EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.27.08

Microsoft Open Sores (May Contain Patents)

Posted in Asia, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 5:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

T

o demonstrate the generality of software patents, consider this new find which relates to the description of a hierarchical (i.e. tree-based) filesystem structure as — wait for it — a tree! Yes, that’s a patent in the United States and it’s owned by Microsoft Corporation, the ‘innovative’ powerhouse that thought about representing a filing system as a tree, never mind prior art like Norton Commander which I personally used long before Windows 3.1 even debuted.

Remember the Tree-View mode in many file management applications? It’s shocking to know that this omnipresent feature was patented by Microsoft back in 1995 (granted in 1997). I’m not very sure about the implications, though. The patent is so general that it can be related to many things from tree-mode to virtual filesystems. Check out claim no. 3 of the patent for the most clear part.

If this is representative of the quality of Microsoft’s patents, then it’s clear that they should be trivial to have re-examined and then trashed. According to an article published at OSCON, Microsoft is not worried about open source patents, but let’s take a closer look at the context in which this was claimed.

One of the funniest exchanges between Ramji and the OSCON audience was the following:

“Do you feel like you’re screwing a porcupine and you’re one prick against thousands?” the OSCON audience member asked Ramji.

Ramji politely replied:

“It takes time to change and I knew that I’d be unpopular when I took this job…”

In other words, software patents are not his concern, but he was merely assigned to stand up there and smile in order for Microsoft to enter open source conferences, mitigate criticism in this way, and make preparations for future legal action, if not just some more threats and extortion.

“To Microsoft, it’s nothing but a strategic marketing ploy.”In essence, Ramji is the equivalent of a dunce entertaining an evil emperor and acting innocent because never personally issues an order to attack. He believes (or wants to believe) that it’ll keep conscience clear while he’s making lots of money and by all means helping Microsoft’s fight against Free software. Bill Hilf has already run away from this position and so did Martin Taylor. You can’t buy forgiveness and remorse by just swapping heads forever. They all inherit the same burden and guilt.

Ramji too should realise that obeying commands “from above” makes his equally guilty and after last year’s unsubstantiated smears against tens of thousands of developers, his hands are equally red. To Microsoft, it’s nothing but a strategic marketing ploy [1, 2, 3].

Having already surrendered to Microsoft, the OSI has to be more polite. It’s skeptical nonetheless.

As to the DMCA and so-called Trusted Computing, I think that the SE Linux project has made it pretty clear that one can build a secure operating system without resorting to secrets at the implementation or interoperability level.

In this new post, the OSI is asking Microsoft to help abolish software patents and also fight the DMCA. Are they dreaming? Tim, who wrote this post, works at Red Hat, which was attacked by what turns out to be a Microsoft-connected patent troll (at least one of them). Red Hat has posted this update on the situation.

Since the settlement of the Firestar lawsuit last month, we’ve been asked to explain why Red Hat settled the case, rather than fighting to invalidate the patent at issue in the lawsuit. The news some days back that the Patent Office had issued an initial, non-final action rejecting the claims in a re-examination of the same patent has inspired similar questions. Here are our thoughts.

[...]

But as Groklaw reported last week, the ‘502 patent “isn’t knocked out yet.” This office action is just an initial step in a proceeding that is far from final. The patent holder will probably argue to the examiner that the patent is valid over the prior art, a process that may repeat itself many times during the course of the re-exam.

For Microsoft to give up patent plot against FOSS, the solution needs to come (be imposed) from above. Having recently recognised some serious questions, the USPTO seems just a tad wobbly on software patents. To use its own words:

Computer programs are often recited as part of a claim. USPTO personnel should determine whether the computer program is being claimed as part of an otherwise statutory manufacture or machine. In such a case, the claim remains statutory irrespective of the fact that a computer program is included in the claim. The same result occurs when a computer program is used in a computerized process where the computer executes the instructions set forth in the computer program. Only when the claimed invention taken as a whole is directed to a mere program listing, i.e., to only its description or expression, is it descriptive material per se and hence nonstatutory.

Since a computer program is merely a set of instructions capable of being executed by a computer, the computer program itself is not a process and USPTO personnel should treat a claim for a computer program, without the computer-readable medium needed to realize the computer program’s functionality, as nonstatutory functional descriptive material. When a computer program is claimed in a process where the computer is executing the computer program’s instructions, USPTO personnel should treat the claim as a process claim. ** When a computer program is recited in conjunction with a physical structure, such as a computer memory, USPTO personnel should treat the claim as a product claim. **

Europe should be careful too, not just India. The patent trolls and their junk/software patents gradually cross the Atlantic. Seen a few days ago: [via Digital Majority]

A firm tries to patent online wish lists in Europe. Shall we stop them?

The patent No. 6,917,941, appears to cover the invention of creating a list of things in a database. It was issued in July 2005 (sometime after wish lists were invented on the Internet I believe) and defendants include a long list of startups like On My List, Remember The Milk, WishList and Zlio. Channel Intelligence is not suing Amazon or Ebay, probably because these are large companies which would send Channel Intelligence packing.

Making a living using pieces of paper is not the same thing is making a living writing programs. Some selfish people try to change the rules.

“There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.”

Bill Gates

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 26/4/2015: Debian 8, OpenMandriva Lx 3 Alpha, Mageia 5 RC

    Links for the day



  2. Links 25/4/2015: Debian LTS Plans, Turing Phone Runs Linux

    Links for the day



  3. Who Kills Yahoo? It's Microsoft, Not Yahoo!

    The media should blame Microsoft, not Marissa Mayer, for what's going on (and has been going on for 7 years) at Yahoo!



  4. EPO Management is Trying Hard to Appease Its Critics While Pushing Forth Unitary Patent Agenda

    The European Patent Office and European Commission promote the agenda of large multinational corporations (at the expense or European citizens) and critics are being kept at bay



  5. Real Patent Reform Will Not Come From Biggest Backers of GNU/Linux, Not Even Google

    A look at the 'new' Google, the company which is hoarding patents (2,566 last year alone) instead of fighting for reform



  6. Microsoft's Troll Intellectual Ventures Loses Software Patents

    Intellectual Ventures is bluffing with software patents, but this time around it doesn't get its way



  7. Links 24/4/2015: Ubuntu and Variants in the News, Red Hat Developer Toolset 3.1

    Links for the day



  8. Links 23/4/2015: Ubuntu 15.04 is Out, Debian 8.0 Out Very Soon

    Links for the day



  9. Links 22/4/2015: Fedora 22 Beta, Atlassian Acquires BlueJimp

    Links for the day



  10. The Dying Debate Over Patent Scope (Including Software Patents) Replaced by 'Trolls' (But Not the Biggest Ones)

    The corporate media and Web sites or people who are funded by large corporations have essentially suppressed any debate about issues in the patent granting process, thereby guarding software patents and preventing criticism of large corporations' power grab



  11. The Patents Gold Rush Continues

    The morbid obsession with monopolising mere ideas still dominates the media, even increasingly in China



  12. 9 Millionth US Patent Tells a Story of Failure and USPTO Misconduct

    The USPTO, much like FISA (notorious court for surveillance/espionage authorisation), has become a rubber-stamping operation rather than a patents examination centre, as new evidence and old evidence serve to show



  13. HBO Helps Shift Debate Over Patents to 'Trolls' (Scale), Not Scope

    More of that awkward shifting of the patent debate towards small actors who are misusing patents, not large conglomerates like Apple and Microsoft which use patents to destroy competitors, crush startups, drive up prices, and so on



  14. Software Patents Are Still Menacing to Free Software: OIN Expands Scope, HEVC Adds to MPEG-LA Burden/Tax, Google and Facebook Give in on Patents

    A look at recent news about software patents and especially Free/libre software, which is inherently incompatible with them



  15. The Latest Developments Around Microsoft's Clever Attack on Android/Linux

    Microsoft's campaign of destruction, extortion, etc. against the most widely used Linux-powered operating system is revisited in light of new reports



  16. The Microsoft 'Community' is Maligning the Free Software Community

    Dishonest generalisations and baseless deductions portray the Free/Open Source software communities as a nasty place that leads to poverty and despair



  17. Googlebombing 'Microsoft Open Source' Even When Microsoft Shuts Down Its 'Open Source' Proxy

    A massive failure by the press to cover the most basic news, which is Microsoft putting an end to a supposedly 'Open Source' effort



  18. Links 22/4/2015: Calculate Linux 14.16, SparkyLinux 4.0 RC KDE

    Links for the day



  19. Links 21/4/2015: Project Photon, Ubuntu Touch Buzz

    Links for the day



  20. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish: How Microsoft Plans to Get Rid of Linux/Android

    Microsoft's sheer abuse against Android is laying bare for everyone to see now that Microsoft has paralysed Google's legal department with potential antitrust action in Europe



  21. Yahoo's Current CEO (Mayer, Formerly of Google) is Trying to End Yahoo! Status as Microsoft Proxy

    There are signs of relinquishing Microsoft's control over Yahoo! after Marissa Mayer worked to end the company's suicidal/abusive relationship with Steve Ballmer's Microsoft



  22. Repeating Microsoft's Lies Without Any Journalistic Assessment

    Poor fact-checking by relatively large media/news sites results in Microsoft's patently false claims being repeated uncritically



  23. Links 19/4/2015: New KaOS (2015.04), Manjaro Linux 0.8.13 Pre1

    Links for the day



  24. Links 18/4/2015: ExTiX 15.2, RaspArch

    Links for the day



  25. Microsoft Tired of Pretending to be Nice to Free/Open Source Software (FOSS), Microsoft 'Open' Technologies Dumped

    Microsoft dumps its proxy (misleadingly named 'Open Tech') and other attacks on Free software persist from the inside, often through so-called 'experts' whose agenda is to sell proprietary software



  26. More Translations of French Article About the EPO

    German and Dutch translations of the Le Monde article are now available



  27. Links 17/4/2015: Wipro and the Netherlands Want FOSS

    Links for the day



  28. Microsoft's Multi-Dimensional Assault on Android/Linux: Extortion, Lobbying of Regulators, and Bribes

    Microsoft's vicious war on Linux (and Android in its current incarnation) takes more sophisticated -- albeit illegal (as per the RICO Act) -- forms



  29. Microsoft's Plot to Associate Windows with 'Open Source' is Proving Effective, Despite Being Just a Big Lie

    A look at the latest headlines which can lead to a false perception that Microsoft is now in bed with 'Open Source'



  30. Microsoft Windows Remotely Crashed, Remotely Hijacked, But Still No Logo and No Branding for the Bugs

    Windows maintains its reputation as a back doors haven, but the media is still not highlighting the severity of this issue, instead focusing on accidental bugs in Free software, even very old (and already fixed) bugs


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts