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. Weaponising Russophobia Against One's Critics

    Response to smears and various whispering campaigns whose sole purpose is to deplete the support base for particular causes and people; these sorts of things have gotten out of control in recent years



  2. When the EPO is Run by Politicians It's Expected to Be Aggressive and Corrupt Like Purely Political Establishments

    António 'Photo Op' Campinos will have marked his one-year anniversary in July; he has failed to demonstrate morality, respect for the law, understanding of the sciences, leadership by example and even the most basic honesty (he lies a lot)



  3. Links 16/6/2019: Tmax OS and New Features for KDE.org

    Links for the day



  4. Stuffed/Stacked Panels Sent Back Packing After One-Sided Patent Hearings That Will Convince Nobody, Just Preach to the Choir

    Almost a week ago the 'world tour' of patent lobbyists in US Senate finally ended; it was an utterly ridiculous case study in panel stacking and bribery (attempts to buy laws)



  5. 2019 H1: American Software Patents Are as Worthless as They Were Last Year and Still Susceptible to Invalidation

    With a fortnight left before the second half of the year it seems evident that software patents aren't coming back; the courts have not changed their position at all



  6. As European Patent Office Management Covers up Collapse in Patent Quality Don't Expect UPC to Ever Kick Off

    It would be madness to allow EPO-granted patents to become 'unitary' (bypassing sovereignty of nations that actually still value patent quality); it seems clear that rogue EPO management has, in effect, not only doomed UPC ambitions but also European Patents (or their perceived legitimacy, presumption of validity)



  7. António Campinos -- Unlike His Father -- Engages in Imperialism (Using Invalid Patents)

    Despite some similarities to his father (not positive similarities), António Campinos is actively engaged in imperialistic agenda that defies even European law; the EPO not only illegally grants patents but also urges other patent offices to do the same



  8. António Campinos Takes EPO Waste and Corruption to Unprecedented Levels and Scale

    The “B” word (billions) is thrown around at Europe’s second-largest institution because a mischievous former EUIPO chief (not Archambeau) is ‘partying’ with about half of the EPO’s all-time savings, which are supposed to be reserved for pensions and other vital programmes, not presidential palaces and gambling



  9. Links 15/6/2019: Astra Linux in Russia, FreeBSD 11.3 RC

    Links for the day



  10. Code of Conduct Explained: Partial Transcript - August 10th, 2018 - Episode 80, The Truth About Southeast Linuxfest

    "Ask Noah" and the debate on how a 'Code of Conduct' is forcibly imposed on events



  11. Links 14/6/2019: Xfce-Related Releases, PHP 7.4.0 Alpha

    Links for the day



  12. The EPO is a Patent Troll's Wet Dream

    The makers of software and games in Europe will have to spend a lot of money just keeping patent trolls off their backs — a fact that seems to never bother EPO management because it profits from it



  13. EPO Spreading Patent Extremists' Ideology to the Whole World, Now to South Korea

    The EPO’s footprint around the world's patent systems is an exceptionally dangerous one; The EPO amplifies the most zealous voices of the patents and litigation ‘industry’ while totally ignoring the views and interests of the European public, rendering the EPO an ‘agent of corporate occupation’



  14. Guest Post: Notes on Free Speech, and a Line in the Sand

    We received this anonymous letter and have published it as a follow-up to "Reader's Claim That Rules Similar to the Code of Conduct (CoC) Were 'Imposed' on LibrePlanet and the FSF"



  15. Links 13/6/2019: CERN Dumps Microsoft, GIMP 2.10.12 Released

    Links for the day



  16. Links 12/6/2019: Mesa 19.1.0, KDE neon 5.16, Endless OS 3.6.0 and BackBox Linux 6

    Links for the day



  17. Leaked Financial 'Study' Document Shows EPO Management and Mercer Engaging in an Elaborate “Hoax”

    How the European Patent Office (EPO) lies to its own staff to harm that staff; thankfully, the staff isn't easily fooled and this whole affair will merely obliterate any remnants of "benefit of the doubt" the President thus far enjoyed



  18. Measuring Patent Quality and Employer Quality in Europe

    Comparing the once-famous and respected EPO to today's joke of an office, which grants loads of bogus patents on just about anything including fruit and mathematics



  19. Granting More Fundamentally Wrong Patents Will Mean Reduced Certainty, Not Increased Certainty

    Law firms that are accustomed to making money from low-quality and abstract patents try to overcome barriers by bribing politicians; this will backfire because they show sheer disregard for the patent system's integrity and merely lower the legal certainty associated with granted (by greedy offices) patents



  20. Links 11/6/2019: Wine 4.10, Plasma 5.16

    Links for the day



  21. Chapter 10: Moving Forward -- Getting the Best Results From Open Source With Your Monopoly

    “the gradual shift in public consciousness from their branding towards our own, is the next best thing to owning them outright.”



  22. Chapter 9: Ownership Through Branding -- Change the Names, and Change the World

    The goal for those fighting against Open source, against the true openness (let's call it the yet unexploited opportunities) of Open source, has to be first to figuratively own the Linux brand, then literally own or destroy the brand, then to move the public awareness of the Linux brand to something like Azure, or whatever IBM is going to do with Red Hat.



  23. Links 10/6/2019: VLC 3.0.7, KDE Future Plans

    Links for the day



  24. Patent Quality Continues to Slip in Europe and We Know Who Will Profit From That (and Distract From It)

    The corporate media and large companies don't speak about it (like Red Hat did before entering a relationship with IBM), but Europe is being littered and saturated with a lot of bogus software patents -- abstract patents that European courts would almost certainly throw out; this utter failure of the media to do journalism gets exploited by the "big litigation" lobby and EPO management that's granting loads of invalid European Patents (whose invalidation goes underreported or unreported in the media)



  25. Corporate Front Groups Like OIN and the Linux Foundation Need to Combat Software Patents If They Really Care About Linux

    The absurdity of having groups that claim to defend Linux but in practice defend software patents, if not actively then passively (by refusing to comment on this matter)



  26. Links 9/6/2019: Arrest of Microsoft Peter, Linux 5.2 RC4, Ubuntu Touch Update

    Links for the day



  27. Chapter 8: A Foot in the Door -- How to Train Sympathetic Developers and Infiltrate Other Projects

    How to train sympathetic developers and infiltrate other projects



  28. Chapter 7: Patent War -- Use Low-Quality Patents to Prove That All Software Rips Off Your Company

    Patents in the United States last for 20 years from the time of filing. Prior to 1994, the patent term was 17 years from when the patent was issued.



  29. The Linux Foundation in 2019: Over 100 Million Dollars in Income, But Cannot Maintain Linux.com?

    Today’s Linux Foundation gets about 0.1 billion dollars per year (as explained in our previous post), so why can’t it spend about 0.1% of that money on people who write for and maintain a site that actually promotes GNU/Linux?



  30. Microsoft and Proprietary Software Vendors a Financial Boon for the Linux Foundation, But at What Cost?

    The Linux Foundation is thriving financially, but the sources of income are diversified to the point where the Linux Foundation is actually funded by foes of Linux, defeating the very purpose or direction of such a nonprofit foundation (led by self-serving millionaires who don't use GNU/Linux)


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

Recent Posts