Microsoft: Patents Are About Sharing, Not FUD

from the sounds-like-FUD-to-me dept

Last month, Microsoft went on the offensive in playing up its patent portfolio in an attempt to scare other companies into agreeing to licensing deals. This showed a complete flip-flop from Bill Gates' own words from the early '90s about how innovation is stifled by patents. It seemed to only underscore the idea that patents are used not to encourage innovation, but to protect legacy business models against innovation. Now, Microsoft's deputy general counsel is trying to spin the patent story in a nice, fuzzy way to make us think that patents are all about sharing. This guy came to Microsoft after 20 years at IBM, the company that famously threatened employees at a young Sun by saying: "We have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

Anyway, his claim is that patents are fantastic because they let multiple companies share in the wealth. As he says: "We used to define competitive advantage as 'I've got and you don't.' Or 'You've got it, but I got better.' Well, today it's 'You got it and I got it, but I make money when you use it.'" That would be nice, if true, but it ignores reality. The reality is that those patents aren't for unique or novel ideas, but for broad and obvious ones, and when you bundle all of those ideas into a patent thicket it makes any additional innovation prohibitively expensive. It's not, as he says "you got it and I got it, but I make money when you use it," but, rather, "you may have figured out what consumers want, but you still owe me and 17 other patent holders money every time you use it, even if you figured it out entirely outside of our patents -- and now the product is too expensive for any consumers to want to buy anyway." That's not quite as pithy, I'll admit, but it's a lot more accurate.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2007 @ 6:33pm

    Sharing

    Sure it's about sharing. M$ sharing your money that is.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2007 @ 6:49pm

    Patents could be about sharing... The problem is that we live in a capitalistic society, not a communistic one, and so patents are instead about raping consumers and corporations alike.

     

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    ehrichweiss, Jun 29th, 2007 @ 8:20pm

    it IS

    It is like sharing not FUD..... just like the RIAA says music is about sharing, not lawsuits.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 1:24am

    Patents are too long

    for the fast moving world of IT. Theey were designed to have been writtern off before a new innovation came along. This happended in a precomupter world, and still does in some lines of industry.

     

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    Mitch the bitch, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 8:49am

    Immersion Corp is the Devil

    Just look at recent history.

    Immersion Corp sues Microsoft and Sony over a patent that is beyond belief. Any device that connects to a computer and the screen moves in "conjunction" with that device is under this patent (unfuckingbelievable).

    Immersion's Lawyers got it all. MS and Sony sue Immersion. MS drops the lawsuit for just the reason mentioned above. MS can PAY the exorbinate license fee's while most cannot thus giving MS exclusivity through proxy.

    In the meantime us gamers have suffered through YEARS and YEARS of a HORRIBLE "effect" technology rammed down our throats by lawyers and scumbag Corporations. Anyone (myself included) can not give gamers a better force feedback solution/system due to this over-bearing outragously broad patent and the associated expense.

    Ive tried to hire a lawyer but the cost would bankrupt anyone but a Corp like MS.

    Am I the only pone that can see what this has done to innovation? It's pretty clear were using the exact same crap technology now as we were the day the patent was granted. Innovation at its best eh?

    The last thing WE need are Corps "sharing" amongst themselves. We and up with nothing and the fatcats drive home in Lomborgini's.

     

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    Comicfan, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    A government onto themselves

    Let's face it, large corporations act as their own governments. When is it fair that eg...MS can run peopleother smaller companies through the mud, who can stand up to them? It's about how much money you have, not justice. As well, big business is just a branch of government these days, they do as they please, imagine if we could uncover all the illegal crap they do? They have it well hidden is all and money to make it all happen. The patents are simply an extension of a Monopoly or rather, an under lying means or tool to do this. Monopolizing is not supposed to be, yet, there are many ways around this. Once again, you got the bucks, you can do anything. Until money holds no power, all this garbage will continue.

     

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    brwyatt, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 5:30pm

    hum...

    OK, what patents are supposed to do (protect IP rights) is fine, and I don't have a problem with paying royalties for using someones idea in their product. I have no problem with that general thought, but when there are so many stupid patents for things that are either common sense or have been used for years (like whoever was trying to patent the technique used for AJAX, which was around long before the WEB 2.0 thing)... or how about all this bs about not just companies trying to collect, but also those who were trying to hide that they were using it! I think all corporate America needs is some honesty and common sense, that should fix most of the patent problems, and the rest can easily be fixed/revised.

     

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    Brandon Watts, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 6:37pm

    Patent Confusion

    The patent situation has become deplorable. No matter how small and uncomplicated your creation may be, there always seems to be a number of concepts that you would consider to be common knowledge and for general use that have been patented, and this ruins innovation for everyone - especially the small guy/company.

    Brandon Watts
    Criteo Evangelist

     

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    Bucur Mihai, Jul 1st, 2007 @ 3:44am

    cum o cheama pe fiimea

    pe fiimea o cheama misha

     

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    Harry Liston, Jul 2nd, 2007 @ 6:47am

    Software patents

    Just owning a patent is not supposed to grant a company automatic rights - it has to be proven in court. But since it rarely comes down to this, big companies like to beef up their war chests to intimidate their competition.

    I don't think we have a lot to fear from M$ since they are held in check by other big companies that have patent infringement cases they could spring on them. It's these little patent holding companies (like SCO) that can really stir the pot! Why? Because they have nothing to lose.

     

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