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Microsoft Is Sued For Patent Violation Over .NET

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the is-it-weird-to-root-for-the-megacorp-on-this-one dept.

Microsoft 288

randomErr writes "As reported by Info World, Microsoft was issued a cease and desist order on February 7 of this year by Vertical Computer Systems. The order was for patent infringement by the current implementations of the .NET framework. Both the .NET framework and Vertical Computer Systems' SiteFlash use XML to create component-based structures that are used to build and operate web sites. Vertical Computer Systems is requesting a full jury trial. If VCS prevails, .NET technology implementations as we know them may completely change and Microsoft would probably have to pay out a hefty sum."

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Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (5, Insightful)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822201)

From the patent:

"A system and method for generating computer applications in an arbitrary object framework. The method separates content, form, and function of the computer application so that each may be accessed or modified separately."

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fs rchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,826,744.PN.&OS=PN/6,8 26,744&RS=PN/6,826,744 [uspto.gov]

I think I might buy some old IT books, move to America, then patent everything in them.

Just to be clear (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822245)

Three processes used to create complex software applications such as web sites are form, function, and content. Form includes graphic designs, user interfaces, and graphical representations created by a designer or a group of designers. Function includes logical functionality, which can be software code created by a programmer or group of programmers. Form includes informative content. Informative content can include written, recorded, or illustrated documentation, such as photographs, illustrations, product marketing material, and news articles. Content can be created by writers, photographers, artists, reporters, or editors
-- from the patent application

So in conclusion they've been granted a patent on creating any application in any API, and anyone using that program to create and render content. Yeah, that'll stand up. At somepoint we got away from public beatings and stocks. Where and why did we go so wrong?

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (1)

huckamania (533052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822269)

They don't even have to be that old, apparently.

How does this affect the mono project? What about other projects that might use...
"A system and method for generating computer applications in an arbitrary object framework." ...Where...
"The method separates content, form, and function of the computer application so that each may be accessed or modified separately."

I tend to stay away from arbitrary object frameworks, but that's just me.

Hurrah for the MS-haters, I guess. MS has deep pockets and plenty of lawyers. If these other idiots win, I just wonder who's next and whether this will stifle future development across the board.

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822307)

Writing a batch file that piped a directory listing into a text file might be a violation of the "patent". Seriously, I read the patent their claims are ridiculous. They're trying to patent ideas that are more than 20 years old, probably more than 30, and they seem to have gotten away with it by including references to the web. The patent examiner should be fired, or left to work in their field of expertise, which obviously isn't computer science, the company and individual in question should forfite all their other patents to the public domain, and their lawyer who's pressing the case should lose his license.

Complex is the key word (3, Informative)

huckamania (533052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822331)

From the patent: "...for use in complex computer applications."

Luckily everything I do is pretty simple. I guess complex would apply to .net as it is that. Even with the security risks, I prefer PHP and mysql over .net and whatever. The way I use PHP, it also alleviates the claim of having seperate content and data, twofer!

Re:Complex is the key word (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822401)

Hello World in old MFC programming violates this patent. Anything in pearl, or nearly any interesting scripting, would probably violate this patent. Like that old Alice thing they did at Carnegie Mellon would DEFINATELY violate this patent. And since that's been producing content, let alone as a concept, since at least 1997 which is when I heard of it, yeah, bs patent. Hell, it was a project started at the University of Virginia, so who knows how old it is at some level of functionality, never mind conceptually. Simple, useful, powerful, at the level where the muscle meets the bones is complicated. This patent is pro entropy, anti work. This patent isn't just helping the terrorists win, it's turning the universe dark.

Re:Complex is the key word (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822489)

As far as I can see, it's a patent on the MVC model. If you use an MVC model for something that isn't complex and isn't predicted to become complex then you're playing.

I can't see the pictures in the patent (and I don't want to install Apple Quicktime so that I can), but is there anything in the patent that isn't in javax.swing? That goes back well before that patent.

Re:Complex is the key word (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822807)

It looks more like a patent on using metadata to control the behaviour of code, or to control on-the-fly code generation (anyone remeber CASE?). There again, it's so vague and broad we could both be right.

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822873)

I don't know about everybody else but what would you get by suing mono? Who would pay you and how much could you get out of them?

Anyway MS will pay. They have to because they will be suing people for patent infringement soon. If anything they will purchase this patent and sue other people with it.

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823083)

Novell is the biggest single party contributing to Mono, so you could sue them. Of course, once this issue is settled, the Mono project will be covered by MS's patent licenses, which is a good thing, as far as it goes.

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822381)

The patent appears to be on automatically generating an MVC container. It's not very clear because it's written in lawyerspeak to make it appear like they've invented something novel.

A method for generating a computer application on a host system in an arbitrary object framework that separates a content of said computer application, a form of said computer application and a functionality of said computer application, said method comprising: creating arbitrary objects with corresponding arbitrary names of various object types for generating said content of said computer application, said form of said computer application, and said functionality of said computer application; managing said arbitrary objects in an object library; and deploying said arbitrary objects from said object library into a design framework to create said computer application.

What can we say? Prior art on creating arbitrary text to describe arbitrary concepts with a view to being awarded an arbitrary patent and suing Microsoft for an arbitrary sum?

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823109)

This applies not just to having an XML file describing an interface with a codebehind layer in some other language, but to keeping your GUI in one file or set of files and your engine in another set of files, which is a common practice. The former was somewhat novel (at least, I never really thought of it until I saw that Glade and QT Designer had XML output), but from the sound of it, they didn't specifically consider this -- at least, the portion of their patent that would cover this practice also covers using a scripting language that doesn't involve a separate compilation step and keeping the GUI in a separate set of files.

Claim 18 amuses me, though -- it specifically covers using CVS on such projects.

Re:Sounds like a patent on the MCV pattern? (3, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823099)

I don't think what's covered is MVC. Read the first claim, which all the rest are derivitives of:

A method for generating a computer application on a host system in an arbitrary object framework that separates a content of said computer application, a form of said computer application and a functionality of said computer application, said method comprising: creating arbitrary objects with corresponding arbitrary names of various object types for generating said content of said computer application, said form of said computer application, and said functionality of said computer application; managing said arbitrary objects in an object library; and deploying said arbitrary objects from said object library into a design framework to create said computer application. (emphasis mine)

What they've patented is the use of "design mode" with a "toolbox" of object types, in the specific way that visual studio does it.

And you wonder (5, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822205)

And you wonder why MS is obligated to patent more and more trivial things? Nobody wants to be eaten by sharks.

Re:And you wonder (4, Informative)

gerrysteele (927030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822263)

Microsoft was one of the companies who pushed for the idea of software patents. They get no sympathy when patent triviality bites them in their bloated sagging asses. Their defence mechanism is the fact that they have a huge legal department that is consulted during the development stages of new ideas. I'm sure they are aware they are a target and that is considered an acceptable loss for the net gain they get out of the subjugation of competition.

They are not obliged, as you say, to patent trivial things. It is a clear business decision to take advantage of a terrible system

Re:And you wonder (1, Insightful)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822339)

They are not obliged, as you say, to patent trivial things. It is a clear business decision to take advantage of a terrible system

Oh yes they are; as a listed company they are obliged to their shareholders to protect their investment. If they don't patent their "trivial things" they would leave themselves open to being sued by shareholders because they exposed themselves by not doing so.

Re:And you wonder (1, Interesting)

gerrysteele (927030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822375)

Funny how we in the free world survives without these patents. They have no merit for the consumer, they serve only the interest of corporations who exist solely to litigate and gain their earnings from suing other companies.

Re:And you wonder (4, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822419)

Funny how we in the free world survives without these patents.

Don't be so brave to claim your world "the free world". Last time this happened to USA and see where they are now. Europe is on the track to follow them.

Re:And you wonder (0)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822665)

They should lobby for the abolition of software patents.

Re:And you wonder (0, Troll)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822909)

What a load of nonsense. They are obliged to use their best judgement - that doesn't mean they are obliged to take back empty cans for 1/4c each in case they are sued for not increasing shareholder value. Nor are they obliged to ensure the lights are switched off at night to save electricity costs or that envelopes are reused to save stationary costs. Of course anyone can sue anyone for anything, but that doesn't mean you are 'obliged' to do stupid things in case stupid people bring stupid lawsuits. If you wish to argue this point please post links showing the plethora of lawsuits against companies for not taking out patents on obvious or non-original ideas.

Re:And you wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822467)

They are not obliged, as you say, to patent trivial things. It is a clear business decision to take advantage of a terrible system

Yes and to those who say they have a duty to their shareholders, that isn't true. How much does it cost to run the MS patent department, how much to settle patent litigation and how much do Microsoft bring in through licensing? Once they've excluded their competitors, how much are Microsoft going to bring in through patent licensing?


Oops!

bullshit (2, Interesting)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822641)

Getting sued over patent infringement is no reason to go patenting things yourself: you can still be sued for infringement anyway. And I doubt Vertical Computer Systems will be interested in a patent cross-license agreement (and they are monopolistic anyway).

Microsoft patents a lot because they hope to be able to kill open source competition with it--open source competition they have not been able to outcompete otherwise and where their usual monopolistic tricks have failed as well.

Vertical's patent is, of course, bogus. But I do like Microsoft getting hit by these kinds of lawsuits; maybe sooner or later they'll see that software patents aren't the way out for them.

Gaotse! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822209)

Gaotse! [goatse.ch]

Re:Gaotse! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823025)

If you are tempted to look at this, don't. It contains an image of an old man stretching his anus wide open.

A few billions here, a few billions there (3, Funny)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822211)

Pretty soon, we'll be talking about serious money.

Re:A few billions here, a few billions there (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822775)

Not that soon: Bill probably doesn't have a note this small in his pocket, though Steve might have to forego breaking any W^Hwindows this week to cover the costs...

ZOMG (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822229)

This would be a classic example of foot meets bullet. ;) Classic pwnage !!
/me hides for now

I'm not anti-Microsoft... (5, Insightful)

localman (111171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822233)

...but I sort of hope they get bit badly by this. Am I a fool to assume that the only way for patents to be reformed is for the big players to get bit so bad they start lobbying for change?

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822255)

That about sums it up, yea.

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822273)

I totally agree with your point.

Also if it was the other way around Microsoft suing someone else, they would take them for all they are worth.

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (5, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822333)

more likely this and other cases will make microsoft start patenting more and more trivial crap.

It's going to reach the point where no software company in america will be able to create anything original at all. That will open the stage for new players, like China, India or the middle east (yes, shock horrer they do have smart people there, and software companies too, amazing isn't it...).

I think that's why microsoft is bricking over Linux et al. While Microsoft is being drown in a shitpool of its own making, Open Source is powering ever onward.

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822703)

more likely this and other cases will make microsoft start patenting more and more trivial crap.

And how is that going to help them? They're still infringing this patent and Vertical isn't interested in cross-licensing. Furthermore, even if patents were better prior art than--well, prior art--even Microsoft doesn't have enough money to patent all the trivial crap in the world.

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822789)

Furthermore, even if patents were better prior art than--well, prior art--even Microsoft doesn't have enough money to patent all the trivial crap in the world.

They don't need all of it, only enough to sue irritations like this into oblivion (or to force a hostile takeover with the threat of doing so).

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822839)

I'm not talking about this patent, chances are they are guilty.

No, the thing is that the more patents they have for what we might consider as insignificant crap, the less likely it will be that someone could come along and derail their products by producing a patent to some piece of technology it contains.

It's a no win scenario in any case, the only possible end is an industry that cannot innovate because of the patent fog that obscures all routes to new technology.

It's well established that there are no technologies that spontaniously emerge, everything has a precursor, everything is a slow development of previous ideas and technology. If previous technology is locked up by patents to the extent that small changes to it are challenged in court and payment demanded, then any country that plays by the rules will be crippled.

Then we'll see new not so polite players who will view the old establishment as fools, and do their own thing anyway (much like microsoft and apple did, back in the day). There will be angry protests from patent holders, all of which will do no more then cause the innovators to move to parts of the world where they can't be so easily reached, and the old system will crumble.

This also is a thing that has happened before. That's how hollywood got started. It's even analogous to how the United States got started.

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822999)

I'm not talking about this patent, chances are they are guilty.
Maybe it would be best to avoid the word "guilty"; regardless of whether it's technically the right word, it has the fundamental problem that it implies that something wrong has been done. And I don't think many sensible people believe that it's wrong to implement a trivial idea just because someone else claims to own it.

(There's a slight problem here in that most people aren't sensible.)

A Date Projection for You (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822917)

"It's going to reach the point where no software company in america will be able to create anything original at all"

I agree. This will almost certainly happen by 1998, and definitely by 2001

Re:I'm not anti-Microsoft... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822711)

They won't get bit by it... there's a ton of prior art covering the exact set of claims in the patent.

I doubt anyone at MS is sweating it... I wrote three web development frameworks going back seven years before that application producing web applications from metadata driven definitions of collections of XML-aware objects. They did some cool stuff but were hardly unique.

MS won't have to look very hard to find prior art to get it tossed.

Have Microsoft chosen the road to irrelevance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822243)

use XML to create component-based structures that are used to build and operate web sites.

I can smell the raw innovation from this one... oh wait that's not innovation but it is the kind of bullshit Microsoft try to patent. It's about time MS got real about software patents, otherwise they'll be unable to distribute anything 10 years from now.

If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.
-- Bill Gates

Silly man!

Re:Have Microsoft chosen the road to irrelevance? (1)

fmobus (831767) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823053)

I love his line of thought. He says patents would have hindered IT industry, so the solution is to patent even more! He also says that killing startups is somehow good to the industry and the society. Way to go, Bill... and he still wonders why we hate him?

How long until... (5, Insightful)

MaXMC (138127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822247)

Microsoft just buy them?

Re:How long until... (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822633)

No. If Microsoft buy them that will just motivate other small companies to do the same. This is just the same as the SCO-IBM lawsuit - IBM's best play is to sue SCO into the ground. Expect Microsoft to likewise fight in the courts to the best of their ability. They have plenty of money to waste.

Re:How long until... (-1, Flamebait)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822913)

Hey P and GP, a verb following "Microsoft" should be singular, not plural - it should be "Microsoft buys". Is using company names as plurals a new trend or something? I keep seeing it over and over on Slashdot these days, and it seems to be propagating like some kind of meme. Get a clue and read the Wall Street Journal or something else outside of /. occasionally, to reboot your grammar. (I know this is way offtopic, but someone has to say it.)

Re:How long until... (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823005)

I don't know if you are aware of this, but the English language is spoken by people outside America, in places like England (and Australia, Canada, India, etc). In anywhere that speaks non-US English (i.e. the majority of the English-speaking world), companies are regarded as plural from a grammatical standpoint, since they are viewed as a collection of people rather than a single entity.

Slashdot is based in the US, but it has readership from around the world. Feel free to bitch about actual grammatical or stylistic errors (such as the over-abundance of parenthetical clauses in this post), but don't expect anyone to take you seriously if you try to tell everyone that they have to use your dialect.

reboot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823011)

> Get a clue and read the Wall Street Journal or something else
> outside of /. occasionally, to reboot your grammar.

You are correct, I don't buy the Wall Street Journal. Where can I buys the publication here in English speaking England?

Re:How long until... (4, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822983)

They may be praying that Microsoft will buy them. They appear to be in the process of imploding.

Their last 10-K contained a couple of zingers.

"As of the date of the filing of this Report, the Company does not have sufficient funds available to fund its operations, invest in additional resources for growth and repay its debt obligations. Therefore, the Company needs to raise additional funds through selling securities, obtaining loans or increase sales. The Company's inability to raise such funds or renegotiate the terms of its existing debt will significantly jeopardize its ability to continue operations."

"The Company has incurred significant losses from operations for the year ended December 31, 2006. In addition, the Company had a working capital deficit of approximately $10.3 million at December 31, 2006. The foregoing raises substantial doubt about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern. Management's plans include seeking additional capital and/or debt financing. There is no guarantee that additional capital and/or debt financing will be available when and to the extent required, or that if available, it will be on terms acceptable to the Company. The accompanying financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty. Our auditors have included a going-concern paragraph to their audit report."

The entire 10-K makes for interesting reading.

See http://yahoo.brand.edgar-online.com/fetchFilingFra meset.aspx?FilingID=5107317&Type=HTML [edgar-online.com] for more information.

location to develop? (1)

essence (812715) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822293)

So how far reaching is this rediculous patent system. The USA is a write-off i know. Things are similar in europe yes? What parts of the world are still 'free' so to speak, in regards to patents? Is there anywhere left where a developer can put together what they want and distribute it without worrying about all this bullshit?

Re:location to develop? (4, Insightful)

Omicron32 (646469) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822341)

Russia and Sweden.

Re:location to develop? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822863)

So how far reaching is this rediculous patent system. The USA is a write-off i know. Things are similar in europe yes?

No. The European legislature has so far rejected [bbc.co.uk] attempts to force the EU member states to implement software patents.

This is not to say that no patents have ever been granted on software in EU states. Indeed, one of the few good things about the various failed proposals was that they would have regulated an area that is somewhat messy in some countries at present. But those patents may or may not stand up — I don't think have been any relevant test cases yet — and they are relatively few. We don't have one-click and the like here.

Re:location to develop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822923)

No true... The European Patent Office has illegally granted several software patents against the letter and spirit of the law so we actually DO HAVE patents like "one click" ... not that specific patent, but several very similar like the Amazon gift sending patent.

http://eupat.ffii.org/ [ffii.org]

Re:location to develop? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823019)

The patents have been granted, but they are not enforceable in most jurisdictions. This, actually, gives excellent leverage for the anti-patent lobby. We can point to these patents that have been granted and shouldn't have been, and show politicians that companies that haven't been playing by the rules would gain a competitive advantage over those that have.

Look, up in the sky (4, Funny)

kroepoek (1078915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822319)

It's a bird! It's a plane!

OMG It's flying chairs from Redmond!

Shut up! It is so old! (2, Insightful)

dildo (250211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822413)

Old! Lame! Unoriginal! Enough with the damned chairs!

Is that you Steve? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822429)

Are you really a dildo? [slashdot.org]

Re:Look, up in the sky (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822481)

A change from flying toasters, I suppose...

And we all change our tune... (3, Funny)

walkie (794662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822329)

Hurray for software patents!

More like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822749)

Ha ha for software patents.

Almost everyone here is laughing that MS are getting bit HARD by patents. Nobody really is saying patents are good in software, just that it's good to see the biter bit.

Patents: From bad to worse. (4, Interesting)

nocynic (907095) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822335)

The patent issue in the US is going/gone from bad to worse. The retrieval form is bloody tough for any regular developer to sit and verify whether or not what he just developed is actually patent free or not! For all we know, there are a ton of ideas, not limited to computers alone, that have been developed by some really smart people who don't know whether or not their idea falls under some patent statement, fearing which, the inventor hasn't brought his creation under the public eye!

Re:Patents: From bad to worse. (5, Interesting)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822405)

I'm a former employee of a certain large software company related to TFA, and interestingly, one thing they tell you when you go to work there (and I suspect other large companies that file lots of patents also do this) is that you should not - never, ever, ever - do any research into patents to try and find out if something you're developing or have developed and may be filing a patent application on might infringe any existing patents.

The reason for this is that if you do, infringement becomes easier to prove for anyone who does happen to sue you, because they can point at you and say "See, these programmers did patent research in this area, then produced a product and/or filed a patent on stuff that does what my stuff does" and if they win, then they will do better in the damages phase because they can present evidence showing willful infringement.

The bottom line was, leave any patent research, including the decision of whether or not to do it, up to the legal department. Don't get anywhere near it yourself.

Re:Patents: From bad to worse. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822561)

Wilful infringement is triple damages. Therefore that advice is given by all clueful companies, unless they want to head quickly into bankcruptcy.

Re:Patents: From bad to worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822567)

If you're skilled in the art and come up with something infringing without having sight of the patent - isn't that absolute proof that the patent is void because it was obvious?

Re:Patents: From bad to worse. (2, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822799)

IANAL, but generally, no. First of all, there is no such thing as absolute proof in patent law.

Secondly, if two people skilled in the art (hereafter referred to as "geniuses") come up with the same thing independently and with no knowledge of the other's research or patents, that is proof of nothing but the fact that two geniuses independently came up with the same, or substantially the same, idea. It may, however, be useful for the patent holder to argue against obvious, on the grounds that if it took a genius to devise it, then it's not obvious.

However, if two very average people (herafter referred to as "idiots") both independently come up with the same idea with no knowledge of the other's work, then you probably have something obvious. If any idiot could think of it, and at least two did so independently, it probably should not be patentable.

Again, IANAL, but one of the challenges in defending an infringement suit or in trying to invalidate a patent based on obviousness and/or prior art may that the work of geniuses has historically been much easier to find than the work of idiots. Google changes that more than a little, but it's still easier to find the work of geniuses, I suspect.

Re:Patents: From bad to worse. (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823101)

The retrieval form is bloody tough for any regular developer to sit and verify whether or not what he just developed is actually patent free or not!
It's actually pretty easy. Any software you make is covered by some patent.
You can only hope that you don't have enough money for someone to notice or that you can find prior art for everything your software does.

Mono? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822359)

Does anyone know if Mono is affected by this?

Who cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822479)

If you're using mono, this patent is the very least of your patent worries.

Re:Mono? (2, Informative)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822701)

Does it matter? Suing an open source project would be like trying to shoot a ghost.

The whole concept (4, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822363)

of patents and copyrights seems to be due for a major overhaul. It's OK to get patents for a limited time to protect your investments. On the other hand - other companies may also invest in similar or the same solution. As it is now it's first come, first served when patents are handled, which means that even though there are several different vendors for an invention, there will be only one "winner", which ultimately is bad for competition.

One problem is that patents are filed and granted for "inventions" that has too low technical merits. By raising the standard requirements for patents this may help things a bit. One problem is also that the patent offices gets their revenue from the patents, and that doesn't help a bit. Instead that causes the patent offices to grant patents based on the fact that they get the money from it!

In today's world with software development it's a complete minefield to have patents on software. In the end it will limit the functionality of the software we use and require us to pay more for less.

When it comes to copyright, the issue is a bit more complicated. Movies and music has a rather long market lifetime, so a decades issue shouldn't be a problem here. When it comes to computer software the issue is different. In my opinion the copyright should be rendered invalid for commercial software packages whenever support for it is terminated. (Think MS-DOS, CP/M etc.) Even on movies and music there should be a "bail-out" option that allows for the copyright to be released. E.g. when the copyright holder no longer can be located with reasonable efforts.

Re:The whole concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822409)

I agree with your views on patents, it's proving impossible to apply them to information products such as software.

Yes and no on copyright, virtualization has the potential to create a commodity market for old software.

Re:The whole concept (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822483)

due for a major overhaul

The trouble with overhauls is that they tend to be driven by the people who benefit most from the systems failings.

Re:The whole concept (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822563)

of patents and copyrights seems to be due for a major overhaul. It's OK to get patents for a limited time to protect your investments. On the other hand - other companies may also invest in similar or the same solution. As it is now it's first come, first served when patents are handled, which means that even though there are several different vendors for an invention, there will be only one "winner", which ultimately is bad for competition.

Well we could start by doing some scientific studies into whether having patents and copyrights (government-granted monopolies which limit free market competition) actually work to promote the arts and sciences. Much anecdotal evidence says they don't. What's the truth?

Just a thought ...

Rich.

Other affected (4, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822397)

From the wording of the patent (overly broad of course), other affected may be:

Adobe's FLEX platform (the XML language being MXML)
Sun's Java JSP
W3C (the language being.. XHTML)

as well as smaller players like Laszlo and a myriad of other platforms with a procedural part and declarative part in XML (including platforms I've written myself for PHP and Java).

It's laughable, I hope the court acknowledges the loads of prior art. Few years ago someone patented interactrive CMS system (i.e. web appsf or managing sites) and the community was outraged, as the patent was directed straight at everyone using Java/Flash/JS for creating online CMS systems in the form of rich internet applications. The "reference" implementation used Flash.

Nothing came out of it. My advice is don't worry and let Microsoft take care of those clowns (hopefully this doesn't pan out like the Eolas case).

Kodak vs. Sun set a precedent for this (3, Interesting)

MarkEst1973 (769601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822425)

Kodak won $1 billion from Sun [com.com] for (spurious?) patent violations in Java. I would not be surprised to see MS lose this fight.

And considering how similar C# and Java are, I'm surprised Kodak isn't alleging the same patent violation.

Re:Kodak vs. Sun set a precedent for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822501)

Microsoft paid Kodak and Sun to have a fight in court, and Microsoft paid Sun to lose it.

So no, Kodak aren't very likely to try to sell Microsoft a licence to this particular patent.

Sweet Karama (0, Flamebait)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822437)

Couldn't happen to a better company.

Re:Sweet Karama (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822621)

talk about what goes around comes around

Haha? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822453)

Seriously, where's the "haha" tag? I thought you /.ers hated Micro$oft as much as you hate SCO?

Re:Haha? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822517)

No, we (slashdotters generally) hate their underhand business practices (eg: SCO) and shoddy software. There are 2 recurring themes in these types of story. The first is that software patents are wrong even if the litigation target is pro-software patent. The second is that the target supports the system and deserves all it gets; live by the sword, die by the sword.

Whichever view you take, everyone can appreciate the irony. Haha indeed!

Re:Haha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822521)

We may dislike (I would not go as far as hate) MS, but nowhere near as much as we hate Patent bullsh1t. Patents like this can and will be the thing that blasts us back into the stoneage. MS Patents threaten to wipe out prior art in the form of OpenSource projects, and stupid whiny patents like this, or the one about modems in STB's, or the SCO thing, the RIM vs Blackberry thing should simply be thrown out. I personally think that a patent in software should only be granted for a maximum of 2 years (which may even be overly generous) as if you cannot bring a product based on this to market in that time, you must be trolling. Equally - software patents must ONLY be examined by highly technical engineers with experience and at least bachelors degree education in pure computing, software architecture, software engineering and be able to answer regular questions on what has been happening in computer technology recently as well as being law savvy, and not merely lawyers who do not have a clue - the rest should not be allowed to even have an official opinion on the matter. Cluebats on the ready - it is time to go bludgeon the whole patent office (European and US).

Although I have singled out software, I am probably not wrong in saying that patents for other areas (while lower profile) are probably equally spurious and useless because companies take advantage of the completely useless incompetant blaggers in the patent office. I suppose at least having such people in the patent office means they arent sponging off the dole queue - although maybe I take that back - they would be doing a great deal less HARM were they on the dole.

Can't Microsoft fight back? (3, Interesting)

muukalainen (969833) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822465)

I suppose they could threaten them with a batch of their own patents, say something like "mouse click", "graphical interface", ...

Re:Can't Microsoft fight back? (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822719)

Are you trying to be funny? Microsoft didn't invent any of that (neither did Apple, for that matter).

Furthermore, who are they going to threaten and with what? That company probably doesn't care, they just want money from Microsoft.

Let's propagate some FUD (5, Funny)

javilon (99157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822493)

Now it is the perfect time to show Microsoft that FUD works both ways:

LEGAL WARNING:

If you use .net to develop software, in the future your projects can be taken down because of patent infringement.

Using Microsoft products is a legal minefield!!!

You should consult your legal department before purchasing any Microsoft product.


Re:Let's propagate some FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822527)

And also consult your legal department before installing any patch or upgrade for any Microsoft product, because the EULA may change with each patch!

Re:Let's propagate some FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822597)

Let's mail all the Asian governments that Ballmer threatened to sue if they used linux.

Re:Let's propagate some FUD (1)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822791)

Yes, I remember how well that worked when Microsoft had patent issues with SQL Server. Hmm. Well, it was a nice thought.

Vertical computer systems? (1)

matt me (850665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822519)

omgzz they've patented standing your computer up? Quick, everyone flip your towers over before the patent police get to you. They have equipment that can detect the orientation of your motherboard from outside your home.

Does this affect Mono? (4, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822533)

Or does Mono not implement the relavent bit of .NET?

Re:Does this affect Mono? (2, Informative)

Nurgled (63197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822587)

I assume from the description that this is referring to XAML, which is a format for expressing an arbitrary heirarchy of objects usually GUI controls in XML. This was introduced in .NET Framework 3 as part of the new Windows Presentation Foundation. The Olive project [mono-project.com] over at Mono is aiming to implement this new stuff, and reportedly does have a XAML implementation, but they don't yet have any completed implementations of the GUI widgets XAML is usually used for.

So I guess the answer is "maybe". :)

Re:Does this affect Mono? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822629)

So I guess the answer is "maybe". :)

Translation: Hopefully

MVC? (2)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822569)

"The method separates content, form, and function of the computer application so that each may be accessed or modified separately. The method includes creating arbitrary objects, managing the arbitrary objects throughout their life cycle in an object library, and deploying the arbitrary objects in a design framework for use in complex computer applications."

Sounds like Smalltalk and a serialised Model View Controller to me. Using XML for the resource file isn't exactly rocket science either since that's the sort of thing XML was designed for.

TWW

Re:MVC? (2)

Random Guru 42 (687672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822673)

Yeah, this patent smells of prior art and overbroadness -- just another troll. Of course, IANAPL, but this just has bullshit written all over it.

Never trust proprietary software (0, Flamebait)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822581)

You never know when the vendor will be whacked with a patent or copyright infringement suit.
They then will be forced upon losing to make changes to the software which could leave you with the rug pulled out from under you.

Open source software is much superior in this regard since:
1)It is transparent and open for review, making identification of potential problems easier.

2)The OS community is much more, IMO, sensitive to *not* changing the interfaces in the software (just the implementation) than propretary vendors. So if changes do occur they are less likely to be painful for the users. Just link in the new libraries and go.

3)There is less money in it. If MS didn't have a bazillion dollars, they would not be getting sued. And in conjuction with point 2 above, I think that this suit could drive gratuitous changes in API which could be used to drive more sales. They could just say "You can't use anything prior to .Net 4.0, you have to upgrade (buy) 4.0 to insure you are not in patent or copyright infringement. 4.0 is *not* compatible with 1.x, 2.x, or 3.x". I think which ever way the case goes, MS wins due to this.

Anyway, proprietary software is inherently *very* risky.

Re:Never trust proprietary software (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822721)

MS isn't just the person with the deep pockets. They're known for discussing "projects" under non-disclosure and non-compete agreements, then abonding the "project" and creating their own new product that directly violates the old agreement. It's why you don't start such a "project" discussion with Microsoft unless you're absolutely sure they're not interested in trying to do it themselves, or have really compelling prior art to slap them in the head with when they try this stunt.

This is why GPLv3 encumbers patents (3, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822705)

Summing up a bunch of comments: the current insanity of software patents, and the risks of this kind of nuttiness, could be extremely nasty to lots of open source projects. Microsoft and other big companies develop big patent portfoloes to protect themselves, and to use against competitors with even vaguely similar projects.

Open source developers have no such protection. It's exactly why Sendmail rejected using Microsoft's patented "SenderID", as described by Eric Allman here . And it's exactly why GPLv3 has all this complex and oddly writtten patent material (at ), as mentioned in other old Slashdot stories. Even if you think it's silly, or think that software patents are a burden to the market that should be thrown the heck out. it's a necessary licensing step to protect us from this sort of whackiness.

I hope the Mono project can be re-licensed under GPLv3 to avoid repercussions from this sort of suit.

Re:This is why GPLv3 encumbers patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822847)

Microsoft and other big companies develop big patent portfoloes to protect themselves, and to use against competitors with even vaguely similar projects.

That's one theory, that the only patent trolls are these huge conglomerates. In reality, small predatory licensing companies without any products or interest in cross-licensing are going to start hurting the bigger players.

It's exactly why Sendmail rejected using Microsoft's patented "SenderID", as described by Eric Allman here.

Err, no. [imc.org] Are you thinking of Apache? [apache.org]

it's exactly why GPLv3 has all this complex and oddly writtten patent material

Microsoft distribute SFU [microsoft.com] which contains GPL code. All we have to do is resync against the Microsoft distribution to be freed from the constant threat of patent lawsuits on the stuff they're redistributing. The original SenderID license had similar patent language designed to shield Microsoft, unfortunately for them it was not sub-licensable and therefore unworkable.

I hope the Mono project can be re-licensed under GPLv3 to avoid repercussions from this sort of suit.

Really? I hope it dies a horrible death.

Re:This is why GPLv3 encumbers patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822849)

>I hope the Mono project can be re-licensed under GPLv3 to avoid repercussions from this sort of suit.
I don't think GPLv3 would provide any protection here. GPLv3 doesn't allow you violate patents, but prevents users from distributing GPLv3 software if they enforce a patent on that code.

I support MSFT in this issue (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822769)

The patent is too broad too obvious. Ideally it should not stand in court. Jope MSFT fights these trolls and invalidates the patent Or it can pull an RIM and pay a large sum and thus give this patent credibility it does not deserve. With the money from MSFT this company can wreck havoc in the small underfunded and unfunded Open Source projects.

Re:I support MSFT in this issue (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822897)

They might pay the company on the condition that the company go after adobe. 10 or 20 billion is nothing to MS but it would crush adobe like a grape.

Some basic background information (5, Informative)

udippel (562132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822899)

As former patent examiner I am appalled that something like this was granted; or had to be granted:

Claim 1. A method for generating a computer application on a host system in an arbitrary object framework that separates a content of said computer application, a form of said computer application and a functionality of said computer application, said method comprising: creating arbitrary objects with corresponding arbitrary names of various object types for generating said content of said computer application, said form of said computer application, and said functionality of said computer application; managing said arbitrary objects in an object library; and deploying said arbitrary objects from said object library into a design framework to create said computer application.

This grants the patent owner all rights to royalties to a system that any third party brings to the market within the time frame of validity of this patent, and that uses this method.
In technical terms it is obvious; and probably anticipated a few hundred times. In legal terms this is different. As patent examiner you'll find yourself in a quagmire: you may have prior art for the concept, but not for the wording. I agree, that anticipating the concept should be enough. But the vultures of lawyers will pull you apart within minutes, and the chambers and courts of appeal will usually folllow (and your bosses rebuke your rejection of the application). You will be asked for a document to anticipate the wording, and that might not exist.
Only in high-profile cases will the parties drill down to the concepts. Why ? Because that is very costly, and if nobody forks out these costs, the average examiner will have to grant.
Of course, the wording is overly broad. But try to cite a 'library' against it: would it be a 'object library' ? Is pulling in a function ('printf') pulling in a function of a 'object library' when C is doubtlessly not object oriented ? Let us continue with the 'object framework'; more so one that separates: content - form - functionality. Where in the 'prior art' cited here can we make out 'various object types' (not one, that is !). How do you anticipate the 'managing ... objects ... in a library'; as well as 'deploying ... objects ... into a design [!] framework' ?
FYI: All this would have to be anticipated in a (usually) single document, before October 1, 1999.

No, I am not all trying to defend the vultures of applicants. This patent ought to never have been granted.
But one should keep the following in mind as well: The USPTO was never willing to grant software patents, actually refused to do so, but was - in the 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr - forced to do so by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was not the - then - P.T.O. that started the insanity. It wasn't your House of Representatives or the Senate. Though the House would be very much encouraged to change the legal framework ... !

Re:Some basic background information (1)

EMB Numbers (934125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823017)

The parent post very nicely explains things, and contributes to more sleepless nights for me. As described by the parent post, software patents are indeed a hopeless situation.

The parent notes that prior art may be irrelevant, but here are some possibilities anyway.
ARINC Specification 661-2 Cockpit Display System Interfaces to User Systems http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARINC_661 [wikipedia.org]
NeXT/Apple Web Objects http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebObjects [wikipedia.org]
http://www.mactech.com/articles/mactech/Vol.13/13. 05/WebObjectsOverview/index.html [mactech.com]
http://sunsite.uakom.sk/sunworldonline/swol-05-199 6/swol-05-cs.html [uakom.sk]
http://www.byte.com/art/9609/sec9/art1.htm [byte.com]
NexT/Apple Interface Builder

Well that sucks (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823085)

I've long suspected that software patents had become a semantic game.

Want to infringe on a software patent? Completely rename everything including core concepts and you can't possibly infringe. How can you violate a patent on a method to execute bytecode when your virtual machine "masticates bitcandy"?

It appears it has gotten that bad.

c08 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823039)

That, has 7ost
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