Why Won't Microsoft Explain Its Patent Discrepancy?

from the just-wondering dept

A few months back, we highlighted Tim Lee’s excellent comparison of Microsoft’s views on software patents today, and back in 1991 when Bill Gates talked about how stifling software patents could be. Over the weekend, the NY Times let Tim write an opinion piece digging into the subject, also bringing up how the Verizon/Vonage patent lawsuit is a perfect example of the problems software patents bring about. While Tim concludes his article by noting that Bill Gates “won’t admit” that patents are stifling to innovation (as he said in 1991), isn’t it about time someone asks Gates why? Gates would likely dance around the answer. The truth, though, is that history shows that patents tend to be used by incumbents to stamp out innovation, rather than to help promote it. The difference now is that Microsoft isn’t a young upstart. It’s an incumbent that wants to make life difficult for upstarts. That’s not about promoting innovation at all.

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Comments on “Why Won't Microsoft Explain Its Patent Discrepancy?”

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Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Re: turnabout

Microsoft has been on the receiving end of so many doubtful patent claims, including Eolas, that it is hardly surprising that they have turned to patents out of self preservation.

It would seem that the logical thing for them to do in that case would be to fight against the evils of doubtful patent claims instead of embracing and extending the evils of doubtful patent claims.

Joe Smith says:

Re: Re: turnabout

It would seem that the logical thing for them to do in that case would be to fight against the evils of doubtful patent claims instead of embracing and extending the evils of doubtful patent claims.

It is probably faster, cheaper and more certain to simply patent everything is sight themselves. They are lobbying for reform and supporting attempts at reform through the courts: http://patentlaw.typepad.com/patent/2005/06/case_on_obvious.html

Finally, I do not remember ever reading about Microsoft suing anyone for patent infringement. (OMG, I never thought I would be defending Microsoft).

Mike (profile) says:

Re: For you, idiots

OK, I spent 10 seconds of my valuable time to find something you idiots should read.

You point us to a FAQ that explains what everyone knows already? How useful is that? The point is that software patents, whether legal or not (and we know that they’re legal) are clearly harming innovation — and even Microsoft knew that 15 years ago. Your link didn’t add to the discussion, it simply repeats what everyone knows and doesn’t add anything useful.

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s simple, Gates doesn’t run Microsoft, Ballmer does and has for ages. Oh sure, in theory Gates has minority stake and could likely overrule Ballmer, but I rarely see that happening. Gates is a tech dude who’s key strength is his salesmanship and PR skills at “selling” Windows (for which he gets a really, really big check) and not a hadcore nuts and bolts businessman.

And unfortunately, Ballmer has drastically different ideas than Gates has (in fact if Ballmer ever did get the boot or leave Mircosoft I bet he’d be working for Sony inside a week, their philosophies are so similar).

|333173|3|_||3 says:


M$ has managed the first two step in destroying the patent system, unfortunately, the fourth step is to replace it with a mess of M$’s own design which cannot be looked at without you getting sued, so that it would be illegal for any competitor to even try to get patent protection.

Seriously, though, software should not be protected by both patents and copyright. Either patent law should be applied, sot hat the code used has to be spelled out in the patent, and anyone can use the patented idea for a liscene fee, or copyright law applied to the code, so that the same idea could be implemented in a different way. (Some would also argue that it would be best to completly abolish all forms of IP, but that is not likely to be implemented anytime soon, and can be discounted as a possible solution to the problem of the abuse of the IP system by software companies.)

In my opinion, it would be best to remove patent protection from software, while maintaning copyright protection. Thus I cannot copy your program, either by copying and pasting your code or simply copying your program, just as with a book I may not eitehr plaigiarise your book or simply duplicate it without a liscence.

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