Microsoft's Patent On GPU-Accelerated Video Encoding

from the well-that's-not-very-nice dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in the news that Microsoft has received a patent (7,813,570) on a method of GPU-accelerated video encoding. As some are pointing out, this broad patent appears to cover what many other companies are already doing. Once again, this should raise two key questions: if so many companies were already doing this, doesn't it suggest this was the obvious progression of the technology, and thus making it unpatentable? And, second, if so many companies were already in this space, doesn't it suggest that the incentives to build this kind of technology were already provided by the market, absent of the additional, market-limiting, incentives of the patent system?


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 12:34am

    Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    This patent is not novel. It is also obvious. It is a classic case of a junk patent. It is yet another instance of the USPTO saying, "See what we can do! You cannot stop us! Nyah! Nyah!"

    The junk patent problem will always be with us. While ever the offense of patent infringement stays on the books, the US court system will have its time wasted and the US economy will be damaged. However, there is a perfectly simple fix, get rid of patent infringement. How long do you want the USPTO and the patent trolls to get away with it?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 12:51am

    This strategy will work for a while. See Halloween Documents

    Really Microsoft? We all know that the USPTO is moronic, but at this rate, it won't be long until a patent is granted for "a method of moving water around using pipes."

    The good news is that this business method is dated. At the current rate, Blamer will implode the company sometime towards the end of 2012 and they will be forced to auction IP. Intellectual Ventures will buy a bulk of Microsoft IP portfolio. Citizens will be paying a Microsoft Tax throughout perpetuity.

    Following this scenario, a spark will fuel innovation rendering their patented operating system worthless until they request a bailout from the Government citing a study that 99% of government servers run Windows Government Edition (a free product). Their failure will be deemed a threat to national security, and "Too Big To Fail".

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 1:08am

    That is just the government way of saying "screw the workers, lets take the dumbest way to try and preserve companies"

    American companies don't produce anything anymore with some exceptions Intel being one of them still the rest don't produce anything, they can't compete with other companies outside the U.S. so what do they do?

    Patent vague ideas that are broad enough to compel others to pay them, the problem is, this only works inside the U.S. in the mean while U.S. companies get trashed all over the world, because they are all hoping IP laws will somehow save them from having to actually develop and work for a change.

    The patent system is being used to try and shield a few people from hard work and failure, in the end it will cause more harm than good but who cares those people can live anywhere in the world so if the U.S. tanks it is not their problem.

    You see in the good days, those people failed to make a system based on cooperation that would have prevented this type of thing from ever occurring even if somebody else got bigger and better they could still function in some way cooperatively, but that is not what they wanted, they wanted all and now is time to pay up, patents won't save them from the poor house. Asians are even talking about the demise of the electronic industry in the U.S. which they are betting will happen in 20 years or so, what good those patents will be when nothing is produced locally and depends on foreigners to be delivered? worst yet, because of silly patents nobody inside the country will be able to produce anything that can come close to compete with anything others are doing at that time.

     

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  4.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 1:22am

    Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    "The junk patent problem will always be with us."

    Not if we muster the sense to simply -shut down- the Patent Office.

    Why can't we have -THAT- discussion?

    What would be the big loss?

    From my perspective, all I see is benefit as business has one less lawyer-laden anchor around its neck. Innovation will accelerate. Prices will fall. Production will rise. Lawyers may starve, but who cares the crap cares about lawyers?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 1:59am

    Re: Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    The other crappy lawyers that were voted into office?
    And those other crappy lawyers that got into the justice department?

    They care.

    To change things, people need to change Washington first, it is getting crappier by the minute.

    The signs of poverty didn't get to Washington yet, and maybe they believe everybody is happy about them screwing everybody.

    When pilots have to go get food stamps to get by the month and other can't make ends meet the problem is not with people but with laws that are not giving them the tools they need to survive.

    Although I believe people can produce wealth without money they just need to want to, money buy knowledge in reality, in a country full of educated people, money is not needed to create wealth, cooperative work is.

     

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  6.  
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    Terry W, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 2:14am

    Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    Okay, this patent was FILED in 2004 (before everyone else started doing it).

    But I do agree, however, that this is an OBVIOUS progression of technology.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 2:39am

    I wonder what companies will be served a Microsoft Patented "sue-to-crosslicense agreement". Maybe they'll go after Disney to get access to their content library and rent out Disney movies for free.

     

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  8.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:22am

    I read somewhere the patent office is no longer tax-payer funded. Is this true?

    If it is, well... patents like this should no longer be an issue to understand why they were given.

    When it comes to making money, there's no level at the stupidity to earn it.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:00am

    Re: Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    before everyone else started doing it

    Wrong.

    Beside - if Nvidia and ATI rename their GPUs as (say) Visual Processing Units (VPUs) doesn't that just trivially avoid the patent?

    It seems amazing to me That Microsoft managed to patent something that was invented by other people.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:06am

    Re:

    American companies don't produce anything anymore with some exceptions Intel being one of them still the rest don't produce anything, they can't compete with other companies outside the U.S. so what do they do?

    Most of Intel's products are made overseas.

     

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  11.  
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    Bengie, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    Hmmm.

    Slashdot linked to this also. A few people pointed out that MS actually submitted this back before there were any GPU accel'd video encoding apps, over 6 years ago.

    Another thing several people pointed out, is that this is a very *specific* way of using a GPU to accelerate video encoding. It's actually is a very specific part of video encoding and not the full process that it accelerates.

    Not only that, but supposedly, no software out there even does video encoding this way yet, so no one even infringes on it.

    MS didn't patent GPU video encoding, they patented a very specific way to do a certain part of video encoding.

    Well, this is where the Slashdot people who claimed to have read it said.

     

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  12.  
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    abc gum, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    "before everyone else started doing it"

    In the absence of citation, I will assume this is wishful thinking.

     

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  13.  
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    Bengie, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:34am

    Re: Hmmm.

    Forgot to add... I should get a log-in some day..

    Anyway, even though I'm not a fan of software patents in general, being that in over 6 years, no one else has developed anything this way, makes it actually sound fairly non-obvious and unique.

    Personally, a good compromise with software patents would be to limit a software patent to 2 years, assuming no one else was able to implement your algorithm independently before the patent was granted.

    If someone can independently create the same algorithm in less time than it takes to get your patent validated, then the patent should become invalid *or* not be applicable to those who already implemented it. If an opensource project already implemented it, then I guess your SOoL.

    This wouldn't be perfect, but would be a compromise.

     

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  14.  
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    abc gum, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:39am

    Re: Hmmm.

    None of that will matter to a jury in east texas

     

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  15.  
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    angry dude, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:43am

    Masnik is a tool

    Ever read patent claims, punks ?

    Claim 1:
    A method for processing a digital video signal with a graphics processing unit (GPU) having multiple channels and a central processing unit (CPU), the method comprising: identifying a frame associated with the video signal by the CPU; determining motion estimation data by the GPU, the determining comprising: collocating the frame to create copies of the frame such that each of the copies of the frame is available for processing in parallel by at least one of the multiple channels of the GPU, and to map each of a plurality of pixels selected by the GPU to each of a plurality of channels of a texel; and processing each of the copies of the frame in parallel, using a different channel of the multiple channels of the GPU, the processing including offsetting the copies of the frame by a predetermined value; outputting the determined motion estimation data to the CPU, and encoding the video signal by the CPU, wherein the determining motion estimation data by the GPU is performed in parallel to the encoding the video signal performed by the CPU.


    Too many words, too much specifics to be effectively enforced in court


    Now, this would be something to cry about:

    "A method for processing a digital video signal using a graphics processing unit"

    Try to get this kind of claim approved by PTO

    Good luck...

    Learn to read patent claims, stupid techdirt lemming-punks

     

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  16.  
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    Vic Kley, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:06am

    MS GPU enhanced Video 7813570

    For the first time I'm going to join Masnick in criticism of his target Microsoft. For entirely different reasons. While vehemently opposing Masnick's basic and deeply flawed argument.

    In early 2004 under the control and direction of Bill Gates Microsoft began a design process and chose to use low cost Chinese Communist human resources to implement very high speed video data manipulation using a dedicated piece of hardware called a Graphic Processing Unit. The basic work and actual code development which could serve military purposes was done in Beijing and also by a person who may be a Communist Chinese national in Redmond, WA.

    The basic ideas had been developed decades before by various groups in the U.S., and leakage to Communist China of just hardware capable of running such code had been punished here in Silicon Valley by jail terms. Going back to 1979 and earlier, our group built a bit-slice GPU in 1979 which implemented elements of the technology described in 7558428.

    So Microsoft was clearly wrong. Wrong to risk US national security by going to Beijing to hire cheap software development in an area important to military interests in Communist China. MS is wrong to not only pick our pockets with their monopoly crap software but to sell out our country in the process.

    The above said Masnick is completely wrong in that this particular patent in no way proscribes the general use of GPU's. MS did not invent the GPU and the mere fact that they describe a way to use this hardware WITHOUT ACTUALLY INVENTING A NEW METHOD OF USE makes their patent extremely weak. Companies have been using and coding for GPUs for twenty years, of course they should not feel threatened because MS got a patent and some narrow claims after SIX YEARS of prosecution.

    This invention is a continuation of an application from September of 2004 and now that it is issued the entire folder can be pulled online to see what the examiner said and questioned and limited. Six years of a process that normally took less then three years. Let's see what MS does with this patent before people start running scared because Masnick tells them to do so.

    The worst thing about Masnicks tune is the idea that just because one or more companies other then the patent holder are active in a general area the appearance of a patent pertaining to that area is OBVIOUS. It would be like saying that poor people had been the subject of books therefor the Grapes of Wrath does not deserve a copyright, its OBVIOUS- and is a threat to all the good writers that are still writing about the poor who might like to use Steinbeck's phrases.

    I suspect that the last thing MS will want is to go to court with this invention and two or three Chinese Nationals on the stand in front of a jury of unemployed Americans (or parents of unemployed Americans now living at home). We don't have to worry about Chairman Gate's Little Redmond Book just yet.

     

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  17.  
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    stupid techdirt lemming-punk, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:11am

    Re: Masnik is a tool

    tl:dr

     

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  18.  
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    abc gum, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:15am

    Re: MS GPU enhanced Video 7813570

    You are claiming that Microsoft is in violation of ITAR?

     

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  19.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:28am

    Re: Re: Junk Patent Problem Yet Again

    So where is Microsoft's working prototype from 2004?

    Or is this like the Satellite and Water Bed?

    In truth, there were primitive versions of this very idea (that Microsoft patented) on the market and being sold as consumer products. That probably implies a good 10-20 years of lead time in terms of professional products and academic research.

     

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  20.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: Hmmm.

    > Anyway, even though I'm not a fan of software patents in
    > general, being that in over 6 years, no one else has
    > developed anything this way, makes it actually sound
    > fairly non-obvious and unique.

    No. Actually, there are multiple vendor and open standards in this area. Just about any professional video application you can name probably has support for GPU accelerated encoding.

    This level of understanding of the industry is why patents of this sort get granted.

    It's also why there's such a wide disconnect between various factions in any argument about this stuff.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 6:46am

    Hey anybody can get a patent because the idiots reviewing have no clue what they're looking at. Microsoft is going to patent themselves right out of business. Who needs them! They have always stolen their products and enhancements.

     

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  22.  
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    AdamR (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 7:42am

    Re: Hmmm.

    Well the chips in video cards has evolved over the last six years how do you patent something it couldn't do? Also where would this fit in with DirectX that which suppose to make things easier for you to use the gpu?

     

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  23.  
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    angry dude, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Re: MS GPU enhanced Video 7813570

    little paranoid, aren't we ?

    BTW, Nvidia is a fabless semiconductor company (almost a patent troll in masniks definition): it contracts out the entire process of manufactoring their chips to Taiwan

    China or Taiwan - what's the f******g difference for US national security or unemployed US engineers ?

    Repeat the mantra: everything is made in China (or Taiwan)

    Or just read the back of your IPhone:
    "Designed in California, made in China"

    National security ??? You gotta be kidding....

     

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  24.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Re: This strategy will work for a while. See Halloween Documents

    Sorry, Microsoft, even the bail out is a non starter. Critical systems used by the US Military, NASA and many others run on Linux servers hand rolled by the department in question.

    Can you honestly imagine the Mars rovers running Windows and needing a reboot for every trivial update just to force the OS to reread it's damned registry? :-)

     

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  25.  
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    LZ7, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Re: This strategy will work for a while. See Halloween Documents

    LOL, I love it! ... IV is a dark cloud on the horizon It's amassing a portfolio that could cripple the US economy. In all seriousness if they were to use these patents to extract money from every business that infringed. They would be the largest company in the world. Their primary lobby is already insanely powerful. Without a change in lobbying there won't ever be change in Washington.

    I'll expat my company to New Zealand with the rest of the tech industry.

     

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  26.  
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    LZ7, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 9:00am

    Re:

    "screw the workers, lets take the dumbest way to try and preserve companies"

    That's exactly how it went down. To ease the fear that big business felt during the dotcom "revolution" (which is where this whole mess came from BTW). They were given the DMCA and as it turns out the expansion of the patent monopolies worked in their favor.

     

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  27.  
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    LZ7, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    Re: Hmmm.

    Hi Def DVR manufacturers, have been using this exact method for at least 5 years. The EFF should be releasing a list of prior art soon.

    BTW: YOU'RE RONALD FUCKING RILEY STOP COMMITTING FRAUD YOU SLEAZY PIECE OF SHIT!!!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Re: Masnik is a tool

    Have you ever contacted IBM and Acacia Media about licensing their inventions that you're all ready "stealing" for your web sites?

     

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  29.  
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    angry dude, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    stupid stupid techdirt lemming punks

    YOu really are idiots, masnik's followers
    amen

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Hmmm.

    The EFF should be releasing a list of prior art soon.

    As we've seen plenty of times now, prior art doesn't mean a thing these days if the patent is held by the likes of Microsoft or some other government "partner". The USPTO will just take your prior art and wipe their collective asses with it.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Masnik is a tool

    Heh, talk about tools...

     

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  32.  
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    Bengie, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm.

    "No. Actually, there are multiple vendor and open standards in this area. Just about any professional video application you can name probably has support for GPU accelerated encoding."

    I said that MS does it in a *way* that is different.

    Of course many companies already GPU accel video encoding, but MS' patent only uses the GPU for a certain part of the encoding and does it in a very special way that no one else has done it.

    An analogy would be GoodYear if made a tire a very specific way with special properties that no one else has made even though tires have been a round for a long time.

    The problem with any Software vs real stuff analogy is that software is purely logical. It has no "look what I found" type things. Physical stuff, like tires, have a lot of complex physics that can't be "reasoned" into perfection because of lack of understanding. Software by design is easy to understand and logical to extend.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm.

    An analogy would be GoodYear if made a tire a very specific way with special properties that no one else has made even though tires have been a round for a long time.

    A better analogy would be if Goodyear made a tire in a way that many other companies do but then noticed that no one had bothered to patent it and so ran down to the USPTO to grab a patent and start filing lawsuits.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    GPU's are meant to process graphics. Instead of processing it on an inefficient CPU (and especially those terribly inefficient X86 Cpu's) it makes a lot more sense to process graphics / video on a GPU. This isn't a patent worthy idea, it's common sense.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Masnik is a tool

    So basically instead of single cored GPU's this is saying, "hey, GPU's with more than one core came out. You know what? I can use the other cores to encode videos. Let me patent that idea."

    This is hardly patent worthy. The point of having multiple core GPU's is so that you can use those other cores alongside one another for video processing purposes (including videos and graphics and movies). That's the whole point. So the GPU manufacturer invents and innovates hardware capable of parallel processing and then Microsoft says, "ok, you have hardware capable of parallel processing, now I'm going to patent its uses." That's hardly innovative. The whole point of having hardware capable of parallel processing is so that its parallel processing capabilities can be used. Obviously using them for applications would be beneficial and the idea of using them for various applications isn't unobvious enough to be patent worthy.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:41pm

    Re:

    I agree, it was linux that first supported dual and multi core CPU's and MS "stole" the idea (though it's an obvious idea of course). Imagine patents on various multi core CPU uses were granted once multi core CPU's first became available (well, I'm sure such unworthy patents have been granted and have caused a lot of damage to innovation).

    Then again, I don't necessarily blame MS for simply getting the patent. I do blame them if they attempt to enforce it. Patenting for defensive reasons is perfectly acceptable and if the USPTO would grant this patent to MS then they just might grant it to someone else if MS doesn't get it first and that someone else might end up suing MS for it. So it's a race of who can ask for the patent first because if the USPTO denies the patent then it's good (you don't have to worry about them later granting it to someone else who will later sue you). If they grant the patent, hopefully it's to you (that way you don't have to worry about someone else suing you for it).

    The USPTO is to blame for this.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:22pm

    Re: Masnik is a tool

    By limiting your comment to Claim 1 you easily set the stage for someone to cry out "It's a software patent! What about Bilski?". Perhaps it would have been better to quote the apparatus/system claims that contain tangible components.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re:

    Then again, I don't necessarily blame MS for simply getting the patent. I do blame them if they attempt to enforce it.

    Hat to tell you this, but a patent doesn't have and "defensive" value unless less you're will to use it against someone else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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