James Love on Wed, 24 Feb 1999 20:58:52 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> PATNEWS: How unethical are Microsoft's IP practices?

     [orig to RANDOM-BITS <random-bits@essential.org>]

This (including the title) is from Gregory Aharonian's widely read 
newsletter on patents.  Jamie

Subject:  PATNEWS: How unethical are Microsoft's IP practices?
     Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 03:04:59 -0500
    From: srctran@world.std.com (Gregory Aharonian)
 Reply-To: patent-news@world.std.com
      To: patent-news@world.std.com

!19990223  How unethical are Microsoft's IP practices?

    A fair amount of controversy has arisen over the PTO's issuance of a
patent to Microsoft for style sheets, patent 5,860,073.  What is upsetting
many people is that Microsoft did not inform the World Wide Web Consortium
that the company was seeking a patent on a technology that the W3C was
adopting.  Additionally, as many have point out, the technique of template
style sheets has been around since the 1970s, which would have greatly
affectly the outcome of the issued patent had any of this prior art been
considered by the PTO examiner.  Of course, with filthy rich Microsoft
exhibiting its usual contempt for the patent system by refusing to do a
serious prior art search for the patent, the examiner did not have the
luxury of being able to examine this prior art.

    One group, the Web Standards Project, for a while was pressing the
Patent Office to reexamine the patent.  But they have backed off because
Microsoft announced that it would freely and widely license the patent.
I am afraid these people have been suckered in by deceptive promises from 
Microsoft.  Monday's New York Times patent column has a few quotes showing
so. First Thomas Reardon, a Microsoft program manager who is the company's
W3C representative, was quoted as saying "We're saying, 'It doesn't really
matter what the patent says, you can have it'", which if nothing else is one
of the few times a large corporation will honestly reveal its contempt for
the patent system.  If it doesn't matter what the patent says, it shouldn't
have been issued in the first place.  On the other hand, if Microsoft
actually did invent something novel and unobvious, then it should demand
whatever it wants and screw the W3C.  But not this "we got a patent on 
something that doesn't matter" - save that for the biotech companies
seeking EST patents.

    However, watch out for the left hook, after being lightly jabbed with
the right hand.  In return for its magnanimous generosity, companies so
using Microsoft's patent must grant Microsoft a reciprocal license for
any related technology.  "We're not going to give something for free and
then be held hostage by somebody we just gave to", Mr. Reardon said.

    No No No, Mr. Reardon. You have no right to demand anything in the
first place because Microsoft didn't honestly seek out a quality patent.
The non-patent prior art search done for the patent application was
pathetic, which is inexcusable for a company with Microsoft's resources.
$100,000,000,000 valued Microsoft can't afford $1,000 to obtain quality?
I can't even believe that Microsoft, in the midst of an federal antitrust
case for abusing its clout, gives the FTC another example of that abuse -
asserting a patent that was obtained unethically (and please - no comments
from lawyers who defend the current nonsense and argue that since Microsoft
didn't violate the incredibly weak search requirements of current patent
prosecution laws [i.e. Rule 56 is toilet paper], it didn't act unethically).
That is laughable to those skilled-in-the-art.

    This patent, and many others, is a good example of the dangers of a
Patent Office oblivious to the effects of the poor quality software patents
it is issuing in the thousands.  Too many of these patents are ending up in
the hands of large companies that can use their clout to make demands (like
this reciprocal license request) that are illegitimate.  The PTO's guilt is
even worse when it lends PTO credibility to the same fraudulent Software
Patent Institute controlled and rendered impotent by these same large
companies, an organization whose main task supposedly was to help solve
the problem that these companies' abuse - the PTO's inability to handle
non-patent prior art for software patent applications.  Even in my best
drunken stupor, I could not create such a fiction - any yet it is reality.

    So I suggest the Web committees resume their pressure on the PTO to
reexamine this patent, and the FTC to take a closer look at Microsoft's
IP practices as part of its antitrust case - like hauling Mr. Reardon into
court.  But please, Microsoft the aggrieved victim defensively asserting
a patent?

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service


Five patent recently issued to Microsoft citing an inadequate amount of
non-patent prior art, given the large volume of such art for each of the
following software technology areas.

United States Patent   5,862,362      
Network failure simulator 
A network failure simulation tool provides simulation of a network failure
suitable for automated software testing under software control. The tool
intercepts packets being sent or received by a computer on a network by
redirecting the packets from a network I/O architecture to substitute packet
handlers. The tool also resumes normal network operation by again directing
packets through actual packet handlers of the computer's network I/O
architecture. Commands are provided for controlling suspension and resumption
of network operation by the tool from an automated software testing program. 
                             Non-Patent References
  Sidhu, et al., Inside Apple Talk(^).RTM., 1989, pp. B-3; B-17; B-18. 

United States Patent   5,862,337      
Determining throughput dynamically 
Data transfers across a computer data connection are timed to measure the
throughput of the connection. A counter in a computer system is updated to
account for each measurement and the counter's value is checked to determine
whether to allow the system's background tasks to operate. 
                             Non-Patent References
  Shirley, John and Rosenberry, Ward, "Microsoft RPC Programming Guide",
      O'Reilly & Associates, 1995. 
  Kramer, Matt, "Baranof's MailCheck 2.6 Delivers Improved Tools", PC Week,
      Sep. 11, 1995, Ziff-Davis Publishing Company 1995. 
  Frenkel, Gary, "cc:Mail View Keeps an Eye on Your Messaging System",
      Network Computing, Jun. 1, 1995, CMP Publications, Inc., 1995. 

United States Patent   5,852,441      
Shell extensions for an operating system 
An operating system provides extensions through which application developers
may extend the capabilities of a shell of the operating system. For example,
application developers may add menu items to context menus for objects that
are visible within an integrated system name space. In addition, developers
may add property sheet pages for such objects. Application developers also
have the option of providing per-instance icons for each instance of an
object. Application developers may provide data object extension handlers for
customizing data sources on a per-object class basis and may provide drop
target extension handlers on a per-object class basis to customize drop target
behavior. Developers may additionally provide copy-hook handlers to regulate
file system operations on objects. Developers may also extend the
functionality provided by the shell of the operating system by adding their
own custom name spaces to the integrated system name space. The mechanism
provided by the operating system to add such a name space is polymorphic and
transparent to users. 
                             Non-Patent References

United States Patent   5,845,273     
Method and apparatus for integrating multiple indexed files 
A system for integrating multiple indexed files and searching the resulting
integrated indexed file. An indexed core content file, which includes a core
keyword list containing core keywords, can be updated with update keywords of
an update content file. The update content file is accessed and, in response,
a virtual keyword list is generated. The virtual keyword list, which contains
update keywords and core keywords, is created by determining a position for
inserting each update keyword within the core keyword list and positions for
each core keyword affected by the insertion of update keywords. An index
mapping table is created for tracking the positions of the update keywords and
the core keywords within the virtual keyword list. The index mapping table
maps the positions of the update keywords within the virtual keyword list to
the update keywords within the update content file and maps the positions of
the core keywords within the virtual keyword list to the core keywords
within the core keyword list. 
                             Non-Patent References

United States Patent   5,838,320      
Method and system for scrolling through data 
An improved method and system for scrolling through data are provided. An
image viewer is used in conjunction with a scroll bar to allow a user to
preview which image will be displayed next on a display device. The scroll
bar includes a scroll box which may occupy any of several positions within
the scroll bar. When a user grabs the scroll box using a mouse, or other
pointer-positioning device, the image viewer displays an image corresponding
to the position of the scroll box within the scroll bar. As the user drags the
scroll box to different positions within the scroll bar, different images are
displayed within the image viewer. When the user drops the scroll box, the
final image displayed in the image viewer is displayed on the display device. 
                             Non-Patent References
  Mills, Michael et al., "A Magnifier Tool for Video Data," Abstract,
      ACM Conference, pp. 93-98, May 3, 1992. 
James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
I can be reached at love@cptech.org, by telephone 202.387.8030,
by fax at 202.234.5176. CPT web page is http://www.cptech.org
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