoft was granted US Patent No. 7,571,169 for its 'invention' of the Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML. Presumably developers are protected by Microsoft's 'covenant not to sue,' so the biggest question raised by this patent is: How in the world was it granted in light of the 40-year history of document markup languages? Next thing you know, the USPTO will give Microsoft a patent for Providing Emergency Data in XML format. Oops, too late."

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Stop the madness (-1, Offtopic)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980565)

Stop all these incendiary posts about how every fucking goddamn thing is fucked up beyond redemption. Fuck.

Let me start. You go Slick Willy!

Re:Stop the madness (2, Funny)

eldrberry (37321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980601)

Don't sugar coat it. Tell us what you think.

Re:Stop the madness (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980623)

I agree, can't we have some happy news about robot kittens or something!!

Re:Stop the madness (5, Funny)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980807)

I agree, can't we have some happy news about robot kittens or something!!

In other news, caring for kittens has been patented by Monsanto. Petting them has been patented by PetSmart. And taking endless pictures of them with your cell phone has been patented by Motorola. As a prevention, the new coalition Monotoromart is now hunting down and killing any cuddly, lovable, but otherwise adorably indignant animals in an effort to minimize "market confusion".

Re:Stop the madness (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981075)

Emphasis mine:

the new coalition Monotoromart is now hunting down and killing any cuddly, lovable, but otherwise adorably indignant animals in an effort to minimize "market confusion".

You missed one of the constituent companies... Toro lawnmowers [toro.com] .

Their methods of hunting down and killing the offending cuties has some people upset, but nonetheless is picking up sponsors for televised "kitty rodeos". Word is that Ford Motor Company has signed on to sponsor one of the mowers in next year's "Kitten Splittin' Cage Match" to be broadcast on pay-per-view.

Re:Stop the madness (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981047)

Here come the Microsoft haters yet again. Red Hat love patents too. Hypocrisy much? Watch as I get modded down to oblivion for posting against Slashdot groupthink.

Won't hold up (4, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980599)

This won't hold up if challenged, there is plenty of prior art.

Re:Won't hold up (4, Insightful)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980633)

So why was it granted in the first place?

Re:Won't hold up (5, Insightful)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980777)

So why was it granted in the first place?

Because the Patent Office doesn't have enough computer geeks and is underfunded.

Re:Won't hold up (5, Interesting)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980935)

This.

It seems the "stupid patent formula" has been updated. It used to be "$X, but on the Internet". As in, "I've reinvented the wheel! But this time, it's connected to the Internet!"

The new "stupid patent formula" seems to be "$X, but using XML". As in, "I've invented fire! But this time, it uses eXtensible Markup Language!"

Since XML was the solution to all possible problems about ten years ago, we can probably guess at where the "stupid patent formula" will be in a decade's time. No doubt it will involve something like "$X, but using Javascript on a Web 2.0 social networking site that's accessed using a smartphone with a touch screen".

Re:Won't hold up (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980979)

It's actually pretty hard to uphold any patent against that kind of argument. "I invented the wheel, but this time it uses spokes and cotton!"

Re:Won't hold up (5, Insightful)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981429)

The thing is, spokes and cotton can't be used for everything. XML can store any type of data at all. Storing $x in XML is not creative or innovative, it is exactly what XML was designed to do.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

cmacb (547347) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981013)

Have you ever heard the saying: "good enough for government work"?

Re:Won't hold up (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981251)

Have you ever heard the saying, "Microsoft is not a software company, it is an abuse company that uses software as a method of delivering abuse"?

Re:Won't hold up (4, Insightful)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980635)

But it still costs a fortune to get it challenged. That is the real problem. It is an armsrace and the one with the biggest pocket wins. I wonder when this cold war bubble will burst.

Re:Won't hold up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980755)

I think Adobe has prior art and, I'm willing to be corrected upon this, they're one of the few companies MS is wary of pissing off.

Re:Won't hold up (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980805)

I think Adobe has prior art and, I'm willing to be corrected upon this, they're one of the few companies MS is wary of pissing off.

Correct about MS pissing them off. All Adobe needs to do in the event of MS making them mad is to change Flash/PDF just enough that they don't work with old versions, and then refuse to port/support a Windows version. As the developers / authors gradually move to the new standards, Windows gets further and further behind, and all they have is Silverlight and .doc files. That is not where MS wants to be.

Re:Won't hold up (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980831)

Once a few years ago, say 2007 or so, MS threatened to announce a replacement cross platform doc that would supplant PDF.

Adobe released a statement in response to a planted question on CNet or something, that there was 'no reason why they couldn't release Flash-based competitor to PowerPoint,' and suddenly MS's latest initiative magically went away.

Re:Won't hold up (5, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980843)

All Adobe needs to do in the event of MS making them mad is to change Flash/PDF just enough that they don't work with old versions, and then refuse to port/support a Windows version.

Why would they do something that stupid? That would destroy 90% of their install base and thus ruin themselves.

As the developers / authors gradually move to the new standards, Windows gets further and further behind, and all they have is Silverlight and .doc files. That is not where MS wants to be.

No, if Adobe stopped supporting Windows, those developers would just drop it and thus Adobe would go bankrupt.

Re:Won't hold up (5, Funny)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981049)

Why would they do something that stupid?

Remember, we're talking about Adobe here, whose idea of innovation is a version of Acrobat Reader that ships on 2 DVDs instead of just 1.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981097)

It's probably because they can easily develop competing products to Microsoft's very easily fiven their talent and fund availability.

Re:Won't hold up (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981039)

It will never burst. We have seen scandal after scandal involving patents granted by the USPTO. Companies big and small have all been hit, hard, by patent trolls and anti-competitive litigation. We've seen products sunk and industries mired in doubt. We've seen farcical patents and US supreme court case. If there was an event that could have burst this bubble, it would have happened by now.

The USPTO is not going to stop granting these things. Industry is never going to become so irritated by the cons of the patent system that they give up the pros. Ordinary people are never going to let go of the illusion that one genius invention, with patent protection, will set them up for life. This system is deeplying ingrained, self sufficient and self perpetuating.

The patent system is not going to reform itself. Industry will not reform it. The public will not reform it. The legal system will not reform it. Patent holders will not reform it. Reform must come from an external source, powerful enough to completely reform the system. And so deeply rooted is the current regime that reform will be a very, very painful process. Frankly, I doubt modern America, along with many western nations, has the capacity to implement such a change, given its inability to reach national consensus on anything.

So, don't expect a great event that's going to topple the whole patent system. There's not going to be a some kind of Watergate or Pearl Harbour to shake the system to its foundations. Until reform comes alone, the patent system is going to continue in its current vein, come what may. And it will probably do so for a very, very long time.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981167)

I wonder when this cold war bubble will burst

17 years from now (or whatever the patent time is now).

Re:Won't hold up (2, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981209)

No. The real problem is, that it was granted in the first place. And the real reason is, that the patent offices works under the control of a government, that has more revolving doors and "lobbys"* than the Internet Explorer has quirks, holes and bugs.

___
* Which suddenly became the word for an euphemistic view on the illegal bribery and disloyalty to the people, which in many countries are major crimes on the punishment level of murder.

Marc0WNi (2, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981211)

But it still costs a fortune to get it challenged. That is the real problem. It is an armsrace and the one with the biggest pocket wins. I wonder when this cold war bubble will burst.

Why don't you ask Nicola Tesla...

Re:Won't hold up (5, Funny)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981353)

>I wonder when this cold war bubble will burst.

All I know is, when it does hit that bullseye, all the dominoes will fall like a house of cards: checkmate!

Re:Won't hold up (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980791)

For one, isn't ODF, which IIRC is covered by multiple published standards, exactly such a system as MS is now getting a patent for?

Re:Won't hold up (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980837)

No, ODF is a XML-based document format. An actual system would be a word processor application that utilizes the ODF file format, for example OpenOffice today.

The filing date shown on the patent is Jun 2002.

The ODF format was first discussed in December 2002, and finalized in May of 2005.

So it would seem Microsoft's patent comes before ODF.

Re:Won't hold up (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981015)

But not before SGML. The whole thing is a pile of shit, a worthless patent predated by at least a quarter century (and probably a bit longer) of markup languages. The US patent system is fucking broken, because if it worked, Microsoft would have been sent packing.

Re:Won't hold up (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981223)

I'll agree with that.

However, was there ever a general-purpose Wordprocessor (that worked like Word, Wordperfect, OOo, etc) and that used SGML or another text-based markup language as its storage backend?

Re:Won't hold up (3, Informative)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981315)

Samna/Lotus Ami Pro used a text-based markup language for documents. It predated Word for Windows (aka Microsoft Word).

Re:Won't hold up (1)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981269)

OpenOffice (and likely StarOffice before it) has used XML files to store documents in from the beginning, which goes well back into the 90s. ODF was basically just a new, formalized, schema for OpenOffice, unlike MS Office which has done memory dumps as save files since the beginning of time (and largely still does, but with a few extra <s and >s thrown in for flavour.

Re:Won't hold up (2, Informative)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981337)

ODF descended from the older OpenOffice/StarOffice file format ("OpenOffice.org XML"), which was already XML-based (it's very similar to ODF).

OpenOffice 1.0 used that format. It was released on May 1, 2002. Boom, obvious prior art.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981445)

Can you possibly point to a publication in the form of a general article or item of documentation made prior to the date that describes OOo/StarOffice's use of an XML-based file format or make some suggestion as to where a publication might be found? (And the date of publication needs to be verifiable)

It could be extremely useful to anyone trying to fight/defeat MS' patent.

Prior art should provide a description sufficient to inform an average worker in the field and in fixed form, available to the general public.

As such, the Patent Office, or courts of law, very likely would not consider the release of OpenOffice or StarOffice themselves to be prior art, if their use of a XML-based document format hadn't been described sufficiently to the general public, in a manner the average worker would understand.

Source code, or a released software product aren't generally prior art, unless the details of the technology they use has actually been published, is the thing.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980903)

This won't hold up if challenged, there is plenty of prior art.

I was gonna make a remark about the filing date, but seeing that it's 6 December 2004, there's still plenty of prior art.

Re:Won't hold up (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980969)

No the filing date is Jun 2002. Which means you'd have to find prior art dating before Jun 2001.

Re:Won't hold up (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981067)

No the filing date is Jun 2002. Which means you'd have to find prior art dating before Jun 2001.

Start with LEXX (IBM research paper in 1987), an interactive editor that supported and displayed SGML (among other languages). The LEXX paper references JANUS (papers in 1981 and 1982), and an ACM survey paper from 1971.

Re:Won't hold up (4, Insightful)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981385)

This won't hold up if challenged, there is plenty of prior art.

I agree that it probably won't be upheld if challenged, but I don't think prior art will be the issue. I just looked at the references of the patent and it looks like it refers to a ton of what I would consider prior art (lots of AbiWord references for example). It would appear that the patent office saw this and concluded that this was different. Convincing a judge or jury that the patent office was wrong would be difficult.

Personally, I don't think this patent would meet the requirements of the recent Bilski [wikipedia.org] decision. This patent is just a way of storing data in a format that is specifically designed to store data. If that is a legit patent, then we will have an arms race where everyone tries to think of anything that could be stored in XML and try to get a patent before anyone thinks of it. (Phone books, recipes, code, test cases, GUI layouts, packet captures, code reviews, etc, etc).

Re:Won't hold up (4, Insightful)

greenbird (859670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981485)

This won't hold up if challenged, there is plenty of prior art.

And what the hell difference does that make. They'll sue and the defendant will either have to settle or go out of business because:

A. There'll be an injunction against their product so they can't sell it.

B. Because it'll be made clear that the court battle will cost them loads more than fighting (Microsoft has billions for lawyers).

C. Microsoft will make the license terms so outrageous they have to fight and then Microsoft will break them with the legal battle.

D. They'll lose the court case because they are violating the patent even though it never should have been issued..

So far courts have assumed the validity of patents even when a preliminary review has found them invalid. It takes years at best to get a final invalidation of a patent and that can be extended by appeals and modifications of the claims and other legal tactics. By then any company that was fighting would be out of business for one or more of the above reasons.

Sorry Rob but I had to tell... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980611)

Rob Malda's asshole is so blown out that it looks like an Arby's sandwich.

Re:Sorry Rob but I had to tell... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980991)

I'm thinking Arby's.

Xtend, Mbrace, Litigate? (5, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980627)

That one I could see them getting a patent on, but on something that uses the abbreviation for "eXtensible Markup Language"?

Extending the use of it is what it was designed to do in the fist place.

What's wrong with America? (5, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980629)

Folks reading stories like these will simply conclude that America is on the wrong path. To be more accurate, I think folks at the patent office suffer from effects of "thought disorders."

Re:What's wrong with America? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980663)

Meow Said the Dog? Is that you?

Re:What's wrong with America? (2, Funny)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980761)

No. I know someone with a thought disorder that makes a lot more sense than the USPTO.

Re:What's wrong with America? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980763)

The problem seems to be that we have too large a library of patents to wade through and not enough people that can both interpret obfuscated technobable and identify prior art. At least, not at patent examiner's wages.

Re:What's wrong with America? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981005)

Folks reading stories like these will simply conclude that America is on the wrong path.

I had already figured that one out. What with your bankrupt industry and endless unwinnable wars.

Re:What's wrong with America? (1)

sgbett (739519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981351)

nothing a little xslt can't fix

two patent offices (5, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980641)

it's already been suggested however this makes a decent case for a system with two competing patent offices. one to produce patents and the other invalidates them. give each a financial incentive to defend its position and let them fight it out. if the patent creating office issues a bogus patent and the patent invalidating office catches it, the patent creating office loses funding while the invalidating office gains funding.

Re:two patent offices (3, Insightful)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980775)

Don't bother. Just overhaul the entire IP system. So far Trademarks is the only member of the three types of IP that doesn't with regularity make headlines with how broken it is.

New Rolling Stone cover (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980645)

I love how crapping all over the Constitution qualifies as "bold action" in some peoples' minds. Hey, as long as the ends justify the means, right? Isn't that the kind of philosophy that had the left shrieking for the last 8 years? Funny how all that shrieking stopped, and now we're to believe that the only dissent is from imposters from far-right organizations. Gee, it couldn't possibly be that as bad as dealing with health insurance companies is, most Americans realize that dealing with a mouth-breathing government bureaucrat would be 10x worse. Naaaah, that couldn't be it at all. Hey, how's that domestic wire tapping and total withdraw from Iraq going, guys? LOL, change indeed! The only thing that really changed is that now Hugo Chavez, Miguel Zayala, Kim Jong Il, & Marmaduke Ahmajerk have a friend in the White House.

Re:New Rolling Stone cover (1)

dunng808 (448849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981403)

Funny how all that shrieking stopped

I hadn't noticed.

Not another one of these (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980673)

Lots of companies have to get patents on everything just to protect themselves from lawyers. Deal with it. This is getting Old, Microsoft isn't the only entity that does it. You don't like it, change the system but quit with the obsessive observance of Microsoft patents. OR better yet, get rid of the real Patent trolls that put major companies on the defensive patent claim train.

Re:Not another one of these (-1, Troll)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980781)

Shill.exe - 98%

End Task!

Re:Not another one of these (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981065)

Look, you fucking retard, markup languages have been around longer than Bill Gates was stroking himself in front of computer. The whole point of markup languages like SGML, TeX, HTML and so forth was to construct fucking documents, you worthless piece of human filth. XML is simply one extrapolation of SGML, but the underlying concept, you piece of mentally handicapped excrement, is encapsulating documents and other data.

So fuck off you, you moronic turd. Quit defending a clearly fraudulently gained patent, you simpering piece of goose fuck leftovers.

OpenDocument (3, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980691)

So basically, OOXML was a way to acquire a patent that could kill ODF-using applications in the US (that can't get legal backing, anyways)

Re:OpenDocument (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980795)

So basically, OOXML was a way to acquire a patent that could kill ODF-using applications in the US

This patent wouldn't seem to affect OpenDocument, since OpenDocument files are not, AFAIK, single XML files, they are JAR archives with several XML files (and others) inside.

WTF??? (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980713)

How in the world can anybody even pretend to patent something that is entirely within AN OPEN STANDARD?

The very concept is ludicrous. We need to fire those people in the PTO, and replace them with homeless bums. At least they might get something right once in a while.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980823)

How about the following patent:
"A system of rules for IP registration designed to: A. minimize innovation, B. maximize the profit of whoever already has the most cash."

Re:WTF??? (3, Funny)

lastomega7 (1060398) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980957)

There's already prior art for that...

so it should be really easy to get. :/

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28980911)

What does XML being an open standard have to do with anything? The requirements for patentability are:

novel
non-obvious
useful

Ignoring the controversies of software patents for the purposes of this discussion, if they were able to demonstrate a novel, non-obvious, and useful invention regarding XML word processing then they have met the requirements. That being said, I find it difficult to believe they have demonstrated that. Regardless, the fact that XML is open has nothing to do with the patentability of something that makes use of XML.

Re:WTF??? (0)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980949)

Neither novel nor non-obvious apply since SGML has been around for decades.

Re:WTF??? (3, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981159)

What does XML being an open standard have to do with anything?

The fact that it was an open standard FOR REPRESENTING DOCUMENTS AS FILE CONTENTS so they can be MANIPULATED BY COMPUTER PROGRAMS should make it clear that representing a document as a single XML file and writing an editor to edit such documents were explicitly contemplated in the open standard. And the fact that the standard was open constitutes publishing this prior art.

If Microsoft came up with something novel, non-obvious, and useful ABOUT editing a document represented entirely within a single XML file they would be entitled to a patent on THAT ASPECT. But that doesn't constitute inventing the editing of XML document files in general and thus doesn't entitle them to such a patent.

Note that it's entirely possible that the slashdot article misrepresented what was patented. This has happened a lot in the past. So perhaps Microsoft did come up with some cuteness to include in an XML editor and that was what they patented.

But that would not make as big a splash on the Slashdot front page. B-)

Re:WTF??? (0, Flamebait)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980929)

Maybe because you didn't bother to actually read the patent and are going on the inaccurate summary?

99% of the people on slashdot seem to be completely ignorant of how patents actually work, yet aren't afraid to criticize them based on their lack of understanding. You're one of them, most likley.

Patents have to be taken as a whole, for all the claims.. not just one or two of them. Yes, nearly all patents are based on other patented or non-patented ideas, it's the combination of claims that make it unique.

Re:WTF??? (3, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980963)

Wrong. Each claim stands alone, that is why they always start with a basic all encompassing Claim 1, which probably wouldn't hold up under scrutiny, and refine it in later clauses to cover every special case they can think of. Usually at least some of the claims are mutually exclusive, so to create something that violated all of the claims at once would be impossible.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981083)

Whats your basis for this? Are you a lawyer? Okay then.

smells like.. (2, Interesting)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980743)

I don't get how these idiots get around giving out patents like this. It makes about as much sense as apples app approval process.

2004 called.. (4, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980853)

2004 called and it wants...etc.. you know the rest.

They filed this a long time ago, and of course for good reason as if they didn't some asshole little company would set up shop in east Texas and sue. As the kids say, don't hate the player hate the game. Our patent system is fucking retarded.

Re:2004 called.. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981099)

The point is that SGML predates XML (XML is simply a derivative of SGML). The notion of building documents in this way predates the existence of Microsoft, let alone this particular patent.

Re:2004 called.. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981259)

But you forget the final connection. Why is it retarded? Because someone makes it to work that way.
It's a great system for those that profit from it.

As I said earlier, it's the problem of revolving door and lobbies, or else the patent office would long be changed.

You really need to update your constitution. (But not the bad way.)
Plan very very wisely, take out the old guillotine, and storm DC. (Warning: If you in that process become what you hate, you fail! And the risk of this happening is extremely high. Hence the planning.)

Proposal (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980887)

Ok, I would apply for a patent on this great *new* idea, but I can't afford the fees and such. Anyone interested in contributing? I'll cut you a share of the profits later.
A patent for: a method of sustaining life by filling a pair of internal sacs with air through the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm muscle.
(I'm actually half-serious here, if there is anyone crazy enough to help me out with it.)

Buzzword compliant. (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980889)

Word-processing document stored in a single XML file...

How many ways are there to store a document? Markup (Postscript, XML, LaTeX, etc) and Binary are the only two I can think of. Using a different markup language is hardly an earth-shattering new development.

Bad Summary (5, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980897)

As is all too often the case here on Slashdot, the summary has seized upon the title of the patent, which has no legal effect whatsoever, while ignoring the actual patent claims, which are all important.

If one actually reads the claims, one sees that the main new part of the invention are the 'hint elements' contained in the XML file. The written description expands upon what hint elements mean: "hints are provided within the XML associated files providing applications that understand XML a shortcut to understanding some of the features provided by the word-processor. By using the hints, the applications do not have to know all of the specific details of the internal processing of the word-processor in order to recreate a feature."

Basically, the invention here is the inclusion of information that lets third-party programs better understand what to do with the format. You can imagine, for example, if HTML included something like this. The del ('strikethrough') tag might be written:

<del hint="draw line 1px horizontal">

That code would allow a program that did not natively understand the tag to implement a simple version of it. The idea is to allow new features to be introduced into the format while enabling older versions of the software to use them without updating their code. The necessary code comes with the file.

Now, whether that's still new and nonobvious, I don't know, but it's a significantly more accurate summary of the invention than "Microsoft Patents XML Word Processing Documents."

Mod parent up (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980937)

n/t

Re:Bad Summary (5, Informative)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981101)

As is all too often the case here on Slashdot, the summary has seized upon the title of the patent, which has no legal effect whatsoever, while ignoring the actual patent claims, which are all important.

Geeze, there you go ruining everybody's fun, posting facts instead of completely uninformed complaints.

Next you'll point out that the patent cites no fewer than 77 other patents going back to 1988 as related art, or that it cites 113 other documents, including documentation for file formats of things like AbiWord, StarOffice, Wisdom++, Docbook, WorX, MML, XMill, YAWK, and so on and so forth.

Were it not for your UID, I'd have to pull out the "you must be new around here" wheeze, since you're in clear violation of /. groupthink guidelines!

How is any of this new? (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981151)

XML already provides the ability to ignore things that are not understood.

My head just hurts trying to think of how one could consider this patentable.

Re:How is any of this new? (4, Insightful)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981297)

Because it's using XML to try to help an app that doesn't understand the new element to figure out what to do with it, rather than just ignore it (as happens by default under XML, as you pointed out).

Re:How is any of this new? (2, Informative)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981371)

Then maybe the real story here is how Microsoft has extended XML to include non-standard features, which they can implement in their own software while restricting third parties from implementing the same features...

Re:Bad Summary (3, Informative)

dshadowwolf (1132457) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981207)

You, apparently, have missed out and not read the actual claims of the patent. This patent covers any XML document which has an XSD definition and has:

  • rendering hints via an element or property of an element
  • a bookmarks element (of which two must be used to be valid)
  • a comments element
  • a 'text' element
  • a 'style' element
  • a 'font' element
  • a formatting element
  • a section element
  • a table element
  • an outline element
  • a proofing element

And any variation of implementation on the above. It also covers the manipulation of a file meeting that description on any computer—whether or not it has the program that generated the file installed.

The thing is... this patent can be read as covering HTML5 in its XML embedding and it completely fails the "obviousness test". How does it fail that test? Because it is, simply, plainly obvious to "one skilled in the field". A lot of the above features have been proposed for ODF and are braindead to add to ODF or any other XML format. Additionally XML is used as a format for storing data simply because it is a well defined format and easily manipulated--so easily, in fact, that there is a complete language defined for manipulation and transformation of XML.

Where it really fails is that it is neither "new" nor "novel. If Netscape had tried to patent the specific version of HTML supported by, say, Navigator 4 there would be as big a backlash. It'd be similar to someone implementing an open spec - say ECMA-262 - and claiming a patent on it as "new" and "novel" because it has a specific set of system interface functions.

Or maybe you'd like a car analogy... In this case it would be like GM filing a patent on a car because their car has a specific feature set as a standard that a company has not put out as standard options before. I hope you now understand exactly why people are rather pissed about this patent.

Re:Bad Summary (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981309)

Basically, the invention here is the inclusion of information that lets third-party programs better understand what to do with the format. You can imagine, for example, if HTML included something like this. The del ('strikethrough') tag might be written:

Ahhh so Microsoft claims to have invented metadata.

Ahhh, now I see. Really dumbed down metadata that follows no obvious format. It's going to be harder for a developer to code for that than to just code for the feature. Really what you need is some sort of a formal metadata language, which the software interpretting the hint has to be able to interpret. Then the other tool that didn't implement the feature has to implement this metadata language. It's going to be less work to just implement the features.

Now, whether that's still new and nonobvious, I don't know

Really? You've never seen metadata in XML?

Re:Bad Summary (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981373)

Sorry, but you apparently never understood what HTML it. Is is a purely semantic language. Maybe you started to use it when it wasn't, and so never made the evolutionary step. Which is ok, if you aren't really building pages.

The <del> tag has no visual representation whatsoever associated with it. Just as any other HTML tag.
If you think about layout for even a second, while writing HTML, your web developer license (if you have one) is automatically revoked. ^^

The browser can decide to display it however it wants. It can even not be displayed at all, but output a series of farts of a monkey listening to sounds created from the HTML and dancing wildly inside a large box of food. If you disagree, use CSS. :)

Your example would make more sense this way:
<del cite="http://some.url/explanation.html" datetime="2009-08-07T03:07:05+0200" hint="content that has been deleted at $datetime from the document, because of $cite">...</del>

Re:Bad Summary (1)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981407)

I agree that it's important that the summary is accurate. But even if what you say is correct, the claim that a method of "including additional information for 3rd party programs" could be entitled "invention", is laughable to the least.

Arranging and data in a certain way is better labeled as a standard than an invention, imo. Personally I don't see how this patent or any patent, software or not, overcomes their own disadvantages, in respect of contribution to society. Would microsoft have used this XML format without software patents? Certainly. Would companies keep inventing things without patents? Surely. Industry secrecy is enough to get a competive advantage by investing in R&D. But patents wont get discarded anytime soon, both becouse of the "little inventor that want's to protect his awesome invention" myth, and becouse of industry lobbyists. I wonder why there are so few electric cars on the market. Well the fact that, one of the worlds largest oil companies is sitting on important battery technology patents [ridelust.com] , is enough to give me some ideas. If you combined the cost of all patent lawsuits and patent trolls that do nothing but trade and license patents, I wonder how much you would end up with.

Re:Bad Summary (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981419)

I disagree. The claim element says, in relevant part, "determining an element to create in an XML file in said computing device, wherein the element is selected from a set of elements, including . . ." and then lists a number of elements, one of which is "hint elements." The claim does not require a hint element; that's just one of the many elements in the set that could be used. The "including" refers to the set of elements from which any one of the list may be taken.

Less bias please (1)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980945)

Software patents, great in theory, but this is what happens in practice.

On the summary itself: Even though I agree, can't the slashdot article writers at least TRY to be objective? Save the sarcastic ranting for the comments section please... Let people make up their own opinion by reporting neutrally on a subject. The actual facts are enough. People don't need flashing signs to tell us this is bad.

Re:Less bias please (1)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980959)

to get the idea that this is bad. I'm tired.

This patent does not cover ODF (4, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980961)

One of the claims in this patent is that everything is stored in a single XML document. That is not true of ODF. An ODF file is the result of zipping up a bunch of files including not only XML files but various other things, such as image files.

OOXML (1)

talcite (1258586) | more than 5 years ago | (#28980975)

Does this patent cover things like OOXML and their the ISO junk?

Isn't XML documented as coming from SGML? (2, Informative)

david.emery (127135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981023)

And isn't SGML in part something IBM contributed to? So we can hope IBM will contribute to defending "prior art". Without actually reading the patent (I just read the patent abstract), what seems to be "unique" is the XML encoding along with the XSD style sheet; document markup languages are -really old hat- (Scribe's still my personal favorite :-). So "attacking" the patent based on the documented derivation of XML from SGML would seem to me to be a viable strategy, and many mark-up word processors of the previous millennium (including Scribe, if I remember right) had the concept of a 'document style sheet'.

This patent is -particularly stupid- based on the patent abstract. (Hey, if the President can make snap judgements without doing full research, why can't I do it, too???)

Looks like I'm in the wrong line (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981035)

How much is the typical bribe to a patent supervisor? This is truly a laughable one. I'm not going to bother counting the number of XML books I have on our home book shelves. I guess Microsoft sent them back through the time machine in the Redmond basement.

Last Land Rush (5, Interesting)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981037)

The Land Rushes [wikipedia.org] that served up the last of the best lands America had to offer aren't too unlike the rationale driving the patenting of intellectual property. Corporations are driven by the need to protect themselves from potential future costs by claiming every "square inch" of intellectual property the US patent system will allow them to grab. If international laws are put in place governing intellectual property that are enforceable then the current seeming madness is the best available means of positioning American interests for the largest possible slice of the pie. About the time of the last land rushes Spencer's ideology of "survival of the fittest" was being touted as a rationale for the unconscionable actions of Yankee Traders who were infamous for their ruthless greed. It's a hedgemonists' zero sum game. There's method in the madness, madness though it be.

Ballmer better watch out... (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981045)

"Not long ago, the Black Gate of Armonk swung open. The lights went out, my skin crawled, and dogs began to howl. I asked my neighbor what it was and he said, 'Those are the NazgÃl. Once they were human, now they are IBM's lawyers.'"

Their independent claims (4, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981089)

What matters isn't what the abstract says, it's what the claims, especially the independent claims, say. Here are the two independent claims in this patent, formatted for improved clarity (I hope). They basically say the same thing, except that the first is a "method" claim, claiming a method for doing something (in this case, "creating a document in XML in a computing device that is understandable by many applications"), while the second is an "apparatus" claim, claiming an apparatus (in this case, "a computer-readable storage medium having computer-executable instructions for interacting with a document") that performs a function:

Claim 1. A method for creating a document in XML ("Extensible Markup Language") in a computing device that is understandable by many applications, comprising:

accessing a published XSD ("XML Schema Definition") in said computing device, wherein the XSD defines rules relating to the XML file format for documents associated with an application having a rich set of features;

determining an element to create in an XML file in said computing device, wherein the element is selected from a set of elements, including:
                    a style element;
                    a hints element that includes information to assist an external application in displaying text of the of the document;
                    a bookmark element; wherein the bookmark element includes an identifier attribute that associates a start bookmark with an end bookmark element wherein two bookmark elements are used in book marking a portion of the document; wherein each of the two bookmark elements include an opening tag and an ending tag;
                    a document properties element;
                    a text element that contains text of the document; wherein all of the text of the document is stored within text elements such that only the text of the document is contained between start text tags and end text tags; wherein there are no intervening tags between each of the start text tags and each of the corresponding end text tags and wherein each of the start text tags do not include formatting information for the text between each of the start text tags and the end text tags;
                    a text run element that includes the formatting information for the text within text elements;
                    a font element;
                    a formatting element;
                    a section element;
                    a table element;
                    an outline element;
                    and a proofing element;

creating the document including the element in said computing device;

and storing the document in said computing device.

Claim 12. A computer-readable storage medium having computer-executable instructions for interacting with a document, comprising:

interpreting a published XSD (Extensible Markup Language (XML) Schema Definition), wherein the XSD defines rules relating to the XML file format for documents associated with an application having a rich set of features;

and creating an element in an XML file, wherein the element is selected from a set of elements, including:
                    a style element;
                    a hints element that is interpreted according to a hints schema that includes information to assist an external application in displaying text of the of the document;
                    a bookmark element; wherein the bookmark element includes an identifier attribute that associates a start bookmark element with an end bookmark element; wherein two bookmark elements are used in book marking the portion of the document; wherein each of the two bookmark elements include a opening tag and an ending tag;
                    a document properties element; a text element that contains text of the document; wherein all of the text of the document is stored within text elements such that only the text of the document is contained between start text tags and end text tags; wherein there are no intervening tags between each of the start text tags and each of the corresponding end text tags and wherein each of the start text tags do not include formatting information for the text between each of the start text tags and the end text tags;
                    a text run element that includes the formatting information for the text within text elements;
                    a font element;
                    a formatting element;
                    a section element;
                    a paragraphs element;
                    a table element;
                    an outline element;
                    and a proofing element

and storing the element in the XML file.

To produce relevant prior art to this or any other patent, one has to produce art in which each of the elements in a claim (e.g., the accessing, determining, creating, and storing of Claim 1) is performed. More than one piece of art may be allowed, if together they supply all of the needed elements and if it would have been obvious "to one of ordinary skill in the art" to combine them at the time the invention was made (December 6, 2004). (Cue the attorneys to argue the obviousness point.)

I don't know a lot about XML, but it does seem like that would not be hard to do in this case.

Obvious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981189)

Any sufficiently obvious technology is indistinguishable from innovation.

Now that they've won the patent lottery... (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981199)

I'd say that Microsoft looks a lot like this [youtube.com] . What else is there to say?

My next patent (4, Funny)

stuntpope (19736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981217)

I'm patenting complaining about Microsoft using XML. I'll make a fortune.

Re:My next patent (1)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981331)

I'll patent the patenting of complaining about MS using XML. I'll make an even bigger fortune.

Think about it ... (0, Flamebait)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981307)

Patent Office, IRS, Post Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA ...

Now, who out there wants to add government run health care to that list?

Just speeding the end of Current patent laws (1)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981313)

I think this is wonderful. The more absurd no limits patents that are issued, the sooner it will reach the proper critical mass (mess) we need for the whole patent system to properly implode on itself. At some point it is going to become obvious that better than 50% of the patents are invalid for one reason or another, the other 50% where just useless; and, the whole mess is just holding back innovation and stifling profits. Even MS might wake up one morning and discover that they the patent system is costing them too much money and waisting too much of their resources, and no idiot in their right mind would actually pay them for most of their patent portfolio.

Just goes to show you (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28981393)

That anything can be bought.

This F:P for GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28981405)

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