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Supreme Court To Hear Microsoft-i4i Case Monday

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the regulators-like-being-regulators dept.

Microsoft 105

CWmike writes "Patent attorneys and inventors of all types are closely watching a Microsoft case that the US Supreme Court will start to consider on Monday. The case, which centers on a technology patent assigned to i4i that almost forced Microsoft to stop selling its flagship Word software, could have broad implications in the way patents are awarded and upheld, experts said. Currently, when a patent holder accuses someone of infringing a patent, the burden is on the infringer to prove with 'clear and convincing evidence' that the patent is invalid. In hearing this case, the Supreme Court could decide to lower that standard of proof, she said."

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105 comments

If the process is corrupted (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35839258)

They're all invalid. Every last one should have to go through it again... and again.. until they get it right.

Re:If the process is corrupted (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843442)

Not necessily. If the process were truly "corrupted," whatever that means, you might take away the presumption of validity for the corrupt patents, but it would be silly to revoke them all--the delays in future prosecution it would cause, not to mention the problems of re-prosecuting hundreds of thousands of patents for inventions made years ago by inventors who work at different companies...

IT'S BIBLICAL !! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839260)

An Eye for an Eye is what God said unto the flock !!

And then HE let them have it !!

score;mynutswon armband of the unarmed unchosen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839286)

talk about disarming? cold? disappointed? surely.

disadvantaged? never.

profitseizing has its' downfalls? could be wrong. betting both sides of the middle does not always work either? thou shalt not covet... fear... whatever.

talk about a class not acting at all; the genuine native elders report that gambling has done almost as much harm to their young, as the chosen ones holycostal genocides of the earlier centuries did, & still do, as it is conveyed to us in the teepeeleaks etchings.

Re:score;mynutswon armband of the unarmed unchosen (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35839338)

You know, that made sense?...

Re:score;mynutswon armband of the unarmed unchosen (1)

bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#35839428)

I think amanfrommars made his way here.

http://www.cnet.com/profile/amanfromMars/ [cnet.com]

He can be spotted from time to time on the Reg

http://forums.channelregister.co.uk/user/5578/ [channelregister.co.uk]

--
BMO

fearless leaders? or neogods hiding in bunkers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839502)

well f us again? isn't that just the movies. there are no secrets...from us? god is going to show up any minute now. he's going to heal the easter bunny of his unproven land mine wounds, as if by miracle. then pave the way for jesus to take us on home, to our rewards. the unending suffering & efficiently scheduled cataclysms are our further assurance that his word is as good as gold ducats, using our calendar.

Too big to fail doctrine (3, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 3 years ago | (#35839306)

> Currently, when a patent holder accuses someone of infringing a patent, the burden is on the infringer to prove with 'clear and convincing evidence' that the patent is invalid. In hearing this case, the Supreme Court could decide to lower that standard of proof, she said."

AKA, the court usually finds a way to shoehorn something that's highly important to the status quo into some or another legal theory.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839592)

Some animals are more equal than others, ya know.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 years ago | (#35839636)

It's not about status quo, it's about the court finding a way to do what the court wants. Sometimes the court wants the status quo, sometimes they don't.

In this case, the mechanism used was this: Microsoft found new evidence (that the patent was invalid) that wasn't previously considered by the patent office. Since the court recognizes the authority of the patent office (rightly or wrongly), it requires you to work harder to prove that they made a mistake. In cases where there is new evidence, the court is making its own decision, so it can't rely on the expertise of the patent office.

Whether that is the right decision or not, I don't know, but it is clear the patent system needs an overhaul.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (3, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 3 years ago | (#35843060)

To be blunt, I don't even know why this got to the Supreme Court. There's little "constitutional" merit to the case. Microsoft is used to companies they can buy our bully.. in this case i4i sold the product TO the patent office so the patent office was in a unique position to know much more about the invention than other ones. Previously, the Supreme Court has said that the Patent Office has the final say... lower Appeals courts have backed that up. This is consistent with the prior ruling on Copyright (from the same clause in the Constitution) that Congress is the one that sets those rules. If you don't like them, talk to Congress.

Back on the topic of Microsoft, they find themselves in the spot that Microsoft has NOTHING these guys want other than to watch Microsoft STOP SELLING something. So for all the games Microsoft plays, they've found themselves at the wrong end of the stick they've enjoyed berating "piracy" for decades. The courts are getting loath to keep allowing endless appeals in these patent cases... many of the lower courts and even other Supreme Court cases point to a trend that the courts want to wash their hands and tell folks to get Congress to fix the rules... also, Bush put into place a lot of "unitary executive" believers, and the Patent Office is an "Executive" department... so the current court is leaning highly toward "em's the Apples" and that's the Law as it stands.

The final say on what? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843496)

> Previously, the Supreme Court has said that the Patent Office has the final say...

What? When, and on what? What can't you appeal from the patent office, except for a few minor procedural issues?

Re:The final say on what? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 3 years ago | (#35844224)

the courts are getting tired of enforcing sloppy patents... it's not really their problem. Patent law is addressed by Congress and the President... they have chosen to grant as many as possible for political reasons and to use the patent office as a piggy bank for extra spending money. In other cases mentioned on slashdot the courts are getting ready to simply to throw the whole mess back at Congress and tell all these companies to go use their Lobby money for something useful!! Otherwise, Patents are The Law... to the letter, deal with it!

All this mess is an "unfunded mandate" on the courts and it's the Supreme Court's job to manage it's staff and budget and the load from poor oversight and bad operating rules of the PTO is crushing it.

Not quite. (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35845442)

Not really, no. I can see where you might think that based on a few slashdot articles, though.

The courts are responsible for adjudicating disputes. If someone asks them to enforce a patent, that is definitely their problem.

Patent disputes are only a small part of the work load of most District Courts. The Federal Circuit, on the other hand, handles lots of patent cases. They are in some ways the most rule-bound Circuit Court of Appeals in the country. They like patent cases. They dislike bad practice in patent cases, but they get to shape much of the law in the way they want to. Nobody is really getting tired of enforcing "sloppy patents"--patents have to be pretty technically specific and definite about what they cover.

You may be thinking about abstractions, algorithms, and obvious things that we might think the USPTO should never have granted. If you were looking at just some of the banner cases, you would see the cases where the Supreme Court steps in, which are rare. The Supreme Court has raised the bar for patentability somewhat in recent years, which I think is a good thing, although it makes getting patents on genuinely legitimate new Patentable subject matter harder. But they are only addressing one or two patent cases a year, and they are definitely not doing it because they are tired of enforcing sloppy patents. They don't enforce patents. They try to figure out what the law should be on issues that enough justices (four Supreme Court Justices) agree are important cases to hear. They tend to look at whether there is a split between the circuits (which is less relevant in patent cases because they all go to the federal circuit), whether the case below was decided wrongly, how important it is to establish more clearly what the law is in a given area, and whether the particular case before them is a good case on which to decide the issue they feel is important.

Patent law is written by Congress, but they have not changed it in quite a while. There are new changes put forth every year, but they haven't made it through Congress since 1999. (Although one patent bill passed the Senate this year.)

The USPTO is not granting anywhere near as many patents as possible--I believe their grant rate is lower than 50%, and the examiners take their jobs seriously and try to figure out whether each patent should be rejected or not under the MPEP (their guide, which is mostly the law, but organized with guidance for them).

The patent office is... mmm... interesting. You are right, they are sort of using them as a piggy bank--or more accurately, a tax on invention and government backed monopoly. They are taking about 5% of the fees collected by the USPTO this year for the general federal budget. That is definitely not the only use or interest in them that Congress or the Administration have. (Or even the biggest interest. They are only looking to get $100 million that way. There are lots of individual patents out there worth much more than that, although most are worth much less.)

The Courts cannot [usually] throw things back to Congress, although they can decide which way to rule based on a feeling that Congress is better capable of acting than they are. (e.g. "You made a good argument for a new rule, but a legislative body that is making social policy decisions and that can engage in extensive factfinding is better suited to change the law in that way; we lack the institutional competence or authority to do so.")

Courts also don't tell companies to use their lobby money for particular things. They decide cases. They may, as I said, say that legislative action would be necessary for the company to get the result it wants--but it usually says that to the side that loses. And it usually does not result in congressional action. Sometimes it does--although to be fair, companies lobby to overturn court decisions by legislative action regardless of whether the court accepted an institutional competence argument.

It is also not an unfunded mandate on the courts. Unfunded mandates refers to when laws or regulations impose costs that are not reimbursed by the federal government. Patent cases are tried in the federal courts and the patent system involves the [federal] USPTO. There is no issue of the federal government not reimbursing someone here--the federal government pays for the courts and the courts are a part of the federal government.

Again, I can understand where you would reach different conclusions if you learned about it skimming a few slashdot articles or summaries of patent and political issues. After all, they are complex issues.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | about 3 years ago | (#35840198)

Probably not a big deal, and here's why:

Juries have a strong preference for senior users, so when you bring an infringement suit, you demand a jury trial.

Juries make gestalt decisions - seriously, can you explain what the difference between "clear and convincing" and "preponderance of the evidence?" Technically, clear and convincing may be higher, but can you think of a situation in a jury room where the jury deliberates and decides - you know what, I really feel like the preponderance of the evidence was on Microsoft's side, but I'm not sure it was clear and convincing.

This might have some small effect on bench trials, because judges tend to like to wax poetic about small legalistic differences, but all that means is that there are likely to be fewer bench trials as junior users try to take this out of the hands of the judge.

"It won't matter to juries" Juries still matter? (2)

jeko (179919) | about 3 years ago | (#35841254)

You make an excellent point that juries won't care about the distinction between "preponderance" and "convincing," and you're right, they wouldn't.

Unfortunately, the power of the jury has been under attack for some time. Have you done jury duty lately? The juror's oath used to be that you would apply the law without prejudice and in good conscience. Today the oath has been changed to include "following the judge's instruction."

There are no boundary limits put on the judge's instruction.

We used to have hung juries all the time. Hanging the jury used to be an acknowledged right of any jury member. It was considered a safeguard of justice. "If twelve can't agree, then it stops." Today, judges simply remove "problem" jurors in the interest of expediency.

Juries today are well on their way to becoming very little more than rubber stamps for the judge's decision.

Re:"It won't matter to juries" Juries still matter (0)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 3 years ago | (#35843424)

Juries today are well on their way to becoming very little more than rubber stamps for the judge's decision.

Is that a bad thing in cases like this, though? How is justice served by turning over complex patent cases to 12 epsilon-minuses who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty?

Re:"It won't matter to juries" Juries still matter (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 3 years ago | (#35843932)

So you want to turn it over to a single judge who couldn't even cut it in private practice?

Re:"It won't matter to juries" Juries still matter (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 3 years ago | (#35844046)

In a patent case, yep.

Snowing hayseed jurors, specifically in Eastern Texas, is a time-honored practice of patent plaintiffs.

Re:"It won't matter to juries" Juries still matter (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | about 3 years ago | (#35851422)

well, the E.D. Tex. is chosen by plaintiffs least as much for the speed at which litigation is resolved (which is nominally a good thing and a function of judges) as for the jury pool. Additionally while E.D. Tex. has very knowledgeable judges on patent issues, if you are a senior user it is very open to debate whether you want E.D. Tex.'s particular variety of knowledgeable [wikipedia.org] judge [uscourts.gov].

The judges would agree with you. (1)

jeko (179919) | about 3 years ago | (#35844066)

Every judge I've ever met would agree with you. No judge thinks any twelve random people can come to a better decision than they can.

The problem is that every single one of those judges is wrong, and juries were given power for exactly that reason. If juries can't be trusted to decide mere business issues, then they certainly shouldn't be trusted with matters of life and death. The awesome power of the jury was given to twelve random changing people because to do anything else would create a dangerous, inevitably corrupted ruling class. Judges aren't as wise as juries because the institutional arrogance that comes with the job inures them to the reality they're dealing with. Given enough time, every judge becomes Roy Bean. We counter that tendency by placing them in service to twelve random people. By placing the judge in their proper place as mere referee to the lawyers and advisor to the jury, we can keep the court grounded and properly humble before the awesome responsibility they carry.

Given their job, no judge should ever sleep well.

Unfortunately though, you're right. Our juries today are made up of people who can't hold gainful employment, people "not smart enough to get out of jury duty." Every place I've ever worked has made it very clear that if you get chosen for jury duty, you should spend your nights spreading resumes. The very people we most want serving on a jury are exactly the people who would lose their houses if they had to forgo their income for a six-month trial.

We can fix this problem with a few changes. Each juror should be paid the same hourly wage as the highest paid lawyer in the room. No juror can ever be found in contempt of court. No juror can be removed exept for clearly proven misconduct such as bribery. A jury will be declared "hung" when more than six jurors declare it to be.

To compensate for the inevitable bozos, each attorney will be given twice the number of peremptory challenges. Voir dire will get a little longer, but if you make these changes, you'll find juries of a quality worth arguing cases in front of.

Re:The judges would agree with you. (1)

Gogo0 (877020) | about 3 years ago | (#35844618)

Not certain where you work, but I believe there are laws against firing or making life unlivable if you are selected by jury duty. Somehow millions of people a year seem to do jury time and not come out the other end selling window washes at the stoplight.
My previous employer paid me my regular salary during the time I was on jury duty. YMMV, but I would talk to a lawyer to be certain.

I agree that some of the decisions that come out of high-profile jury trials are absolutely baffling, but we also have idiot judges ruling on stuff they dont even comprehend, lawyers arguing technical cases with information that makes no sense, and "expert" witnesses that present illogical conclusions to sway that judge or jury member that doesnt know any better. the whole thing is a roll of the dice.

And your comments about the people who serve on juries... what the hell? because you arent "clever" enough to lie or think of some excuse as to why you cannot participate in jury duty, you are "not smart enough"? i hope you never go to trial, if all the people you would deem intelligent enough to entrust your future were also "too smart" to serve.

Re:The judges would agree with you. (1)

jeko (179919) | about 3 years ago | (#35844782)

Go back and read the thread from the top again to find out where the "not smart enough" line got started.

Re:The judges would agree with you. (1)

jeko (179919) | about 3 years ago | (#35849170)

Also, google "jury duty job loss" and get ready for a long read like this one:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/us/02jury.html [nytimes.com]
Call to Jury Duty Strikes Fear of Financial Ruin

Just because it's illegal to retaliate against employees doen't mean it doesn't happen, and several states do not require that employees get paid during that time. In fact, NO state requires that hourly workers get paid at all.

You have been lucky. That does not mean everyone, or even the majority, are lucky as well.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (2)

Raenex (947668) | about 3 years ago | (#35842486)

From what I can tell, "clear and convincing" means you have a damn good case, with something like 90% certainty, and "preponderance of the evidence" means you have greater than 50% certainty -- meaning just weight both sides equally and choose which one you believe has the better case.

If those are the kind of instructions given to the jury, then I'd expect them to apply them, for the most part. I think if the Supreme Court changed the balance it would make a big difference.

Re:Too big to fail doctrine (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843506)

More or less, although jury instructions don't usually use percentages, I think. Patents are entitled to a presumption of validity based on the office's examination, and that's very well-established law, but the question of preponderance v. clear and convincing is open for debate.

It's just word!! (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 years ago | (#35839328)

Now I don't fully understand this case, but if the "flagship" product word is in trouble, does it really matter? There are MUCH better office solutions out there and there free. Microsoft office is a great product if you want to waste money and get a bulky program. When I need an office program it's time for Open Office or Libre Office, both of which not only out perform Word but do a better job as a word processor.

Re:It's just word!! (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35839360)

...both of which not only out perform Word but do a better job as a word processor.

Anything beyond a spell checker is excessive bloat.

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839688)

I just wish they'd fix the formatting of word documents and powerpoint presentations.
The Lack of VB macros in calc is also a killer reason not to use them.

Linux is stuck in the tech world as long as there is no (easy way to) install for office, photoshop and autocad.

Alternatives are "barely" useable, users don't care about the OS. Its all about the programs, and those are three you cannot escape from.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35839828)

The Lack of VB macros in calc is also a killer reason not to use them.

Can't you just put a bunch of formulas into the cell(s)? Here again, I find the basic adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing (square root is nice) more than sufficient. A calculator with lots of memory, not a database that hogs lots of memory

Re:It's just word!! (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 3 years ago | (#35840454)

A lot of so called business applications are hideous ad-hocceries developed in VBA and use extended parts of the API and other libraries that LibreOffice doesn't support (it does have limited VBA support). A lot of budding programmers took advantage of VBA since Visual Studio 6 cost money, but everyone had Office.

The major blockers for migrating from MS Office to LibreOffice are not about the basic functionality of the programs, but

* Formatting incompatibilities
* Applications written as VBA macros in Excel and other programs
* Applications written on top of Access

Re:It's just word!! (1)

jbengt (874751) | about 3 years ago | (#35840904)

The Lack of VB macros in calc is also a killer reason not to use them.,/em>

Can't you just put a bunch of formulas into the cell(s)?

I find a lot of situations where a Basic macro is more appropriate than a bunch of formulas in the cells. For example, a useful calculation to have in a spreadsheet for my work is for the pressure drop in a straight length of pipe or duct. Tha is proportional to f*density*velocity^2, where the friction factor f = -log10( (1/3.7)*e/D + 2.51/(Re*sqr(f)) ), where e/D is the pipe roughness factor, Re is a function of diameter, velocity, density, and viscosity, and the formula for f cannot be solved explicitly, but is very amenable to quick successive approximation methods. This more manageable with macro functions than with formulas in cells.

That said, the lack of VB macros in OO.o Calc doesn't bother me at all, since Calc has equivalent Basic functionality. (the object model is easier to use in Excel than in Calc, though, if you need to use it)

Re:It's just word!! (1)

Bungie (192858) | about 3 years ago | (#35843876)

Yes if you're doing basic math operations between cells than you will probably find the spreadsheet in Microsoft Works to be more than sufficient. Excel is designed with a significantly larger functionality set in mind, like the kind of sh*t that real accountants and number crunchers need. Using Excel for basic mathematics is like using the space shuttle to get the frisbee off your roof.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843516)

> Anything beyond a spell checker is excessive bloat.

Have you ever tried to edit a document with multiple people? Wanted internal cross-references? Headers and Tables of Contents? Multiple sections with alternate pagination? There are lots of circumstances where you want something beyond a spell checker, and most people don't have the time or skill-set to use LaTeX all the time.

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839514)

Neither OpenOffice nor Libre Office correctly handle Word formatting in complex documents. It's not possible to ever do so for new Word, nor Excel, nor PowerPoint documents because they all have undocumented and unstable behavior impossible to replicate without access to the original authors and source code. While both of those open source office suites are much more *stable* and safer for your work, neither of them include access to the Exchange based calendar tools nor to Outlook email, so they're complete non-starters in most large office environments.

Re:It's just word!! (3, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 3 years ago | (#35843078)

various versions of MICROSOFT Word don't have good formatting between them... how could anybody ELSE do better when the format's own creators can't seem to get it right.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 3 years ago | (#35839536)

both of which not only out perform Word but do a better job as a word processor.

How so? I mean I use Open Office and it's perfectly adequate for my needs, but it never struck me as being quite as good as Word. For one thing, OpenOffice 3 screwed up word counts, and tends to lag behind on features.

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839630)

Are you kidding me?? OpenOffice had the ability to export to PDF long before Microsoft Office did, an extremely useful feature that I use very often. And XML document formats? Yeah, OpenOffice was first with that, too. So, how's that lagging behind??

Oh wait, you mean that super cool "ribbon" interface that MS Office has now... And Clippy. Can't forget clippy.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

high (315481) | about 3 years ago | (#35839940)

Regarding the PDF issue I think it's too hard to hold this against Microsoft as they actually implemented support for PDF writing in Office 2007 but was threatened by Adobe with an antitrust suit if they didn't removed the feature. See this article [slashdot.org] and this Microsoft press response [microsoft.com].

Besides, this shouldn't be a major issue for most users. As there are better ways of implementing PDF-writing support by installing a PDF-printer in the OS, for example using the free software program PDFCreator [sourceforge.net]. This way all applications that can print can save to PDF-files. For efficient then implementing it in every program.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 3 years ago | (#35840578)

This way all applications that can print can save to PDF-files. For efficient then implementing it in every program.

Which is fine if you don't care about things like exporting the table of contents, hyperlinks and such like. Going through a printer driver tends to destroy that sort of stuff.

I found a tool called PDF-T-MAKER that semed to work for producing decent PDF but was a massive pain to set up. I can see how a quality PDF exported built into word would be a substantial threat to adobes buisness as producer of the PDF production tool for those who want more than a basic PDF printer driver can offer.

These days I've just given up on word for complex documents and use LaTeX instead.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 3 years ago | (#35840184)

I can see how PDF is useful but I don't give a damn about XML formats.

Where's the grammar checker in Writer? Autoabstract is pretty limited and doesn't do a very good job in my experience, compared with autosummarise. Can you configure it quickly to give that nice yellow on blue interface?

Collaborative editing? Maybe this is a specialised feature but it's still something where OO lagged behind.

It's another feature that I don't use but like I said, I'm perfectly happy with OO. The reason I use it is not because it's better but because it's free and more than adequate for my needs. I'm not going to claim it's better.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

jbengt (874751) | about 3 years ago | (#35841034)

Where's the grammar checker in Writer?

Grammar checker, really? Of the features that arguably are better in Word or missing in Writer you pick a "helpful" feature that has about 20 times more false alarms than useful hints? ( You started the last three sentences with "Contractor shall" ; Well, this is a spec telling the contractor what to do. | "Shall" is considered archaic, consider using will, instead. ; No, "shall" is the most common directive in specifications. | etc. )

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35841594)

Please don't talk about collaborative editing as something Word excels at, or even does. Whatever Word does good, it's not this. Not even close.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about 3 years ago | (#35840036)

I tried very hard to adopt open office myself, being a believer and all. But still, I can get work done on MS office faster than on OO. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for the day the tables turn. I give it a few more years.

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35841336)

I've used Word & Excel concurrently with Open Office since the latter came out in 2002. During that time I went to school for engineering, graduate school for engineering, and law school. I'd say I use Open Office 95% of the time now.

Writer works for me; I've spent tremendous amounts of time using it, including thesis writing. It does everything I need it to do, although MS Word is "better" at some things, and lord, OO Writer can have some annoying traits. (For one example, I really hate that Writer doesn't automatically continue tab indents like Word, aad the macros I've found to simulate that feature stink.)

Calc has gotten a lot better in recent years, but there is still a lot of math/stats/engineering fucntionality that is either lacking or just plain inadequate. Sometimes I really do have to go back to Excel.

Re:It's just word!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839556)

Which is a better productivity applicaiton than Microsoft Office? You mentioned Open Office and Libre Office, which are also-rans. But can you mention a better one?

Re:It's just word!! (1)

SpockLogic (1256972) | about 3 years ago | (#35840450)

Which is a better productivity applicaiton than Microsoft Office? You mentioned Open Office and Libre Office, which are also-rans. But can you mention a better one?

Thank you Mr Balmer.

Re:It's just word!! (5, Funny)

r.stallman (2030484) | about 3 years ago | (#35839626)

When I need an office program it's time for Open Office or Libre Office, both of which not only out perform Word but do a better job as a word processor.

I'm not sure if you're being serious, but recently I used Office to complete my PhD thesis in physics and it was amazing. I wrote a quick VBA in Excel to directly interface to my cold fusion power output detectors (resistance lowered when immersed to indicate increased temperature) and rather than have to use complex formulae a wizard suggested the best one automatically! The charts looked super smooth and slick, not like Open Office where frankly the results looked quite random.

But back onto word processors, Word is amazing too. I'd pretty much only just started writing the introduction when "It appears you are writing a thesis, would you like help?" appeared. After I clicked yes for every term I entered it automatically fetched Wikipedia results and referenced them, I was done in no time! Now that I'm a Doctor I'm also using MS Flight Simulator to learn to fly as soon I'll be able to afford my own private jet. Thanks again Microsoft!

Re:It's just word!! (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 3 years ago | (#35840042)

I recently had to reformat a complex 100 page technical document in Word 2010 and within 4 hours I had a smooth navigable thing in place with drag and drop section rearrangement, automatic indexing, instantly update-able sub-tables-of-contents for each section, and a lot of other fun toys I managed to create because of field switches. I use OpenOffice at home, but I'm honestly not sure I could have pulled it off in such a manner on Writer that if we decide to add a section in a month, the entire thing can have updated pagination and indices in under a minute.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35840374)

Why is this modded down?
Haven't seen something that much deserving of a +5 Funny than this post in a while.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

fritsd (924429) | about 3 years ago | (#35841680)

I don't think the modern readers get your joke--you forgot the <mild_sarcasm_warning> tags.
I read it and I thought "he's doing a PhD thesis in physics and he chooses Office over LaTeX [wikipedia.org]... yeah right.." ;-)
LaTeX! WYSIWYM [wikipedia.org]!
end of advertisement.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 3 years ago | (#35839680)

Sure but if any of these other word processers want to do custom xml editing, they are hit by this patent as well.

As and example, companies in the UK are now required to file their accounts with HM Revenue and Customs in ixbrl format. Being able to enter the required xml tags to do this in word or one of its competitors could be very useful.

It's just Word but it's not _about_ Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839806)

does it really matter?

Of course it does. Patents are a threat to everyone, and this case illustrates it with "If it can happen to Microsoft, it can happen to you." Do you really think that all those other office solutions don't also violate thousands of bullshit patents? Do you think you can program for 8 hours without violating a bullshit patent? A Microsoft victory in this case would really be helpful, to just about every programmer in USA (actually in the whole world, if you consider the US market being worth servicing). And likewise, a Microsoft loss in this case will mean the usual hopelessness of the people needing Congress to deal with the problem, which they won't.

Re:It's just Word but it's not _about_ Word (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843524)

The real problem is we should have different--lower standards for challengers--for patents in areas that are only tenuously patentable.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 3 years ago | (#35840122)

I can tell that you've never tried to make complex documents with OpenOffice. Certain types of formatting and such cannot even be done, such as proper sections, table of contents, table of authorities, etc. All lacking in OpenOffice.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 3 years ago | (#35840890)

Also lacking in MS office. You need latex to do that stuff well. Or if a GUI is requied, LyX....

Re:It's just word!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35841170)

Are you seriously proposing that LaTeX is better for formatting than MS Word? Don't get me wrong, LaTeX is great for technical documents, but it's unusable for a client presentation.

Re:It's just word!! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 3 years ago | (#35845748)

You said you wanted proper sections, table of contents, authorities, etc. That is a domain where LaTeX is infinitely superior to Word, for several reasons, not the least of which the fact that LaTeX generates the ToC and section numbering when you run it, so it always gets the page numbers and section numbers right in the final document. You didn't say you wanted a powerpoint presentation. For which, Powerpoint actually is a pretty good choice.

So... (3, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#35839356)

If Microsoft wins this case, its purported 235 patents that Linux supposedly infringes upon (they have yet to list them after all these years because they are likely piss-weak) are further weakened?

I'm all for it.

Go Microsoft!

--
BMO

Re:So... (4, Informative)

Grond (15515) | about 3 years ago | (#35839736)

If Microsoft wins this case, its purported 235 patents that Linux supposedly infringes upon (they have yet to list them after all these years because they are likely piss-weak) are further weakened?

Microsoft is a defendant in about 50 patent infringement suits at any given time. They are the target of far, far more patent infringement suits than they file. It's in their strategic interest to make it somewhat easier to invalidate patents.

This case also demonstrates the lengths to which Microsoft is willing to go to defend an infringement case. There was a full jury trial, a reexamination at the Patent Office, a (denied) request for a second reexamination, an appeal of the injunction to the Federal Circuit, an appeal of the case itself to the Federal Circuit, and now this appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court agrees with Microsoft, the case will go back to the trial court for a new trial, with, potentially, another round of appeals if Microsoft loses again.

Re:So... (3, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 3 years ago | (#35839952)

This case also demonstrates the lengths to which Microsoft is willing to go to defend an infringement case. There was a full jury trial, a reexamination at the Patent Office, a (denied) request for a second reexamination, an appeal of the injunction to the Federal Circuit, an appeal of the case itself to the Federal Circuit, and now this appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court agrees with Microsoft, the case will go back to the trial court for a new trial, with, potentially, another round of appeals if Microsoft loses again.

If you have been fined $400 million or so, you can invest quite a few million into trying to reduce that number.

Re:So... (2)

Ronin Developer (67677) | about 3 years ago | (#35840704)

This also clearly demonstrates why the little guy can't ahead in this world. Large corporations with deep pockets will suck you dry and keep on infringing long after you have lost everything - even if you are right.

Patents were designed for ideas that can be constructed and touched - aka inventions - not just ideas.

Software patents should not be allowed. Period.

Re:So... (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#35844810)

I disagree. Being able to look up the source code for word (as part of the patent application) would make writing the converters for open office much easier. If software was legally patentable instead of backdoor patentable like now then you'd need to include source code. Of course the length of software patents should be 5 years, with no extensions.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839798)

I disagree. This only applies to cases once th
ey get to court. Open source will be worse off, since microsoft can continue to pass fud, and be protected once they get to court. Remember, court fees are not cheap, even if you win. This will be a proprietary win and an open source lose if scotus rules in microsoft's favor.

lower that standard of proof (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 years ago | (#35839424)

Lowering of standards has been pretty common of late. I would expect them to do this.

Cognitive dissonance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839534)

I don't like patent-trolls...

But Microsoft is evil...

But I don't like patent-trolls...

But Microsoft is evil...

But...

I know an enemy of my enemy is my friend, but what about an enemy of my enemy of my enemy of my enemy of my...*buffer overflow*

Re:Cognitive dissonance (1, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#35839604)

Never interrupt your enemy when he's in the process of shooting himself in the foot.

--
BMO

Re:Cognitive dissonance (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about 3 years ago | (#35839862)

This is a tricky one, but not for the reasons you say. I can't stand patent trolls, but then I don't consider i4i to be one. Sure they have patents, but they also sell a product which uses those patents. For me, a patent troll is a company who sits on a portfolio of patents, produces nothing with them (ie. doesn't sell any products) and then just sues everyone else for coming up with the same ideas.

That said, this patent is complete rubbish. It is not a novel idea. It sits on top of XML, which is an extensible system that can handle custom XML tags. They then have the idea to have a user interface to use that facility. Where is the originality in that? What problem did they need to overcome to produce this feature? They didn't make a Word Processor and they didn't make the extensible file format so why can they control the way these things are linked together?

This just shows that a company that falls outside my personal idea of a patent troll can still come up with lousy patents anyway. The problem is not theirs though, it sits firmly with the patent office. This should never have been approved.

Finally (and more controversially), I also don't consider Microsoft to be evil. Seriously, what evil have they done to you lately?

Wrong way round, surely (1, Interesting)

Smivs (1197859) | about 3 years ago | (#35839576)

From the article (above) "when a patent holder accuses someone of infringing a patent, the burden is on the infringer to prove with 'clear and convincing evidence' that the patent is invalid". Surely the burden must be on the patent holder to prove that their patent has been infringed. What happened to 'Innocent until proven guilty'?

Re:Wrong way round, surely (3, Informative)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about 3 years ago | (#35839692)

From the article (above) "when a patent holder accuses someone of infringing a patent, the burden is on the infringer to prove with 'clear and convincing evidence' that the patent is invalid". Surely the burden must be on the patent holder to prove that their patent has been infringed.

You are mixing up two separate arguments:

  1. The patent holder has to show that the patent was infringed. If they can't do this, then it is game over.
  2. If they can show infringement, then the defendant can argue that the patent should not exist in the first place due to being too obvious, or having prior art etc.

Changing the rules for the second part does not affect the first part.

Re:Wrong way round, surely (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 3 years ago | (#35839986)

Exactly. In fact, by the time a patent case gets to court, there's generally very little question about whether infringement is occurring. Even when there is, the patent court has procedures to establish that one way or the other fairly quickly. Court time is almost always spent on issues like (1) Should the patent have been granted? (2) Did plaintiff do something underhanded to get a process for which it holds a patent adopted as a standard? (3) Is the particular application covered under the patent?

Re:Wrong way round, surely (1)

stms (1132653) | about 3 years ago | (#35839724)

'Innocent until proven guilty' or 'guilty without a reason for doubt' isn't for civil suites like this one, though lately no one seems to respect it anywhere. For civil suites its about 'guilty without a reasonable doubt' which is slightly different.

The computerworld article is terrible (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35839606)

I am a patent attorney. I write and prosecute patents. I don't do litigation. Nevertheless, I've been keeping an eye on the i4i case. The Computerworld article grossly oversimplifies the issues in this case. There are different types of prior art that can be used to invalidate a patent. The prior art at issue in the i4i case is not a printed publication or any type of publicly-available reference the Examiner could have reasonably been expected to find. The prior art at issue is prior art known only to the inventor.

While the Supreme Court could lower the standard across the board for all types of prior art, it's more likely the Court will lower the standard only for prior art not available to the Examiner through printed publications or other publicly-available sources.

For an excellent analysis, see this blog post: http://www.reexamlink.com/category/patent-litigation/
(You have to scroll down to get to the i4i blog entries)

Re:The computerworld article is terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35841778)

I'd hazard a guess that Microsoft (if there is any sort of prior art in existence here) didn't know it existed when they ripped of i4i's tech. Ergo, they knew what they were doing was wrong, ethically and legally, and this is a gigantic hail mary to get out of jail free.

That being said, if they get a "lower standard" as it seems they want, then it will likely collapse the entire patent system by corporations rushing to invalidate patents that they find inconvenient or in possession of a direct competitor (actual or potential). A bonanza for lawyers and corporates, and the world gets to go to hell in a handbasket. Note that a "lower standard" would apply to all patent prior art not to just software.

Re:The computerworld article is terrible (1)

Raenex (947668) | about 3 years ago | (#35842564)

That being said, if they get a "lower standard" as it seems they want, then it will likely collapse the entire patent system by corporations rushing to invalidate patents that they find inconvenient or in possession of a direct competitor (actual or potential). A bonanza for lawyers and corporates, and the world gets to go to hell in a handbasket.

I'm not convinced the world wouldn't be better off without patents, especially if it didn't require a mess of lawyers to dissolve the system. For as much as patents encourage invention, they also take away competition, increase red tape, and reduce further invention because of overly broad patents.

Due dilligence (2)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#35839640)

I would think the (US) patent office has a legal requirement to properly investigate patents before approval. If it can be shown they don't- then that should (morally should, I don't know about legally) reverse the process and require patent holders to prove the patent valid before they can enforce it. I believe in lawsuits they normally follow the most likely answer (preponderance of evidence) instead of proven beyond reasonable doubt. I suggest they keep that standard for patent validity.

Re:Due dilligence (1)

christurkel (520220) | about 3 years ago | (#35839730)

They could but they have a chronic shortage of patent examiners and a lack of funding.

Re:Due dilligence (0)

mysidia (191772) | about 3 years ago | (#35840254)

They could but they have a chronic shortage of patent examiners and a lack of funding.

So why not just change the standards?

Approve all patents; get rid of patent office approving/rejecting patents as in having an opinion about whether/not it is patentable, only collecting research, prior art search, etc, and adding their findings to the patent.

BUT adjust patent law so the plaintiff for any patent infringement suit has a burden of proof that (1) they had a patentable invention, and (2) the patent was valid, and (3) patents are assumed invalid by default -- the plaintiff must establish validity in court. (Instead of the defendant having a burden to show invalidity if they dispute the patent -- they will be in a position to argue from strength)

Re:Due dilligence (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 3 years ago | (#35843636)

They could but they have a chronic shortage of patent examiners and a lack of funding.

So why not just change the standards?

Because that would take an act of Congress. The proposals you mention would require significant modifications to patent law that could not be done by the Supreme Court.

As for what you suggest, similar registration systems exist in other jurisdictions - Hong Kong, for example. Whooooooole lotta innovation coming out of there these days, huh? And certainly no counterfeiting or stealing of intellectual property....

Re:Due dilligence (1)

markmay (557326) | about 3 years ago | (#35840290)

Lack of funding is just a political issue. In fact we should enact a substantial annual fee to maintain patent protection. It would make patents more expensive, reducing the nonsense patents and provide funding for the patent office and some even for general federal budget. If the America provides this short-term monopoly, we should at least get compensated well for it. Now we mainly tax income. Why do we want to discourage income? Instead we should start shifting the tax burden on to other things we don't mind discouraging (and patents, copyrights seem a good place to start)

Re:Due dilligence (1)

Grond (15515) | about 3 years ago | (#35841088)

In fact we should enact a substantial annual fee to maintain patent protection.

It's every 3.5 years (with a 6 month grace period) instead of annual, but the US already has patent maintenance fees. For regular patentees the maintenance fee schedule [uspto.gov] is $980 / $2480 / $4110. So over the life of a patent that's $7570, on top of the $330 filing fee, $540 search fee, $220 examination fee, and $1510 issue fee for a total of $10,170. For small entities (i.e. non-profits, individuals, and companies with = 500 employees) it's basically half that. Then there are more fees for long applications, complicated applications, appeals, time extensions, surcharges, and late fees.

Maybe that doesn't seem like much, but bear in mind that most any patent worth having will also be filed in other countries. If you file everywhere with a patent system it's roughly $200,000 in fees. Over the life of the patents it'll be something like $2 million in maintenance fees and annuities. Even if you stick to major markets like the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan the costs get very high, very quickly.

And that's all before you start paying lawyers and translators (a lot of countries want your applications translated into one of their official languages, and those translations can be very expensive because a patent application is both a legal and scientific document). A very rough guide is that the attorneys and translators will cost you 2-3 times what the government will, at a minimum. Oh, and this process will take about 3-5 years, so a lot of these fees (including what your attorneys charge) will go up during that time.

So, bearing all that in mind, I think that for large entities at least there's still room for growth in fees, but the international context has to be considered. If everybody starts raising fees substantially then the costs will quickly become unduly burdensome. Any increases have to be judged very carefully, which is why the PTO is currently favoring a "pay more, get more" approach (e.g. for another $4000 you can get prioritized examination) rather than raising costs across the board.

Re:Due dilligence (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 3 years ago | (#35843998)

IMHO the patent office should get a royalty. Anything sold which affirms patent protection should pay a percentage royalty like fee to the patent office to support it's ability to be an authority on the validity of the patent and the patent process. The more lucrative the patent, the more it needs the patent offices support. Not only would this support the patent office, it would encourage them to validate patents effectively as an injunction on a patent which is lucrative would mean no royalty payments from that patent. This would also encourage not patenting as the inventor would have to automatically pay out some percentage from the first sale.

Re:Due dilligence (1)

jopsen (885607) | about 3 years ago | (#35839994)

How exactly do you prove that no prior art exists?
That's an awful lot of "art"to go through...

Peer Review? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35840870)

This may not absolutely prove anything, but maybe it could be considered as proof within a reasonable doubt.

Re:Due dilligence (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 3 years ago | (#35843218)

the definition of "prior art" to the PTO is published academic documents, certain trade publications, and US registered Patents.... it's not really "ever used anywhere" and the Patent office and courts have routinely said "tough luck" to those not filing a patent to protect their invention when somebody else did first.

No. (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35843644)

> the definition of "prior art" to the PTO is published academic documents, certain trade publications, and US registered Patents.... it's > not really "ever used anywhere" and the Patent office and courts have routinely said "tough luck" to those not filing a patent to
> protect their invention when somebody else did first.

No. That is not the definition of prior art. Review the MPEP. Read the cases. It is broader.

Also, routinely perhaps, but that does not always mean unfairly. For example, they will say tough luck to people who keep things as trade secrets and then try to patent their inventions only when someone else patents it. Why? Because the whole idea of a patent is you disclose the invention to the public in order to get the benefit of a monopoly for a limited time. If you kept it secret, you generally have shown you were unwilling to make that deal when you invented the thing. So if someone else patents your trade secret, you don't get to claim the patent.

Re:Due dilligence (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 3 years ago | (#35843168)

the Patent Office is actually an extension of the President authorized by Congress. Patents are a fairly narrow executive power under the law, and there is nothing Constitutional that they have to be FAIR it just says Congress can make a law to grant them. Patents are basically limited "titles of nobility" with rights to EXCLUDE other people from doing something.

I got a feeling this is going to be like when Lessing argued copyright needed to be more "fair" and the Supreme Court said ems the law, tough apples.... But then again, this involves companies willing to spend millions on the case... not the "people's rights" so it will get different attention.

Re:Due dilligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35843970)

So what. The patent office like all all government agencies can and does make mistakes even with the best intentions. That is why we have a divided system where decisions by government agencies can be contested in court. Furthermore juries can make mistakes as well especially in highly technical areas.
I personally was involved in a case that eventually went to the Supreme Court. The main issues were so-called "lock-ins". That is could a computer hardware manufacturer lock-in customers from running competing software by various licensing or artificial technical means. After days of expert testimony the jury sent a note to the judge asking how customers could be locked into a computer box so small.
In a case with widespread implications like the Microsoft patent dispute it is entirely appropriate that the final judgement take many years to resolve.
Apparently the most common opinion here is that software patents should not be enforced except when Microsoft is the infringing party. I don't share that opinion.

"Broad implications?" (1)

Janthkin (32289) | about 3 years ago | (#35840256)

Not likely to have especially broad implications. The factual question is whether the current standard of deference given to a patent should be maintained in the face of art submitted by a defendant, if that art was never considered by the patent office. Of course, 97% of patent cases never reach a jury, and relatively few of the remaining 3% turn on an invalidity analysis (as opposed to simple infringement/non-infringement).

There's a good analysis of the likely impact of any Microsoft-favoring ruling over at Patently-O [patentlyo.com].

Avoid software/patent lawsuits use LibreOffice.... (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | about 3 years ago | (#35840504)

I suspect that many of the large LFOSS/GPL... foundations vet all their source code much better than the proprietary-pirates of pseudo-capitalist US, EU, RU, CN... economies.

Ask your legal staff if http://www.libreoffice.org/ [libreoffice.org] and other LFOSS/GPL... products are less problematic legally. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect (if the lawyers are technology aware) the answer is YES!

What of abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35841312)

If the burden is on the (suspected) infringer, then a patent holder could easily abuse the system it seems. What happens if they're found not to be infringing, does the person who filed have to pay court fees and reimburse the non-infringer?

Re:What of abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35843678)

> If the burden is on the (suspected) infringer, then a patent holder could easily abuse the system it seems.

As has been pointed out above, there are different burdens.

The patent holder accuses the infringer of violating the patent. They have to show infringement.

The infringer has three arguments: (1) the patent holder failed to show I infringed, (2) now that you've looked at his evidence and heard his argument, look at and listen to mine, and you'll see I didn't really infringe, or (3) the patent is invalid.

There are more nuances. But if the infringer argues the patent is invalid, the infringer has the burden to show that. (Although the patent holder STILL has the burden to show he is infringing.)

> What happens if they're found
> not to be infringing, does the person who filed have to pay court fees and reimburse the non-infringer?

Very rarely, AFAIK. In America, for better or worse, we have what's called the "American Rule," where each side pays for his or her own attorneys, regardless of who wins. There are many cases where you negotiate that away--many contracts make the substantially prevailing party pay, for example--but if there is no existing contract, and no specific rule to the contrary, that usually applies. There are some treble damage rules in patent cases for... it might be willful infringement? But that would not help the infringer.

But of course, if you are EVER thinking about this seriously, consult an attorney. A good one.

Especially Invalid Patent (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 3 years ago | (#35844194)

This particular patent was Especially Invalid. It is basically a patent for using XML in a particular way to store a word processing document. XML is a generalized specification for storing any sort of data in a human readable manner. The patent was the equivalent of taking a general purpose automobile and patenting its ability to drive on 2-lane mountain roads. That you couldn't drive your car on 2-lane mountain roads without a license from (and payment to) the patent holder. No one would have ever accepted that, and this patent should have been thrown out of court the moment it arrived, long before any ignorant jury verdict. The SCOTUS should put a spike through the heart of this thing once and forever!
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