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Microsoft Loses Appeal in Guatemalan Patent Claim

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the no-corner-view-in-this-office dept.

174

Spy der Mann writes "A year ago, Guatemalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado sued Microsoft for stealing an Office idea he had tried to sell them in '92. They were found to be infringing on his patent and had to pay him $9 million in damages, but they refused and appealed the decision. Today, just a year after they appealed, the Court confirmed the verdict: Microsoft loses. If that wasn't enough, the amount was raised to $65 million for continuing infringement."

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Do they care? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554312)

Today, just a year after they appealed, the Court confirmed the verdict: Microsoft loses. If that wasn't enough, the amount was raised to $65 million for continuing infringement."

And in the time it took you to read that blurb, Microsoft has more than earned the $ to pay it.

Re:Do they care? (5, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554454)

Its not quite that bad, but yes, stalling the case for a year has gained them much more revenue in the country than the 65M fine. Its just consider a 'cost of doing business'.

We have a radio station in town that was similar. They would regularly violate FCC broadcast power and obscenity rules. However, the extra distance ( power ) and listeners ( obscenity ) far outweighed the fines they incurred and just made jokes about it ( on air even ). The process continued for years until they were top dog in that market and didnt need to do it anymore.

Good (4, Insightful)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554314)

Good. Good. Good.

This is how the patent system should work. A guy came up with an idea and tried to make his buck. MS stole the idea, which for all intents and purposes ruined his chances of making his money back. So, he sued them and got what he deserved. Eventually.

Of course, 14 years must be a hell of a long time to wait for your money...

I wonder if someone at MS is feeling just a bit stupid right now. Yeah yeah, £65mil is chump change to them, but they do leave with a substantial amount of egg on their face!

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554324)

unfortunately they probably are not. yeah they drop 65m but often a large company like this will simply bulldoze through a smaller opponent, having the money and manpower to ignore niggles like this. After all this isn't going to appear on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow, so apart from the money the damage to MS is minimal. No one is going to put them on their knee and give their hide a good tanning, and that is what annoys me than anything. Money makes a poor substitute for apologies to me, even 65m of it. tag this post "idealistic" but I would be happy with an honest apology and handshake, that was earnestly meant.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554598)

"I would be happy with an honest apology and handshake, that was earnestly meant."

Good luck with that. When has Microsoft *ever* made a public apology for anything? (not a troll -- honest question)

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554668)

indeed, but then when has any large company ever apologized for their behaviour? Check this [youtube.com] out for the greatest apology from a multi-national - that never happened.

Re:Good (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554342)

Microsoft would be facing 'death by a thousand cuts' if they didn't litigate these cases strongly.

Good-"/." wisdom. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554397)

"This is how the patent system should work."

Really? According to slash-wisdom, he should have never been granted a patent, because...you know "all software patents are bad". And two "evil corporations" ALWAYS win. Good thing I guess no one believes anything they spout here.

Re:Good-"/." wisdom. (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554407)

you assume slashdot is a hive mind. that post was made by an individual who may very well beleive what they spout, and it certainly doesnt infer any disingenuity to anyone who has voiced an opposing opinion on slashdot at any time in the past.

Re:Good-"/." wisdom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554458)

I *assume* no such thing. I know that what I've stated has been repeatedly stated by many, many people and they have the (+:5) moderation to back 'em up. Slashdot is as biased as any media outlet, and moderates anyone who implies otherwise down.*

*Which also has a chilling effect on any dissenters. (note how many posts start with a disclaimer if one has anything to do with MS or it's products). Why post something that no one is going to see?

Re:Good-"/." wisdom. (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554471)

you assume slashdot is a hive mind

You mean that borg picture doesn't represent the average slashdot reader?!

Re:Good (1)

no_barcode (840948) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554398)

You're right, 14 years is a long time to wait for your money. If I were him, I'd take a nice long vacation. Maybe head to Guatemala for a couple of weeks for some nice, much deserved R&R.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554425)

This is how the patent system should work. A guy came up with an idea and tried to make his buck.

Actually, this is independent of how the patent system should work. The only goal of the patent system should be to promote innovation. It is not there to "help the little guy get his share from large companies" any more than it is there to "help large companies crush little guys with their huge portfolios".

Only if the chance that other people would come up with this on their own is very small, and if the "original discoverer" would not publish it without getting a 20 year monopoly in return, and if the downsides of this 20 year monopoly don't outweigh the upsides of disclosure, then there could be a justification for granting the patent. On a macro-economic scale, this is not true for software patents [ffii.org] .

In this particular case, it's about patent US 5,701,400 [uspto.gov] . Let's have a look at claim 1, which as a whole consists of a single sentence of 506 words. Below, you can find a summary of the meat of that claim:

a program in execution by said computer for controlling operations thereof for receiving user input defining one or more analysis rules to be applied to user specified data from said memory,

We have a program with rules operating on data

each said analysis rule being a user defined arithmetic and/or logic test to be applied to user specified items of said data and for controlling said computer to receive and store user entered data defining the alphanumeric text of a diagnostic statement associated with each true result of each said analysis rule,

Each rule is a mathematical or logical expression returning true or false, and its outcomes are associated with text strings (i.e., if-statements with a string as result)

each said diagnostic statement comprised of a user defined alphanumeric text string which the user can program to define the significance of the true result, its relevance or any other expression which provides meaning to the user of the true result of the analysis rule, and for controlling said computer to receive user input controlling which of said analysis rules are to be applied to said data,

The user can specify the "then" and the "else" outcomes of these "if" statements.

and for applying said analysis rules so designated to the data designated by said user and returning a true or false result for each analysis rule so applied depending upon the state of the data to which each analysis rule was applied,

You can apply the if-statements to different inputs, and the output will depend on the input

and for each true result returned by an analysis rule, controlling said computer to store in a file in said memory the user programmed text of a diagnostic statement associated with each true result as a diagnostic in a diagnostic database,

Those earlier mentioned text strings are stored in memory once those if-statements are evaluated.

and for controlling said computer to receive and store in said memory user input defining one or more expert tests, each expert test comprising a user defined arithmetic and/or logic statement to be applied to one or more diagnostics selected by user input from the diagnostics stored in said diagnostic database, said arithmetic and/or logic statement comprised of mathematical operators and/or logical operators from any logic set such as predicate logic or Boolean logic including at least the AND, OR and NOT functions, each said expert test returning either a true or false result, and for controlling said computer to receive user input defining the text of a super diagnostic statement in the form of an alphanumeric string associated with each true result of one of said expert tests, each said superdiagnostic being an alphanumeric string which the user can program to define the significance of the true result of the expert rule, its relevance or any other expression which provides meaning to the user of the true result of the expert rule,

You can combine multiple simple if-conditions using AND, OR and NOT, and these combinations then have their own outcomes! We call such combined checks "expert tests" and their string results "super diagnostics" because we think that makes it sound really special.

and for controlling said computer to receive user input defining which of said expert tests to execute on user specified diagnostics in said diagnostic database, and for controlling the computer to execute the expert tests so designated, and for controlling said computer to store as a super diagnostic in a super diagnostic file in said memory the super diagnostic statement associated with any true result returned by any said expert test.

The result of these "expert tests" is also stored in memory.

I hope you no longer think this is an example of how the patent system is supposed to work. This patent and its applicant should have been kicked out because it's not new, very obvious and written in a way which makes baby Jesus and Thomas Jefferson cry.

And if the actual justification for the patent system would finally be honoured, it would also be kicked out for the simple reason that it's a software patent (see start of this message for references to studies which explain why).

Re:Good (1)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554473)

I have to admit, I haven't read the patent itself.

If the patent isn't valid to start with, it does of course call into question the whole thing. I'm glad someone can actually distill that patent into something readable.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554499)

Even if the patent were valid, the goal of the patent system is not "to enable small guys to gets lots of money from the big guys", even if said big guys are doing something the small guys thought of first. The fact that this patent itself is horse crap (although I have yet to see a software patent which isn't, to be honest) is just something which adds injury to the insult.

Re:Good (1)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554540)

I think you've mis-understood the sentiments in my original posting.

I agree with what you say; the patent system should exist to spur innovation, be it in big multi-nationals in vast labs, or people in their own houses.

However, if someone devises something, then the patent system should protect their interest and provide a means to reward them for their work. In this case, the 'big guy' essentially stole the work from the 'small guy', and imho the patent system shouldn't just allow anyone a free ride to do that.

Software patents are different. Perhaps then, we should seek to create a system for software that doesn't follow in the footsteps of normal patent law. You mentioned Amazon earlier; clearly systems like one-click are questionable and have no place in 'patent' law.

You're clearly well read on the subject; do you have any links to alternative thoughts on the matter?

Re:Good (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554618)

You're falling into one of the standard errors of patent proponents. My correction:

... However, if someone devises something, and they wouldn't have done it without monopoly protection and profits and the overall benefit to society outweighs the cost of the monopoly., then, and only then, the patent system should protect their interest and provide a means to reward them for their work. ...

No invention that takes little investment, or that might reasonably have more than one person independently think of it, should be given the monopoly privilege.

One of the big problems with patents in general and software patents in particular is that the reasoning and logic used to justify this massive interference in the citizen's business is very poor, what basically amounts to hand waving. Everything from category errors, e.g. "prior art" and "combining", supposedly simple ideas, are based on the shifting sands of what it means for something to be similar, to the supposed non-existence of independent, simultaneous invention of things "whose time has come".

---

Scientific, evidence based IP law. Now there's a thought.

Re:Good (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554670)

You don't need to grant a 26 year monopoly to encourage software innovation. In fact, innovation works much better in this area without monopolies.

Re:Good (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554484)

That's a nice summary of the first of 12 claims. Claim 1 basically outlines the method of implementation and doesn't really contain much "novelty," but you can't really make the following 11 claims describing what the program does, unless you've said you have a program. Subsequent claims describe an "expert system" for providing advice or automating decision-making. eg, Word's grammar-checker.

It may still not be all that "novel," but it's an awful lot more specific than "a program that applies AND, OR and NOT logic to database results and stores them in memory"

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554545)

That's a nice summary of the first of 12 claims. Claim 1 basically outlines the method of implementation and doesn't really contain much "novelty," but you can't really make the following 11 claims describing what the program does, unless you've said you have a program.

That's irrelevant. Claims 1 to 12 have all been granted, so each and every one of them defines a monopoly which has been granted to the applicant.

Subsequent claims describe an "expert system" for providing advice or automating decision-making. eg, Word's grammar-checker.

As the first claim explains, "expert system" is used here as synonym for "an if-test with multiple conditions". In this sense, pretty much every single useful program I've ever written contains multiple "expert systems".

It may still not be all that "novel," but it's an awful lot more specific than "a program that applies AND, OR and NOT logic to database results and stores them in memory"

Even though what you describe above is a monopoly on its own which has been granted, let's look at a couple more:

  • claim 2: the data and the results of the if-tests are bi-directionally linked to each other.
  • claim 3: the data, if-tests and results are stored in separate tables of relational databases and linked to each other
  • claim 4: same as claim 1, except that you now also get a "weighing factor" in case the if-test returns true, and when combining multiple if's you also combine those weighing factors.
  • claim 5: the user can define how the weighing factors should be combined
  • claim 6: the user can only use some predefined functions to combine the weighing factors
  • claim 7: the weighing factor is used to define confidence in the result, and how to combine confidences (AND = minimum, OR = maximum, NOT = inverse)
  • claim 8-12: sorry, but I've wasted enough time on this nonsense

I still completely fail to see how this is "an awful lot more specific", novel or innovative than the first claim. Not to mention that everything which is supposed to be innovative is plain maths or logic.

Are you sure? (3, Interesting)

sane? (179855) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554492)

Are you sure this is the patent in question?

I've skimmed through the vast extent of it and some points arise:

  1. it should never have got accepted in the first place, its a piece of software, written as patent
  2. it references Microsoft FoxPro as something it works within, which both dates it and calls into question the Access/Excel claims
  3. its a mess of AI, Genetic algorothms, decision support, data mining and virtually every other buzzphrase in the known universe
  4. it describes a level of intelligent action on input data such as I've never seen in a Microsoft application
If this is really the PoS that $65m is built on, I'm in the wrong game.

That is not a reasonable summary of the patent (5, Insightful)

njdj (458173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554512)

If that were all that the patent said, Microsoft's team of top lawyers would have ripped it to shreds in seconds. The fact is that Claim 1 just describes a component, for which no originality is claimed. The essence of the patent is that it takes a bunch of things, none of which are novel, and combines them in a way which is claimed to be novel. The patent itself says "its individual elements respond to prior art in the following areas: decision-support software and executive information systems, expert systems and expert system building tools, ..." and it cites 7 examples of prior art just in the area of decision-support software.

The patent is bad because it is a software patent. But if software patents are allowed, then combining known elements in a new way qualifies for a patent, because there is over 100 years of precedent in awarding patents for just that in other fields.

Re:That is not a reasonable summary of the patent (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554559)

If that were all that the patent said, Microsoft's team of top lawyers would have ripped it to shreds in seconds. The fact is that Claim 1 just describes a component, for which no originality is claimed.

That is plain wrong. Every single claim is a granted monopoly, regardless of the number of the claim and of whether it's an independent or dependent claim.

The essence of the patent is that it takes a bunch of things, none of which are novel, and combines them in a way which is claimed to be novel. The patent itself says "its individual elements respond to prior art in the following areas: decision-support software and executive information systems, expert systems and expert system building tools, ..." and it cites 7 examples of prior art just in the area of decision-support software.

The claims are the granted monopolies, regardless of what the rest of the patent says. And each claim on its own must be patentable subject matter, new, and useful in the US (in Europe, it's non-obviousness and industrial applicability instead of usefulness, but in practice it all largely amounts to the same thing).

The patent is bad because it is a software patent. But if software patents are allowed, then combining known elements in a new way qualifies for a patent, because there is over 100 years of precedent in awarding patents for just that in other fields.

I honestly wonder what the new way is in this case. And while what you say here in this last paragraph is 100% correct, it immediately demonstrates one of the core problems of software patents: this is exactly what programmers, just like mathematicians, do all day.

Re:Good (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554551)

The if-then-else with and-or-not is a prerequisite for the rest of the patent, not the patent itself. From the abstract:
A system for applying artificial intelligence technology to data stored in databases and generates diagnostics that are user definable interpretations of information in the database. The diagnostics are stored in a database which can be queried with downdrilling to the associated data which generated the diagnostic. A set of bidirectional links is maintained between selected data items in the first database and the corresponding diagnostics in the second database. The system acts as an information compiler in developing a map of the raw data dimension into the structured dimension of intelligent interpretation of the data in the diagnostic database.
Seeing decision support tools with drill down interfaces on top of raw data (admittedly, never seeing them done right, but that's another topic), I would say that this is no simple import/export tool, nor is it a if-then-else implementation. If it's anything like the tools I've seen in the past, the result is a screen that a manager can look at everything in a high level. Click on a problem area and you get the detail, perhaps split out per month instead of a sum for the full year. Zoom back out from a single month and see how everything was performing in that given month, you get the idea. My guess is that they still haven't figured out how to automatically determine how best to summarize the data, i.e. answering the managers question before they ask it... that would be a pretty good patent.

Re:Good (2, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554570)

My post simply summarized the first claim of the patent. The claims of a patent define the monopolies granted to the applicant. All conditions of a single claim must be fulfilled in order to infringe on that claim. So as soon as you use an if-the-else test in the way described in the first claim, you are infringing.

The abstract and description are merely used to help interpret the claim, but they have little or no legal value and do not directly define what the patent monopoly covers.

Re:Good (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554554)

I have to admit.. I'd have to be pretty twacked out on meth to even want to read and summarize that patent.

Re:Good (1)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554558)

Well said, but being that we're stranded in a suboptimal reality, the in-force patent system has goals that are anything but promoting innovation. Turning the tables on behemoth portfolio holders by itself doesn't constitute reform, but so long as existing precedents are firm & new ones aren't set by the ruling, then this is more likely to move things *towards* reform than away from it.

Legislators will reliably favor well-to-do interests who can afford their ear. The courts aren't so predictable. If their decisions result in the patent game carrying a higher risk for large companies, then you can be sure the lobby for patent reform will no longer require grass-roots funding.

Re:Good (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554615)

It merely encourages reform which protects the big guys. It does not solve any real problems, and might even make it harder to solve those real problems (such as software patents): if they can get reforms through which make things less bad for them, they will be even less inclined to ever support abolishment of software patents.

No, it's really a win for Microsoft (3, Insightful)

njdj (458173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554426)

Cost to Microsoft: Negligible. (Microsoft's net income was over $12 billion last year).

Cost to the inventor: 14 years of his life spent fighting a legal battle.

Message to anybody else whose work Microsoft steals: if you take us to court, figure on losing 14 years of your life fighting a legal battle, and by the way you'd better have a lot of money before you start, because Microsoft won't hesitate to spend a few tens of millions on the best legal talent available.

Re:No, it's really a win for Microsoft (1)

dfjghsk (850954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554676)

14 years to get at least $9 million.. hmm.. $642,000/each year... doesn't sound like a bad deal. where do I sign up. :)

Re:No, it's really a win for Microsoft (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554694)

I don't know. If I made $65 million after 14 years... that's $4.64 million a year. I think I'd retire comfortably...

Re:Good (1)

islisis (589694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554432)

So what is good, outside Amado and Microsoft. The code is still closed and the concepts still owned, and businesses with no software alternative still have to move the cost to their clients who will move it somewhere else. Good will be what Amado decides to do with the money, act the same way as Microsoft and let his idea remained closed or act differently.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554435)

This is how the patent system should work.

Do you even know what this was about? This person took Microsoft Office, and patented a particular way of moving data from one Office application to another.

If I invent a new screwdriver head, do you think someone else should be able to patent making the screws that that screwdriver fits? If I discover an exploit in microsoft windows, should I be able to patent the fix for that particular hole, then when Microsoft fixes it, sue them for fixing it? If not, then why should this guy be able to patent moving data from Excel to Access?

The only thing that happened right here was that this guy at least had a working system when he rushed to the patent office.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

moochfish (822730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554447)

To demonstrate just how arbitrary the patent system seems sometimes... let's replace a few words in your statement:

Good. Good. Good.

This is how the patent system should work. [Creative] came up with an idea and tried to make [their] buck. [Apple] stole the idea, which for all intents and purposes ruined [their] chances of making [their] money back. So, [they] sued [Apple]...

Of course, [4] years must be a hell of a long time to wait for your money...

You could do the same thing with Amazon's One-click patent and achieve similar results. Yeah... I am not saying the dude did or didn't deserve the money. I am just saying it all seems very arbitrary sometimes.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554461)

You're quite correct, I guess it does seem a bit arbitary sometimes. Considering the facts in this one, I do still agree it is a good decision. If the patent system was reformed properly, it would be easier to make decisions about what is 'good' and what is 'bad'.

To use your analogy, if Creative did create something and Apple decided against using it (licence too high, etc), but then had a change of heart and used it without paying Creative for a licence, then Apple would (imho) be in the wrong.

Now if Creative patented something and then sat on their hands not using it, whilst stopping others from using it, then we have a problem.

Patents are messy, but I do think we have to judge things on a case-by-case basis.

Re:Good (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554478)

It's not arbitrary at all, actually the rule is very simple. Successful (and preferably big) companies must DIE DIE DIE, while the mythical "little guy" must be allowed to prosper. Strangely enough, such theory is upheld by many little guys.
Welcome to /., I hope you enjoy your stay.

Re:Good (0, Flamebait)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554630)

Except there's no link to the actual patent in this or the previous story.

Re:Good (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554729)

And while we're at it, why don't we apply copyright law against all those stolen ideas in Hollywood.

They more than likely thought they would lose (3, Insightful)

tenverras (855530) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554315)

Sure, Microsoft would still much rather win, but I doubt they were kidding themselves into thinking that they weren't in the wrong. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole reason they took it to court was to send the message that just because you think that Microsoft is infringing on your patents, doesn't mean they're going to roll over and pay you off. You better be ready to go the distance if you want to earn your dollar.

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554326)

Yeah, cuz everyone thought of them as such a soft target before this...

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (2, Insightful)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554345)

If you read the article it looks like this guy wrote some sort of macro to import data. Does this deserve a patent?

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554369)

When ideas are patentable, what doesn't deserve a patent?

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554385)

That was my point. Sounds like this one is questionable.

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554383)

Actually, the article doesn't say what this gentlemen's patent was for. Article alteration in progress.

Re:They more than likely thought they would lose (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554493)

Ok, sorry, I was wrong. The poster didn't say the article actually did mention a macro.

Misleading summary (5, Insightful)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554317)

From the article:

Morrison & Foerster said it is hoping that the federal court will award Amado further damages for continuing infringement, out of an escrow account that now has more than $65 million in it.

The lawyers appear to be hoping for more, but it hasn't necessarily been increased to $65 million yet. Personally, I don't think it's worth that much, since the infringing technology is related to:

Microsoft's method of linking its Access database and Excel spreadsheet infringed on Amado's technology

but heck, that's patent law for you.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

TheKingAdrock (834418) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554321)

Bump the parent by +4. Misleading summary? Sorry, but it's fair to say that the summary was just haphazardly posted by someone who didn't actually follow the link and read the short article.

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554378)

The lawyers appear to be hoping for more

Course they do - it'll mean they get paid more...

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554455)

9 million invested conservatively in 1992 could easily be worth 65 million today. In fact, I wonder if the escrow account was seeded with the 9 million and its current value is due to interest?

As for what it is worth, Microsoft has had 14 years to appeal a court's decision (what the fuck) and there is no indication they got the original amount awarded bumped down. However, I do believe that MS should be additionally forced to pay attorney's fees for the appeal stage of this case and, at the very, have all court costs added to their bill.

Is this why Gates stepped down? (0, Flamebait)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554319)

or one more reason why Vista will get delayed?

rats and ships come to mind...

Re:Is this why Gates stepped down? (2, Interesting)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554330)

Nice trolling; I'll bite. There are a couple problems with that:

a)This case has nothing to do with Vista. The patent is related to with some sort of communication between Access and Excel (sounds kinda bunk to me)
b)I don't think that a $65 million lawsuit (and this isn't even necessarily for that much) would make a decent significant enough in Microsoft to cause the resignation of Bill Gates...

Re:Is this why Gates stepped down? (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554340)

decent = dent

:'(

Re:Is this why Gates stepped down? (1)

dreamlax (981973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554530)

a) That's a potential $65m they could have used for marketing... yeah I know, each department is funded differently etc etc, but a $65m loss is a $65m loss no matter how you look at it. Funding would have to be cut somewhere, unless they have a fund for lawsuits that stretches more than $65m (which wouldn't surprise me). b) I think it would. Vista's launch is all flaky... when's it going to happen? What exactly are the final features? Will it run on a majority of the PCs people currently own? Who knows? Not them... apparently*. The Microsoft Corp is beginning to crumble a bit more every year since it's peak with Windows 2000 and XP*. Now with so much competition and with excellent marketing from Apple (with their PC/Mac ads, hahaha they're so funny), as well as the typical free OSs like Linux and FreeBSD, MS need all the money they can get. Bill can see it's not going to happen any time that he can be bothered waiting, so he's quitting while he's ahead like a smart man. It wasn't this $65m that caused him to resign, it was the fact that MS's profit is slowly diminishing*, and this $65m is just further evidence that they won't be able to stand strong forever. * facts are not verified, just assumed

Delicious marketing gimmick?! (2, Interesting)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554328)

From TFA... "Since the jury verdict last year, Microsoft has altered Office, alerting businesses back in January that they will need to upgrade to the modified version."

Why should USERS pay to upgrade to a new version? Why can't Microsoft license the patent in question, instead?

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (2, Insightful)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554338)

Why should USERS pay to upgrade to a new version? Why can't Microsoft license the patent in question, instead?

I'd imagine that's referring to a patch and not something that costs money. Unless you're referring to the human cost of having to patch X copies of Office. Then again, I doubt that Microsoft cares if people actually upgrade - it's probably just important (for legal reasons I imagine) that they _ask_ people to.

class action suit (1)

rjdegraaf (712353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554359)

I see a class action suit from windows-users against MS, forcing MS to buy the license.

The users bought the office suite which included a functionality which is now being removed. Moreover, MS had the opportunity and responsibility to keep the end-users out of (legal) problems. Also, the EULA stated MS has copyright of the delivered software (which turned out to be a lie).

Re:class action suit (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554372)

I see a class action suit from windows-users against MS, forcing MS to buy the license.

The users bought the office suite which included a functionality which is now being removed.


I don't think so... MS may have implemented the same functionality in a different, non-infringing manner.

Also, the EULA stated MS has copyright of the delivered software (which turned out to be a lie).

Ah, that may be a possibility... although, a straightforward proposal could be: Why punish users to change the code they have already licensed from MS? Why not force MS to license the infringing code from the patent holder?

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554364)

The law says that users can be held liable for patent infringement as well. I'm not sure if upgrade is to be understood as a paid upgrade in this context. This article [com.com] suggests that the upgrade is an update that's free of charge but all users are required by the license terms of Office to upgrade "immediately". The article goes on to say that companies may have costs arising from verifying that the new version works everywhere (with potential additional costs if it fails to work since the upgrade is mandatory) and of course installing is going to cause delays in work. If we had a sane law that forbids EULAs the affected companies might be able to claim damages from MS for this (deliberate?) oversight.

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554390)

The law says that users can be held liable for patent infringement as well.

How can the user, who has no way of examining the source code of a proprietary piece of code, be liable for infringements? Looks like the big businesses have written these stupid laws...

If we had a sane law that forbids EULAs the affected companies might be able to claim damages from MS for this (deliberate?) oversight.

A sane law would be one that made the infringer pay. Not the poor chap who licensed code.

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1)

bombshelter13 (786671) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554419)

If a customer goes into a store, buys an item, and it later turns out that the store was selling stolen merchandise, the customer is still liable for posession of stolen property. It doesn't matter one bit that they didn't know the item was illegal. The situation really isn't any different.

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554431)

If a customer goes into a store, buys an item, and it later turns out that the store was selling stolen merchandise, the customer is still liable for posession of stolen property. It doesn't matter one bit that they didn't know the item was illegal. The situation really isn't any different.

The situation is different..... unless Microsoft habitually sells pirated software, oh wait! That's what's being alleged here!

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1)

Chowderbags (847952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554528)

Good luck convincing a jury to convict if there was no criminal intent.

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554568)

It doesn't matter one bit that they didn't know the item was illegal

Is your law really that broken? Here in the UK if you buy it in good faith you're not liable for handling stolen goods, although, since they weren't the the property of the person who sold them to you the sale is invalid and you have to give them back - presumably if you want your money back you have to chase down the person who sold them to you.
But then the US has a history of holding people liable for actions that they cannot reasonably know are breaking the law;
The chap the assassinated Lincoln broke his leg in his escape, appeared at gone midnight at a country doctor's house who put it in a splint, then he vanished off into the night again. The next morning when news of Lincoln's assassination spread with a description of the assassin the doctor told police that he'd seen such a man in a bit of a hurry because he'd fixed his leg. The doctor was charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive, convicted and jailed.

Re:Delicious marketing gimmick?! (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554456)

This patch is 'free', M$ made it available as a security upgrade. I saw it a while ago, it was something like: 'after this patch access cannot have excel spreadsheets linked in'. I was pondering if it is a security upgrade or a feature upgrade, but it turns out it was a license downgrade :) Btw, the patent is quite ridiculous. Both access and excel is m$ crap, why would anyone get a PATENT for this obvious trick. I'm not talking about copyrighted source code, this is a method/concept stuff. On the other hand M$ loses more than if they simply bought the idea in the first place.

Obligatory Nelson Quote (4, Funny)

lee7guy (659916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554331)

Points in the general direction of Redmond.

Ha ha!

14 Years, 65 mil (1)

Frightening (976489) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554349)

That's 4.64 million green boys per year-and back in '92, a million bucks was a million bucks.
The Humanity! Kudos to this gentleman for a well placed career investment.

Hang on a minute (5, Insightful)

sane? (179855) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554354)

This concerns a patent for a method of shifting data from Excel to Access. I thought we had all agreed that software patents were a bad idea? All of them.

This guy managed to take two packages made by Microsoft and work a way of shifting data between them. So what? I'll guess (given that no reference is given to the actual patent) that given the two packages there are only very few mechanisms, and these are obvious in the context of the software. I can quite understand Microsoft telling him to take a hike for an export/import routine.

As much as it may pain some, this person looks to be a chancer. Just because its the little guy and Microsoft doesn't make it right.

Re:Hang on a minute (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554371)

'using a single spreadsheet' makes me think this was just some kind of macro, although I have no idea what the macro capabilities were in 1990.

Re:Hang on a minute (4, Funny)

homer_s (799572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554406)

I thought we had all agreed that software patents were a bad idea? All of them.
You must be new here.
Here are the rules reg. patents on slashdot:

If it is a patent by google/apple, it is a defensive patent and hence good.
If it is a patent by any other company, it is teh evil.
If it is a patent that hurts Microsoft, then it is good and that is how patents are supposed to work.


Re:Hang on a minute (2, Insightful)

Giometrix (932993) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554490)

I wish you were only kidding...

Re:Hang on a minute (3, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554644)

If it is a patent that hurts Microsoft, then it is good and that is how patents are supposed to work.

The reason why we cheer for some patents, is that it's good to see patent trolls themselves get hurt. In fact, this is the only way to fight -- it is them who get to buy laws, and without them getting ever hurt, our side simply has no leverage to persuade anyone who has any power.

Re:Hang on a minute (3, Insightful)

tehshen (794722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554714)

It's amazing how you can be automatically Insightful for bashing this place now. If someone's wrong about something, don't whine about some 'groupthink', try to correct whoever it was, which actually helps. Explain why this isn't how the patent system is supposed to work. Anyway here's my opinion on the matter.

I think of it like this:
  • If I break into your house and steal all your money, that is bad and I should be punished for it.
  • If I break into your house because you stole my computer and I want to get it back, I might be more justified in doing so.

Sure, it's a lot more complicated than that - in either case, I've got a charge of breaking and entering to deal with. Likewise, patents are going to be controvertial whatever happens.

I don't like Microsoft that much. I don't like their business practices, their software, or their vast army of lawyers and patents, and anything that hinders any of those things is good by me. Then again, I'm also against these software patents, and I'm not sure if this one should've even been granted, let alone used.

Using a patent against Microsoft is making the best of a bad situation. Obviously, I'd rather see them both without any patents, like I'd rather not have my thing stolen and have to break into your house to get it back. This is just the next best thing.

Re:Hang on a minute (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554411)

In one way, I do agree with you. In another, I have to point out that it is MS that is helping push software patents in Europe, and thus, this is poetic justice. Perhaps they'll reconsider their position if this happens enough (though I doubt it).

Maybe, in the end, I wish they were getting their poetic justice without a patent troll getting paid off, though.

Re:Hang on a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554433)

Maybe, in the end, I wish they were getting their poetic justice without a patent troll getting paid off, though.

Calling this guy a "patent troll" may be a little harsh. He did try to sell it to them. I'm as against software patents as the next /.er, and I do like to see a little guy stick it to da man, but this case is not really an example of what's wrong with software patents.

Re:Hang on a minute (4, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554572)

Or more likely they'll decide they have to get even more patents on trivial/obvious features to stop this happening again.

Re:Hang on a minute (3, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554423)

This concerns a patent for a method of shifting data from Excel to Access

There's no reference, but I'd wager NO PATENT would've been granted on these lines... more like, "a method to move data from a spreadsheet to a database".

This guy managed to take two packages made by Microsoft and work a way of shifting data between them.
No evidence to the above. Maybe more generic work.

I thought we had all agreed that software patents were a bad idea? All of them.

Agreed. And so, until software patents are declared illegal, any aggrieved party should be able to make the infringer pay.

Just because its the little guy and Microsoft doesn't make it right.

How about vice-versa? With WGA, Microsoft checks every small guy every day. Every day, every one is guilty unless a piece of software decides you are innocent. Two wrongs won't make a right.... and yet, the rights of little men MUST be upheld, until the SYSTEM becomes more equitable.

Re:Hang on a minute (2, Insightful)

flight666 (30842) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554464)

Oh, yes it does make this right. Very right. You see, strategically, it would be best if the worlds most profitable software company were to lose a bunch of these suits and then decide that they dont like software patents very much. Then they could spend some of their money buying some patent reform laws.

Re:Hang on a minute (3, Funny)

irtza (893217) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554467)

No, /. is a much larger and varied crowd than you seem to give it credit for. There are people here who despise all patents under any case, others who despise all software patents or patents on methods or some other subset of patets, some who despise patents that don't harm MS, people who would give there left arm to buy a patent for google, those that would give your left arm to buy a patent for apple, and those that enjoy reading about multi-million dollar lawsuits being flung around by the big boys.

I consider myself in the second (I don't like patents on methods - which includes software - and last categories. I am happy to hear this lawsuit is going on, lawyers are getting paid, the trolls are well fed, the little guy wins. This truly is justice my friend. It is a shame you have failed to see it; your upstanding principles must really interfere with your choices for entertainment.

Re:Hang on a minute (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554482)

I would tend to agree with you. Sadly, right or wrong, this seems to be the norm for patents these days, and the 'good' and 'evil' , big and small will continue to screwed until it gets changed.

Re:Hang on a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554510)

True. But just because it's not right, doesn't mean it's not funny :)

Convergent N-GEN and Unisys (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554522)

Well, all they had to do was use an NGEN based workstation and the software which allowed this, long before MS had office, between a spreadsheet and a database. Either a lazy prior art search, or them unwilling to look at long forgotten software - like Digitals all-in-one office, say. Compuware bought up a mainframe based spreadsheet, that allowed their funky and proprietary database to do similar. MS using CP/M software for prior art - well maybe not.

Re:Hang on a minute (2, Interesting)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554699)

The reason that I don't cry when Microsoft loses a patent case is because Microsoft is one of the prime movers behind expanding America's broken patent system around the world. Besides, in recent years Microsoft has become very aggressive in its efforts to use its patents to generate huge amounts of licensing fees. In essence Microsoft wants to create a world in which large corporations, with large portfolios of patents to trade, are the only folks that can write software. Heck, Microsoft's most effective tool agains the encroachment of Free Software on its market has been to talk about "intellectual property" issues. When push comes to shove what Microsoft is really threatening is to use its patents against Free Software.

Microsoft is big enough and influential enough that if it got serious it could end the current patent madness almost single handedly. As long as Microsoft is part of the problem and not part of the solution then I sincerely hope that they reap the whirlwind they have sown. Not that it really matters what I think. Microsoft has billions of dollars in the bank and writes piles and piles of software. They are an ideal target for patent trolls. I'm sure that it has already occured to the bright people at Microsoft that its patent offensive has largely backfired. Microsoft is currently embroiled in over 30 patent lawsuits, many of which it has already lost. Free Software, on the other hand, continues to advance.

And even more curious... (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554360)

From an article referenced in the link:
"It was recently decided in a court of law that certain portions of code found in Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, Microsoft Office Access 2003, Microsoft Office XP Professional and Microsoft Access 2002 infringe a third-party patent," Microsoft said in an e-mail to customers. "As a result, Microsoft must make available a revised version of these products with the allegedly infringing code replaced."

Questions that come up:
1. How could any 3rd party obtain access to portions of Office Pro 2003, etc.?
2. And since MS conceded that they may have indeed infringed on patents, WHY SHOULD THE CUSTOMERS BE FORCED TO DEPLY A DIFFERENT VERSION???
Why can't MS be forced simply to license the patents for the volumes ALREADY SHIPPED to customers, and NEW customers provided with modified non-infringing code?

The response of MS to a similar spat with ActiveX and Eolas, also tends to fall in the same pattern - forcing 'users' to change their code / behaviour for a crime committed by the software maker! Why punish the people who PAID for the product????????

Re:And even more curious... (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554393)

Sorry to keep following you around....but this is your third rediculous post on this story.

Your first question seems offtopic - a 3rd party can get access to portions of Office by buying it. Unless you mean the source code, which doesn't necessarily have to be involved for Microsoft to be infringing a patent.

To your second question, from your own quote "Tt was recently decided in a court of law that certain portions of code...". Microsoft isn't conceding anything. They are merely stating the fact that a court has decided that they are infringing. For further evidence of them not conceding anything, please refer to the article you are posting to - it's about Microsoft appealing _that_ decision.

Lastly, where are you getting this forced upgrade information from? Certainly not from your quote: "As a result, Microsoft must make available a revised version". Make available != forced upgrade. Also, in terms of licensing this patent, I could personally see them not wanting to do that because it seems pretty trivial - at least from the description in the article (you know, that thing you should've read).

Re:And even more curious... (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554405)

"Your first question seems offtopic - a 3rd party can get access to portions of Office by buying it. Unless you mean the source code, which doesn't necessarily have to be involved for Microsoft to be infringing a patent. "

I meant source code. How else can infringement be proven?

Lastly, where are you getting this forced upgrade information from?

From the linked article: "Although existing customers can keep using older versions on current machines, any new installations of Office 2003 will require Service Pack 2, released by Microsoft in September. Office XP will need to be put into use with a special patch applied.

Microsoft is also recommending that customers update their existing software with the new code. "

That's where it states that EXISTING users are recommended to upgrade!

Re:And even more curious... (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554424)

I meant source code. How else can infringement be proven?

Well, the patent concerns a "method of linking its Access database and Excel" - this probably wouldn't need source code to prove. This sounds like a patent on an idea regarding how to implement something - so the feature itself could be infringing instead of the specifics of coding that feature. The article doesnt really go into much detail on what the patent actually entails.

With respect to them recommending that they update, of course Microsoft will - I'm not sure I understand how this is a big deal. If Microsoft didn't ask people to upgrade and remove the offending feature, it could probably be used against them in court. Some sort of willful infringement (I'm not a lawyer, shrug)? I fail to see how this justifies the number of !'s you're using here - another patch from Microsoft is certainly nothing to be shocked at :) I'm sure those that don't want to apply the Service Pack in question (I'm sure it contains other patches/fixes as well) wont have to.

Re:And even more curious... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554396)

Why punish the people who PAID for the product????????

And people thought just running Windows was punishment enough... /me hugs OpenOffice and teTeX

Tom

Licensor has, by definition, a monopoly (1)

fritsd (924429) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554496)

About your point "why can't MS be forced simply to license ...":

AFAIK there are no limits under patent law to what the licensor (mr. Amado) can ask for a license. He also isn't obliged to sell a license to MS if e.g he doesn't like them; after all, he has been granted a monopoly (for 20 years) to use his "invention".

If he decides to charge e.g. $200 per copy of Microsoft Office, what is Microsoft to do? their only recourse is to either tell their customers to downgrade to a new version of MS Office with that "invention" excised, or pay Amado a lump sum of several billion dollars.

Welcome to patent law. Now do you see why software patents are such a bad idea?

Clippy? (2, Funny)

mostaphalles (113587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554381)

So that's the son-of-a-bitch that invented Clippy... Only when pitched his name was El Hungry Clippo, the spelling-error eating robot.

prior art ... (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554404)

I realize that a lot of people are under the delusion that 'computers` were invented by Bill Gates but a lot of this stuff had been previously devised on the Mini and Mainframe.

"RPG .. was originally developed by IBM in the 1960s .. RPG was an acronym for Report Program Generator [wikipedia.org] , descriptive of the purpose of the language: generation of reports from data files, including matching record and sub-total reports."

"RPG III significantly departed from the original language, providing modern structured constructs like IF-ENDIF blocks, DO loops, and subroutines .. In 1994, RPG IV .. was released and the name, officially, was no longer an acronym"

See also:

"Record Management Services (abbreviated RMS [wikipedia.org] ) are procedures .. that programs may call to process files and records within files.

Powerful ally (2, Insightful)

Gadzinka (256729) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554437)

It's good to have such a powerful ally in fight against software patents.

After couple of court loses like this, I don't think there's anyone in MS who still believes that their huge patent portfolio will help them. It used to be that you simply amassed patents and when your competition sued you for patent infrigment, you sued them back, finally settled outside of court and signed mututal patent exchange with them.

Now, there are companies that don't do anything, just sue left and right, so you have no possibility to sue them back for patent infrigment[1]. You might even bankrupt them by prolonged court proceedings, but they are like hydra: those same people, will resurface in some other company and continue to extort money.

Robert

[1] unless you own a patent on a business method ,,don't do anything, just sue'' ;)

Re:Powerful ally (2, Interesting)

pieterh (196118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554581)

There are a number of inescapable flaws in the software patent 'system'; this is one of them...

1. Owning patents does not protect you from a non-producing entity (NPE, a firm that owns patents but makes nothing, so infringes nothing and cannot be sued).

2. It is impossible to define new software standards that cannot be undercut and held hostage by NPEs.

3. It is impossible to build new software products that cannot be undercut and held hostage by NPEs.

4. It is impossible to define software patents that cannot be undercut by other software patents. I.e. if Microsoft had filed and owned this particular patent, it'd not stop an NPE making another claim that undercut this claim.

The irony (sweet or not) is that it is those firms lobbying hardest for wider and stronger software patents (IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, Siemens, SAP) which end up paying the biggest bills. It's true that software patents provide temporary and lucrative monopolies - see the GSM market, based on some of the heaviest-patented standards ever - but in the end the patent trolls will always find a way to turn it around.

Sadly large IT firms are deeply schizophrenic about software patents, with patent policy firmly in the hands of the lawyers, not the engineers, and it will take more than a few lawsuits to change this. (A lawsuit that does not kill a firm just makes its lawyers stronger.)

Re:Powerful ally (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554602)

The court, which in many ways were the last ally of the individual against corporate and governement greed, are quickly losing thier power. The drive again liberal activist judges, and replacing them with corporate activist judges, kills the opportunity to gain reasonable recompense for damages.

For instance, insurance companies routinely offer minimum settlement knowing that one of two things will happen. Either the claimant is poor and must accept the substandard settlement, or the claimant has means and can wait the years until a suit can be filed. If the later happens, the insurance company often will pay to insurance limits, but has still managed to keep, and freely invest, the claimant monies for a number of years.

A few years ago their was a case in which an insurance company did this on a particular grevious case. They all but lied in court in an effort to pay a claim that any reasonable person would deem valid. They hounded the claimant, and said that he should sell assets to cover costs that the insurance comapny in fact should have covered. When it finally ended up in court, it was found that insurance company acted extremely badly and was ordered to not only pay the claim but a large amount. The amount was large enough to catch the attention of the industry and stop thier practice of lowballing claims and abusing the court system by encouraging unnecesary suits. However, high courts found the settlement too large and block the last remaining path to justice.

For most large companies, the courts provide a known limited risks, and encourage said companies to abuse certain privaledges knowing that any cosequences will be long off and, at the end of the day, insignificant. It is unlikely that the 65m will hold through appleals. We can expect another 5-10 years of fights, after all MS has nothing to lose and will probably get the settlement whittled to half as much.

SCO SCO SCO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554470)

I bet he used to work for SCO! This is the missing link that shows how M$ was not backing up SCO. I'm really eager to see the benchmark for the new linking method developed by M$, I bet is 6 times faster so.. "Tell us the facts miss Dildo".
 
PS: I hope nothing got misspeled.

sixty five mill... (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554494)

The High Price of Innovation!

Let's hope... (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554525)

Let's hope that maybe now, Microsoft will put all it's weight behind scrapping software patents altogether???

Ballmer's Comments (3, Funny)

BlueScreenOfTOM (939766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554534)

When reached for comment, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated "Carlos Armando Amado is a fucking pussy. I've done it before and I'll do it again... I'm going to Fucking Kill(TM) Carlos Armando Amado!" He then hurled a chair in the general direction of Guatemala.

steal now, pay a low low price later (1)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15554560)

If they would have licenced this, he would be looking at a hell of a lot more than $9m since '93...$9m is nothing when they are making a few billion on Office each year!

Why is Excel the only relevant prior art here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15554579)

Spreadsheets with features to integrate with word processors (moving data either way or extracting data either way) have existed for rather a long time. I built a good many features into Analyticalc during the 1980s which do things like this. Now, Analyticalc never got a lot of publicity, but I did publish it, in source, during the 1980s, with numerous features to integrate with darn near any J Random word processor or text editor (though moderately smart word processors would be best...something with the IQ of, say, TECO or better). Even with rules about how "publication" needs to have all detail, it would qualify. (The code, btw, ran on msdos, windows, amigados, vms, rsx, and sunOS.) There were many other packages both from US and from Japan that integrated word processing and spreadsheets back then, some published with source and some commercial, that seem deserving of consideration.
    Fact is the system is broken now in that there is not required searching of all prior art, and there is no working standard for obviousness. (As USPTO works with it, it appears that "obvious" means "talked about in a patent application that is earlier", rather than what could be determined by a test, such as would exist if you showed the problem to a few folks skilled in the art and if any of them came up with the same idea, it would be adjudged obvious.) If both those issues were fixed, these foolish patents would not exist. Fix one more, that scientific ideas and formulae cannot be patented (they can be trade secrets but if published, the published body of knowledge should be uncontaminated with these poison pills), and the whole system would be halfway decent.
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