Summary: Promotional patents on ideas that are neither new nor particularly revolutionary, courtesy of Microsoft of course
This post is not about "Public Relations" (PR) or the patents that Microsoft's PR department (Waggener Edstrom) obtains on AstroTurfing-related methods. It is about Microsoft 'fan press' hyping up Microsoft’s attempt to monopolise old electromyography-based ideas. As Rupert Goodwins (ZDNet) put it several months ago, Microsoft Research is about marketing/PR. And as Jessica Sterling sarcastically puts it, “let’s patent it to slow any potential innovation!”
Microsoft — like Edison — wants to gain another monopoly on ideas (or small variation of them) that may already exist and no single person claims ownership of (it probably goes back to the nineteens if not the eighties, just like touchscreens). This time it’s the idea that muscular/vascular activity can trigger some action rather than motion that goes beyond pulses. OpenBytes explains why this is problematic without discussing the lack of novelty.
So lets see why some people think like this. Its being reported that Microsoft is pushing a “new” innovation. Now before you all groan or start checking to see if a MS third party has used some of your code, lets have a look at what I think is a truly frightening vision of the future involving Microsoft.
It is not as though Microsoft really honours patents, as the i4i case has hopefully taught everyone [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. Software patents just don't apply to Microsoft. Moreover, the i4i case may not be over yet.
…Updegrove suggests two ways this “fight” will come to an end: First, i4i may still be willing to settle “if the offer is high enough.” Or, if the version of Microsoft Word sold on Jan. 11 does not meet i4i’s expectations in terms of non-infringement, the case could be back in court.
Oracle — unlike Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] — does not seem to be using its patents against Free software. This is why Microsoft is so often discussed in the context of patents. It’s not a fixation, and those who ignore the problem with Microsoft’s obsession (with patents) will not magically make this problem go away. █