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Microsoft Retracts Patent

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the too-hot dept.

Microsoft 182

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has retracted their recent controversial patent application. The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday. Today, Jane Prey of Microsoft announced the retraction on the SIGCSE (Special Interest in Computer Science Education) mailing list. 'Many thanks to the members of the community that brought this to my attention — and here's the latest. The patent application was a mistake and one that should not have happened. To fix this, Microsoft will be removing the patent application. Our sincere apologies to Michael Kölling and the BlueJ community.'"

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Moral is complicated (4, Insightful)

chriss (26574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802204)

I have a tendency to believe that humans can err, but are basically good. And even Microsoft consists of humans. So my first reaction was "Oh good, they are not as soulless as we believe, this was an honest mistake." That option had already been pointed out during the discussion on slashdot as a problem within their process:

  1. Microsoft collects suggestions from different sources
  2. Someone suggests the BlueJ functionality
  3. Someone extracts a list of features that should actually be implemented
  4. Some developer implements the function, not knowing where it came from
  5. At the end someone sees the function, attributed to the developer, does not see the BlueJ connection and suggests it for patent application, because this is the routine way to handle new ideas at Microsoft

So, an honest mistake. But this being Microsoft it took me seconds to fall into conspiracy mode. How could they have such mistakes in their process, if they care about intellectual property? Was the mistake that they didn't hide it well? Did they simply try if they can get through with this? Can an entity that consists of basically good humans be not good in the end? (I'm afraid yes). So I still cannot decide if I can trust them or not, they seem to have lied too often in the past.

Re:Moral is complicated (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802244)

My cynical reaction: The patent application would not have been pulled except for the written admission on the part of a Microsoft developer that the feature was copied from BlueJ.

Re:Moral is complicated (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802326)

So you know what happens now - MS issues a company-wide edict forbidding staff blog references to the possible origins of new functionality in their products.

Re:Moral is complicated (4, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802538)

My cynical reaction: The patent application would not have been pulled except for the written admission on the part of a Microsoft developer that the feature was copied from BlueJ.

A week or so from now, a headless body will turn up floating in Lake Washington off Madina.

Re:Moral is complicated (5, Funny)

joe slacker (1036082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803380)

Only for the autopsy to reveal decapitation by a flying chair

Re:Moral is complicated (1, Funny)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803656)

With a chair embedded in the torso.

Re:Moral is complicated (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802312)

But this being Microsoft it took me seconds to fall into conspiracy mode.

There's no "conspiracy" about it, this is now common among most big technology corporations: Throw buckets of patent applications at the Patent Office, and see what sticks. Often the "little people" they are ripping off don't have the means to fight it, and while the other big players know it's bullshit, they find it cheaper and quicker to just pay the license. It's not just Micorsoft, they all do it.

Re:Moral is complicated (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802646)

At Disney Internet Group, we actually receive an award if we develop something we can patent.

Re:Moral is complicated (2, Insightful)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802816)

>>> "At Disney Internet Group, we actually receive an award if we develop something we can patent."

I hope that 'award' is a share of the royalties and not a plastic Mickey Mouse statue. (They still have thousands left over from the 80's you know.)

Re:Moral is complicated (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802710)

Just to play a little devil's advocate:

Nobody is going to sue MomAndPop.com for patent infringement because its not profitable. They sue the Microsofts and the Apples who have the deep pockets to shell out big settlements. With software patents being the legal quagmire that they are, the only protection these corporations have from others abusing the system is to be the patent holder themselves. So they apply for a patent and this ends in one of a few ways:

They can't get the patent because someone else has it.
They can't get the patent because it is not patentable.
They get the patent.

They've avoided legal confrontation by having the patent office identify the first case. Either of the other two cases means that they can do whatever they were planning on doing without worry of getting sued for millions upon millions of dollars.

If the "little people" are so proud of their inventions, they should patent them. If they are such great ideas they will profit from licensing fees. Willfully choosing to not use the system means willfully choosing to not benefit from the protections and advantages it was designed to offer.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Jonnty (910561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803354)

That doesn't work with software patents, as many developers (like me) find them morally objectionable or wrong for some other reason, don't have the money to do it initially, or don't have the time or skills to draw up a patent application. Also, even if they did patent it, like in this case, if they release the product under any licence (not just FOSS ones) that means it's free then re they won't make a penny from royalties.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

mike2R (721965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803832)

Nobody is going to sue MomAndPop.com for patent infringement because its not profitable. They sue the Microsofts and the Apples who have the deep pockets to shell out big settlements.

Patent trolls aren't going to sue MomAndPop.com, true; as you say they want money so they go for Microsoft or Apple. But Microsoft or Apple may well sue (not that it'll ever go to court) MomAndPop.com if they come up with something that could threaten established markets and business practices.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803990)

With software patents being the legal quagmire that they are, the only protection these corporations have from others abusing the system is to be the patent holder themselves.
I don't believe that. The big guys could get software patents done away with in no time if they wanted to. That is my take. Naturally, I could be wrong and often am, but I doubt it in this case.

all the best,

drew

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803580)

Throw buckets of patent applications at the Patent Office, and see what sticks.

Even if BlueJ had 9 out of 10 claims of the patent covered with prior art, it's possible Microsoft could have gotten at least one original claim out of it. And considering they have lawyers on retainer for this stuff, it doesn't hurt them to try. The only thing that hurts them is if they think they'll lose sales over the hubbub.

As someone else mentioned, though, someone at Microsoft did commit perjury (even after it was retracted) by claiming to invent this feature since Microsoft engineers admitted in writing in a public forum that they were influenced by the success of BlueJ's features.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803646)

XIE: Cross-Industry Extortion.

1: Develop simple and standard software ideas.
2: Patent lots of simple and standard software ideas.
3a: License lots of simple and standard software idea patents.
(OR)
3b: Send in the Litigation Army(TM) to sue them into oblivion (and/or beyond).
4: ???
5: Profit!!!

Brilliant! I think I'll patent it...

Re:Moral is complicated (2, Informative)

nexuspal (720736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803890)

The big guys don't pay for others patents. Instead, they cross-license patents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-licensing/ [wikipedia.org] ), which is sharing Patent portfolios to prevent mutually assured destruction (in litigation) because every big company cannot be in business WITHOUT violating some other mega corporations patents.

The little guy does indeed get screwed over as you pointed out. Doesn't that go against the original intent of the Patent system?

Re:Moral is complicated (4, Insightful)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802354)

Except that three people are listed as the inventors on the patent application.

So those three must have thought they'd invented something - otherwise they lied on that application.

Or is it legal to put people's names on a patent application without asking them if what they did is actually an "invention"?

The people at both 3 and 4 have to know they didn't "invent" anything and surely the people at 5 have to ask them at some point?

Re:Moral is complicated (4, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802576)

Each inventor listed in a U.S. patent application has to sign an oath (declaration) that states that he believes that he is the first to invent what is claimed in the patent application. So you are correct in that these Microsoft inventors were either: (1) lazy (didn't read the patent application); (2) lying (knew of BlueJ and didn't care); or (3) incompetent (didn't know what BlueJ was).

Re:Moral is complicated (3, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802648)

As a follow up to my own post, inventor oaths are typically made under penalty of perjury, so that if an inventor knowingly signs a false declaration, the inventor may be punished by fine and/or imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 1001.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

kalleguld (624992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802692)

Not knowing about BlueJ hardly means an inventor is incompetent

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803550)

Not knowing about BlueJ hardly means an inventor is incompetent

The implementation is nearly identical, To have not known of BlueJ would be beyond belief.

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803856)

Not knowing about BlueJ hardly means an inventor is incompetent

Inventor of what??????????????

Some shithead who clones someone elses software is not an inventor. They are a shithead.

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Subliminalbits (998434) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802924)

I believe it was Napoleon who said, "Never attribute to malice that which may be explained by incompetence."

(4) (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802926)

Quite confident that they could buy their way out of any resulting trouble using the money from licenses for the thousands of other patent applications on which they did something like this and did not get detected.

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802938)

I'd go with lazy --- some dumb paperwork came over from legal and it has to be handled by the end of the week. It's 18:45 on Friday; I don't want to be here; I don't want to read this stuff; the blank signiture line is probably on the last page; there it is; signed; stuffed into intra-campus mail envelope; go-y home-y.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802982)

You are correct. For any doubters/curious you can down load a pdf of the application documents (including the declaration signed by the inventors) here [uspto.gov] .

Re:Moral is complicated (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803168)

To the user who said `each applicant for a U.S. patent has to sign on the dotted line saying that they believe what they have invented is unique...' -- In even semi-large corporations, this is not always true. I have filed a patent (in automated theorem proving / program verification) while at a semi-large company and never had to sign such a thing. I did of course believe my work to be novel at the time, still do though I have issues with software patents. But it definitely is NOT the case that such an oath must always be signed. The process for filing for patents at large companies is so automatic and lawyer-centric; I remember all I did was write up the technical achievements for the patent, send them to the team of lawyers, and they produced a 150 page document within a matter of weeks with background information, all sorts of other research couching the content of the patent in context, etc.

I am against software patents in many respects, but it is a tricky game. If you aren't Microsoft, but are a semi-large software company with tons of employees and share-holders and all of that, you really *do* have to file patents regularly for your work JUST to PROTECT yourself from someone like Microsoft later developing the same thing and patenting it when you didn't. Just like with this BlueJ example. I'm finally resolved to believing that the real problem is within the *law*, smaller companies, whether they disagree with the law or not (most of us did), have to some extent play within the rules of the game to make sure they stay afloat. I hope that changes, but I think the biggest change needs to be a legal one.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803942)

All inventors listed in a U.S. application must sign an oath stating that he believes himself to be the first and original inventor. I've signed several of these for my applications and they are typically part of a power of attorney or assignment (I'm sure your company made you assign the application to them). You probably don't remember what you signed because the oath isn't conspicuous (its typically a paragraph added into a document that includes dozens of other paragraphs).

The Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. 115 [uspto.gov] , expressly requires that every "applicant shall make an oath that he believes himself to be the original and first inventor of the process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or improvement thereof, for which he solicits a patent; and shall state of what country he is a citizen." The Patent Office wont even review an application until you submit the oath.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803328)

I would like to hear the "inventor"'s explaination of this and why they shouldn't be prosecuted for perjury and/or fraud.
Gautam Goenka [msdn.com]
Partho P Das [msdn.com]
Umesh Unnikrishnan

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802404)

No one ever thinks he or she is being evil (except for cartoonish supervillains and goth teenagers). Someone thought having another patent in MS's portfolio would be a good thing (from his/her perspective); if this person knew about the the BlueJ origins and still thought, "hey, we should patent this!" it's not because they were also thinking, "because that would make us even more evil! Muwahahaha!" but because they saw having another patent as being a good thing. inside the culture at MS, adding to the overall value of the company is likely seen as a higher good than not abusing the broken patent system.

from the vantage point of /., though, it is an honest mistake at best, or yet another example of an immoral unethical action by an evil corporation, at worst. maybe it was only that MS got caught with their hand in the cookie jar that this retraction has occurred. i hope, like you, that it was an honest mistake resulting from the multiple layers of bureaucracy that occur in a corporation as large as MS.

all of this is not to say that there is not such thing as evil, just that, even when everyone else in the world can agree that someone is evil, that evil person will not think that of him/herself that way.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802980)

"maybe it was only that MS got caught with their hand in the cookie jar that this retraction has occurred" ...

ya think? (Hint: how many times have they retracted a patent application *without getting caught like this ...

reminds me of all the crappy pop singers who get caught lip-syncing and *swear that on every other night of their lives they sang for real, it's just that they had a sore throat that day and ... etc. etc.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Don853 (978535) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803428)

Hint: how many times have they retracted a patent application *without getting caught like this ...


I don't know. How many? Do you know, or are you just making an accusation?

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803760)

alright, i'll go see if i can find actual data from the patent office's website

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Cedric Tsui (890887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802432)

You're totally right. Companies consist of basically good humans. But a good human within a corporation does not always do the right thing. The bottom line is so overly encompassing. It becomes commonplace to put the bottom line above morality because not choosing the best economic option will get you no end of grief from your fellow bean counters. Much more grief than some consumer down the line, some small company in another state, somebody who's life is not connected to yours. It becomes so easy to hide your face behind the corporate trademark.

From 'The Corporation'

Vandana Shiva: A corporation is not a person. It doesn't think. People in it think and for them it is legitimate to create terminator technology, so that farmers are not able to save their seeds. Seeds that will destroy themselves through a suicide gene. Seeds that are designed to only produce crop in one season. You really need to have a brutal mind. It's a war against evolution to even think in those terms. But quite clearly profifs are so much higher in their minds.

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802472)

I have a tendency to believe that humans can err, but are basically good.

Offtopic, but that theory of morality runs afoul fairly quickly, because it includes the word 'good', the moralists favorite word. Unfortunately, this merely shifts the question to, "What does it mean for humans to act good?" I would suppose that most people *think* they are acting good, and in my mind, that is what makes an action good or bad, that is, the intentions of the actor. Of course, the intentions of actors are perhaps some of the most-guarded secrets of humanity, probably hidden to the actors themselves in many cases. For instance, why do I get angry when sentence X is uttered? I find myself not being able to answer that in many situations.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802510)

"How could they have such mistakes in their process, if they care about intellectual property?"
Not everyone has heard of BlueJ. The person(s) who wrote it might have fallen into this camp.

"Was the mistake that they didn't hide it well?"
No, incoming patents can be examined by outside parties. Microsoft knows that all patents they submit will be closely looked at by people outside of the patent office.

"Did they simply try if they can get through with this?"
You never know with these large corporations.

"Can an entity that consists of basically good humans be not good in the end? (I'm afraid yes)."
You stated earlier that you believe human beings to be basically good, but they can err. So, let's look at Ghengis Khan to answer this question (I really hope there isn't a version of Godwin's Law for Ghengis Khan. We'd be running out of people to use examples of). Ghengis Khan was a human being. Therefore according to you he is basically good, but he is allowed to err slightly. Now, this man took over a good portion of the world through military might, raping and pillaging as he went. Of course, he didn't do this alone (although that'd be highly impressive). His army also consisted of men, who being people, were basically good. It's up to you to decide if his horses were good or evil. So, seeing as how raping and pillaging is generally seen as a Bad Thing, a group of basically good people must be able to do not good things in the end. Now that I think about it, the Ghengis Khan analogy is quite fitting to Microsoft and their rise to power.

"So I still cannot decide if I can trust them or not, they seem to have lied too often in the past."
If a man is convicted and jailed for pedophile, it wouldn't matter if he cured cancer or fed the entire world: he'd always be remembered as a pedophile.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802520)

I have a tendency to believe that humans can err, but are basically good. And even Microsoft consists of humans.
I have a similar belief. However, I would more specifically word it as "Without any other information given, I have a tendency to believe a person is basically good."

For example, if you tell me that person is a member of Fred Phelp's church, I no longer believe that they fall in any category I would classify as "good." The same is true if they belonged to the Earth Liberation Front. This does not mean that this person necessarily classifies themself as "evil." In all likelyhood, they would classify themself as "good."

But working at Microsoft is a datapoint that does change my assumptions about the person. At the very least, they are willing to sacrifice their principles for money. They are willing to work at a company that knowingly and willingly acts as Microsoft does most of the time.

A similar example is Wal-Mart. When employees at a given store tries to organize a union, Wal-Mart tends to close down the store and say "well, we were already going to close it and the union drive had nothing to do with it." No matter if you think unions are a good thing or a bad thing, you can make up your own mind about whether Wal-Mart is telling the truth.

So, while Microsoft might have just made a mistake, I do not trust their word on it.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802686)

I have a tendency to believe that humans can err, but are basically good. And even Microsoft consists of humans. So my first reaction was "Oh good, they are not as soulless as we believe, this was an honest mistake." That option had already been pointed out during the discussion on slashdot as a problem within their process:

Sure, an honest mistake. But what are they doing to fix their process so it doesn't happen again? If their process is prone to "honest mistakes" and they don't do anything it becomes "willful negligence".

Re:Moral is complicated (4, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802778)

I have to say, with all the legal loops that you have to hop to work with corporate lawyers just to get a patent to the submission stage, that this is not just a simple mistake.

In other words, I definitely heard "And I would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for these meddling kids!" running through my head. Zoinks!

Off-shore development (1)

Mr 44 (180750) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802860)

Is everyone going to completely ignore the fact that this feature is one of Microsoft's very, very few that aren't developed in Redmond??? The Microsoft India Development Center [microsoft.com] in Hyderabad, is responsible for this whole feature area.

Draw your own conclusions, but at a minimum, it would increase the chances of mis-communication...

Re:Off-shore development (1)

castle (6163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803318)

I would tend to agree, cultural and language barriers like that could have contributed to what this resulted in. Many of the Indian comp-sci graduates are quite talented and intelligent folks, but they don't stew themselves in (or at least within the periphery of) US patent law as much as your typical US corporate software development employee.

Microsoft *could* have been trying for naughty shenanigans, but they did the right thing in this instance, after it came to light. Overall it is a good indication that they need to improve their patent submissions process, and perhaps internal corporate communications, if they indeed are planning on becoming a less antagonistic member of the marketplace. Though I personally doubt it based on past experience.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802872)

I have a tendency to believe that humans can err, but are basically good.

And that last part is where the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. Basically good!? Are you kidding me? Sure there are a lot of people that do good things running around, but mankind is not intrinsically good by any stretch. I am just going to guess that you are either:

a. very sheltered

b. very young

or c. very naive

I hope you don't find out the truth the hardway.

Re:Moral is complicated (1)

h2_plus_O (976551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804020)

perhaps your username is inaccurate; the 'recovering' part, in particular.

I agree with the parent; people are generally good, they're just insanely bad at judging how to fulfill their good commitments. For example, you're willing to tear down the idealistic in order to prevent them having their feelings hurt later on. That's a laudable commitment, (i.e., you're basically a good person) but in a certain sense, it accomplishes the very harm you'd like for them not to be heartbroken by (you've diminished the parent, but 'for their own good').

I hope you don't find out the truth the hardway.
The truth is that nobody knows the truth; they've only got their own particular view. There's a lot of valid angles from which to behold the same thing, and each one presents a different, but valid view. Please, don't preach the brand of 'truth' that renders its believers into paranoid, cynical haters. It's just annoying.

Re:Moral is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802902)

I do not trust and therefore do not particularly like Microsoft.


Good job Microsoft. You have responded quickly and responsibly.


Since you(Microsoft) read slashdot.

A. Isn't this a questionable thing to patent.

B. Isn't this kind of weak patent bad for a industry that exists on innovation and there for bad for business.

In Other Words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803288)

Psyche! Ya caught us. We were just kidding, anyway. He he. Move along and go buy [whisper quiet] that lease to [/whisper quiet] Vista now.

In case you don't feel like clicking (2, Informative)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802226)

Here is the description from the linked slashdot post, if you were wondering what this patent was about:

"BlueJ is a popular academic IDE which lets students have a visual programming interface. Microsoft copied the design in their 'Object Test Bench' feature in Visual Studio 2005 and even admitted it. Now, a patent application has come to light which patents the very same feature, blatantly ignoring prior art."

Re:In case you don't feel like clicking (4, Informative)

gregarican (694358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802460)

In more detail this feature is something akin to an Object Inspector, something that has been a part of Smalltalk languages for probably 20 years in a GUI form. Funny thing, seeing how Visual Studio 2005 has an Object Browser, which is another throwback to the System/Object Browser feature of various Smalltalks dating back to Smalltalk-80 :-)

It's a good start... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802234)

but what we all really want to know is when MS will start calling for the abolition of software patents altogether. It's not this specific application, it's Software patents as a whole that should never have happened.

Re:It's a good start... (4, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802292)

hey they have a lot of legitimate patents, like the one for the task scheduler (cron jobs). There is absolutely no prior art (UNIX) for that before MSFT came around. :-)

Companies like MSFT/IBM/etc shouldn't get patents, not because they don't invent anything, but because they invent so little and patent so much.

The hardware world scares me though. On the one had they collaborate as academics to share results, and on the other hand they patent everything in sight. No, you can't have an XOR gate, not yours!

Tom

Re:It's a good start... (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802362)

Really, they're more likely to push for "first to file" instead of "first to invent" so that patent applications like this will actually be valid.

Re:It's a good start... (1)

kalleguld (624992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802752)

IANAL, but isn't a patent invalid if you can prove prior art?

Re:It's a good start... (1)

Rey Willie (932990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803104)

As a general matter, under the current "first to invent" system, you are right. But, the parent post mentioned a "first to file" system (as used in many other countries). Under "first to file" prior art doesn't matter. All that matters is who wins the race to the patent office.

The argument for "first to file" is that it is a simpler system, and thus has lower transaction costs. Further, "first to file" is a big incentive to file a patent ASAP, instead of waiting to perfect the invention (or hiding the invention as the case may be). The theory is that this introduces knowledge of innovations to the public faster.

OTOH, "first to file" would tend, I think, to encourage more filing of groundless or obvious applications, because an inventor would be afraid of getting scooped at the patent office. Further, such a system would tend to reward those who spend money on the aggressive prosecution of patents, at the expense of those who spend money on pursuing technical innovations.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_to_file_and_fir st_to_invent [wikipedia.org]

Would it have killed the editor... (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802242)

...to include half a sentence describing the basics of the patent in the hyperlink?

"The patent discussed on saturday" isn't significantly shorter than "the patent on a copied IDE feature" but contains more useful knowledge and less useless knowledge.

Re:Would it have killed the editor... (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802428)

There's still research going into Integrated Drive Electronics [wikipedia.org] ? I thought SATA had replaced that.

/joking. Seriously, throwing an acronym into the summary doesn't make it any more clear.

Re:Would it have killed the editor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803142)

Umm yes, since IDE has nothing to do with SATA, which is a bus. IDE drives come in SATA and PATA forms. Also USB and Firewire.

Re:Would it have killed the editor... (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803114)

I thought "<a href="http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01 /27/147243&tid=109">controversial patent application</a>" covered the bases pretty well, it's both shorter and more informative than even your suggestion. (Well, without the space.)

(Links on the web aren't an incidental thing, they are a vital part of what is being communicated.)

Re:Would it have killed the editor... (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803336)

That's such a cop-out. The link should be there, sure, but there is no excuse for giving a poor description of what can be found via the hyperlink when you could just as easily given a good description. Your way is only marginally better than the universally despised as poor practice "here" links of the mid '90s.

Congratulations on showing me how much more "web savvy" you are than me though.

Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (0)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802334)

The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday.
Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? It looks like this fellow started complaining on Friday:
http://www.bluej.org/mrt/?p=21 [bluej.org]

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (3, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802410)

When Slashdot did the 'bringing to light', it was Saturday. The developers 'brought it to light' for their crowd on Friday. To 'bring it to light' means that you've made some portion, usually a significant portion, of a group of people aware of it. The majority of the Slashdot crowd did NOT know about this before it was announced on Saturday, so it WAS 'brought to light'.

Happy?

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (1)

dotdash (944083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803494)

To 'bring it to light' means that you've made some portion, usually a significant portion, of a group of people aware of it. The majority of the Slashdot crowd did NOT know about this before it was announced on Saturday, so it WAS 'brought to light'.

That light has been burning for some time now, and reached Slashdot only last Saturday. Quite a few people did keep that light burning between May 2005 and now.

The way the story is worded gives the impression that Slashdot broke the story, which it did not. IMO, it would have been better to say something like "This story was on Slashdot first on Saturday". Why the urge to claim to be the "light bringer"?

You have to admit that it is somewhat ironic that Slashdot made this poor choice with a story about giving due credits.

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (5, Funny)

jimbojw (1010949) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802444)

The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday.
Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? It looks like this fellow started complaining on Friday: http://www.bluej.org/mrt/?p=21 [bluej.org]
Obi-Wan: "The article that I'm looking for should be right ..." (points at screen) "here."
Librarian: "If an article is not on Slashdot, then it does not exist." (Turns abruptly and walks away)

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802570)

Librarian: "If an article is not on Slashdot, then it does not exist." (Turns abruptly and walks away)
Or rather, Oook!

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (1)

dacaldar (614951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802964)

The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday.
Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? It looks like this fellow started complaining on Friday: http://www.bluej.org/mrt/?p=21 [bluej.org]
Obi-Wan: "The article that I'm looking for should be right ..." (points at screen) "here." Librarian: "If an article is not on Slashdot, then it does not exist." (Turns abruptly and walks away)
Obi-Wan: (waves hand) "These aren't the nerds you're looking for"

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803220)



The story was first brought to light by Slashdot on Saturday.
Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? It looks like this fellow started complaining on Friday: http://www.bluej.org/mrt/?p=21 [bluej.org]
Obi-Wan: "The article that I'm looking for should be right ..." (points at screen) "here." Librarian: "If an article is not on Slashdot, then it does not exist." (Turns abruptly and walks away)
Obi-Wan: (waves hand) "These aren't the nerds you're looking for"


Yoda (to the Jedi children): Gone is the website, yet the packet loss remains. Who will explain this?
Jedi child: Master Yoda - someone has slashdotted the site so that it can't be found in the library?

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (2, Interesting)

nametaken (610866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802494)

Erm, there's a good chance it would have gone largely unnoticed for months if the story hadn't made /.

To be fair, months can mean the difference between sinking thousands of dollars into a patent and deciding to defend it, or cutting it loose.

Investigative Journalism (1)

The_Abortionist (930834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802702)

Sensing that something was finishy at Microsoft, cmdrtaco put together a crack team from his finest editors and combed through all of MS' actions of the last several years.

Result: a dubious patent application.

Have we found the replacement for Ed Bradley?

Re:Um...what did Slashdot have to do with it? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803148)

what did Slashdot have to do with it? It looks like this fellow started complaining on Friday:

      Ahh, you see - but he only saw the light when his server crashed from a decent slashdotting... ;)

Why does it not surprise me... (2, Funny)

abscondment (672321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802372)

Why does it not surprise me that someone named Jane Prey is involved in a Microsoft patent SNAFU?

Re:Why does it not surprise me... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802436)

because you don't know the difference between "prey" and "predator"

Re:Why does it not surprise me... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802572)

prey, v., intr., preyed, preying, preys
  1. To hunt, catch, or eat as prey: Owls prey on mice.
  2. To victimize or make a profit at someone else's expense.
  3. To plunder or pillage.
  4. To exert a baneful or injurious effect: Remorse preyed on his mind.

Re:Why does it not surprise me... (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802760)

Now is that prey(n) or prey(v), because prey(v) would still fit, as in 'People in Microsoft's patent department prey on tiny companies for sustenance.'

As the other AC pointed out... (1)

abscondment (672321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802790)

Oh, I think I do.

The predator preys on weaker animals (like... BlueJ?).
The prey is preyed upon.

In case you're still unclear about my use of words, the important nouns have been italicized, while the important verbs have been given a bold face.

Thank you for turning a tongue-in-cheek play on words into a grammatical pissing contest.

Re:Why does it not surprise me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802644)

If it makes you feel any better, Jane Prey used to work for the UVa Computer Science department.

Re:Why does it not surprise me... (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803870)

SIGCSE (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802414)

Your acronym is missing a G. It took me all of 3 seconds to find out that SIGCSE is the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. You can even copy and paste from the first google result if you're feeling especially lazy. I'm guessing you are.

In recent news. (1, Funny)

Raynor (925006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802416)

Microsoft recently retracted their patents on the internet and pants.

A microsoft spokesperson said 'Many thanks to the members of the community that brought this to my attention -- and here's the latest. The patent application was a mistake and one that should not have happened.'

Everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet...

Would they have withdrawn without the outcry? (2, Insightful)

sehlat (180760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802438)

I'd be a lot happier if the Empire's own minions had noticed the problem
and withdrawn the patent BEFORE the outcry arose. As it is:

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." -- Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884)

Modern addendum: "And the price of open software."

Don't celebrate (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802448)

Watch now for patents that come as close as possible to stepping over the line, but stop just short. Microsoft easily has the resources to toss up nuisance patents that block possible future development of BlueJ.

I'm not so sure (2, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802634)

Watch now for patents that come as close as possible to stepping over the line, but stop just short. Microsoft easily has the resources to toss up nuisance patents that block possible future development of BlueJ.

After publicly admitting the misstep with the original patent, I'm not sure what the value to MS would be in aggressively trying to thwart BlueJ. It seems their strategy here is to hold themselves out as an ethical player. They have to know that they're on notice now about BlueJ, and any attmpts to block it would be immediately picked up by the technology press, not to mention by existing BlueJ users.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but it seems it would be monumentally stupid for Microsoft to attempt to destroy BlueJ through legal means at this point. Perhaps they'll have to suck it up and just compete on technical merits. ;)

Mistake? (2, Informative)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802496)

Anyone who thinks this was an innocent mistake in "implementing a suggestion" probably hasn't seen the screenshots comparing The VS screens with BlueJ. ( http://www.bluej.org/vs/vs-bj.html [bluej.org] )

Personally, I'm convinced the most plausible explanation for the *extremely* close replication of the BlueJ screens in the MSFT product is that the BlueJ source was ported to C#, probably using an automated tool.

Re:Mistake? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803030)

Personally, I'm convinced the most plausible explanation for the *extremely* close replication of the BlueJ screens in the MSFT product is that the BlueJ source was ported to C#, probably using an automated tool.

That's a bunch of nonsense. I mean, it's not impossible, but it's ridiculous to jump to that conclusion. There are tons of workalike tools in Unixland that look and behave just like the programs they're knocking off. Does that mean they were developed by porting the original program? I just made some documents that look amazingly like some other documents in-house (I'm a graphic artist, and I needed some documents very similar to some old ones but with new graphical elements, and couldn't find the originals.) By your argument, the most rational explanation for the existence of these documents is that I loaded up the originals and altered them. The new document is just so similar!

Maybe the GNOME desktop is actually a port of Windows' source code, since it looks so much like Windows?

Actually MS was right along along (1)

neildiamond (610251) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803450)

Personally, I'm convinced the most plausible explanation for the *extremely* close replication of the BlueJ screens in the MSFT product is that the BlueJ source was ported to C#, probably using an automated tool.

Adding a "J" after Blue Screen (BJOD) does not mean you invalidate MS's patent on the BSOD! Sorry, I think they got there first.

That's One (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802540)

Now the slashdot echo chamber will have a moment of self-satisfaction while more theft, more corporate domination and fraud at the expense of consumers and entrepreneurs.

Most importantly: We don't have to get out of our chairs and participate in our political system to make the government we want. Woohoo!

Patent transparency is a good thing. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802550)

Did Microsoft employees lie about inventing this? Obviously, dishonesty in the workplace is a serious offense, and I'm sure Microsoft will severely punish employees who falsify invention claims. And no doubt the in-house patent attorneys failed to catch this serious error.... what's to become of them? Sounds like a few people might end up on the streets of Redmond.

I mean Microsoft wouldn't just want to file bogus patents ... Right?

Well, maybe Microsoft will now review all of the claims submitted by these bozos to make sure they didn't screw up before. Good thing these applications are all public - transparency is a critical part of the patent system.

Re:Patent transparency is a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802848)

Those who made the claim of invention are, according to the filing:
      Inventors: Goenka; Gautam; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Das; Partho P.; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Unnikrishnan; Umesh; (Redmond, WA)

So the big question: Did these guys make the claim themselves, or did management or the IP team put them up to it? Or was it all a strange coincidence?

Re:Patent transparency is a good thing. (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803068)

Microsoft will severely punish employees who falsify invention claims.

      "No Jack, we're not going to fire you over this."

      "You're not?"

      "No -cough- there is, however, the minor matter of your reassignment. It's a cushy position - work from home really. We've taken the liberty of routing our 1-800 number for Vista activation to your home telephone number. And I'd like to be the first to welcome you to the Windows Validation department... Jack? Are you ok?"

Microsoft will now review all of the claims submitted by these bozos to make sure they didn't screw up before.

      You obviously have little understanding about how a large corporation works. Those "bozos" have probably been promoted...

Missing the point (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802626)

Microsoft's apology changes nothing about the fact that all the original factors that caused this embarrassing mistake by them are still in play. It is very lucky that Microsoft's misbehaviour in the BlueJ example was quickly noticed, carefully documented and forcefully exposed by the BlueJ people themselves, but it is not and should not be an inventor's job to police the behaviour of big companies like Microsoft. The next time Microsoft misappropriates somebody else's invention, the problem is unlikely to be exposed so quickly. Microsoft should deal with the underlying factor behind this problem: Employees are still being encouraged to file as many patents as possible on the wrong assumption that it is a good indicator of employee merit. This is part of a deeper problem in the Microsoft executive which is fanatically pushing the meretricious concept of software patents around the world to places that have studied the idea and rejected it (EU) as harmful to the interests of small businesses.

patent first, ask questions later? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802674)

I disagree with the idea of just attempting to patent absolutely anything, and then only when the app comes back as "has issue", the company says, "Oops! heh heh, never mind that one..." and just keeps on going. It's pretty clear that even if the patent office was great at detecting dupe patents, prior art,etc., that if there are 10,000 patent apps a day or whatever coming in, how do you have time to check them all? Surely a lot are slipping through and being granted based on this "apply first, worry later" stuff.

Re:patent first, ask questions later? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802772)

What I don't get is the rush to pass them. Should just be round-robin through the owners. So even if you submit 9000 patents today, only one will be looked at before looking at the others.

That way if a company feels the need to apply for a shiatload of patents they'll get the joy of knowing they won't get looked at anytime soon.

Anyone who is not really annoyed at the state of patents should try googles patent search. Enter any trivially understood idea like "task scheduling" or "integer multiplication" and have fun reading patents about blatently obvious ideas.

Tom

Apology (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802684)

Okay, this whole thing is not too surprising. The patent system is broken and all major companies end up using a shotgun approach to get as many, mostly invalid, patents as possible. They apologized publicly for this instance. That was the right thing to do, and MS did it for a change. Good job MS.

Prior art detected (4, Funny)

Ravear (923203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802904)

(A)ssimilate? (Y/Y)

mi_nus 5, Troll) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802946)

to the transmmision server crashes

now if the scumpuppies at Rambus would do this... (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803082)

and donate all their licensing income derived from patenting sync ram that was derivative of early standardization attempts in an industry technical committee, we might start getting someplace.

if not, hey, what the hell, it's only ethics and morals. I'm sure it did not influence any other large companies in the field, like HP and SCO.

Would USPTO have issued the patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803300)

My question is, would the USPTO have issued the patent?

We can argue over if it would have been overturned eventually or not .. but would the USPTO have issued a patent for this? I'm sure they'd like to say "no way, we would done due diligence and known prior art exists".

if busted then issue appology (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803348)

I still stand by my new sig:

Microsoft's new tag line for 2007: Pilfer, Plagiarize, Patent.

Good start, but (2, Insightful)

dotdash (944083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803544)

To fix this, Microsoft will be removing the patent application. Our sincere apologies to Michael Kölling and the BlueJ community.
What about listing BlueJ in Visual Studio credits?

I'm sure there are more .... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803588)

just yesterday I decided to check out googles new patent search engine.
I typed in "Virtual Interaction Configuration" and up pops a patent.

I'm very anti-patent when it comes to software and the virtual interaction configuration is my own project that started back in 1988. I've only glanced over the patent so far and I intend on addressing each claim and explaining how each does not qualify for patent consideration. I intend to explain it in terms of Abstraction Physics, the common human characteristic in creating and dealing with abstraction.

At some point software patents will come to their end.

Off to the next one (1)

Boreras (1000123) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803618)

So, Microsoft admitted it, no problem, let's try it again with another program!

They will keep trying with lots of these totally unfair patents, and when people respond too late, or too weak, the previous prior-arts will have to go to the court, and because of Microsoft's money and lawyers, you're risking a hell of a lot cash to guarantee something you made up, so you probably won't or have to invest a ridiculous amount of time and effort into it. Yet another new patent for Microsoft.

They will keep trying...

Should've assigned it (1)

FishCalledOscar (691194) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803732)

Microsoft could have assigned the application to the EFF or something like that. There might have been something patentable in their application and it might as well be patented as protection against some other evil empire. They already paid to have it examined, so let the examiner decide. They would have to disclose the prior art though, which is easy using an IDS (invention disclosure sheet). Still, microsoft did right by abandoning. They could have done better by assigning. Oh yeah - I am a lawyer. A patent lawyer in fact. (flame on)

"nothing to see here" (3, Insightful)

mary_will_grow (466638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803854)

Move along... It was "just a mistake".

What about the zillions of other patents just like this one that they apply for every day? Is the burden really on ME to make sure that Microsoft hasn't been attempting to patent stuff I've clearly got "prior art" for?

This is terrible. Stop acting like "The system works". This is one example where a prior-art holder had the means to notice someone's faulty patent claim.

I'm not even sure where the burden of proof should lie. When you hire a patent attorney to do a "prior art search", they just give you a pile of existing patents that matched some keywords. How do you do a _real_ prior art search, beyond just what has already been patented? Its not even possible. The system is so hosed that every patent that resulted from it should probably just be thrown out.

I can't believe people are buying this "It was a mistake" B.S.
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