Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Popular (& Common Sense) Y2k Fix Patented

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the yet-another-wonderful-move-by-the-uspto dept.

The Courts 319

GnrcMan writes "According to this article, "windowing", a method of fixing Y2K bugs where there is a window (IE 00-39) of years recognized as being 20xx years, has been patented by McDonnell-Douglas. They are now threatening to sue Fortune 500 companies using this popular (and common sense) technique." The years not updated are considered to be 19xx for those systems. *sigh* I love patents. Honest. Really.

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I can play that game (1)

Nate Fox (1271) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570569)

Hell, I'll go patent the Hello World program on every major language. I'll be rich! :)

If Bill Gates had a nickel for every time Windows crashed...

Jesus Christ... (1)

Maul (83993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570572)

This is sick, by far the worst of the recent lame-ass patents. I just pray that the court system is smart enough to stamp these stupid things out.

Next thing you know, someone will be pateting the process of reaching for the power button to turn on your computer.

argh! (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570575)

Can't anything be done for the common good of all?

This seems almost as despicable to me as the idea of Mayo Clinic saying only they get to use dialysis machines.

This is an example of a patent system failure (5)

alexhmit01 (104757) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570578)

This is unfortunant, because this is the patent system breaking down. The idea behind the patent system is that, to encourage individuals to publish their knowledge and advance the nation's technology base, we grant them a short term monopoly. The old 17 year (at one point I think it was shorted) patent was a short period of time in the lifetime of an invention, but the new 20 year from time of filing period is sometimes too long.

For computer technology, 20 years is silly. For this, it is rediculous. Society gets NOTHING from this publishing. Wow, you mean in 2019 we can all use, royalty free, windowing for fixing dates? Freaking retarded. Any invention that is of short useful duration (less than the patenting time) should not be eligable for patenting. They should have to protect it via trade secret. Society gets nothing.

I wouldn't worry too much. I'm sure that someone did something similar to deal with a 1 byte year (that would have a problem at the end of the decade) and will be able to show prior art. I'm sure that some has written SOMETHING that interprets certain 2 digit dates as 19xx and others as 20xx, so this isn't new and novel...

The patent system is not a bad idea, it is just being implemented poorly. We aren't getting benefits out of patent protection. I think that patent protection is fundamentally a good thing, but it should be reserved for REALLY new and novel ideas, not obvious, stupid ones.


Idiot patent system (1)

Chocobo219 (105615) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570581)

Why does the US have a patent system where we can patent common sense things like this. Or equations for that matter. I understand the need for the system but other nations have less restrictive systems that still respect the rights of creators. -Squawk- Chocobo219

utter astonishment (2)

McKing (1017) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570583)

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous things that I have ever heard about. I guess the fact that their technique almost perfectly matches with the 32-bit unix "Y38" problem is mere coincidence. Many, many people (including myself) have used 1938/2038 as the "window" in which old data gets updated to new dates for this very reason, and as "y2k" compliant date mechanisms and 64-bit dates become the norm, quite a few "pre2K" fixes are probably based on this technique.

Software patents are evil, and must be stopped before it is too late!!

in the future.. (1)

discore (80674) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570586)

with this latest report about y2k i cant help thinking on thing.
i certainly hope im not the only one in the world who has thought; 'what about y3k?'
sure its sort of far-fetched, since by then im sure everything will have changed. but its still an interesting thought.

it seems like the governments around the world should take this into mild consideration. maybe leave a note on the whitehouse post it board that says "fix y3k problems long before jan 1st 3000"


Here's a patent... (3)

jfunk (33224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570588)

Hmmmm, the US patent office appear to be accepting common-sense solutions to common problems...

Here's one:

An apparatus for firebombing the US patent office.

I should also patent the use of the phrase "patent this" in conjunction with any rude gesture.

Re:I can play that game (1)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570590)

Hell, I'll go patent the Hello World

I suspect this Y2K patent will fail to stand up in court, I'm guessing that some far-sighted engineer did something similar in the 80s and "prior art" will apply.

Patent the Patent Lawyers! (1)

dragontails (95448) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570671)

That way, any time some one uses the patented process of Patent Lawyer processing, the Patent Lawyers will have to pay a fee to do their legal process, which will in turn drive up legal costs and put everyone out of business!

That ought to put an end to things.

Now if only my patent for capitalism would get accepted soon...

Re:in the future.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570673)

Y3K isn't a problem in 4 digits... its Y10K that we better start cracking on... we have to establish prior art before someone goes to patent windowing "all dates before 2000 are considered 12000"

I am not a lawyer.... (1)

dsaxena (57330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570675)

But can't we, the consumers in our free-market economy do something about this and other blatant abuses of the patent system? If a patent a) hurts customers by increasing the price of what would be otherwise a not so expensice service/good/technology or b) interferes with day to day living (say company Foo doesn't use the patented method to fix y2k issues, thus causing major problems for the phone system). It just astounds me that a company would do something as inane as's more shocking that the patent office would allow this. Maybe instead of legal action against the company, we can take legal action against the patent office.

Any lawyer types think this is possible?

Maybe it's time for a community led organization that informs the general populace of the problems with the patent system?
This comment is (©) Copyright Deepak Saxena

bad (1)

Damned (33568) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570677)

At the risk of being redundant with the replies I cannot see, this is just bad. Though I'm not surprised that someone did it.

When there is a quick and easy way to fix someting and it's fairly intuitive, someone will find a way to say that they came up with that idea and the rest of the people that have been using the same method for however long now have to pay. I'm just surprised it took this long for someone to patent this particular way of solving the year 2000 thing.

revenge... (1)

sh_mmer (63202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570679)

would it be unfair to give slashdotting McDonell Douglass employees some kind of automatic karma penalty to reflect the massive negative karma that McDonell Douglass earns for this heist?

I used this in '95 (2)

d2ksla (89385) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570683)

When was the patent applied for? I found no link to ibm's patent server. Anyway, I'm not proud to say it, but i wrote a small program in 1994 that wasn't Y2K-safe. I fixed it in 1995 using the 'windowing' fix that has apparantly been patented. I can't believe that every average programmer wouldn't come up with this on his own like I did, therefore the patent should never have been granted... / Krister

New patent for 2029 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570686)

The next thing you know, in 2029, they'll patent a revolutionary new "windowing method", where years 30 to 59 are treated as years 2030 to 2059. Wow.

How can this be patented? (1)

Scanline (28688) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570689)

I know for sure that this method to circumvent the Y2K problem has been used and taught in schools over and over for many years now, so how can this be patented?

Sometimes when I read the artciles on Slashdot I feel like I'm reading Segfault instead. This was one of those.

-= Scanline =-

Prior art (Was:...patent system failure) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570691)

I can immediately think of prior art for this problem, from an unlikely source too. Microsoft Excel 4.0 for Macintosh interpreted 1/1/10 as Jan 1 2010.

As I recall the breaking point is 2014, so if the year number is part of the patent this may not be relevant, however that also makes the patent easy to circumvent.

p.s. Not a.c, waiting for /. login.

This should be fun! (1)

BrianH (13460) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570694)

I've personally used this method to fix Y2K issues for 5 different companies I've freelanced to. Does this mean I should expect a call from M-D in the near future? Anyone got a patent number on this thing? I want to start researching my "prior art". Can I countersue them for annoying me?

patent expired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570701)

I have a citizen watch manufactured in 1980 that uses this patent, so, assuming that a respected company won't apply for a patent when prior art is easily verifiable, or that the efficient PTO won't issue such a patent, it means the patent
was issued before 1980, so it is expired by now.

Matan Ziv-Av (away from my password)

Regarding prior art and patents in general. (5)

KHDev (106015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570703)

I wrote this a while ago about the Amazon patent. I have inserted new comments regarding this even more obvious patent...

I was reading through the transcript of a public hearing on prior art [] . It sounds like when a patent is submitted people look for prior art in current patent databases (including some foreign databases). They also try to review what they call "non-patent literature" (NPL). This information consists of abstracts from "technical journals" and, if needed, an "information specialist" can assist the person in researching prior art. They did mention that in the field of computers the NPL databases may or may not contain evidence of prior art.

In the public hearing it was stated that there is a law "so-called Rule 56, which requires that that material prior art, of which the applicant is aware, be disclosed to the Office." It was said that they understand that it may be hard to comply to this rule. I looked through the patent but I could not find any references to prior art. Maybe someone else knows where these types of things are posted (if they are disclosed)? It was said that most patent submissions include (on average) about 4 documents of prior art.

In the transcript Keith Stephens nicely explains the need to disclose all prior art... It would be interesting to know how much prior art submitted for this "1-Click" patent.

So it seems even if there is prior art that this does not stop it from being patented if it is "sufficiently different" (see below). So exactly what role does prior art play in the patent process then?

From the excellent document What can be patented [] it states that abstract ideas (read: windowing for the Y2K problem) are not patentable. So if "buying things remotely with one action" is an abstract idea, then the key in Amazon's patent must be the interaction between the client, server, and "communication medium" as well as supporting technologies (ex. read in the patent about combining single orders into one order: "expedited order selection"). So it may be that these less abstract ideas are enforceable, but then again at the top of the document the "claims" that were made were very general. How is the idea of "windowing" not abstract and how can the person even prove he thought of the idea. I was reading through an IBM pamphlet on Y2k and it stated that they had been doing research about Y2K for years, including the windowing technique...

From the same document referenced in the above paragraph it also states that "The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be nonobvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention." So another question I pose is when did Amazon "invent" this type of ordering system? Surely "sufficiently similiar" systems could be found before Amazon "invented" its ordering system. What about the windowing system?? I'm sure any decent programmer could have thought of that one... perhaps we need a few programmers in higher political places (alas, programming and politics don't mix well -- and I rather like it that way).

Notice also that the [Amazon] patent states that "one skilled in the art" will appreciate that the patent also covers other ordering mechanisms such as email. This is incredulous... this means that the patent convers all automated email-based order processing systems!

On a side note, on the US Patent and Trademark Office's web site [] in the definition [] of a patent they state that "US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions." How exactly can this relate to the internet? What if a U.S. company contracts with a foreign (ex. European) company to create an e-commerce web site that remembers users credit cards and allows buying an item with one click of a button. Would the patent affect the web site because a U.S. company sponsered the development of the site OR would it not be under the umbrella of the patent since it was hosted in the foreign company?

The economy has already been hurt by people afraid of Y2K (although arguably it has created more jobs temporarily etc), so why must someone come and try to create damage after the fact? Has anyone actually found the patent online? It would make for very interesting reading. Perhaps we should start writing Congress about these patents, eh?

The issues of patents is a tough one, and hopefully we can work through (around) situations like this Amazon patent and somehow manage to let innovation flourish still. The idea of (software) patents is really against the entire concept backing Open Source. The real question is, what should be done about it?


How do you enforce this patent? (3)

Joe Rumsey (2194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570705)

Setting aside the stupidity of granting this patent for a moment, it seems to me that this is a particularly hard patent to enforce. If I were a large corporation and McDonnel-Douglas came to me asking to see the code running my in house systems, wouldn't I just laugh at them? Can they somehow legally gain access to the code of every company that might have conveivably fixed a Y2K bug to see how it was done? Some programs are out in the world for anyone to examine, sure, but an awful lot of Y2K non-compliant code is tied up in ancient in-house systems. Does having any software patent at all entitle me to look at all the code in the world to make sure it isn't violating my patent? That seems far fetched, but only a bit more so than granting this patent in the first place.

oh my god. (1)

bendawg (72695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570707)

This is one of the most retarded things I have ever heard. They're gonna sue companies for trying to fix a bug that some people think will alter civilization as we know it tremendously. I mean what kind of company wants a reputation for impeding process towards Y2K compliance?!? As if people aren't freaked out enough about the whole Y2K thing.
.Maybe this is a sign of the apocalypse...Stupid big businesses impedeing progress of the common good. Head for the hills everybody!
For once in my life, maybe I'll be glad I'm in a small town in Arkansas.

-- Only in America would the problem of dates not being represented in enough digits be abbreviated as "the Y2K bug"

If I recall correctly... (3)

Rayban (13436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570709)

This is actually called a "cusp date". I know for a fact that Excel uses it, and has used it since at least 1995 (I did some really trivial y2k remediation stuff). DOS has been using this for ages as well (enter 1-1-00 as the date, it comes out 2000, most DOS file interrupts handles this the same way as well). As much as I hate to point to an MS product as prior art, well, it's the most readily available one in my brain right now. :)

This patent will fall hard. Don't worry.

Gah. (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570711)

I saw this article this morning. These guys are nothing but a bunch of golddiggers. I'm surprised a company like McDonnel-Douglas would be associated with something like this - it's not exactly the best way to keep your popularity with your customers.

What really strikes me as bizarre is that they admit that other companies were using the fix before it was patented. I know that the USA uses the patent-by-invention system rather than the patent-by-application system (in other words, the guy who invents it first gets to claim the patent, even if someone else makes the application first), while virtually every other country in the world with a patent office does it the other way, but this is still ridiculous. If they're going to try and extort money from other comnpanies, they'd damn well better be ready to prove that they invented the technique (if you can call it that) before anyone else.

And as for that bit about license fees going up after Y2K - that's nothing but cheap blackmail. Can't a big corporation with pots of money (like IBM) stomp them flat on this one before it spreads?

What about other windowing mechanisms (1)

pmolinero (80351) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570713)

I was wondering if other windowing mechanisms are also covered in the patent like the sequence number in TCP or that piece of glass that goes up and down in my car ;-) Now seriously, if the windowing of the TCP sequence numbers is covered by this patent, then this will be even better than the patent of for 1-click credit-card shopping of. All e-commerce transactions would be using this invention!! However if the wrapping around of TCP sequence numbers was implemented before the patent was requested, then there is a good way of challenging the patent in court. After all a year in a computer is a number that increases monotonically pretty much like a sequence number. Pablo Molinero

Patents - good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570715)

OK, so we've all heard the arguments why patents are a bad idea for software, and believe me, I see the value in all of them. Consider, hypothetically, why they might be the best thing we have. (IE, it's the worst form of IP protection for software, except for all the others...)

In the US (and most other industrialized countries I'm assuming) we have two major methods of intellectual property protection: the patent and the copyright, with the former for technological designs and the latter for creative works.

In my mind, software is much more of a technological design than a creative work. Why? Because one is created and the other designed - yes, there is a difference. It's because software is constrained to a certain set of laws that it must follow to be considered software. Parts in a machine must obey the physical laws; programs must run on a machine with a limited instruction set. If you write a book, you can put whatever you want in it - several thousand pages of random scribbles if you like - and it's still copyrightable.

(Posted anonymously because I know I'm going to get flamed to all hell)

Re:This is an example of a patent system failure (2)

WorkJabez (99145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570716)

patent protection . . .should be reserved for REALLY new and novel ideas, not obvious, stupid ones.

Didn't the US Patent office insert a clause in their regulations allowing only nonobvious patent applications more than a century ago? The mid-19th century had a similar flood of patents, many of them as zany as this one.

One has to wonder what the Patent Office's definition of obvious is. It's patently different from ours.

Text of the patent (4)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570717)

The patent is number 5,806,063

Here is the full text [] from the USPTO server.

It really is as simple as it sounds. Quite unbelievable.

It's nice that they wait until the last minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570721)

Wow, my impression of MD just went down the tubes. Not only do they pull this BS patent, but the wait until now to start sueing?

I'm currently trying to get a patent on the idea of patenting, then I can screw over companies that I don't like like this.

An (all too) apparent logical error (1)

AME (49105) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570722)

Giga Information Group expects that Dickens's attorneys will seek lump sum payments ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 from firms that already have used the Y2K fix.

Doesn't the fact that they are seeking retroactive payments for before-the-fact patent violations in itself establish prior art?

"Oh by the way, that thing you've been doing for years, I just invented it yesterday. So you owe me money. Pay up."

Prior Art? (2)

Hulver (5850) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570725)

When did they claim to have invented this technique? If it's after 1989 then they will be in trouble. The popular DOS language Clipper had a command in the language to enable this date window. A simple SET EPOCH TO 1980 would mean that any date entered as 01/01/80 would be seen as 01 Jan 1980, and 01/01/79 would be seen as 01 Jan 2079. You can change this to any date window you desire. Are they going to go after every Clipper programmer who has used that command in their program. Do we all now owe this company money?
What about the free software project Harbour [] who are creating an open source, cross-platform Clipper compiler. Can the participants be sued for including the command in their compiler?

The US Patent system is a Joke. Software patents should not be allowed. I'm glad I don't live in the "Land of the free"

Re:This is an example of a patent system failure (1)

dumbunny (75910) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570727)

I totally agree. IMO, patent durations should never be 20 years in the software industry. Software has a much faster time to market than physical goods and is more purely innovative. Any company that can't capitalize on a software patent in 4 or 5 years has something wrong with its process. I, too, have used this fix to translate dates to 4-digits, by the way.

Why not create a business whose main purpose is to comes up with 10 minute ideas that sound novel enough to low IQ judges to earn a patent, then make money off lawsuits? There must be some venture capital out there for such a project.

This is two things... (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570729)

  • Ancient news, &
  • Proof that western society is fucked in the head.

Err... it's not *quite* as stupid as you think, (5)

Rayban (13436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570731)

but still stupid.

Here's the patent in question: 989

What does this mean? It means that you can represent years from 1900-2059 using a hexidecimal number, where the first digit is a decade indicator (10 years) and the second digit is an offset in the decade.

Okay, it's definately original, but I haven't seen anyone use this method yet. You may as well just represent your two-digit date as a byte, and use "100" as the value for 2000. This is good all the way up to 2155 too! If anyone has actually seen these dates anywhere, I'd like to know. Not a clean solution in any case...

Welcome to the year 19a0 everyone! ;)

Re:Xxxxx Xxxxxx -- deleted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570733)

Power button is no problem, I can't remember when I last used it. Patenting the process of pressing "reset" is going to fail even more horribly, I wonder if mine even still works :)

Wrong patent :) (2)

Rayban (13436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570734)

This is the wrong patent.. The patent in question is the actual windowing one at: 989

I don't know what's worse... (2)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570736)

...this patent, or the fact that, whenever a story about patents gets posted to slashdot, people take it upon themselves to act like retards and say, "I patented air and water and sunlight, you all owe me a billion dollars!" or other inane shit like that. Can we have a mature, grown-up discussion about this rather than acting like a bunch of kids?

- A.P.

"One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

Other date related patents. (1)

KHDev (106015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570738)

Check out the other Y2K related patents (search for Y2K at US Patent & Trade Office's web site [] ) and then look at the other referenced patents... (I count at least 14) It seems as though every common thing related to dates has been patented... What's next... patenting things like object oriented programming and data models??? -Kevin

Re:Wrong patent :) (1)

KHDev (106015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570741)

Well, either patent you look at is just as bad!

Patent number and link to patent (4)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570743)

Since submitting the article, I've found the patent in question. Here is a link [] to the abstract. The patent number is 5,806,063, and application was filed on 10/3/96. There's gotta be prior art.

Oh, and by way of correction. McDonnell Douglas assigned the patent to the inventor, Bruce Dickens. Mr. Dicken's (and his attorneys) are the ones running around threatening everyone.


Ulterior motives... (1)

Tony Hammitt (73675) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570745)

For you conspiricists out there:

Maybe the inventor is really an anti-patent fanatic who is trying to set up a test case. This patent has no chance of being upheld since it is obviously public domain. So he's sitting there thinking 'how would I demonstrate to the world that software patents are stupid?' and comes up with this farce.

The set-up is perfect, they have set up a system where they will infuriate every company that uses mainframes (the patent is somewhat specific to EBCDIC). This invites a real, open-court test of software patents which is highly visible. Mr. anarchist achieves his goal when Congress steps in and disallows all 'frivolous patents' and rewrites the laws.

It could happen...


Re:This is two things... (1)

radja (58949) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570747)

Western? please make that US. This didn't happen in the entire western world. I don't say Asian society is massively infringing human rights just because some country or other does...


Re:This is an example of a patent system failure (1)

firstnevyn (97192) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570749)

Companys that only patent existing technology and then charge the inventors already exist, search wired for IP companys.

You can't patent phrases (1)

copito (1846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570751)

At least not yet. But you could probably trademark it and then sue everyone that uses it in an online discussion, like some people [] .

Although, since there is an operation associated with the phrase, I supose that constitutes a process, and processes can certainly be patented.

I withdraw my objection, your Honor.

I sugest filing a patent for... the patent system (1)

Cryp2Nite (67224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570752)

US999999: Method of claiming exclusive use of a product, idea or an approach to problem-solving in general, by way of founding a legislative body governing these uses.
Abstract: The invention relates to obtaining exclusive use of products and ideas. Such products or ideas will be registered through a legislative body which will judge the applications to this body on it's merits including but not excluding to:
  • absurdity
  • redundancy
  • and nuicance to the general public.

party over, it's out of time

Re:This is an example of a patent system failure (1)

Jonathan the Nerd (98459) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570754)

Why not create a business whose main purpose is to comes up with 10 minute ideas that sound novel enough to low IQ judges to earn a patent, then make money off lawsuits? There must be some venture capital out there for such a project.

I think there are already companies that do that, although I don't know of any specific examples.

Re:This should be fun! (1)

Spamizbad (87449) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570756)

Accually, if its priorly applied more then once, they cannot patent it. Its been used on a HUGE scale. It would be like somebody patenting Doing E-Business, its just too widespread. Here's an idea, sue them. Say this will destroy your business method. The Patent it yourself and allow free use :)

Re:If I recall correctly... (1)

radja (58949) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570758)

if MS had it in 1995, it must have been around at least 10 years..


Re:I don't know what's worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570761)


What does this say about McDonnell-Douglas? (1)

redd (17486) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570762)

The fact that McDonnell-Douglas are prepared to testify that the fix is "nonobvious" suggests that none of McDonnell-Douglas' employees have basic common sense. And these guys make aeroplanes..

Re:I don't know what's worse... (1)

copito (1846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570763)


But seriously, what makes the discussions absurd is the absurdity of the decisions being made by the USPTO. It is difficult to have a dignified discussion in the face of such institutionalized cabezaculoitis.

Nope, the orignal comment had it right (4)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570764)

The patent you are referring to was not assigned to Bruce Dickens by McDonnell Douglas. The correct patent is 5,806,063 []



Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570765)

I did that 2 years ago,

If ( year 70 ) year += 2000;
else year += 1900;

Man that must have taken some science and 12 PHDs man!

I say fuck em, and let a damn comet smash into the damn planet and bring on the wrath of god.

Another triumph of the open standards process (1)

copito (1846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570766)

You sound like you need to read RFC 2550 [] - Y10K and Beyond.

As always the open standards process has come up with a complete and well thought out document.

An excerpt:

This specification provides a solution to the "Y10K" problem which
has also been called the "YAK" problem (hex) and the "YXK" problem
(Roman numerals).


McDonnell Douglas/McDonalds.. Whatever (1)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570767)

You know... I read McDonnell as McDonalds at a first glance. Inspired by this, I thought I'd share a great idea for a patent.
Abstract - Fast Food

A method to make lots of money by microwaving frozen (beef?) and then selling it to people either through a window or over a counter. See (reference) for related trademark on the phrase "Drive thru"
Forget the fact that it's been done for a long time. The US Patent Office obviously has no time to thing about whether prior art exists.

Also, for those wondering, the patent mentioned in the article was filed October 3, 1996.


Re:Prior Art? (1)

lapse (94787) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570768)

This "windowing" scheme sounds just like what
X/Open has been recommending for some time now.
See their white paper at ar2000.html
The current revision is dated 6/8/98, but the
same idea is present in versions going back at
least to 9/12/97.
However, X/Open recommends specific dates, ie.
0-68 means 19xx, and 69-99 means 20xx.

Re:Prior art (Was:...patent system failure) (2)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570769)

I recall the breaking point is 2014, so if the year number is part of the patent this may not be relevant, however that also makes the patent easy to circumvent.

Nope, it's more general than that. A quote from the patent:
The window may be arbitrarily selected. For example, the decade could begin with the 1950's and end with the 2040's, or it could begin with the 1980's and end with the 2070's.


I guess IBM is in trouble (1)

copito (1846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570770)

The AS/400 environment allows several kinds of dates, some of them with 4 digit years, but dates with 2 digit years are windowed such that 00-39 = 2000-2039.

Simple workaround. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570771)

This appears to cover windowing *stored* dates, not applying a window as new two-digit values are entered.

So, don't be a putz, and always keep your dates in your databases with full four-digit years.


Re:in the future.. (1)

AdamT (7312) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570772)

We'll be in trouble long before the year 3000. The whole sliding solution only buys us a decade or two. At some point we'll slide out of our window and be broken again. It's a bit of a worry as there isn't going to be a big milestone for us to focus on.. just lots of things breaking in dribs and drabs. All our unix boxes breaking at LONG_MAX should be making itself felt at about the same time. If we make it to 2050 we should be good to go for another couple of millenia. Well.. assuming we don't impliment -another- stopgap fix like sliding windows.

Oracle for one... (1)

akey (29718) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570773)

Oracle has had a built-in date conversion "dd-mon-rr" for quite a while now that works exactly this way. Values for RR from 0-49 are treated as 2000-2049 and values from 50-99 are treated as 1950-1999. Don't know how long this format has been around, but it sure might be prior art.

y10000000k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570774)

I'd like to patent the use of binary number 1xxxxxxx as -128 to -1, and 0xxxxxxx as 0 to 127. Every single digital device that uses 2's complement arithmetic should pay me one cent.

Re:Prior Art? (1)

owain_vaughan (102465) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570775)

However, X/Open recommends specific dates, ie. 0-68 means 19xx, and 69-99 means 20xx.

That wouldn't be much use would it? :)
Surely you mean the other way around otherwise there's a large hole between 1969 and 2068 - give us back our 99 years!!!

I think it's time we flex a little geek muscle (2)

Allnighterking (74212) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570776)

I've had it. It's time we the geeks who write these programs start flexing a little political muscle. It can begin with something as simple as flooding our Senators and Congressmen/women with e-mails faxes and yes even snail mail. It's getting to the point where you can't even write #include **** without violating some jackapes patent. We wrote the code and yet idiots like these patent it and steal the money from our hands. What's next a patent on breathing? Count the patent violations on this page alone. Links, gif images, color, lists, the very page I'm using to submit this ramble are all in violation of some jackape suits patent. It's time those fatcats in DC hear about this. For Non-Americans you can help as well write your governments. Inform them how patents like this stiffle your economies. How they inhibit your ability to import code and products into the US and abroad. Make your government put pressure on ours to change what has become a feeding trough for suits who can't create just steal. Nov 5th may be burn your gif day but frankly that isn't the answer, we need to stand up to these suit banstards and say FSCK Q!!! We aren't going to take it. It's time the fat cats learned the true power and influance of the geek communitte. We have the numbers, the brains and the means, lets use it. I therefore submit to the geek communitte a proposal. National flood the gov day. And just for fun let's make it Thanksgiving...

Re:What does this say about McDonnell-Douglas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570777)

Reminds of McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 plane crashes every now and then in the 70s and 80s.

Right Patent :) (2)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570778)


5,668,989 [] is for storing the decade digit as binary coded decimal, so 1905 -> 0x0005, 2005 -> 0x0A05.

5,806,063 [] is indeed the windowing patent given to McDonnell Douglas, as I posted.

Even more staggering, if anything, is 5,630,118 [] . It just says "give it to a subroutine to decide" -- any subroutine!

Hexadecimal problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570779)

>Welcome to the year 19a0 everyone! ;)

Uhm, after 1999 comes 199a.

- Gridle

Wrong patent :) (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570780)

(see above)

Somebody actually patented Japanese dates ?? (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570781)

WOW !!!

I think there are ten (10!) years since somebody pointed out to me that there was a method to store dates so they could be sorted by time without any problem.

That is jan 12th 1999 would be written 19990112. If you name your logfiles Daemon.19991015 etc. They will be automaticly sorted by date when you do 'ls -l'. It came with the story that it was called "the Japanese Method of storing dates".

And now (1998) somebody has patented this practice ???? []

If this isn't a damn good reason for other countries NEVER to accept software patents, then nothing is.
Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

Boycott ! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570782)

Okay, this calls for a boycott! I'm never gonna buy another aircraft from them again!!!!

Prior Art claim (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570783)

I implemented windowed timing when I was working for GEC Avionics 1985-1987 for a slat/flap control computer on Airbus A320. Does this mean I can claim the patent from MD ?

[not that I really want too, because I'm sure other people have used it]

Re:Err... it's not *quite* as stupid as you think, (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570784)

The nearest I've seen to this style of dates is the ASCII extension method. You just wrap the high digit round to ':', like the Windows 3.1 file manager does :)

This is in RSX-11 on the PDP-11 [] . Computing for the :0 century!

Prior art example - possibly (3)

bakes (87194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570785)

I am not absolutely certain if this example pre-dates the patent date, but the Oracle database engine has a special date format, where you put in 'RR' instead of 'YY' when you format dates. It then windows the date around 1950/2049 (I think).

I remember using this on a project a number of years ago - I'm pretty sure it was before 10/1996. Even if it wasn't, it was close to then, and the people at Oracle must have been planning it for a while before release. If that was even the first oracle db release to use it.


McDonnald Douglas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570786)

I think that this may be a bogus report or a prank because there has been no McDonnald-Douglas company for some time now. It is The Boeing company now. So if a patent was issued, it would have been issued to Boeing.

Re:Idiot patent system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570787)

Boy am I glad that unlike copyright, patents aren't automatically enforceable in countries other than the United States. We're not bound by stupid patents covering GIF (LZW), RSA, "one click" ordering, Y2K windowing solutions, hypertext/menu systems or how to arrive at "2" by doubling "1".


Re:y10000000k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570788)

I'd like to patent the use of binary number 1xxxxxxx as -128 to -1, and 0xxxxxxx as 0 to 127. Every single digital device that uses 2's complement arithmetic should pay me one cent.

Sorry, this is not new, there are tons of prior art. For this to be valid, you must associate it with something new (i.e. Internet/business stuff), and must check that no one used it before in this context.

Re:Simple workaround. (1)

Scanline (28688) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570789)

But the Y2K problem will mostly affect systems with stored dates, and I don't think re-entering data is an option.

Prior art (1)

armb (5151) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570792)

In 1987 or 1988 I wrote some code that parsed a date entered by the user, converting it to the form stored in a database - among other things it guessed which century was intended if a two digit year was entered. I can't believe it was a new idea then, or that using it on a database of existing dates isn't equally obvious.
(In fact, surely the very fact that so many other people have been using it independently proves that it is obvious).
(AFAIR, my code will get the 2100 leap year wrong, but someone will have to fix the 2038 bug in the language it uses before that matters).

Quick Patent Fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570794)

This is my quick fix for the 'Patent2K bug.' Step 1: Patent Stupidity Step 2: Run every company with a stupid patent into ground with lawsuits Step 3: Run patent office into ground with lawsuits. Step 4: Place patent in public domain. -Tony

Re:I used this in '95 (2)

deefer (82630) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570801)

Yep, so did I. How's about a new /. poll on "how we solved the Y2K thingy" - should give us a clue for establishing "prior art" - I'm pretty sure I can still even remember the module (hooks.c) and the function (ValidateCCDate(...) ):

Windowing technique

What Y2K?

It's all Hemos' fault

I'll just pay McDonnell Douglas a large wad of cash...

Class Action? (1)

travail_jgd (80602) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570802)

I almost feel bad for this guy. Why? It would only take a couple dozen or so consulting companies with a big influx of Y2K income to pool their funds and initiate a lawsuit of their own. $50,000 is pocket change to a big company, but small and medium companies would feel it.

Does anyone know if a "class" for a class-action suit (in American courts) includes companies, or is it just for individuals?

No .sig, no slogan.

It'll never survive the courts (2)

Anonymous Cowhead (95009) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570803)

Although it's not clear exactly which Y2K method is being discussed here, it appears it's the basic "windowing", "cusp date", or "epoch date" technique.

This is so old, there's prior art everywhere. I'm enough of a dinosaur that I used the technique back in the late 70's, and it was common practice. (Er, that's the 1970's, not the 2070's. Oh shit, I just used windowing, they're after me.)


This is GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570804)

If they really do start to sue fortune-500 companies, do you really think those companies will sit idly by and pay up? Hopefully they'll be just as incensed as you and I about this and start lobbying against these silly, stupid, common-sense software patents...

Re:I can play that game (1)

Bob Ince (79199) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570805)

I suspect this Y2K patent will fail to stand up in court

If challenged, it certainly should. The amount of prior art is just untrue. But that's not the whole problem. Here's a quote from the article:

I suspect many companies will end up paying off as some form of nuisance fee

And this I would probably agree with. That's what's so sick about today's legal framework (and not just over in the US): it doesn't uphold the law as designed when organisations can be bullied into giving in rather than risk ludicrously large sums on going to court.

Anyway. Isn't saying "all 2-digit years are in the range 1900 to 1999" just another form of windowing?

This comment was brought to you by And Clover.

Re:in the future.. (1)

bakert (57600) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570806)

No - its OK - we'll just sue McDonnell-Douglas!

Re:utter astonishment (1)

mischief (6270) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570807)

Is a talking paperclip all we have to show for over half a century of computer science research?

Is that talking paperclip patented?


Re:I am not a lawyer.... (2)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570809)

Software patents are not yet granted in Europe. However, the EU is considering whether to follow the US system and grant patents on computer programs, which would be damaging to consumers and businesses, as well as software developers. You can help persuade them that this is not such a good idea; check out [] .

There's prior art for combining orders as well (1)

cyberdonny (46462) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570811)

> supporting technologies (ex. read in the patent about combining single orders into one order: "expedited order selection").

Can't be that either. The French motorways systems (at least SAPRR and AREA) have prior art: if you take the same motorway twice in a short time (there and back), and pay your toll with Visa, both tolls are combined, and show up as one single transaction on your monthly statement. They've been doing this for a looong time (at least ten years, as far as I know).

Can you say... (1)

Trickster Coyote (34740) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570814)

"Sleazy, corrupt blackmailers."

I knew you could. :-)

Even if it eventually gets thrown out, they probably figure they make enough from "nusiance fees" in the meantime to cover their court costs and make a profit. I hope that judge makes them pay everybody back, with interest and tacks on a huge penalty (donation to the FSF?) for pulling such a cynical criminal stunt.

Patents are supposed to operate in order to encourage innovation for the benefit of all. This is just the total polar opposite.

This one is going to cause a huge uproar, there are _way_ too many companies getting screwed on this one. If they pool their legal resources, (maybe a pre-emptive class action lawsiut?), they could easily outgun M-D.

(McDonnell Douglas? Didn't they get bought out by Boeing last year?)

Mayber this will be the one finally does a BSOD on the USPTO.

Re:Somebody actually patented Japanese dates ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570821)

There's an international standard date format (ISO-864 if I remember correctly) that specifies the format 1999-11-02 exactly for the same reason. The standard definitely wasn't approved yesterday; I seem to recall reading about the standard at least four years ago.

Re:Somebody actually patented Japanese dates ?? (1)

radish (98371) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570822)

I don't know about this being called the "japanese method" but it is used fairly extensively within large IT systems as it helpfully sorts out things like whether dates should be ddmmyyyy or mmddyyyy (UK/US ordering). Certainly where I work it is the defacto date format for all internal IT uses, only getting converted to a locale specific format for reporting. I have always heard this referred to as "ISO Format" dates.

Re:I don't know what's worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570823)

Personally, I find the articles complaining about the standard of discussion worst.

First Instance of Windowing to my knowlege (1)

Darren.Moffat (24713) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570824)

The first time I saw windowing used as a Y2k
solution was in 1988 in the Global 2000 (BOS)
Operating System. The system admin got to choose
the century start date at install time or later
via the system admin menus.

I patented the idea of patenting the obvious! (3)

dwalsh (87765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570825)

Even though people are already doing it, and it is obvious to any parasite with a lawyer, I've patented the technique of applying for a patent for a direction that everybody in the industry is taking, even though such a patents such never be granted (isn't there a requirement for innovation?). Then saying nothing while everyone starts using "my idea", and hitting them for $$$ a few years later.
All these guys like McDonnell-Douglas are gonna get a huge bill from my lawyers pretty soon. They should have checked the patent archives before embarking on such a scam^H^H^H legal course of action, but now it is going to cost them!

Re:utter astonishment (1)

leonids (102892) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570826)

you bet, someday when Microsoft gets bored of bugging software, they will. What is wrong with all these companies? Techniques like these I'm sure most people can think of while sleeping. So what are they gonna do? Sue the world? All the companies that rely on senseless patents are forcing inventors to patent their work, before someone else patent it for them. Thus we see a cycle where everyone patents everything. I long for the day someone twit patent speech.

Re:You can't patent phrases (1)

leonids (102892) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570827)

Trademark? Copyright? Hey you twit companies listen up: QuickTime Excel Word Paperclip ICQ Windows 95/98/NT OS/2 Powerpoint Athlon Coppermine Celeron Xeon Winzip My Ass ... Sue me? Why not some fool patent the word "a" or the letter "e". And employ half of the world's population to monitor the other half of the world for what they say.

Re:Err... it's not *quite* as stupid as you think, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1570829)

Yep. I've worked for the same software house since
1986, and we've always used 3 bytes for dates :

1) Year, to be added to 1900 .... all the way to 2155
2) Month
3) day.

The bytes in this order make sorting a breeze.
We use a routine to display the date as dd/mm/yy
(UK) or after 2000 as dd/mm\yy and our clients
are used to the backslash for the next century!


"Oh please entertain me with witty quotes"

Re:How do you enforce this patent? (1)

leonids (102892) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570831)

I had say they probably can't enforce this kind of nonsense. Considering at least 10 thousand companies using this technique in their code. Are they gonna sue all 10 thousand? If they do someone is going to notice something is just NOT right. If they don't they will probably get sued for being biased.

Just a bunch of no-nut low IQ workers.

Re:If I recall correctly... (1)

leonids (102892) | more than 14 years ago | (#1570833)

Ah.. prove that their legal department is high on crack. Did they bother to look up a couple pieces of popular software out there?

Maybe they are trying to sue Microsoft :P
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>