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Microsoft Ordered To Pay $290M, Stop Selling Word

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-a-troll dept.

Microsoft 272

Cytalk and other readers tipped us to Microsoft's loss in a US appeals court, in a patent case brought by Canadian company i4i. Microsoft must now pay $290M and either stop selling Word (and probably Office) by January 11, or somehow work around the patent by that date. A Seattle PI blog reports that Redmond has a few options left: "In a statement, Microsoft said it was working hard to comply with the injunction. The company also said it is considering further legal options, including possible requests for a new hearing or a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court." Update: 12/22 20:47 GMT by KD : Tim Bray has up a blog post explaining why it would be no great loss if Microsoft dropped the "custom XML" feature in dispute.
Update: 12/22 23:04 GMT by KD : Reader adeelarshad82 pointed out a statement released by Microsoft earlier today, which says in part: "We expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction."

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272 comments

Say goodbye for XML (-1, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527970)

This is stupid because Microsoft was moving here to open XML standards from their propriety .doc format. It's a common thing to blame MS for their locked in, own formats since Open Office and others couldn't open them.

i4i's patent is basically XML (yes it really is, read the patent claims [uspto.gov] ). They're not a patent troll in that way that they did actually come up with the same system before everyone else, but afterwards W3C created what is called XML. But i4i was silent for years, everyone started using XML and to improve intercompatibility with Word documents, MS started using it too.

i4i got its big hit. But unless MS takes this to supreme court, it basically means they can sue everyone and every software that uses XML. And there's tons of them, even games and mobile phones too.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528088)

You are wrong. The lawsuit and patent are very narrow and only affect an obscure feature of Microsoft Word that is used by a very small percentage of users. They do not have anything to do with the Office Open XML file format (otherwise this suit wouldn't just be Microsoft Word, it would be all the apps).

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Insightful)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528328)

What feature?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528342)

No they are not very narrow. [betanews.com]

In the meantime, a company which was issued a patent in 1998 for the idea of maintaining a document's format in a separate file, has been awarded $200 million to a Toronto-based collaborative software firm, whose engineers claim they had the idea first. The case made by i4i Limited Partnership in its March 2007 suit essentially boiled down to the allegation that the entire move toward XML by Microsoft was a willfully executed strategy against i4i.

In 1994, just as HTML was first being investigated elsewhere as a vehicle for networked hypertext, i4i Ltd. applied for its US patent. For the time, its concept was novel as any notion of XML would be years away, and the applications for which XML would be used had yet to be envisioned.

"Electronic documents retain the key idea of binding the structure of the material with its content through the use of formatting information," reads the 1994 patent's background. "The formatting information in this case is in the form of codes inserted into the text stream. This invention addresses the ideas of structure and content in a new light to provide more flexible and efficient document storage and manipulation."

Did i4i create XML? Not specifically, though it did receive a patent for one of its principal ideas, years before the W3C began to come to the same conclusions. However, despite being what many observers at the time considered late to the game in adopting XML, it is Microsoft that ended up the loser in what some analysts are saying could be among the top five willful patent infringement awards in US history. The company has made clear it will appeal the jury's verdict.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528562)

In the meantime, a company which was issued a patent in 1998 for the idea of maintaining a document's format in a separate file

But, what's astounding to me, is in 1995 I was using SGML as a method of separating the document content from its layout. The layout wasn't kept in a separate file, but there were mechanisms to apply publishing layout to SGML based on rules. That was the whole point of SGML and its predecessor GML.

Heck, in 1995 Arbor Text had an SGML editor which could apply formatting to SGML documents for the purposes of publishing, and the company I worked for was helping people to install SGML editing and layout systems.

I'm not 100% convinced that these actually represent novel claims. They may not have been described in terms of XML, but the state of the art with SGML sure as hell was doing the whole "maintaining a document's format in a separate file" before this.

Can anyone who understands this a little more identify what specifically is required to infringe on this patent?

Cheers

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Interesting)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528836)

In 1995 I designed and built (most of) the software for the following CD-ROM:
"Berg, J. van den, Duijfjes-Vellekoop, G.G.J., Kunenborg, R. & Tenback, R. (1995). Marburger Index Datenbank, ein Wegweiser zur Kunst in Deutschland (CD-ROM). Munchen: K.G. Saur Verlag. " (*)

It included several internal parsers, including one for a HTML-like language that separated the content of the database from the on-screen expression. Basically, my own miniature implementation of Mozilla.
It was sold in musea throughout Germany.

I guess that should count as prior art. I'm pretty sure we could dig up the sourcecode if asked nicely.

(*) As an aside, I'm still pretty proud of that software. It runs like a charm on anything from windows 3.11 to Vista, will stay stable even with less than 1 KB of free memory (windows crashes before this program does) and we never had to do a bugfix. Written in around 20000 lines of C++. Chalk one up for rigorously applying and checking invariants and pre- and postconditions.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (5, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528588)

The case involves the algorithms MS uses to open and display what they call "custom XML". It does not involve a patent on XML itself, and only affects Office 2003 and 2007, not 2010. Stop being so hysterical.

1969 Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528704)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Generalized_Markup_Language [wikipedia.org]

"GML frees document creators from specific document formatting concerns such as font specification, line spacing, and page layout required by SCRIPT/VS. Using GML, a document is marked up with tags that define what the text is, in terms of paragraphs, headers, lists, tables, and so forth."

Twenty-five freaking years before i4i's application!

Generalized markup is based on two novel postulates:
1)Markup should describe a document's structure and other attributes, rather than specify the processing to be performed on it, as descriptive markup need be done only once, and will suffice for future processing.
2)Markup should be rigorous so that the techniques available for processing rigorously-defined objects like programs and data bases, can be used for processing documents as well.

Since XML is actually definable in a profile of SGML, I wonder why Microsoft didn't just license from IBM (with whom they have a massive cross-licensing agreement) the old IBM patents and claim *that's* what they were using.

Re:1969 Prior Art? (1)

guru zim (706204) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528756)

Surely someone in the EDI world was doing something close enough to this patent in order for it to be prior art. I'm not a lawyer, but EDI is old and exchanging documents with predefined data structures goes way back... Every EDI partner agrees on a standard and a document type before exchanging information. This is the defined structure of the data, stored in a separate document (UCS 5010, etc.) Someone should go down this path and see if it is prior art.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528770)

How much do you get paid by Microsoft for all this shilling/defending you do... seriously. You have quite a history of suck-up to Microsoft going on in just about every post I've read that you posted... you also tend to have a very thick distaste for open source and Linux in general... Steve Ballmer? Is that you?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Informative)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528096)

i4i's patent is basically XML (yes it really is, read the patent claims [uspto.gov] ).

I think you're wrong. From the coverage I've read, it's a method of processing and manipulating XML documents, and they designed an piece of XML editing software around it which they showed to Microsoft and Microsoft then stole the ideas from.

It does not predate XML, and has nothing to do with XML-based standards. For instance, i4i have stated that they do not believe OpenOffice.org, KOffice, Symphony etc. infringe their patent.

I'm sure some kind person will come along and back me up on this one.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (5, Funny)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528222)

I'm personally shocked, because microsoft doesn't have a reputation of working with smaller companies, failing to close a contract, and then releasing their own very similar products.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528246)

Just for good measure, I still refuse to use XML in any application I design. I have no intentions of changing that any time soon either.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528504)

Enjoy your new home in the dinosaur graveyard.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528656)

XML is pain in the ass anyway, and I hate every time I have to use it. The format is way too complex to do little things and its processing takes way too much resources compared to the usual binary formats.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528800)

You're not alone [cat-v.org] .

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528494)

I'm surprised you were modded "Informative" for your assumption without any facts.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528138)

Say goodbye for XML?! Why? Can't XML speak for itself?

Your post is a load of horseshit and furthers my fears that you're a Microsoft shill (your bing posts are borderline brilliant).

This is stupid because Microsoft was moving here to open XML standards from their propriety .doc format. It's a common thing to blame MS for their locked in, own formats since Open Office and others couldn't open them.

What's your point? That since they're being attacked by a patent troll I should forgive them for everything fucking stupid and backward they've done?

i4i's patent is basically XML (yes it really is, read the patent claims [uspto.gov]).

Your expertise as a patent examiner is priceless to me. As is your extreme simplification of something you know nothing about.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Informative)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528146)

Actually it seems even broader than XML.

From the abstract of TFP:

"A system and method for the separate manipulation of the architecture and content of a document, particularly for data representation and transformations. The system, for use by computer software developers, removes dependency on document encoding technology. A map of metacodes found in the document is produced and provided and stored separately from the document. The map indicates the location and addresses of metacodes in the document. The system allows of multiple views of the same content, the ability to work solely on structure and solely on content, storage efficiency of multiple versions and efficiency of operation."

--Greg

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528318)

That would cover ColdFusion wouldn't it?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

hebcb (984915) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528346)

From the patent: "The meaning of 'kword' is up to the interpreter. SGML specifies rules for insertion of tags into the content stream and how tags are to be differentiated from the content." They discuss how SMGL allows the interpreter to determine the semantics of "kword" so clearly (IMO) they acknowledge the pre-existance of the idea of separation of expression of "architecture" from the expression of content. I didn't get all the way through the application so I don't know the specifics of the manipulation they are staking claim to but by my interpretation, there is no danger to XML since XML is a direct descendant of SGML.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528404)

Sounds like Tex and LaTeX to me...

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Interesting)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528526)

Yes, just change .docx to .zip and see the magic.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528152)

World of Warcraft uses XML for it's UI

http://www.wowwiki.com/XML_user_interface

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528276)

World of Warcraft uses XML for it's UI

http://www.wowwiki.com/XML_user_interface

Well thank you for pointing that out. Now we know and can proceed to retrieve monetary losses from the only two applications in the history of computing to use the XML format.

Sincerely,

John Phillips Suesalot
CEO of i4i

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Interesting)

toadlife (301863) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528194)

They're not a patent troll in that way that they did actually come up with the same system before everyone else......i4i was silent for years, everyone started using XML

Sounds like a patent troll to me.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Interesting)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528236)

Briefly reading over the patent in question, I'm curious how this patient was granted given that it resembles IBM's Generalized Markup Language (GML) from the 1960s and the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) standardized by the ISO in 1986.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528308)

because the people who run the patent office are fucking morons.

fitting captcha: extort

Re:Say goodbye for XML (3, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528310)

When has prior work ever stopped a patent from being issued?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Informative)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528336)

The patent cites SGML as prior art. The difference is that, with SGML (supposedly) the meaning of the codes is defined in the standard. By analogy with programming langauges, the tags are constants, not variables. The claim is (far as I can tell) for the idea of letting the tags be variables, whose meanings reside in separate lookup table.

It seems to me, though, that this covers the use of XML schemas -- at least, if they're constructed under program control.

--Greg

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528476)

And doesn't any SGML or XML type language bear a strong semblance to Lisp S-expressions?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Interesting)

dissy (172727) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528632)

I'm curious how this patient was granted given that it resembles IBM's Generalized Markup Language (GML) from the 1960s and the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) standardized by the ISO in 1986.

To answer your curiosity, it is because existing prior art is not involved with the granting of a patent.
In other words, it doesn't matter if prior art exists or not, in order to get a patent approved.

Prior art is only used as a defense when being challenged by a patent holder.

So if it truly does count as prior art, it is fully up to Microsoft to present it at the patent case to get the patent thrown out.
That can't happen until after Microsoft is sued for patent violation, which in turn can't happen until someone files for a patent on it.

Since both of those items have come to pass, the question now is, why didn't Microsoft use that as prior art to halt the trial?

The two options that come to mind are
a) They didn't know about it, or
b) they did and tried, but the judge said it was not valid as prior art.

On one hand, being Microsoft I would be shocked if A was the case.
However, on the other hand, being Microsoft it is not too shocking.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528790)

To answer your curiosity, it is because existing prior art is not involved with the granting of a patent. In other words, it doesn't matter if prior art exists or not, in order to get a patent approved.

What? The USPTO would beg to differ. You need to declare any prior art you are aware of [duty of disclosure] or the patent can be invalidated for inequitable conduct.

Furthermore, the patent examiner is *required* to make a search for prior art during the review process.

Please, if you're going to be a slashdot lawyer (IANAL but I play one on Slashdot), do some quick googling before posting absolutely false tripe like that.

Office "open" XML (4, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528254)

I assume you know that OOXML is a proprietary MS format couched in the clothing of an international standard? That it was only approved by ISO after MS manipulated the procedures, bribed partners to stack committees, and completely destroyed the technical committee? Where MS is now abusing the "correction of drafting errors" mechanism to make material changes to the standard so that it continuously conforms to the behaviour of MS's proprietary software (including reversing changes specifically made by the ISO committee!) -- instead of having their software conform to the so-called "standard". This is not to say I support software patents, especially on trivial ideas like a specific format for embedding proprietary data in an XML file (what i4i has "invented"). However, you should not fall for the MS "openness" scam. Just because it's XML doesn't mean it's not Microsoft.

Re:Office "open" XML (5, Funny)

al3 (1285708) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528352)

I like to think of it as "open" as in 'you need MS-Word to "open" the file'.

Re:Office "open" XML (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528766)

I like to prepend the initial for Microsoft and make it "MOO-XML". Memorable.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528286)

If the do that, could this kill the atrocity that is XML? One can only hope.

Seriously - for formatting data, it's overly complex. For storing and transmitting data, plain old config files are easier to read AND easier to parse...

What actual purpose does XML serve?

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Insightful)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528324)

Amen to parent. I've never quite understood what good XML brought us.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Funny)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528388)

I thought it was a shirt-size meaning one-size-fits-all.

--Greg :-)

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Informative)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528592)

I'm sure you both don't quite understand XML then. It's about data being accessible in a tree instead of a grid. It has similar benefits to using OO programming over procedural^w^w^w^w^w^w^w^w similar benefits to using highways instead of small streets to travel long distances.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528802)

XML gets people who have no business doing serialization and parsing out of that business entirely. Instead, we have schemas (either purely ad-hoc, or formalized) and common libraries to express those needs. Like any computing tool, XML has been used for good, bad, and ugly ends... but it brought the idea of schema-based document format and consistent Document Object Model (DOM) APIs to the forefront of data/document handling. In essence, this is a two-level interface: the document schema (a first-class entity, unlike an ad-hoc data format) and the programming APIs.

Even if you're no big fan of XML, the good ideas, patterns, anti-patterns, and mindset changes that spread along with it have positively influenced many other useful document technologies: JSON, YAML, the newer binary serialization formats (such as Protocol Buffers, Thrift, and Avro), and more.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (2, Informative)

odourpreventer (898853) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528468)

What actual purpose does XML serve?

For me, it makes data semantic-free so that it can be passed between systems, and changes on the transmitting end don't fuck up the receiving end. Plus, it's readable.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (4, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528300)

It's not going to disappear. i4i has said that certain applications that use XML (Such as Open Office) Do not infringe on their patent. Which means they didn't patent XML, they patented something to do with XML. Which Microsoft used, others do not. Thats why Microsoft is feeling the weight of this and not anyone else.

Since XML was started in '96 by the W3C, and i4i's patent was filed in '98, i4i does not own any of the rights to XML like you are saying.

Yes - Lots of places use XML. However, the chances of it disappearing are even less than the chances of HTML disappearing.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528464)

Considering SGML was 1986, you might want to think about what you're saying.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528304)

sopssa, you don't know shit. Try de-shilling and read up all the claims and exhibits - MS knew about this, and it was deliberate.

Then again, I know you won't stop being a MS shill, so fuck you.

Re:Say goodbye for XML (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528406)

It's sort of like a binary form of XML with the tags stored separately ... so not really "normal" XML.

Still far too general and trivial to allow to be patented, once you parse "normal" XML the in memory representation will almost certainly infringe on this patent for instance (a tree structure for the markup with content stored separately is the natural implementation).

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527998)

Does this mean patents are good? Where do I, as an average slashbot, stand on this issue today?

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528176)

On the one hand, it's bad for Microsoft, so slashbot=happy. But it's a Patent win, so slashbot=angry. But it's a win for a small company, so slashbot=happy. But the small company appears to be a patent troll, so slashbot=indignant. But it's band for Microsoft anyway, so slashbot=[error: Stack overflow. Exiting.]

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528270)

On the one hand, it's bad for Microsoft, so slashbot=happy. But it's a Patent win, so slashbot=angry. But it's a win for a small company, so slashbot=happy. But the small company appears to be a patent troll, so slashbot=indignant. But it's band for Microsoft anyway, so slashbot=[error: Stack overflow. Exiting.]

As far as I can tell, i4i is not a patent troll -- that is, they developed the technology, and developed and marketed a product based in said technology. In fact, this almost looks like a poster boy case for the upside of patents -- the little boy is using his patent to stop the big boy ripping it off. It would look better if it wasn't for the glacial pace with which the trial and appeal have proceeded.

Re:So... (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528334)

Then slashbot happy.

Re:So... (0, Troll)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528808)

As far as I can tell, i4i is not a patent troll -- that is, they developed the technology, and developed and marketed a product based in said technology.

*clap. clap. clap.*

Wow. Big round of applause for the hard working programmers at i4i. Weren't they so clever. Are they not ultra geniuses who deserve every penny of that $250 million for giving the world such a unique and otherwise unobtainable technology. Don't they deserve a lifelong monopoly of every even half related technology for the next 20 years. Don't they deserve complete and utter protection from the competing forces that are present in and lead to the improvement of all other economic sectors? It's only fair right? I mean, no none else would ever have been able to come up with anything remotely similar without having read the patents in question right?

And shame, shame on Microsoft for stealing all that hard earned work from these honest boys. You'd swear they wrote and implemented all their own code or something!

Re:So... (2, Funny)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528272)

So you're saying the slashbots should be happy, angry and indignant all at once? That's normal.

You must be new here.

Re:So... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528624)

So a typical day on slashdot?
Wow 270 million. Or on tenth of the coffee budget of Microsoft I wonder if Microsoft will just pay them off and buy the patent and then use it to attack others.
If I was Microsoft and lost my faith that I had a soul that is what I would do.

New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (2, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528016)

Now that MS is at the receiving end of the stick on one of their BIGGEST money making products, I wonder if we might see their tune change on support for software patents...

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528092)

Quite the opposite I think. When another country builds more nukes, do we say, "Gee, they're building lots of nukes and that could hurt us, let's stop building nukes so we don't hurt anybody else." Nope, just the opposite, it causes us to build more. That's what we're going to see here. More "defensive" patents from MS, and more efforts put into enforcement of their patents.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528258)

I don't think that'll be the solution... Since Microsoft is trying to do that anyway. They've been quite involved in setting up defensive patents. In fact, the idea of defensive patents seems quite absurd to me anyway. If you come up with an idea, but you aren't planning on making anything with it... Why not just release it? Or is the idea that they *could* do something with it, and they don't want anyone else to know what that something is?

Anyway, in this case, it appears that MS just stole the idea that was pitched to them. So, they got what they deserved. I know... It's shocking... Well, sorta.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528556)

Please disregard the last line in that post. After looking around and seeing the text... I'm totally wrong. This patent looks scary as hell.

Nuclear warfare != patent reform (2, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528260)

The powerful (business leaders/politicians) cannot make nuclear bombs go away by changing the laws of nuclear warfare. On the other hand, if a coalitions of large IT companies decided to lobby for patent reform, then will probably get whatever laws they want.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528500)

Your analogy is defective in a couple of respects:

Nuclear devices work by the laws of nature. There is nothing we can do about that, whether we like them or not.

Patents are entirely products of law. If the political will existed, congress could simply pass a bill abolishing them immediately(or, more realistically, make any of the numerous reform options that have been discussed and dissected for years now). This is the first major difference.

The second thing is: If your opponent has nukes, building your own is useful if, and only if, they can be used as a deterrent. If your opponent has no targets(either because they are just a scruffy guy with a suitcase nuke and no real national affiliations or because they are a megalomaniac who just doesn't much care what happens to his population centres) your nukes are just a waste of money that could be spent on other problems.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528538)

That's what Kazakhstan did.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

jernejk (984031) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528148)

Visual studio and .Net use XML extensively. Think web services (wcf). Think database (xml support). Shit, this is BIG!

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528162)

What is their tune? There haven't really been cases where MS is patent trolling other companies. Actually they've even given some patents to neutral third party, as open patents. But they have to go by the system and patent their things to protect themself from patent trolls. Just like Google, Apple and everyone else.

Blame the (broken) system, not those who have to go by it.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528434)

FAT patent trolling didn't happen? Notice that the only rational reason to use FAT is to achieve maximum interoperability, so this case may even be treated as monopoly abuse.

MS and IBM and Apple are all known to use software patents to extort license fees. I am not sure about Google, maybe they prefer more traditional blackmail...

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528650)

Besides the FAT patent, how about "Linux infringes $SOME_NUMBER of our patents, but we won't tell you which ones.'

Bilski and the OIN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528692)

Go over to groklaw and look up Microsoft's amici brief in Bilski and you will see MS argue for software patents.

As for patent trolling, there was the incident where MS tried to sell 22 antiLinux patents to patent trolls only to have them intercepted by the OIN.
Oh and TomTom.

I think they feel that if all else fails they can kill linux using patents.

Re:New Anti-Software patent support perhaps... (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528188)

NOt likely. Microsoft has been stockpiling a massive arsenal of patents (as has IBM) in order to use patents as weapons. I really doubt that they would push for change in the right direction because it would likely mean that they'd lose a lot of their weaponry in doing so.

$500 instead of $90 for MS Word? (5, Interesting)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528084)

I thought it odd that they calculated the damages on the assumption that, had Microsoft paid royalties on the patent, they'd have pushed the price of MS Word from $90 to $500 with no loss of sales. It seems to me that if the traffic would support that price, Microsoft would already have been charging it!

--Greg

Re:$500 instead of $90 for MS Word? (1)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528492)

Actually, I think what they are saying is that the company lost 410 dollars per license on about 610000 licenses because of Microsoft so that is how much they are entitled to.

I do not know the whole situation, so I cannot comment in whether these charges are appropriate, I am only explaining how I think the number was calculated.

Re:$500 instead of $90 for MS Word? (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528746)

Where did the figure of 610000 licenses come from? Because I am sure MS has sold far more than that, which would bring the price per license way down. Even if they only sold copies to 1 out of every 10 US citizens it would be 30M copies.

Missing option. . . (2, Interesting)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528144)

"Microsoft must now pay $290M and either stop selling Word (and probably Office) by January 11, or somehow work around the patent by that date."

They could, you know, settle with i4i and license the patent from them?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think i4i's patent is legitimate (I'm not really very familiar with this case - somehow missed it before this, will need to study up on it more later). I'm just saying, the list of options seems to leave out one pretty big possibility.

Re:Missing option. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528250)

If you've already got the judgment in hand, why settle for less?

Re:Missing option. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528322)

Because the $290M only covers past 'infringements'. i4i would settle with Microsoft in order to get a royalty on all future sales of Word. Trust me, if Microsoft doesn't think they can prevail at the SCOTUS, they *will* settle with i4i instead of not selling Word any longer (even if it's just to buy them time to work around the patent, unless they already have a new version of Word ready to launch which has such a work-around).

i4i will settle with Microsoft, if Microsoft offers them enough cash, because any money they get from the settlement will be *in addition* to the already awarded amount.

Re:Missing option. . . (0, Troll)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528510)

Actually if Microsoft just bought out the i4i company like it did Hotmail and others, it would then own those patents. Then they would pay the $290M to themselves, raid the i4i company for key personnel, IP, and other patents and source code, and then close it down after sucking all of the marrow out of i4i's bones.

Corporate Cannibalism is the word I would use to call that.

Re:Missing option. . . (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528714)

> Actually if Microsoft just bought out the i4i company like it did Hotmail
> and others, it would then own those patents.

The shareholders would have to be willing to sell at a price Microsoft was willing to pay. My guess is that an offer was made and refused.

> Corporate Cannibalism is the word I would use to call that.

You, of course. would never sell your company for any amount of money.

Love it (4, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528178)

Power structures serve the powerful first. Microsoft wants the patent regime, but it doesn't want situations like this. When the powerful get shafted, then we can expect patent reform.

What happened then? Well in Redmond they say... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528180)

that i4i's stock price grew THREE sizes that day.

Re:What happened then? Well in Redmond they say... (3, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528618)

And gave it the strengh of Ten Trolls... Plus Two!

Re:What happened then? Well in Redmond they say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528688)

+1 Internet for Grinch reference at the appropriate time of the season. You made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

Obvious solution (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528190)

Something doesn't add up here. Why is i4i not simply willing to license the rights to use the patent to MS (for an exorbitant fee). Why ask for it to be removed? Seems like a license to print money.

Re:Obvious solution (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528340)

The patent isn't actually as broad as it's made out to be. It isn't worth licensing. Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:Obvious solution (4, Interesting)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528350)

Well, on the one hand, the patent gives i4i the right to exclude others from practicing the claimed invention. The court has already told MS that Word is infringing, therefore selling Word would violate the patent rights. MS could simply removing the infringing feature and it could continue selling Word. MS is in control of this aspect.

On the other hand, at the moment, i4i has very little incentive to offer MS any sort of license. i4i won at the lower court and on appeal. Plus, I believe the story goes that they approached MS and MS sent them away and then went ahead and implemented it anyway. They will be able to demand infringement-sized royalties the closer it gets to January 11.

Re:Obvious solution (5, Informative)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528366)

Something doesn't add up here. Why is i4i not simply willing to license the rights to use the patent to MS (for an exorbitant fee). Why ask for it to be removed? Seems like a license to print money.

If you read about the issue in more detail, you'll discover that i4i tried for several years to get MS to pay for a patent license, and MS stalled and delayed and equivocated about it. The lawsuit was a last resort, and AFAICT the damages are so high as a punitive measure. In theory, MS shouldn't be able to get away with ripping people off just because they're the big kid in town.

But yes, I'm sure i4i could have done things in a better way -- they're not completely free from blame for this mess.

Re:Obvious solution (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528544)

It's an i 4 an i.

Re:Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528610)

What exactly is the non-obvious part of the patent in this? I mean, what can be non-obvious about opening a document and saving it to a file...along with... you know...the information about the document...in maybe some standard way? I mean, how can this be non-obvious? (ie: patent-able?).

Re:Obvious solution (1)

acecamaro666 (1243364) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528376)

MS offered X. i4i wants Y. X is less than Y.

Hear that sound? (4, Interesting)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528278)

Its the sound of the patent system beginning to crash down. RIght now there are two choices

1) Take the fundamentally broken US system and roll it out across the world
2) Take the rest of the worlds approach that software can't be patented and roll it out to the UK

The scary thing is that even with judgements like this and the patent trolls out there we are actually seeing the likes of Microsoft push for option 1.

Patents will be the death of innovation if the system continues in this way, particularly if the US judgements are assessed at insane levels of cost. If Microsoft had known about this patent when starting the development they'd have bought the company for less than this judgement.

Re:Hear that sound? (1)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528638)

Patents will be the death of innovation if the system continues in this way, particularly if the US judgements are assessed at insane levels of cost. If Microsoft had known about this patent when starting the development they'd have bought the company for less than this judgement.

Uh, they did know: http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/archives/178682.asp [seattlepi.com]

Back in 2001, two companies now locked in a nasty legal battle were working together to develop software for the U.S. government. Microsoft Corp. needed a third-party developer, i4i Inc., to incorporate custom XML functionality into Word.

Jurisdiction? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528280)

If it is a canadian company doing business in the US then I guess that's ok.

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528478)

If it is a canadian company doing business in the US then I guess that's ok.

TFA clearly states that this was a US appeals court which upheld the judgement. Sadly, this company is playing within the US court rules -- don't blame the rest of us up here in Canada.

I can't for the life of me figure out how someone seems to have gotten a patent on XML that they've not been slamming the rest of the industry with.

Cheers

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528580)

I can't for the life of me figure out how someone seems to have gotten a patent on XML that they've not been slamming the rest of the industry with.

They didn't. It's not a patent on XML -- it's a patent on a specific way of manipulating and processing structured data like XML. Most people don't use it (i4i have stated that they do not believe OpenOffice.org or KOffice are infringing, when they were asked). Microsoft do, and refused to pay for a patent license.

Microsoft are lieing in a bed they made for themselves, and no-one else need worry.

i4i ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30528332)

... and Microsoft goes blind

Cheaper solution (-1, Flamebait)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528486)

Hire some hitmen to kill the key people behind the patent troll?

Seriously, 250 million, or 25 grand? Doh?

They could so get away with it. Patent trolls have numerous enemies. Everyone hates them.

There is no way the motive could be uniquely pinned on anyone. There are ways to move the money to make it impossible to trace. A large corporation has its money flows divided in so many ways, you can easily scrape together the cash from a hit from multiple sources without any traceability.

I am quite torn on this one (1)

downix (84795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528508)

I tend to believe these patents are often times too broad, but one of the reasons why they've stuck is due to Microsoft pushing for them to be this way. If this sticks, MSFT is looking to be, in effect, shot by their own gun. The irony is not lost on me.

In Related News (3, Funny)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528570)

The Microsoft suit with 2th-4-2th seems to be going about the same way.

--Greg :-)

RTFP (5, Informative)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528586)

The patent in question. [zdnet.com] . Decide for yourselves.

Re:RTFP (3, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528646)

No I pay taxes so that the courts can take care of these things instead of the masses.

Re:RTFP (1)

Melted_Igloo (1482045) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528730)

Thats the dumbest patent Ive ever seen Its basically formating a document with pointers or some database-type garbage, who in their right mind would ever use it

Writ of Certiorari (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528668)

I'm not a lawyer so I don't know what a "writ of certiorari" is - is that a "we're too special to follow the law so please allow us to break it"?

(Yes, yes, I'm going to google it (not Bing! it...) to find out what it really is but I want to make a point before I go...)

Whew! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#30528810)

Thank goodness that all of the apps I've ever been involved with date back from the old days when this was all done with SGML. That stuff is probably all out of patent (if it ever was patented) and into the public domain by now.
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