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MS Files for Broad XML/Word-processing Patent in NZ

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the pending dept.

Patents 363

Unloaded writes "In the New Zealand Herald, Adam Gifford has written an article blasting Microsoft for burying the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office in paperwork. One example is Patent 525484, accepted by the office and now open for objections until the end of May, which says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by applications that understand XML."

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PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941518)


Do you collect them?

The collection comes from a variety of sources namely from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Belgium, Holland, Russia and other easternblock countries. If you collect them too or would like to know more about my collection of more than 28 tapes of boys having sex with men and other boys and 9 tapes of girls having sex with men and boys. Most of the boys and girls are from 7-12 years old. No more than 14 years old. There are tapes of much younger boys and girls. I mainly collect manboysex so I do not have much mangirlsex.

Email WT Snacks at snacks@4chan.org for more information.

Re:PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941621)

If this doesn't lead to a goddamn IP ban, what the hell does?

Re:PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941633)

This just makes life easier for the FBI, when they turn themselves in like that.

Re:PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941683)

Uh...most likely the FBI posted that anyway.


I remember one message board I visitied. It was a popular television show's forum. I'd been going there for years. One day a new poster began getting friendly. She was, she said, a 14 year old girl from the midwest, a HS cheerleader even. 'She' sent me her homepage URL (no, I'm not supplying it here...), which was loaded with pics of an admittedly hot chick and 'her friends', all in various cheerleading outfits and poses, or else otherwise alluringly attired.Naturally, I smelled a rat immediately...besides the fact that I'm a ./er, and know full-well that hot chicks are never going to try to be my friend, it was all just too suspicious for words.


So I was firm but polite in my 'rejection', and never communicated with 'her' again.


A few weeks later we heard that some guy from the site got busted for allegedly trying to break some law, crossing state lines to screw kiddies, the usual shit.


Helluva shock that was.

Re:PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941694)

Oh, and I left out the important part: the guy got busted via a sting. That was a surprise too. Not.

And yes, I kept the pictures the 'cheerleader' sent me... ;-)

Re:PRETEEN SEX IN VHS and now DVDs!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941806)

Some sick fuck posted a disguised kiddie porn link not so long ago. This is now the 2nd kiddie porn post I've seen on slashdot. Maybe they need to re-thnk their policy on deleting posts?

Why the fight? (1, Funny)

hornyasiancoeds (864069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941519)

Well they did invent XML so I dont see what the problem is?

Re:Why the fight? (2, Interesting)

mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941655)

Well they did invent XML so I dont see what the problem is?

In a cute sort of twist, they 'invented' xml so that they could produce documents in excel, word etc... that were compatible with other platforms yet did not open their own file format. I guess they thought that being giving was fine when they didn't believe anyone could receive.

salmacis (5, Insightful)

salmacis2 (643788) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941521)

Would this be the same Microsoft that is arguing for patent reform?

Re:salmacis (5, Funny)

svanstrom (734343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941549)

No, it's the other one.

Re:salmacis (1)

johannesg (664142) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941563)

Would this be the same Microsoft that is arguing for patent reform?

Patent reform in the US, after burying the rest of the world under software patents you mean?

Re:salmacis (1)

miomao (840123) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941742)

Luckily, seems that Microsoft marketing doesn't work with all brains...

Re:salmacis (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941575)

When the rules are there, you play by them. That's just what Microsoft is doing.

Microsoft has indicated that they want to see the rules changed, because they believe that the rules are broken. Again, as long as the rules remain unchanged, Microsoft has no choice but to play by them; it would be foolish not to.

There is nothing hyprocrital in what Microsoft is doing, so you need not use that tone.

For those of you that would like an analogy: Imagine saying "I believe that there should be no income tax." Now, while an income tax is still in place, would you spend money as if there were no income tax? Surely not. That doesn't make you a hypocrite.

Next, Image saying "I believe that the patent system is broken." Now, while the system is broken, are you going to file patents as if the rules were ideal? Surely not. That doesn't make you a hyprocite.

Oh, great. (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941531)

So basically, MIcrosoft is trying to stop OpenOffice, AbiWord, Pages, etc. from being able to import and export Word XML files. Wonderful.

At least it's not patenting those apps from reading their own format, since they aren't single files (zips and bundles, respectively).

Re:Oh, great. (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941627)

So what we need is some kind of generic tool which atomises the word document (or any XML file) up into constituent parts and then feeds it to the OpenOffice, Abiword etc.?

Re:Oh, great. (5, Funny)

Illume (11015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941668)

XML file may be manipulated by applications that understand XML

Hmmm. All we need is a generic tool that manipulates XML files but doesn't understand XML.

Hmmm. (5, Funny)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941698)

Sounds like Word all right.

Re:Oh, great. (1)

daikokatana (845609) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941640)

Call me ignorant, but why would any company NOT want to stop competition?

I'm not a big fan of Microsoft, but I'm getting a bit tired of the whole "it's Microsoft so it must be evil" mindset.

If my company saw a(n) (legal) opportunity to stop or hinder the competition, we'd grab it with both hands and do whatever we could to exploit that opportunity.

Re:Oh, great. (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941651)

Some companies like the competition.

That's especially true when the competition is incompetent, and their very presence helps keep more competent companies from opening local operations.

Re:Oh, great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941695)

M1cR0S0f7 335 3v1l!!

B1ll G@t3s is the Goatse man!!

Re:Oh, great. (2, Interesting)

matria (157464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941714)

Microsoft is a monopoly. It is illegal for such entities to engage in anti-competative activities that would be legal for smaller, non-monopoly entities. Microsoft has been convicted of violation of these laws, but nothing has ever been done to actually make it stop.

Re:Oh, great. (3, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941792)

They're not evil for wanting to stop competition; they're evil because of the grossly unethical -- and sometimes genuinely illegal -- tactics they use to do it.

Re:Oh, great. (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941682)

...it would appear that Microsoft is trying, deliberately or inadvertently, to completely dismantle the WTO. If this sort of crap actually succeeds, it might cause enough attrition in the ranks to effectively dump WIPO into the dustbin of history.

On the other hand, New Zealanders having a rather caustic sense of turnabout, I fear for the minions of the USPTO on the day they get the reciprocal volley and I'd kill to be in an Auckland rugby club the day it hits the news...

Re:Oh, great. (1)

DenDave (700621) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941685)

Yah.. Prior Art.. Sun Microsystems..

Re:Oh, great. (1)

tibike77 (611880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941759)

Assume sarcasm tags where needed, or where you start to feel offended personally...

First off... Maybe I'm getting something wrong here, but isn't the whole IDEEA behind getting a patent to both ensure the initial inventor (or better said, patent claimer) a fair share of income (out of the actual one) for a LIMITED period of time, so that later on that invention would be freely usable by pretty much anybody ?

Quoting some encyclopedia, "In the U.S.A any process or device may be patented if it is NOVEL and USEFUL and if plans and a working model are supplied, and patents are valid for a limited term (17 years in the U.S.A.)
This limit ordinarily secures a profit to the inventor for a reasonable period yet will not permanently deprive the public of the free use of the invention."

So, the first and foremost problem of SOFTWARE PATENTS is not the patenting itself, it's that years-long "active" status of a patent.

A close second on the "problematic" scale would be butchering the meaning of "novel and useful" and "providing plans and a working model" when it comes to software patents. I mean, ok, it could be useful (to some) to have pretty much anything in the software bussiness, yet the "novelty" is a bit arguable.

The last (and final) MAJOR problem lies within the limits of what SHOULD be patentable.
I mean, for god's sake, I hope nobody patented the "OK/Cancel" buttons yet... or did Microsoft to that already ?
Now, what about bubble sort ? Did anybody patent bubble sort yet ?
Heck, let's patent binary code representation !

Heck, you have to draw the line somewhere.
My personal oppinion is this: we need to heavily accelerate and cheapen all "software patenting" processes.
Streamline it !
Heck, create a new INTERNATIONAL body that would ONLY handle software patents, "put on hold" all current software patents and allow "prioritary" re-filing of all current ones by their previous owners for, let's say, one year.
Then (after that transition year), put this whole thing online (read-only) and allow submissions of patents via e-mail only (human sent read receipt). Sure, it's a whole new can of worms with security issues, but, let's dream for a while it's not.

For each and every possible application field of your "patent", you have to file a separate patent claim (or, well, specify all fields you wish it filed under, with clear explanations for each and every field).
New "fields" are introduced as soon as there's either sufficient (e.g. 10 or more, arguable number) patent claimers with claims in said (not yet existant) field.

NOW comes the tricky part. Depending on the field, novelty and usability of the application, a TERM OF VALIDITY for your patent gets established - term that could range from just a couple of months (for obvious and straightforward patent claims we would all laugh about) up to maybe 5 to 7 years tops. I mean, heck, there's no point in waiting 17 years for something to be considered "trivial" in the software world - you would try to get as MANY users of your patented technology as soon as possible so you can claim royalties... as opposed to the current practice of "patent everything, think about it later".

What do you think ?

Re:Oh, great. (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941805)

I think that the computer science field is advancing so rapidly that everything is "trivial" (including compression and media codecs), and that even a 1 year patent would hinder the software industry more than it would help it.

Patent Overlords, oh my! (1)

Dark Coder (66759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941536)

Patent Laywers at the patent office are getting snow-blizzard.

Does this means, the patent reviewers are added to the growing list of Microsoft-bashers?

Re:Patent Overlords, oh my! (1)

sandstorming (850026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941561)

Does this means, the patent reviewers are added to the growing list of Microsoft-bashers? I'm positive they would have been on that list looong before now!

Patent the idea of patenting other peoples ideas. (4, Funny)

svanstrom (734343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941537)

Patent the idea of patenting other peoples ideas; that ought to stop most of Microsofts patents. =)

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (3, Funny)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941580)

"Patent the idea of patenting other peoples ideas"

That's a good idea, I'll file a patent application right away!.

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941663)

Subsequently overheard at MS: "Damn! If only prior art actually MEANT something!! Wait... what am I saying?"

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941746)

Sorry, I already patented the idea of patenting the idea of patenting other peoples ideas. Too late.

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941768)

Too late, I've already patented patenting.

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941774)

Sorry, I have found lots of prior art for that.

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (1)

ggvaidya (747058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941720)

You almost had me there, Bezos ... [userfriendly.org]

Well, that's a patent to patent patents, I think it's enough to prove prior art to your idea :).

Re:Patent the idea of patenting other peoples idea (5, Informative)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941748)

Patent the idea of patenting other peoples ideas;

There is an unbelievable amount of prior art.

Tangentially relevent: one news story recently which seems to have slipped past /. was the decision that in the EU non-published but `everyone knows that' information can count as prior art to kill a patent [bbc.co.uk] . (it was a biotech patent, but clearly the argument has wider applications).

XML (5, Informative)

sandstorming (850026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941545)

There is a really really good explanation on what XML is and why it works here. [hyperglossary.co.uk]

The W3C states though that:

XML was developed by an XML Working Group (originally known as the SGML Editorial Review Board) formed under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1996. It was chaired by Jon Bosak of Sun Microsystems with the active participation of an XML Special Interest Group (previously known as the SGML Working Group) also organized by the W3C. The membership of the XML Working Group is given in an appendix. Dan Connolly served as the Working Group's contact with the W3C.

I understand that microsoft aren't claiming to have invented the technology, but it really annoys me that they are trying to patent a use, and a small extract of a software they had only a small part in developing!

Re:XML (5, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941722)


What Microsoft is attempting to do is patent one of the uses intended for XML from the very start. One of the mandates put forth by the XML working group was that XML shall support a wide variety of applications,. Given this, I'm puzzled at how anyone at Microsoft could even consider such a move. Wait....no I'm not. Just the same, if this patent is approved, something is very, very wrong.

Re:XML (1)

mikkom (714956) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941734)

I understand that microsoft aren't claiming to have invented the technology, but it really annoys me that they are trying to patent a use, and a small extract of a software they had only a small part in developing!
When you have software patent laws that allow this, this is going to happen. That's just how it is.

national parks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941546)

The national parks of England and Wales are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape that are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Despite the name, national parks in Britain are quite different from those in the United States and many other countries, where national parks are owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and permanent human communities are not a part of the landscape. In Britain, designation as a national park can include substantial settlements and land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a British national park remains largely in private ownership. There are currently 12 national parks in England and Wales, the newest and smallest being the New Forest, established on March 1, 2005. The South Downs are also in the process of being designated as a national park. Each park is operated by its own National Park Authority.

You just changed my life! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941728)

Coz I thought I was the stupidest, most boring dickhead imaginable, but thank holy mother of fuck you proved me wrong!

The point of XML (3, Insightful)

moochfish (822730) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941553)

Great. With this, Microsoft is making XML is their own "proprietary" format. At least in that country.

Re:The point of XML (3, Informative)

eric76 (679787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941657)

I think they've filed pretty much the same patent in the United States and in Europe.

MS Patents - A business strategy (2, Interesting)

wcdw (179126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941554)

Sadly, they *are* likely to have at least some of their patents accepted, even if the more absurd ones wind up on /.'s front page.

And eventually they'll find a way to sue some company or another over one or more of them. If that company settles, rather than attempts to challenge the patent (which can be considerably more expensive), voila! - a profit center.

It's absurd that the only 'ideas' we're allowed to use in programming are those that either haven't already been thought of (and then it would be wise to get your own patent, or at least document prior art) or those that existed before the birth of the hideous cancer known as software patents.

But hey -- I feel so much safer, I guess it's *worth* losing all my rights, eh?

Re:MS Patents - A business strategy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941701)

The government here just legalised software patents.

I'm not a particuarly patriotic New Zealander, but I still hold a vague hope that perhaps our patent office may be a tad more strict in its final issuing.

What defines a "word processing document" (4, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941555)

If the patent is for processing word processing XML files, how do they define that? Is XHTML word processing document? What about Docbook?

And how is it that word processing XML in particular is innovative and worthy of a patent? Isn't it fundamentally the same as processing any other XML?

Re:What defines a "word processing document" (1)

ghoti (60903) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941796)

Is XHTML word processing document?
Well if the "self-contained" part means anything, then this does not apply to XHTML. Because even the stylesheet is usually a separate file, plus images, etc. So this only really applies to Office style stuff, and only from MS it seems (since OOo-Files are also archives containing several files, even if only text).

It's the stupid rules, stupid! (4, Insightful)

ehack (115197) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941564)

You cannot blame MS for playing according to the rules; nor can one blame the policticians for being accomodating and writing the rules to benefit such a generous contributor. Anyone here say vicious circle ?

You certainly can! (5, Insightful)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941589)

ehack said:
nor can one blame the policticians for being accomodating and writing the rules to benefit such a generous contributor.
Yes, you certainly can blame the politicians here. It is not their job to accomodate generous contributors. It is their job to represent the will of the people (ALL the people, not just the wealthy contributors) that they are supposed to be governing.

This "vicious circle" could be easily broken if there were politicians that actually cared about their constituents and the welfare of their city/state/country rather than caring for the almight dollar/yen/euro/etc.

Re:You certainly can! (1)

Unordained (262962) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941677)

It is their job to represent the will of the people (ALL the people, not just the wealthy contributors) that they are supposed to be governing.

What about cases where a politician is elected (even by more than 50% of the voters) but his constituency disagrees with him on a particular issue (say, 75% against him) -- should he go with his declared platform (which was bought as a whole) or the will of the people? (I'm not saying that's the case here at all. I'm wondering what should define "the will of all the people" in the mind of the idea politician.)

But they're _not_ playing by the rules! (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941596)

They're tricking the patent office into accepting their applications which are just outside the rules.* That patent isn't innovative, nor is it even new at all! What Microsoft is doing is like watching somebody create the automobile and then patenting sedans. It's just a subset and a particular use of an existing technology, not anything new at all!

*assuming NZ's patent rules are anything like the US's

Re:It's the stupid rules, stupid! (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941611)

"You cannot blame MS for playing according to the rules"

They're not playing by the rules. They just try to slide as many things by as they can.

"nor can one blame the policticians for being accomodating and writing the rules to benefit such a generous contributor"

Really? It sounds like treason.

Re:It's the stupid rules, stupid! (1)

starmang (661689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941618)

You cannot blame MS...

I only got that far in your sentence. I did not read any further because it has to be utter rubbish.

Great idea MS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941566)

Patent interoperability that uses a format that was specifically created to allow interoperability. (And wasn't even invented by MS on top of that)
Wow, it takes guts to file such a patent.

Congratulations.

Re:Great idea MS! (1)

iamvego (785090) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941625)

So, they want to let all their users load different document formats into their Word application, but don't want any other app to use their own.

The sky probably also belongs to Microsoft because it's featured in a few of their desktop wallpapers, so they want money everytime it's within your peripheral vision.

In other news, Microsoft patent files, text and processing of all types.

Shatner? (3, Funny)

Rufus211 (221883) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941567)

This story.

Would be better.

If it didn't read like.

One of Shatner's.

Speaches.

Re:Shatner? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941574)

That was really quite witty and funny. I was absolutely blown away by the comedic ingenuity you managed to pack into one single post.

LEARN TO SPELL, YOU FUCKING MORON.

Re:Shatner? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941626)

That post.

Would be better.

If it didn't read like.

An 11 year-old's.

First spelling test.

Re:Shatner? (1)

ggvaidya (747058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941791)

Ah well.

This is.

Slashdot.

Do you really.

Expect any better?

Ah yes... (3, Insightful)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941568)

The famous Microsoft interoperability initiative.

"We're using an open format! You just can't do anything with it unless we say so. And yeah, we're not going to say so unless you're using our product anyway, or paying us a hefty tax that our competitors, both free and otherwise, can't afford. But hey, we're interoperable!"

so... (3, Insightful)

sonictheboom (546359) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941577)

is this what you might call patent spam? file millions, some are bound to get through?

Re:so... (2, Insightful)

TheOldFart (578597) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941731)

That's what makes this so naughty. Only large corporations are able to file patents for every brain-fart they come up with. The small guy is again rear-ended by the tool created to protect him.

Should be treated as fraud (5, Interesting)

anth (2631) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941578)

I think a lot of the problems with patents would go away if applying for a patent for something that the applicant knew had been done before, or should have known was obvious to someone in that field, was treated as fraud. That is a fine, or maybe even jail time for that applicant and senior management at that company.

I know, its not going to happen. Even if it did software patents would still be wrong.

Re:Should be treated as fraud (1)

gingerTabs (532664) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941721)

Well that's interesting, but that effectively means that I as an inventor have to have the same knowledge skills and time as the patent investigators who do this for their job.

Somehow I think your idea will stifle innovation rather than drive it since no-one will file anything in case they missed some piece of prior art that they didn't know about.

Objections?!?!?! (1)

php_krisp (858209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941585)

How does one object??!? all these patents are going out of control. Any ideas? Chris

Interesting (3, Interesting)

Planky (761118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941607)

I find this interesting.

It would seem MS is getting patents like these in a delevoped country that has no strong competitors - nor a very strong head when it comes to things IT. This way, the patents will be in place before anything is noticed and the damage has been done.

Mind you, they are getting vague patents overseas (read America) such as this.

I'd be very interested in finding out who, if any, would object to patents such as these here in NZ.

Re:Interesting (1)

rongten (756490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941634)

And I would be interested to know how to help the fight from the soon to be victim of crony capitalism EU.

Re:Interesting (4, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941750)

It would seem MS is getting patents like these in a delevoped country that has no strong competitors - nor a very strong head when it comes to things IT.

Perhaps you have hit on their strategy. Many countries will grant automatic patents once a patent is recognized in 7 WIPO countries (though most will require at least 2 of the 7 to be US, Japan or EU). So maybe they're looking for the easiest way in through the back door.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941756)

They're not targetting NZ. It's a New Zealand newspaper so he goes to his local Patent office to get the story going. Microsoft probably filed worldwide under the PCT. There are likely to be equivalent applications in process in the EU, GB, US ....

Likelihood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941615)

Well where's the link to the patent? Otherwise I'm going to assume that the author of this /. story simply doesn't understand patents, rather than that the NZ patent office is suddenly accepting obvious patents.

Full text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941617)

Technology & Science

>> Home >> Technology & Science

Adam Gifford: Gates up to old tricks over intellectual property rights
untitled image

15.03.05

If you wondered how Bill Gates topped the Forbes rich list for the 11th year with a personal fortune of US$46.5 billion ($63 billion), look no further than the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office.

Patent 525484, accepted by the office and now open for objections until the end of May, says Microsoft invented and owns the process whereby a word-processing document stored in a single XML file may be manipulated by applications that understand XML.

It is one of a raft of patent applications Microsoft has dumped on the overworked staff of the office, and on patent offices worldwide.

Some of them might have more merit than this particular piece of junk, but they are part of a strategic effort by Microsoft to control another generation of technology, just when its grip on the personal computer is being undermined by the Open Source movement.

Gates' greatest achievement has never been the software he created - some is good, some is terrible, a lot is a knock-off of someone else's stuff - but the way he was able to get people to pay for it.

When the precocious teenager was writing his first bits of code, computers were rare and expensive and owned by organisations that would pay people to write programs for them.

That changed in January 1975 when Scientific American 's cover featured the Altair 8800, a US$500 kitset computer developed by Albuquerque research engineer Ed Robert.

Altair users had to solder the kit together and toggle switches to program the machine.

Gates and his friend, Paul Allen, offered to develop a version of the BASIC operating system for the Altair. Roberts bought it, and allowed Gates and Allen to sell copies separately.

When Gates discovered copies of the program were circulating among hobby computer clubs, he wrote "An open letter to hobbyists", published in a New Mexico club newsletter.

"Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work only took two months, the three of us have spent most of the past year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC.

"The value of the computer time we have used exceeds US$40,000," the outraged Gates told the hobbyists.

He said most Altair owners didn't pay for the BASIC they were using, and the royalties the trio received amounted to less than US$2 an hour.

"Most of you steal your software," he scolded. That practice would prevent good software being written.

Gates' manifesto set the stage for a software licensing revolution running alongside the personal computer revolution.

Although many of the hobbyists disagreed with the principle and baulked at the US$500 price tag Gates and Allen had on their product, enough paid up to give a useful boost to their fledgling business.

What rankled with the hobbyists was the fact that the 4kB BASIC interpreter appeared to be cribbed from other BASIC implementations in the public domain.

The development work was done on a taxpayer-subsidised PDP-10 at Harvard University, where Gates was a student. Although they might have used US$40,000 of computer time, they didn't pay for it.

Now the old-time hackers and hobbyists are back. The amount of good software they have created through the Open Source process, and the economic value that has had, showed up the flaws in the Microsoft taxation model.

There are three viable models for software creation: firms, markets, and community-based peer-production, as Open Source is sometimes described.

Patents allow firms to create artificial legal barriers that can hinder or prevent community-based peer-production, as those communities may lack the resources to apply for patents, object to patent applications, pay patent licensing fees or defend themselves from patent litigation.

Allowing software patents is a decision favouring one form of software production over another.

The internet works because the protocols and software behind it were developed by peer-production and left free as a software commons.

Patent 525484 says if a document is created in Extensible Markup Language or XML, it may contain a schema or set of instructions for interpreting the document, which will be used when you want to use another application to make changes to the document. There is no novelty there. The whole idea of XML was to allow interoperability.

Interoperability standards have been around for as long as people realised it would be a good idea for programs to talk to each other.

The patent should be rejected for obviousness, if not for other criteria such as prior art.

New Zealand Open Source Society president Peter Harrison said the society would object.

The society is opposed to patents being issued for software at all, a point it made in its submission on a bill overhauling patent legislation.

"Allowing software patents will damage the economy because it means few small players can enter the field against players with big software portfolios," Harrison said.

"It creates uncertainty and fear in the software development field."

Harrison said copyright protection was sufficient for software, as it allowed creators to license or control use of their creations.

The issue is being able to protect or monopolise an activity just because you were first to do something obvious. If the patent is granted, other word-processing programs will not be able to interact with Microsoft XML word processing documents without Microsoft's permission.

"It means if you write a document in Word and save it in an XML format, you have to have Microsoft's permission to read it or change it," he said.

Earlier versions of Microsoft Word had no such patent protection, and although it has taken years to achieve, programs like Open Office can now interact directly with Word.

Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, over the years to make its vision of intellectual property rights the standard. It won its biggest victories at home, but that vision is now being steamrollered around the world through bilateral free trade agreements. Politicians still talk of a free trade agreement as benefiting this country. The reality is intellectual property rights will be high on the US agenda and it won't be to this country's benefit.

Um... prior art... (3, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941619)

Explain to me in what way the xhtml documents I find all over the web are not word processing documents stored in xml?

Patents (5, Insightful)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941623)

It would be nice to have some non-monetary penalties apply for frivilous patents. Like, for instance, if a patent gets rejected for being obvious then the firm doing the patenting must wait six months before filing another patent. It would do two things:

1. Teach the business that they should be more careful when it comes to patents, and
2. Frees up the patent office to do better research.

Re:Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941642)

It'll teach the business to have a host of subsidiaries to do all the applying for patents.

Re:Patents (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941665)

if a patent gets rejected for being obvious

Has that even happened since the Louisiana Purchase?

Re:Patents (1)

yog (19073) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941747)

Such a policy might have the unpleasant consequence of discouraging individuals from filing patent applications at all, since obviousness is in the eye of the beholder.

Maybe better for patent examiners to hire people who are more computer savvy, who can see these ridiculous claims for what they are. In the U.S. at least, patent examiners tend to be engineers and other types of highly educated people, but apparently software engineers are not yet in evidence in their ranks.

idiotic patent approval == globalisation??? (1)

mcbevin (450303) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941638)

I liked the article's obligatory closing anti-globalisation rant - 'Politicians still talk of a free trade agreement as benefiting this country. The reality is intellectual property rights will be high on the US agenda and it won't be to this country's benefit.'

Perhaps someone can explain to me how New Zealand's patent office approving dubious patent applications equals the US using globalisation to push their IP agenda?

Anyway, nice of this Microsoft basher to show all his stripes. I agree of course that what is happening with such patents around the world is nuts, but Microsoft is just one of many companies playing this game, and its current stream of patent applications has little to nothing to do with Gates' early days writing BASIC for the Altair 8800 if you ask me.

Re:idiotic patent approval == globalisation??? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941735)

Perhaps someone can explain to me how New Zealand's patent office approving dubious patent applications equals the US using globalisation to push their IP agenda?
It's pretty straightforward: we've seen what happens when the "U.S." (meaning large American corporations *coff*MS*coff*) decides that foreign legislation is an impediment to its business interests.

Are you a South American or Indian government looking to mandate the use of Free/open software? You can expect a visit from Microsoft-ites bearing gifts and whispering about possible unfortunate repercussions of the ill-advised decision you are about not to make. Are you a European government looking to halt or slow the adoption of U.S.-style patent laws that will surely prove inimical to your domestic software industry? You, too, can expect a visit from suited "industry representatives" suggesting that branch offices in your country are not immune to budgetary cutbacks and reallocations.

If pressure isn't being applied somewhere to get an absurd patent like this accepted (the phrase "trial balloon" comes to mind) then of course the blame lies with a patent-system gone berserk... given past performances of the parties in question however, this seems unlikely.

Re:idiotic patent approval == globalisation??? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941760)

Microsoft is just one of many companies playing this game, and its current stream of patent applications has little to nothing to do with Gates' early days writing BASIC for the Altair 8800 if you ask me.
He was attempting to show that this kind of thing (that is, using shady tactics to poorly implement and then profit from other people's ideas) has always been Microsoft's modus operandi. It would have been nice if he had cited some other examples, like DOS, Windows, Internet Explorer, etc. to connect the dots though.

Re:idiotic patent approval == globalisation??? (3, Informative)

SirSnapperHead (854099) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941781)

I like your comment's anti-anti rant. Except the quote you pulled wasn't about G L O B A L I S A T I O N. It was about a free trade agreement whereby the United States uses ths agreement to insert it's own laws into another countries' laws.

This was recently done to Australia, and included extending copyright to 'harmonise' with the United States, and legalise software patents in that country as well. Other nice things included an attempt by the United States pharmaceutical industry to force the Australian government to abolish their subsidy system which makes medicines more affordable for citizens.

I can only assume the author is pointing out that further kow-towing to the United States legal system will mean further sillyness in the Patent office.

Microsoft is NOT just one of many companies playing this game of course. They are the biggest company in the world, and are setting the agenda on software patents as a key plank in their business model. Pointing things like this out is about speaking truth rather than company bashing.

Patent abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941646)

Patent 525484

A computer-readable medium having computer-executable components comprises
a first component for reading a word-processor document stored as a single XML file;
a second component that utilizes an XSD (XML Schema Definition) for interpreting the word-processor document, and
a third component for performing an action on the word-processor document.
The computer readable medium can further comprise a validating component configured to validate the word-processor document or a fourth component for displaying the word-processor document.
The XSD represents a word-processor's rich formatting and the XSD is published and is available to applications other than the word-processor. The word-processor document can include hints to applications that understand XML.
The action may be selected from parsing, modifying, reading, and creating the word-processor document and may be fully recreating the word-processor document according to a word processor's set of features.

Full patent text (4, Informative)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941656)

In case anyone is interested and wants to be fully informed what the patent [iponz.govt.nz] actually says [iponz.govt.nz] (so rare a quality in a slashdot reader I find these days), then here is the abstract:

Patent 525484

A computer-readable medium having computer-executable components comprises a first component for reading a word-processor document stored as a single XML file; a second component that utilizes an XSD (XML Schema Definition) for interpreting the word-processor document, and
a third component for performing an action on the word-processor document.

The computer readable medium can further comprise a validating component configured to validate the word-processor document or a fourth component for displaying the word-processor document. The XSD represents a word-processor's rich formatting and the XSD is published and is available to applications other than the word-processor. The word-processor document can include hints to applications that understand XML.

The action may be selected from parsing, modifying, reading, and creating the word-processor document and may be fully recreating the word-processor document according to a word processor's set of features.

Re:Full patent text (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941676)

In case anyone is interested and wants to be fully informed what the patent [iponz.govt.nz] actually says [iponz.govt.nz] (so rare a quality in a slashdot reader I find these days), then here is the abstract:

I'd like to know what the patent actually says.

At the same time, I'm not particularly interested in what the abstract says.

Did you bother to follow the link? (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941689)

You notice that it has the full document. I'm not going to post the entire document you know! As the article says, Microsoft have the patent office swimming in documents.

Re:Did you bother to follow the link? (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941706)

I must have missed something.

One link showed an error. The other was a doc file that contained the abstract.

Re:Did you bother to follow the link? (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941743)

Damn. Looks like they are using cookies in their searches. Sorry about that. Snarky comment retracted.

Try this page [iponz.govt.nz] , then go to the patent search, then in the "New Zealand Number(s)" field type in 525484. Click on "submit Query" (in the box ABOVE the search fields). This will give you the patent.

Inventive step (3, Informative)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941671)

For something to be patentable (at least over here), there must be an inventive step. Using XML to store data is what XML is for, this is an obvious use of existing technlogy and therefore should not be patentable. There's no invention there.

Defensive patenting (4, Insightful)

potcrackpot (245556) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941693)

The problem with this article is that it misses the point. Like any good troll, the author asserts facts and opinions that can't be denied, supporting what is unfortunately a skewed and unfair underpinning perspective.

Yes, the patent is a poor one - although MS did it first (I think), the idea isn't particularly great; it is an obvious idea from just reading the XML RFC.

However, a google search for "microsoft patent case" reveals page after page of results for microsoft being sued for patent infringement. None of the results, as far as I can see, pertain to Microsoft suing someone else.

A great deal of large companies have a strategy of defensive patenting: if you've got the patent, no one else can; plus, if you've got one they (an aggressor) infringe and they've got one you infringe, there's a chance that everyone will just forget all about it.

Microsoft's strategy is consistent with their talk about overhauling the patent system - the system is garbage, but they should hedge their bets and defensive patent in case it (the system) doesn't get changed.

No-one is getting screwed as much as Microsoft over patents. The author is simply picking on an easy target.

Total drivel (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941725)

In no way is this picking on an easy target. This is not a novel patent, clear and simple. There was no excuse to patent a means to increase interoperability.

What they are trying to do is to make it less easy for competing products to use their own product which has significant market share. If they could shut OpenOffice out of the market, then they have just effectively caused the gain in market share that product has to slow.

Re:Total drivel (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941790)

The fact of that matter is that the patent was granted! If MS didn't get that patent, someone else would have. And that someone else would have sued anyone with money for licensing fees (a certain suit regarding the use plug-ins that come up automatically comes to mind).

This has nothing to do with them trying to make it harder for competing software to be created (as evidenced by the fact that they have yet to use any of their patents in an offensive manner).

The SYSTEM that allows these patents to be granted and abused is to blame, not the entity trying to avoid getting creamed by the system.

Re:Total drivel (1)

potcrackpot (245556) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941808)

If they really wanted to shut open office out that badly, there's easier ways to do it that patenting something in *new zealand*.

I agree that open office, star office, and all the rest are an eventual threat MSOffice's market dominance and that they need to do something about it (like make office better value for money), but this patent is not going to help one whit.

Look at this: Sun pushes open office standard [com.com] , specifically talking about an open document standard using XML - basically the OASIS format [oasis-open.org] format.

I never disagreed that it's a crap patent. It is. But it's unenforceable without MS opening itself up to yet more legal challenges over its anti-interoperability tactics.

Re:Defensive patenting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941793)

A great deal of large companies have a strategy of defensive patenting: if you've got the patent, no one else can; plus, if you've got one they (an aggressor) infringe and they've got one you infringe, there's a chance that everyone will just forget all about it.

And as usual, the concern is not about large companies, which will always have resources to fight against their siblings, but about the common man, who can't fight against patent portfolios.
In essence, that patent is preventing anyone to produce a document processor based on XML in this country. XML is data, and data has to be processed.

Now they can still make it good, by licencing the use of this patent to anyone wishing it without constraint, and use that patent as an example of how patenting can be harmfull.
That would be a good move, a proof that they are serious about changing the patent law.

About EU, if it comes down to the money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941729)

...you might want to see this:

http://mjr.iki.fi/texts/patentfund (Yes, a shameless not-self-plug)

OK, they might not have a chance to raise enough money to win EC over from microsoft, but at least it's a stylish way to comment on the way EU is steered nowadays. If enough people learn about this (and the list of people gets very long) it at least sends some message somewhere.

Patenting XML (1)

Chris Kamel (813292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941757)

So is there any sense for MS to adopt an open standard such as XML for saving documents and then prevent others from reading and writing it?

These guys are lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941764)

Why isn't anybody on the offensive, anywhere, to rein in uncool corporate practices? It seems that people everywhere are on the defensive all the time from the influences of crappy corporations like this.

I think it's time to revise the playbook.

Calm down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941775)

It's only an application. You can apply for anything you want. Absolutely anything. You can even apply for unpatentable rubbish if you really want.

What gets granted however is only a small subset of all the applications.

TIred of everyone giving Microsoft heat (1)

digid (259751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941784)

I'm not the biggest fan of Microsoft but what everyone fails to acknowledge is one of the main reasons why Microsoft patents in the first place. This reason is that they want to protect themselves from getting charged huge liscensing fees for a product they've spent millions of dollars developing. They don't patent to make money. Microsoft isn't chasing everyone around with an iron fist looking for patent violations. They are actually very lenient unlike many other companies that look for profit from patent violations. In many cases it also beneficial to have Microsoft hold patents on ideas that would have probably simultaneously been developed by thousands of independent companies.

Sliding scale for patent filing (4, Interesting)

jonbrewer (11894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941787)

Perhaps patent offices should implement a sliding scale for filing fees?

Instead of offering volume discounts, make each tier of filing (10, 100, 1000 p.a.) progressively more expensive. Say $75 USD each for the first ten applications, $750 USD each for 11-100, $7500 each for 1000+.

This would prevent overburdening of patent offices (they would have greater resources to cope) without discouraging individuals or small organizations. Can't see who it would harm, and it would certainly prevent abuse except by those with infinite resources.

Prior Art (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11941798)

Microsoft did not invent the word processor, nor XML. XML is a revised SGML, and there have been several word processing / DTP programs that stored their documents in SGML.

This one slipped through the watchers... (4, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 9 years ago | (#11941809)

US Patent Office
Provisional patent application: PPA1283405995
Applicant: Microsoft Corp., Redmond
Date: 12-Feb-2005
Synopsis:
A rotating, magnetically polarised (variable), spherical device occupying a non-fixed position in time and space, comprising a semi-liquid core encased by an unstable, multi-layered outer shell surrounded by a mixed-composition liquid/gaseous environment with a range of complex environmental variances, capable of hosting a variety of surface and sub-surface, organic-based life forms supporting social and other interactions at various levels of intelligence using a range of simple-to-complex sensory devices.
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