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The Dangers of a Patent War Chest

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the not-more-powerful-quicker-easier-the-dark-side-is dept.

Patents 125

Timothy B. Lee writes "I've got an article in the New York Times in which I make the case against software patents. Expanding on a point I first made on my blog, I point out that Microsoft has had a change of heart on the patent issue. In 1991, Bill Gates worried that 'some large company will patent some obvious thing' and use it to blackmail smaller companies. Now that Microsoft is a large company with a patent war-chest of their own, they don't seem so concerned about abuse of the patent system. I then describe how Verizon's efforts to shut down Vonage are a perfect illustration of Gates' fears."

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who's suing who? (3, Insightful)

dioscaido (541037) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451651)

How often does MS sue smaller companies for petent infringement, compared to how often Microsoft is sued? I think software patents for the most part are bullocks, but given the system exists it would seem smart for any company to try to patent as much as they can to protect themselves, Microsoft included.

undisclosed balance-sheet liability .. (3, Interesting)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451773)

"How often does MS sue smaller companies for petent infringement, compared to how often Microsoft is sued?"

How many companies apart from Microsoft make allegations that Linux violates their patents.

every Linux customer has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability [virtuallinux.org]

was Re:who's suing who?

Re:who's suing who? (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451775)

I don't recall MSFT having ever sued for patent infringement. OTOH, threatening is something that they seem to be doing every 5 minutes.

Re:who's suing who? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19452347)

I don't think Microsoft is actually threatening to sue anybody over patents that GNU/Linux may violate. The reality is that if you distribute enough software you are bound to be violating some patents. Some may be easy to work around, while others cover core features. Look at the IE plug-in lawsuit that Microsoft lost (with $521 million in damages awarded). It doesn't matter that they changed the browser after being sued.

In my opinion, it looks like Microsoft wants companies to think about what will happen when open source software violates somebody's patent. Microsoft says they have 235 patents that seem to be violated, so it's pretty likely that there are other people out there who have patents on components of the GNU/Linux system.

When Dell and Gateway were sued by Alcatel-Lucent for infringing on its MP3 patents, Microsoft stepped in. Dell and Gateway won't be paying the $1.5 billion in damages, Microsoft will. Who would step in when Dell gets sued for patent infringement in Ubuntu? (IANAL, but from my understanding, patents can only cover the software that is actually installed or executing on a machine; so a Windows install CD doesn't violate any patents, but Dell might be by installing it on a physical machine.)

In a way it is FUD. But anyone with a significant amount of money should think about the issue of software patents with all software that they use. With Microsoft software you can be reasonably sure that Microsoft will be sued before you will (and MS has explicit agreements with companies that would be likely targets, such as Dell and Gateway). If you develop your own software you know that you will be fully responsible for any patent lawsuits (e.g., building your own website that violates Amazon's 1-click patent). With Linux I think there is a bit of uncertainty over who will take responsibility. Will it be the end-user, the distributor, or the original developers?

Re:who's suing who? (1, Informative)

Trelane (16124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452737)

I don't think Microsoft is actually threatening to sue anybody over patents that GNU/Linux may violate.

Microsoft says they have 235 patents that seem to be violated,
These two statements are contradictory.

Who would step in when Dell gets sued for patent infringement in Ubuntu?
How about we go with "Canonical"? Of course, Red Hat has patent idemnification as does Novell, so the answer for those distros is similar, but publically stated.

With Linux I think there is a bit of uncertainty over who will take responsibility.
As illustrated above, Red Hat has publically stated their patent idemnification. Therefore, there is no uncertainty if you use them. I believe Novell has such a statement as well, but I'm not certain.

Re:who's suing who? (2, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453467)

These two statements are contradictory.

Not in the USA they're not.

There's a HUGE difference between Amy Lee saying "Hey, that guitar solo's right out of The Open Door" and her saying "I'm suing you for making an unlawful derivative work." Or, to use physical law as a property, how about the difference between "You're on private property" and "I'm calling the Sherrif."

The victim of a tort, like patent infringement, always has the option of not going to court. The few apparent exceptions are cases where not acting may be a denial of ownership -- and in those cases, all you need to do is to get the offender to recognize your ownership.

Re:who's suing who? (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453933)

There's a HUGE difference between Amy Lee saying "Hey, that guitar solo's right out of The Open Door" and her saying "I'm suing you for making an unlawful derivative work."
Within your example, you're correct. However, in context, when Microsoft is saying that Linux infringes on some of their patents, their purpose seems to be threatening Linux users with the potential infringement lawsuits. Or why else would they be doing so?

Re:who's suing who? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#19454065)

Microsoft is not suing (yet), but they are _menacing_ other companies in order to get paid for a competitor's products. Nice work if you can get it.

Re:who's suing who? (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453971)

[nwsource.com]

We spend $7 billion a year on R&D, our shareholders expect us to protect or license or get economic benefit from our patented innovations. So how do we somehow get the appropriate economic return for our patented innovation
This isn't a mere statement of "fact". It's a threat. Or how do you construe this?

Re:who's suing who? (2, Informative)

paladin217 (226829) | more than 7 years ago | (#19454091)

I would have to disagree. If one has a reasonable apprehension of suit, one can file for declaratory judgment to invalidate the patent or in the hope that the court will declare the product non-infringing.The problem here is that what MS has done, so far, falls into the category of "oblique suggestion". That is probably part of the reason that MS has not and will not state which patents are believed to be infringed; doing so could be construed as a very specific threat.


Saying "that work may infringe my IP" without specifically stating what IP is oblique. Your guitar solo example above is more like saying "that particular portion of your work infringes this particular portion of my IP". Even without saying you may sue, it is specific enough to create a reasonable apprehension. Right now, MS's statements more closely matches the oblique example.
 
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaratory_judgment [wikipedia.org]

Re:who's suing who? (5, Insightful)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451991)

I recently went to a presentation on Verizon v Vonage, and one of the presenters said, "instead of patenting new inventions, companies are inventing new patents." That seems about right.

What are we doing? (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453153)

I think software patents for the most part are bullocks, but given the system exists ...

If they are nonsense to begin with, why don't we just say so, change the laws to eradicate them and quit wasting time and money on them?

Re:What are we doing? (3, Insightful)

bvimo (780026) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453269)

Is it because patents make money and money can be taxed?

Re:What are we doing? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19456137)

Lobbyists. Strangely large companies still want software patents to be allowed despite the only winners being the patent trolls as shown by their lobbying in the EU.

Of course they dont mind (1, Flamebait)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451653)

The biggest bully on the block never minds abuse of the rules, in their favor.

MS is using its patent warchest defensively (2, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452357)

The biggest bully on the block never minds abuse of the rules, in their favor.

That's a poor assessment of this situation. MS is a bully but they are not using their patents. Their patent warchest seems defensive in nature. MS has deep pockets and is a prime target for the lawsuit happy patent portfolio companies that create nothing other than lawsuits. For a company with deep pockets, the patent warchest is an unfortunate necessity.

Re:MS is using its patent warchest defensively (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452435)

They arent using their patents? Huh, what are you smoking?

What was the 'linux violates our patents so pay up' statement from Balmer? Was i just dreaming?

Re:MS is using its patent warchest defensively (1)

bvimo (780026) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453287)

What was the 'linux violates our patents so pay up' statement
I don't see Linux in any court's defending itself, MS is currently posturing.

Re:Of course they dont mind (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452429)

True that.

But why did I read TFT as 'The Dangers of a Patent War on Christ'?

I mean, I'm not even Christian. Still, PP's comment still applies.

Re:Of course they dont mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19453315)

Christ released his code as Free, Open Source with a license to translate it and release it free of charge, as long as the source wasn't altered. I think it's relevant.

I am proud to be a European (1)

lord_rob the only on (859100) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451665)

Thanks God, there are no software patents here ! For how long ? ...

Re:I am proud to be a European (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19451757)

For how long ? ..

That would be about minus 21 years [ffii.org] at the first glance. May I please borrow your time machine?

Re:I am proud to be a European (2, Informative)

mardin (976086) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451919)

That's a strange thing over here. You can apply for a software patent and receive one by the EPO. BUT, software patents have no legal basis. The EPO (and big business) is trying to enforce software patents this way, hoping that one day a judge may find them valid. I surely hope they don't succeed. The only reason to apply for a software patent in Europe these days is that when software patents ever become legal a judge will make the already existing ones legal as well.

Re:I am proud to be a European (1)

beyondkaoru (1008447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452461)

as far as i know (ie, just from reading stuffs online), that's prety much how it started here (in the us) too. the uspto was at first only occasionally awarding software patents, but eventually they were doing it in general. in the common law system, legality is determined more by the culture and experiences of judges, especially when laws are vague.

Re:I am proud to be a European (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19456155)

A difference is that the last time they tried to legislate software patents into existence they almost got a law back that explicitely forbade them. Also note that common law is not used by most parts of the EU.

F*** Microsoft. (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451671)

Microsoft should be forced to open up their source code, for all their products.. Office, Vista, search engine, flight sim, drm, media player, etc etc. Then we can find out which patented "methods" and algorithms they are infringing upon. Until then, they should STFU.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1, Interesting)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451795)

People with attitudes like yours are part of the reason so many businesses and people view open source as being run by a bunch of crackpots and people who live in their mother's basement.

Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent. In fact, they don't even have to do that. If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all, a matter of public record.

However, none of you people who complain so loudly will ever do that because all you want is to have some reason to bash someone else to make yourself feel better.

The whole world does not have to be open sourced, and it shouldn't be. Some very worthwhile pieces of software that are well worth the money aren't open sourced and it would be suicide for the companies who produce them to make them open source because they get all of their money from sales.

Yes, open source is nice. Yes, some companies who produce open source code succeed. No, it doesn't work for everyone.

To turn your argument on yourself - learn a little bit about how things really work. Until then, STFU. Otherwise, all you do is make yourself look like a fool and alienate yourself from the rest of the world, including people who used to be strong proponants of the community until it started acting more and more like this.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19451927)

You have massively missed the point.. the OP doesn't care what Microsoft has patented, they care about what other people have patented and Microsoft has used. You think the OP wants to go through the Microsoft code and tell them, hey, I've never seen this before, maybe you should patent it?

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452009)

the OP doesn't care what Microsoft has patented, they care about what other people have patented and Microsoft has used.

Considering the sheer number of instances where they make deals with other companies to share the use of patented ideas/technologies and the fact that their legal dept puts rather strict limits on what their developers can look at in the way of other source code, I'd say not horribly many.

Even when they are found to be infringing by a company that holds the patent, they are generally pretty quick to resolve the issue, either by allowing the company in question use of some of their patents or actually (*gasp*) getting a license to use the damned thing.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (5, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452043)

You need to up your brain intake slightly. Software patent violations don't typically occur because someone cribs off another's source code, or off an existing patent disclosure. They occur because the second guy to be faced with a particular problem picks an obvious solution to that problem, which the first guy happens to have patented.

Infringement is inevitable when people are allowed to patent vague concepts and intangible ideas. This practice has to be stopped.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452067)

Re-read my comment. I said that they were pretty quick to find a licensing solution if faced with a software patent situation and that they went to decent lengths to avoid *willfully* violating existing patents.

I agree that the software patent system is broken. However, that doesn't detract from my point.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (5, Insightful)

imkonen (580619) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452075)

"Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent."

I think you misread the GP's point. He wants Microsoft to open their code base so other patent holders can pour through Microsoft's code to see if Microsoft is violating anybody else's patent. As in what's good for the goose is good for the gander Not that I agree with him, it is an extreme response, and he's kind of missing the point of the article which is that the current patent system actively punishes those who try to "remain pure" and not stockpile patents. But it does also seem a little unfair that it's easier to get away with violating a software patents by keeping your code hidden. After all, if you're going to own software patents, what's the point of keeping your code secret? You can sue for patent violation if anyone tries to steal what you've done. If you're going to do that anyway, maybe it's only fair that everyone else in the world who thinks you might be violating their patent can check it out before they decide to sue you.

"If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all, a matter of public record."

I also respectfully disagree with this point. You make it sound so simple. One of the basic complaints people have with the patent system in general and software patents in particular is based on the incredible amount of work involved with "digging through patents" owned by everyone in the world (cuz really, what's the use in just digging through Microsofts patents?) and making sure you're not infringing any. It's just horribly inefficient and bad for innovation if the man-hours involved in avoiding patent infringement are comparable to the amount spent just writing software in the first place.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452151)

After all, if you're going to own software patents, what's the point of keeping your code secret?

Oh, I don't know. It could have something to do with the fact that some companies actually sell packaged software. Patents are used to keep other companies/organizations from stealing work and using it as their own. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they keep the software closed.

I know the argument that will come from someone on here - that nothing is stopping them from open sourcing the software and still selling it. I have news for them - that doesn't really work. You may be able to sell support, but you'd never be able to just sell the software.

I realize that bashing Microsoft is the hip thing to do here, but some of us realize that, while we hold them accountable for the actual bad things that they do (wanting limitless H1-B holders, trying to squeeze others out of business through illegal means, etc), keeping source code confidential is not something to get in a twist over. In fact, in a whole lot of situations, keeping the source closed makes more sense than opening it up.

I advocate both open anc closed source code depending on the situation. It's not a black and white situation whether they hold software patents or not.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19452463)

They are terrified of being found out about how much of their stuff is "borrowed", exactly the same as most other closed source companies.

You make money with software by engaging in business where you use that software to do stuff. A to Z, get a yellow pages and find a business. Software as a stand alone business will be going the way of the buggywhip industry within this generation. Software will still be written, programmers will still be paid, but it won't be the business model of yore,nor the payscale they are expecting to continue forever, in other words, the 90s are OVER.

  All the digital bits businesses will have to face reality, replicator technology is here for that and it works. Musicians will have to go back to touring and be content with what they make there. Programmers will actually have to work for some company that makes useful stuff of the tangible variety that people need and want.

    Selling operating systems and office applications, etc is *rapidly* approaching the "Are you kidding me? Are you serious? You want HOW MUCH for that???" stage.

  It's not there yet obviously, but it is getting there a lot faster than MS shareholders wish it. They will have to be content with the millions or billions they have made so far and actually go back to doing useful work. Work once, get paid once, that is what is happening globally except for a few software giants and the MAFIAA. Work once get paid forever and ever and ever and ever (the traditional software selling model and music "distribution" model) isn't going to be flying for much longer in a hungry global economy where replicator technology exists and is ubiquitous..

Fair warning, milk it and cash out while you can. There's an extra two billion people rapidly approaching middle class and they want to be paid, too, and they won't be subsidizing stuff that costs two cents to reproduce in full, not for hundreds of dollars instead of two cents they won't be. Either that or you will be forced to start paying them what their electronic gadgets and cars and energy, etc are really worth so that those workers can enter middle class. One or the other, but global exploitation of cheaply reproduced digital bits while they want to exchange actual useful tangible articles will not last much longer, their hunger will seriously outweigh the importance and power of the digital bits sellers arrogance.

I'll repeat, it isn't the 90s any longer, stuff has changed and is still changing. People who just refuse to see it or argue against just raw data are doomed to crash hard when they do crash. People who can see how the global economy is shifting can see two things-tangibles still rule, and the near free ride the technological west has gotten for a long time is about to be stomped flat and discarded, because the developing world now has enough of their own tech and a billion kids in school to make any "need" for western digital bits or other "IP" at high dollar prices rather ...quaint and silly, and those in the west still paying full price are already *saturated* with over priced digital bits and it is in the decline there as well.

  You can see it already with the huge YAWN that is Vista and the mass ignoring of the MAFIAA gouging level prices.

  Humanity develops work around to redundant or overly expensive stuff.

Artificial scarcity will not work when there is no true scarcity.

    Elite high paying jobs are only elite when just a few people can do them, after that, once there are tens of millions doing the jobs..well... it is worth of at best what -say- mid level factory line worker pay is right now. Look at the high cost medical industry in the west, in a freaking crisis because everyone in it just assumes ths that they could keep upping prices forever because they are 'elite' and few people could do what they do. the global workaround that is exploding is called "medical tourism",and is now about the fastest growing medical "thing", because it boils down to it's a skilled trade mechanic job once millions are doing it and can be done effectively and cheaply elsewhere at a dime on the dollar.

Programming is exactly the same thing. Face reality. Closed source, open source, it won't matter, it's what you can DO with those tools that might be worth some money, not that you can just turn the tool on or design a different button or something.

It won't happen overnight, but it will be happening within this generation. Every single piece of good quality economic analysis is showing that, along with just the headlines and a small quotient of easy to see common sense.. Programming is expanding, there's already just cubic miles of functioning programs out there that can and are being reproduced for pennies, so that means the pool will be diluted, and the cash that will be thrown at it will be dropping shortly because there won't ber as much HIGH DOLLAR need as there was 20 years ago when it was really expaning fast because it didn't exist that much.. In other words, You don't need to live someplace where the rents are thousands a month to program (with the corresponding expected paysales there), nor do you need to drop hundreds on an OS and office suite or server programs, and that's *today*, so extrapolate it out another 10-20 years.

    That's why the big globalists are cashing out now as fast as they can, they know those business models (along with the earlier manufacturing they first milked out) will be crashing shortly for the west and they want to have milked it for all it is worth before that happens so they can keep avoiding the riff raff. they are trying their best to legally lock in their profit levels with "IP" laws, but that won't work long term either, because it becomes artificial scarcity priced and human nature and history shows us that is always worked around when it is artificial.

  "Stockholders" mighty have some happy ending fairy tale illusion in their brains that the rest of the planet is going to stay at tinroof shack levels and keep working for peanuts @ 16 hours a day so they can stay fat and rich, but that just isn't going to be happening for much longer, because those "other" nations know they have to keep building their middle classes out of tinroof shack levels or face outright *physical revolt*. Two forces, one is like a thousand times more powerful-I know where i would place my wager.

  So they will be needing and using all the hard cash they have for tangibles, the actual important stuff that you need to live. They aren't going to be dropping hundreds of dollars per human to type up office memos-like they ever did much anyway, although that was the scam argument the conmen used to sell globalism to the suckers in the first place. "Don't worry about manufacturing, we'll sell computer IT stuff and 'intellectual property'!!". Uh huh, that was OK for 20 years, but that's about it, wall meet handwriting.

You can't go back in time, so again, fair warning, that is what will be happening.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452513)

Patents are used to keep other companies/organizations from stealing work and using it as their own.

Do you mean "copyright"? I can't see how you could look at a binary and determine that it violates a software patent. At least with a mousetrap, you can disassemble it and see that it does or does not violate a published patent.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452759)

keeping source code confidential is not something to get in a twist over
They get patent protection on it and they get to keep it secret. I think that's going to get people in a twist.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19453107)

Digging through patents is pointless because:

  1. You'll only discover what you already know: as a software developer you're infringing some patent somewhere and
  2. If you do get sued and you've already done a search you'll be liable for triple damages for "willful infringement".

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

towsonu2003 (928663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452095)

I have no idea how you got modded up while clearly demonstrating that you did not read the comment you replied to...

Microsoft doesn't have to open source anything to show you what they have patented. All they have to do is show you the patent. In fact, they don't even have to do that. If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls. They are, after all, a matter of public record.
The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code, neither does s/he wanna know what they have patented. S/he wants to see the code in order to know what patents they are infringing... for a level playing field (after all, MS can see the FOSS code, can't they?).

all you do is make yourself look like a fool and alienate yourself from the rest of the world
read the stuff you're replying to - you senseless alien fool

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

Gorlash (957166) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452149)

The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code, neither does s/he wanna know what they have patented. S/he wants to see the code in order to know what patents they are infringing... for a level playing field (after all, MS can see the FOSS code, can't they?).

Yes, we all know that "guilty until proven innocent" is the standard for Microsoft, never mind what the rules are for the rest of the world.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452237)

The OP doesn't want MS to open source its code *snip* S/he wants to see the code

First off, the poster said that Microsoft should be *forced* to "open up" everything that they make.

You may see a whole world of difference between that and open sourcing something, and you'd be partially right from a licensing standpoint. Open sourcing software is done voluntarily, and under an OSI approved license.

However, realistically, once the source code cat is out of the bag, it's effectively in the same state of exposure as your typical open source project. Among other things, the less honest among us will feel free to take parts of the code (changing the variables, etc of course) and incorporate it into their projects and it will be easier to pirate because any checks they incorporated into the software can be removed from the code before it's rebuilt.

As for the spirit of his "they should be forced to open up the source" rant, it's the same as all of the other over the top fanatics who think that their way is the only way and don't think that the two can possibly ever exist in the same environment (which is silly because they have for a long long time).

I used to be a big believer in the community. Hell, I still think that open source can be a positive thing. However, the fact that so much of the community is acting like a group of spoiled two year olds really has a habit of souring me on wanting to participate much anymore because I'm tired of the "let's bite every hand whether it feeds us or not becuase we want it all" mentality.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19452559)

You conveniently choose to ignore the fact MS recently started spouting that Linux was infringing on several hundred of their patents. And when pushed on it, they refused to expand and name them.

You never were community orientated, were you? You probably did nothing more than look for free software. Where's your code contributions, bug reports, documentation etc? I eagerly await being proved wrong!

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452585)

You never were community orientated, were you? You probably did nothing more than look for free software. Where's your code contributions, bug reports, documentation etc? I eagerly await being proved wrong!

Well, let's see... There are a few smaller apps on my site (with several more being worked on at the moment and several published articles on the subject.

Frankly, I'd say you're barking up the wrong tree, kiddo.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452109)

Otherwise, all you do is make yourself look like a fool and alienate yourself from the rest of the world, including people who used to be strong proponants of the community until it started acting more and more like this.

My favorite quote [quotationspage.com] regarding this:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abraham Lincoln
16th president of US (1809 - 1865)

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452433)

I used to be a big advocate of the community. Heck, I was the editor of a fairly short-lived open source enterprise magazine.

I still think that open source can be a positive thing. Unfortunately the thing that is right about it (the community collaborating with each other) is very closely tied to the thing that is so very wrong about it (the gimmie gimmie people who think everything should be open).

Before, it was only a few people out there who behaved like that. Now it seems like more and more of them are going the route that everyone owes them everything, and it often gets to the point that I don't want to be associated with it.

I'm a moderate in pretty much everything. Fanatics really aren't my thing and I don't like being lumped in with them. I've heard a lot of other people express the same sentiment.

I know there are still a lot of good people out there in the community, but it just seems like they're very quiet anymore and constantly get drowned out by the nutjobs.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

d3ity (800597) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452303)

The arguement for open source everything is a waste of time. Not EVERYTHING should be open source. Microsoft shouldn't have to release thier source code to any product. However, when they are going out and suing companies for using linux in thier products as a result of software patents that are vauge to say the least, they should have to prove that there is in fact some sort of infringement. If I code a program that does task A, and Microsoft has a program that does task A, Microsoft should have to at least show thier hand (at least to a judge) to prove that I actually infringed on thier intellectual property. The problem with the way software patents are bieng approached is this. If thier program uses Algorithm A to do the task and a competitor uses Algorithm B, Microsoft can still wave this magic piece of paper around that says, Algorithm for doing task A. No matter if a companies code looks nothing like thiers and uses a completley diffrent method, Microsoft can still force me to pay them royalties, or worse, force thier competitors out of business by preventing innovation. In the end, it's the end user that will suffer. No matter if a great new way of doing something is created, M$ just has to send a lawyer to make sure that we, the users, never get it. So is keeping thier source code hidden from even the courts in the best interest of M$? Clearly yes. Will it prevent competition and innovation in software? I say yes.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

ssorc (48632) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453097)

Reading existing US patents is a pretty bad idea if you work in the field since it makes you liable for triple damages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treble_damages [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453487)

If the open source community were really that concerned, they'd hire a lawyer to dig through the patents that Microsoft controls.

Why? The open source community just uses the same policy as Microsoft with regard to possible infringements. The policy reads something like this: "If you claim that we are infringing your patents, you are welcome to come to us with details of those claimed infringements, and we'll try to find a solution for your problems".

In other words, Microsoft always want people to come to them to negotiate, regardless of whether Microsoft is the infringer or the infringed. That's just hypocrisy, so the most reasonable way is to apply their own policy regarding possible infringement on their part. We simply what them to come forward and detail those infringements so that they can be corrected (or the patents challenged). That they flat out refuse to do so is quite telling.

Re:F*** Microsoft. (1)

Redacted (1101591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452577)

Good call. We'll do that. All Windows source, readily available for examination.

Everyone can pore over it for months, find out which patents Microsoft infringes on (even though we all disagree with software patents right?). Of course, it is unlikely that the companies who own those patents will sue - the patent war that would arise from that would hurt all parties, so at most expect some token cross-licensing agreements.

Then later, when some developer implements something Microsoft had in the code that was opened, they will be sued - and whether it was actually stolen or not, Microsoft will likely win the case. Even if they don't win, it would damage mainstream perceptions about FOSS, and lend credence to claims that it already infringes on Microsoft IP.

The only people that would really benefit from seeing Windows source are malware writers.

One of the big problems (5, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451679)

"Two of its patents cover the concept of translating phone numbers into Internet addresses."

Patents should not be able to cover concepts only very specific processes. If Gene Roddenberry's heirs patent the "concept" of a teleporter, should that give them rights over someone who actually figures out the physics and machinery to make one? Even if the inventor got the idea from watching Star Trek?

Re:One of the big problems (1)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452343)

Lets just hope they don't patent the concept of making some short-term hacky reconfiguration of something in order to solve some short term problem rather than solve the problem properly because that WILL kill the software industry.

Re:One of the big problems (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452387)

best argument against software patents I've seen on slashdot. I've been against them from the beginning, but hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks!

Re:One of the big problems (1)

eht (8912) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452939)

Actually they should get the money especially if they got the idea from watching Star Trek. And anyways patenst run out fairly quickly as far as hardware is concerned.

Re:One of the big problems (1)

Ghubi (1102775) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453033)

Or, for a more historical example, did Thomas Eddison patent the concept of a device which emits light when electricity is passed through it, or did he patent the actual light bulb with the carbon filiment and the air sucked out of it?

(It sounds like a rhetorical question, but technically it isn't because I don't actually know the answer)

Timothy Bruce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19451691)

Big Boss has a patent warchest of death, enter the penguin into this game of mutually assured destruction?

Principals and Profits (1, Interesting)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451771)

I don't think we can fault Gates from using the current patent rules as best he can to create a profit from microsoft. After all microsoft is going to have to pay the toll to patent trolls like Eolas whether or not they use their own patents as weapons. If they refuse to use patent law as an offensive weapon it just means they are at a relative competitive disadvantage to their competitors who do.

I mean I sure as hell don't think their ought to be a tax break for owning a home but you can sure as hell bet that I'm going to take that deduction so long as it's the law and I expect others to behave the same way. Campaigning to make the rules of the game more fair is one thing, but refusing to use the rules as they are just delays reform (hides problem) and puts you at an unfair disadvantage to all of those using the current rules.

Since Bill Gates seems to still be pushing for patent reform I'm not sure what their is to fault him on about this. Sure we might resent him because we want to win and he is using a stupid rule to get ahead but he is doing nothing immoral. In fact his fiduciary duty to MS shareholders means it might very well be immoral not to use patents against his competitors.

Admittedly if Gates started using MS patents to go directly after free software itself (getting injunctions on linux distribution) that starts to get a bit more grey. However, so long as he is just going after distributors and making them sign cross-licensing agreements it's just part of the corporate game. After all the primary thing that MS gets out of the Novell deal is assurance from novell not to sue for patent infringements, i.e., a defense against the assertion of patents by free software vendors.

As a strategy matter I think the open source movement's failure to accumulate a large centralized patent warchest is hurting us. If the GNU/FSF people actively accumulated a centralized patent warchest I suspect we could have made a deal with MS not to sue for patent infringement. We need to lobby for changes to the patent laws but until then we, just like MS, need to play using the current rules.

Re:Principals and Profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19451823)

> I think the open source movement's failure to accumulate a large
> centralized patent warchest is hurting us.

Dear logicnazi,

Software patents are not valid, the Supreme Court recently hinted it would not uphold them if asked to rule. How then does spending thousands on patents help the free software movement?

best,

AC

Re:Principals and Profits (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452305)

Well that all depends what you mean by software patents. There are plenty of patents that cover a machine that does such and such, where the machine is just a standard computer and the such and such is just a particular technique (say like using a B-tree to hold the active processes you need to schedule).

Regardless of whether they will actually be upheld the point is that people think/fear they MIGHT be upheld. After all how did MS convince Novell and others to sign these deals if it wasn't fear of IP lawsuit against them or their customers? In fact their are plenty of software type patents that have been upheld by the appeals courts, say the RIM or vonage lawsuits.

Now suppose the FSF put in some effort and money in making sure it held a bunch of patents on operating systems, network protocols etc.. etc.. Obviously they shouldn't go out suing people with them but their very presence would be enough of a threat to MS and other big companies that they could demand MS agree not to sue free software users in return for a similar agreement from the MS about windwos.

Re:Principals and Profits (5, Informative)

Alsee (515537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452375)

Since Bill Gates seems to still be pushing for patent reform I'm not sure what their is to fault him on about this.

Hahahaha.

Yes, Gates *is* pushing for "patent reform". As in pushing *for* global software patents, in particular pushing really really hard to impose software patents in the EU. Microsoft is *the* 800 pound gorilla driving the entire international pro-software patent lobby. Microsoft has been caught literally authoring supposedly independent government patent legislation and other government documents (ironically leaked by the internal revision history data in Microsoft document formats). Microsoft has been extorting European governments into playing puppet waging Microsoft's political software patent battles in the EU governmental process, threatening to screw with their economy if they don't follow Microsoft's demands to fight for software patents. Things have been pretty quite the last few months, but when all the EU software patent battle stories were popping up here on Slashdot, Microsoft was constantly cropping up and always on the pro-software-patent side.

-

Re:Principals and Profits (1)

boolithium (1030728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453355)

The US legal system is not a chess board for business. When the ideas were formed to protect copyright and patents, never was it thought to be used for market leverage. The immoral thing being done is not a matter of open source versus big software companies, but rather an assult on the american tax payer. Companies should not be able to use our judicial system to feud with each other. Between the recording and movie industry's copyright jehad and software patents our laws are being perverted. There is a big difference between protecting someones right to create or invent and a company using the system as a economic weapon. By the way the open source community did build it's own warchest, but in the end the patent appocalypse looming ever closer will cost all of us billions of dollars to sort out. The only real solution I can see at this point is to update laws for the SEC preventing companies from using the federal or state courts as market strategy. Also companies should be penalized for submitting bunk patents. This current behavior has far reaching consequences, which will effect cooperate law beyond the scope of software companies. So I disagree that we can not blame MS for poor behavior. Companies will come and go, but a broken legal system is a serious issue.

Re:Principals and Profits (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453521)

"When the ideas were formed to protect copyright and patents, never was it thought to be used for market leverage."

Of course it was. The market might have been much smaller then but the principle is the same. There would be zero patents applied for if they didn't give the patent holder a short-term monopoly.

Re:Principals and Profits (1)

boolithium (1030728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453665)

Monopoly and the right to decide how your patent should be used are not the same thing. The idea was created to allow people to present their technologies to the public without fear someone else stealing and implementing their idea. Otherwise people would guard any ideas from public understanding. Read the federalist papers' discussions on the 1rst ammendment, and it becomes clear that they feared a society where knowledge was hoarded rather than shared. Patents were actually supposed to drive innovation by protecting the rights of the inventor. Capitalism was never stated as the official religion of the forefathers. The prevailing thought at the time were that government should stay out of economic transactions between private citzens. I see alot of wisdom in this, which is why I don't believe our court system should decide which company should prevail in the free market.

Re:Principals and Profits (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453547)

Sure we might resent him because we want to win and he is using a stupid rule to get ahead but he is doing nothing immoral. In fact his fiduciary duty to MS shareholders means it might very well be immoral not to use patents against his competitors.
Say you pay my $20,000 to kill someone. Accepting this offer makes it my duty, as well as morally right, to kill that person?

It's always the incumbant (3, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451799)

that seeks to maintain the position of power. Politicians are always the quintessential example aren't they? Republicans in office seek to hold power just as the Democrats will do. In 1991 MS was hardly the dominant empire they are today and when the next Great Thing (tm) comes along they will do what previous entrenched powers have done. They sue. I say we get an amendment to some bill that changes our National Anthem's last line to "or the land of the free and the home of the litigious and overly patented". It doesn't rhyme.

Not the Timothy B. Lee I thought at first. (2, Informative)

zcv (1108935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451815)

For anyone who was unsure as well, the author is not TimBL [w3.org] .

Re:Not the Timothy B. Lee I thought at first. (1)

imkonen (580619) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452143)

I wondered the same thing myself when I first saw this guy's opinion in the NYT [nytimes.com] arguing against network neutrality. Amazingly enough he seems to be expressing an opinion here independent of the usual confusion conservatarian scholars tend to have that anything good for big corporations is automatically good for the economy as a whole.

websites likes /. benefit from patent laws. (0, Troll)

rafaMEX (1111415) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451817)

since the stupid arguing generates a lot of traffic... just go and fix your legal system, get rid of software patent laws.

OK (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451877)

...get rid of software patent laws.

And keep software under Copyright? If so, I agree. As long as software authors can protect themselves for whatever their reasons: keeping it open to getting rich.

Re:OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19456245)

Of course, why should something be both patented AND copyrighted?

Trademarks are for logos
Copyrights are for works
Patents are for inventions

A computer program's name and logo design is of course trademarked, but no one seems to have problems with trademark law. Heck, even Linux(TM) is trademarked to Linus Torvalds! However, a computer program should either be considered an invention or a work, not both. Would you copyright a medicine or patent a book? The government should make up their mind.

Call Microsoft's bluff (4, Insightful)

christian.einfeldt (874074) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451865)

At the risk of sounding corny, US President FDR had it right. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Microsoft has no colorable patent claims, IMHO, and I'm a lawyer. There are probably several good defenses to their patents: 1) prior art; 2) obviousness; 3) limits on patenting math. And right now there are 1,415 people who have signed a list asking Microsoft to sue them. We need business leaders to start signing this list, because plenty of grassroots people have signed the list already. You can find the sign-up page here:

http://digitaltippingpoint.com/wiki/index.php?titl e=SMFM_list_page_12 [digitaltippingpoint.com]

Of course, please consult with a lawyer if you are making serious plans to challenge Microsoft in court. Also, of course it goes without saying that you should probably consult other big players on the FOSS side, such as the Linux Foundation and the Open Innovation Network, etc. So while I can't give legal advice to anyone, really folks, I don't think there's any there there, to quote Gertude Stein. Just my two cents.

In fact, I believe that Microsoft is doing this patent stuff because they want to ease into distributing GNU Linux themselves, and they want to be the market leading GNU Linux distro. They really kind of are forced to do it. GNU Linux and FOSS are eroding their revenue base. They have read Clayton Christensen's work. They know what a disruptive innovation is. They know that the only market leaders to have survived disruptive innovations are those who spun off an independent separate little company that sold the disruptive products or services. As that spin-off grew, the companies who were smart enough to do it, like Quantum spun off Plus, eventually found that the disruptive little company grew to a point where the two companies could merge, and thus gracefully transition to the new disruptive market. Microsoft is planning to buy a distro, and they are insulating themselves from legal attack once they get there. They are also probably planning to try to bust the GPL in court, which is why they need this legal protection. They are looking to bust the GPL down to something that they like, such as a BSD or MIT or Apache-type license.

So in the meantime, let's make them earn their place. Let's challenge them. Let's unmask their FUD. Sign the list!

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (2, Funny)

Bjarke Roune (107212) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452547)

> In fact, I believe that Microsoft is doing this patent stuff because
> they want to ease into distributing GNU Linux themselves, and they
> want to be the market leading GNU Linux distro.
>
That's absurd! It would be like Apple starting to use Intel CPUs - and I think we all know how likely *that* is to happen!

Hey, wait a minute...

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453661)

It would be like Apple Computer deciding to start being a music distributor, which everybody knows is insane; the legal actions of Apple Records is just a moneymaking scheme by their lawyers...

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453013)

This patent issue is entirely FUD. It has every immediate appearance of a protection racket, but a lot of details are funny. For example, the fact that Microsoft paid Novell for the cross-licensing deal, and so fort.

Mobster: Nice shop you have hear. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
Store owner: No way. I am not paying into your protection racket.
Mobster: Look, I have an image to maintain here. Don't get in the way.
Store owner: Then I will see you in court.
Mobster: Okay, okay. I have an idea. How about I pay you $10,000 to buy the rights to protect you?
Store owner: Sure
Mobster: One more thing. You cant tell anyone about this deal. Everyone else has to think you are paying me.
Store owner: For $10000, I will keep quiet about this.
Mobster: Done.

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19454339)

Nice spelling you have hear.

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19454807)

GNU Linux and FOSS are eroding their revenue base. They have read Clayton Christensen's work. They know what a disruptive innovation is.

What's the "disruptive innovation" coming out of "GNU Linux and FOSS" ?

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

Stephen Ma (163056) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455037)

What's the "disruptive innovation" coming out of "GNU Linux and FOSS" ?

"High quality software for free" is the disruptive innovation. It is cutting into Microsoft's oxygen supply. When $100 computers become common (the OLPC is just the leading edge of a huge tidal wave), can any consumer justify spending $500 to $1000 on Windows and Office? The answer, of course, is no.

The future is in the little portables like OLPC, and Linux will dominate that market. Microsoft knows it too, which is why it has been flailing about so desperately lately.

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (0, Troll)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455521)

"High quality software for free" is the disruptive innovation.

"FOSS is free only if your time is worth nothing."

Now, there _are_ a handful of examples of high quality, polished, well supported and well documented FOSS projects out there - I will not dispute that. But to suggest they are the rule, or even common, is just pure fantasy. There's not a lot of "innovation" coming out of the FOSS community - the vast, vast majority of FOSS software projects are highly derivative, if not outright reimplementations.

It is cutting into Microsoft's oxygen supply. When $100 computers become common (the OLPC is just the leading edge of a huge tidal wave), can any consumer justify spending $500 to $1000 on Windows and Office? The answer, of course, is no.

The actual answer, of course, is that no consumer is spending $1000 on Windows and Office _today_ (or, at least, no consumer who also wouldn't be paying the same for "free" software), and certainly won't be any time in the future.

For the home market, Microsoft will happily sell Windows and Office for a dollar if that's what it takes. In the business market, up-front software cost (outside of specialised, niche programs) is an insignificantly small part of the TCO of a computer - and even there, Microsoft will be happy to drop the price significantly, or - more likely - move to the annual subscription model most commercialised OSS packages use.

The future is in the little portables like OLPC, and Linux will dominate that market.

Rubbish. Little portables like the OLPC will be too limited in functionality for most purposes.

Microsoft knows it too, which is why it has been flailing about so desperately lately.

Only in the wet dreams of the anti-Microsoft trolls, are they "flailing about".

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

Stephen Ma (163056) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455841)

"FOSS is free only if your time is worth nothing."

You haven't tried Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, the hottest Linux distro, have you? A hostile reviewer like yourself may find some flaws to carp about, but these flaws are shrinking year by year. Free software is growing up -- fast. At some point, Linux will be more than good enough for 99% of all computer users. When that happens, Microsoft will become largely irrelevant.

The actual answer, of course, is that no consumer is spending $1000 on Windows and Office _today_

That's why I said $500 - $1000. At retail prices, Windows Vista Ultimate plus Office 2007 can easily cost $800.

For the home market, Microsoft will happily sell Windows and Office for a dollar if that's what it takes. In the business market, up-front software cost (outside of specialised, niche programs) is an insignificantly small part of the TCO of a computer - and even there, Microsoft will be happy to drop the price significantly, more likely - move to the annual subscription model most commercialised OSS packages use.

So you admit that Microsoft's revenues are about to take a drastic dive, thanks to Linux. All three of your suggested countermoves by Microsoft imply a huge price cut -- and large savings by the consumer. If you are a consumer yourself, you should be gratefully thanking the free software movement for the lower prices! (And for keeping Microsoft from becoming too tyrannical.)

Besides, Linux's initial price of zero is not the only way a large business can save. By adopting Linux, a company gets off Microsoft's upgrade treadmill -- permanently. That in itself is a huge benefit.

In addition, viruses, trojans, and other malware are costing companies huge amounts of time, money, and frustration. They are sick of it, and are eager for an alternative. A more diverse software ecology is far more robust against malware than the Microsoft monoculture.

So yes, your worst nightmare will come to pass: there will be a massive migration away from Microsoft. It only takes a few to begin the change and start saving tons of money; the rest will have to follow lest they lose to their more efficient competitors.

Rubbish. Little portables like the OLPC will be too limited in functionality for most purposes.

When I wrote that OLPC is only leading the tidal wave of cheap machines, my point was that technology marches on. You can't stop it. At some point, very capable computers costing $100 or less will be standard. When that happens, Microsoft will become largely irrelevant.

Re:Call Microsoft's bluff (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19456225)

You haven't tried Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, the hottest Linux distro, have you?

Certainly have. Linux has come a long way and has a _lot_ to be thankful to Apple (and Microsoft, for that matter) about.

A hostile reviewer like yourself may find some flaws to carp about, but these flaws are shrinking year by year. Free software is growing up -- fast. At some point, Linux will be more than good enough for 99% of all computer users.

You can't displace another product by being "good enough", because there is no incentive to change. You need to be better - *much* better.

When that happens, Microsoft will become largely irrelevant.

Why ? You think they'll just give up and walk away ?

That's why I said $500 - $1000. At retail prices, Windows Vista Ultimate plus Office 2007 can easily cost $800.

And no-one pays $500, either, because the vast majority of people (outside of volume licensing agreements) who actually pay for them get their copies of Windows and Office for ca. $50 each bundled with their new computer.

So you admit that Microsoft's revenues are about to take a drastic dive, thanks to Linux.

No. It's possible they might decline a bit in the home user market, but there's no signs that Linux is going to make a sudden breakthrough there.

All three of your suggested countermoves by Microsoft imply a huge price cut -- and large savings by the consumer. If you are a consumer yourself, you should be gratefully thanking the free software movement for the lower prices! (And for keeping Microsoft from becoming too tyrannical.)

Why would I be thanking people whose influence is, at best, minor ? Added to which, quite a bit of commercial FOSS costs as much as, if not more, than Microsoft's equivalents.

Besides, Linux's initial price of zero is not the only way a large business can save. By adopting Linux, a company gets off Microsoft's upgrade treadmill -- permanently. That in itself is a huge benefit.

The "upgrade treadmill" is nothing more than anti-Microsoft FUD.

In addition, viruses, trojans, and other malware are costing companies huge amounts of time, money, and frustration. They are sick of it, and are eager for an alternative. A more diverse software ecology is far more robust against malware than the Microsoft monoculture.

The biggest hole in the system is the end user. Linux won't change that. As its market share increases, so will the malware for it - migrating to Linux might buy a couple of years, but it's a lot of money to pay for that couple of years that would be better spent on the more generic task of just running the IT infrastructure better.

So yes, your worst nightmare will come to pass: there will be a massive migration away from Microsoft.

I'm not sure why you think this is my "worst nightmare". My interests and (important) skills are platform agnostic. Windows could be displaced by Linux, OS X or even something relatively esoteric like Solaris and I'd still be quite safely - and happily - employed.

It only takes a few to begin the change and start saving tons of money; the rest will have to follow lest they lose to their more efficient competitors.

It takes a lot more than a few, and there's little to indicate they'll be saving "tons of money". A badly run Linux environment is just as expensive and unproductive as a badly run Windows environment.

Despite the torrents of wishful thinking and FUD gushing out of the FOSS community, especially over the last few months, there's little actual evidence to suggest Microsoft's market position is under any real threat from Linux. The biggest threat to Microsoft, is Microsoft.

When I wrote that OLPC is only leading the tidal wave of cheap machines, my point was that technology marches on. You can't stop it. At some point, very capable computers costing $100 or less will be standard. When that happens, Microsoft will become largely irrelevant.

Why ? What makes you think they won't be still OEMing software onto those machines like they are now onto $300 PCs ? Not to mention, when "very capable computers" hit the $100 mark, you'll have the equivalent of today's OLPC sitting down there around the $30 mark.

Congress doesn't have to make them the same (5, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451881)

The Constitution doesn't spell out the way IP has to work. Congress actually has the power to grant patents for only certain industries if it chooses to do so. Personally, that's the way I lean these days because so little seems to be new and innovative outside a select few industries. It would be perfectly fair--and legal!!--for Congress to issue 10 year patents for nanotechnology, 20 year patents for drugs and 2 year patents for software algorithms.

Software is provably not patentable...but... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19451903)

...who wants to produce the proof?

So instead we end users are forced to watch this insanity as we are prevented from doing things for ourselves that we would otherwise be able to do, as the proof would most certainly expose such a great deal of false constraints imposed upon the users that it would then be considered illegal consumer deception/fraud.

In short, proof of the non-patentability of software would in part come from non-novel and obvious solution direction of anyone within the given field, not just programmers/coders. I.E. one click online shopping.

So it must be very very clear that stories like this one are based on consumer deception continuing, rather than genuine exposure of the real problem.

 

A different threat, though (3, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452051)

Back when BillG made that comment, the primary threat to a company was another company who made things. In that environment a patent war chest is a defense: since that other company makes things, if they sue you you can search your war chest for patents they might infringe upon in return. Today, though, the primary threat is from IP holding companies. Against them, the size of your patent war chest doesn't matter. They don't make anything, they don't do anything, therefore there's nothing you can go after no matter how many patents you hold (unless you happen to be the lucky soul holding the patent on sueing people for patent infringement). I think even Microsoft is slowly coming to the realization that patents pose a greater threat to them than their value as a weapon.

Re:A different threat, though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19456599)

"Against them, the size of your patent war chest doesn't matter."

Indeed. You only need but a single patent:
"A business process to extort money from producing companies by means of patents: [...]"

Actually, a patent costs $3,650 over 12 years (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19452139)

Timothy Lee (from the Cato Institute :) )titles his piece "Patent Lie", which is very accurate because he lies about the price of a patent. See http://www.uspto.gov/go/fees/fee2007february01.htm [uspto.gov]

small entity:
basic filing fee $150
fee after 3.5yrs: $450
fee after 7.5yrs: $1150
fee after 11.5 yrs: $1,900
total: $3,650

Is $3,650 spread over 12 years an onerous charge? :)
Can you write your own patent? absolutely. I've done it 5 times.

Re:Actually, a patent costs $3,650 over 12 years (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453071)

You're missing legal advice, appeals, patent searches, fees for multiple claims...

To which countries does this apply anyway? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452159)

Of course the American Government believes software should be patentable but are there any other countries who believe in this madness?

I would normally agree, but ... (2, Interesting)

empress101 (1104503) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452197)

some companies deserve this. An example, Vonage they desearve to be taken down this way. Its as if you have little else left such as a patient war chest to put all things right. Vonage is a horrible, evil company. I experienced this personally. They adopt the same practices of other evil empires and make it nearly impossible for you to get 'excellent customer service'.

After my problems with Vonage I did some research and found countless complaints against Vonage and there deplorable behavior in there treatment of customers. Doing a simple Google or Yahoo search for complaints against Vonage and the tactics they use you find the number is overwhelming. I even found out that Vonage's membership in the BBB was revoked, because of there practices, and now along with Texas, California and other states class action lawsuits are being brought against Vonage.

In the case of Vonage it seems this is the only way to get some justice. Even if using patient war chest is not a good idea. It is made necessary, because of all the underhanded, sympathetic judges, mostly Republican, backward dealing, that goes on with these billion dollar empires to circumvent the law and take away the consumers rights.

"Evil does as evil gets"

Re:I would normally agree, but ... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453511)

Please write 10 times on the blackboard: "their".

Re:I would normally agree, but ... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455601)

You missed this one...*patent*...add it to your blackboard list.

"...patient war chest..."

Why do I picture Bart Simpson in front of a blackboard writing now?

We need Gates' idea from 1991 (2, Insightful)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#19452327)

Someone has to patent something almost necessary. And sadly this isn't even "life threatening" We already have patents on treatments and no one really cares that they cost a lot of money, what we need is a patent on an everyday occurrence. Driving, walking, sitting, breathing something that we can't live with out but we expect to have. Then get the patent holder to litigate to the point you can never do it with out paying them some exorbitant feet. Only then will people understand why patent law is wrong.

I've commonly pointed out that if the hammer was patented any other idiot could make hammers but they would be forced not to. However even that doesn't sell people on why patents are useless because people also see a need for patents. What needs to happen is people to realize exactly what can be patented, and how much you can charge for the use of a patent. We don't need to make them worthless, but litigation over them is easy because you don't have to make your patent available at a reasonable course, and you can infringe on a patent with out realizing it.

techliberation and a grain of salt. (1, Interesting)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453375)

I like what Lee says about pattents but the Communist era graphics are offensive. Mass murder [rotten.com] was committed under posters like that and many of the victims are still alive. Free software is NOT communism because software and ideas are not property, so the imagery is inappropriate to begin with.

Oh wait, look "WHERE WE WORK"

  • Association for Competitive Technology
  • Cato Institute
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Freedom Works
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Mercatus Center
  • Pacific Research Institute
  • Progress and Freedom Foundation

A large grain of salt should be taken when reading their stuff. When the Cato Institute brings out yellow stars on red backgrounds, they are usually flaming someone.

Other people [gnu.org] have also written about the dangers of software patents from a more fundamental perspective. It's not enough to say that software patents can be economically harmful because they are also morally and legally wrong. If we apply tests like that, we can avoid the financial harms later. When we don't we end up where we are.

Re:techliberation and a grain of salt. (2, Interesting)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453683)

Mass murder was committed under posters like that and many of the victims are still alive.


Even for you, twit(ter) that is a pretty bold self-contradictory sentence.

karma whoring and a grain of salt (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453879)

Really twitter, you had nothing of value to say about the article, so you decided you feel "offended" by a banner with some faux socialist image, you linked to rotten.com (!) and then you started making paranoid connections between this blog and thinktanks you happen to dislike. And where the heck do you get the association between that website and "free software is not communism"?

Other people have also

So anyone outside of the FSF that writes about patents should be automatically dismissed, correct?

A large grain of salt should be taken when reading their stuff

No kidding.

You have to realize... (4, Interesting)

nsebban (513339) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453559)

Microsoft was already a big company in 1991. I don't think this can be called a "change of heart". It's closer to an "adaptation to the market", because they're not the only company to patent a wide range of processes and concepts, and because that's basically related to their business, as unfair and stupid as it seems. The problem is with patents and the patents laws, not with the companies who ask for them and obtain them. You won't fix that problem by forbidding Microsoft or Verizon or any big company from obtaining more patents, but by changing the policies of the patent office.

The American dream (4, Insightful)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453607)

I love this aspect of American. We turn a blind eye to government policies that obviously favors the wealthy and the corporation at the expense of everyone else. Why? Because one of these day now, we might become rich and famous. It is the American dream that we are protecting...Same with patent. The current law might be flawed, but it favors patent holder. Maybe one of these days, I'll also hold a patent that's obvious but somehow worth millions!

how ironic (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 7 years ago | (#19453797)

"some large company will patent some obvious thing" and use the patent to "take as much of our profits as they want."

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=microsoft+%22 another+patent%22 [google.com]

The Indians call this "speaking with a forked toungue". I wonder how they say "fuck you, bill" in Commanche.

Re:how ironic (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455017)

bl8n8r said:

I wonder how they say "fuck you, bill" in Commanche.

Since "fuck you" is an idiomatic expletive that cannot be translated, I'm pretty sure they'd just say "Fuck you, Bill."

But the best way to say it is Apache ;^)

--

Toro

good thing MS can buy patents (1)

juan2074 (312848) | more than 7 years ago | (#19454123)

When did MS start inventing stuff?

Microsoft blah blah blah (2, Interesting)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455025)

First of all, Steve Ballmer needs to shut the fuck up. There that felt better. In addition, I would remind everyone that Microsoft got where it is today by profiting from cloned versions of IBMs "BIOS".

Regardless of what Microsoft's escaped zoo animals say, it has absolutely no interest in interoperability, their interest is to remain the only desktop and server software vendor, and NOTHING else.

I would also suggest that open source developers don't actually need Microsoft's help or money, but if Microsoft wants to help they can grant patent rights to implementations of NTFS or SMB, including modifications and all future users of those modifications. Those are valid patents I'm sure, the rest is invalid, you can't patent universal ideas.

Was it an epiphany (2, Insightful)

p.gogarty (684488) | more than 7 years ago | (#19455121)

Do you suppose when Bill though "'some large company will patent some obvious thing' and use it to blackmail smaller companies" it was one of those evil moments of clarity, like when L. Ron Hubbard thought "The way to make real money is to invent a religion".

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