(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Because The Patent System Sucks, The Only Thing To Do Is File For More Bad Patents

from the promoting-innovation? dept

Another day, another batch of patent lunacy. People keep asking us to comment on yesterday's story about Microsoft applying for two patents around RSS technology. The two patent applications, one for a content syndication platform and the other for finding and consuming web subscriptions in a non-RSS reader application, were both published yesterday by the USPTO. As with any patent application, there's no guarantee that either will be granted, but just the fact that Microsoft would apply for such patents says something about the system. Microsoft's Don Dodge (who has no relation whatsoever to the patents) does the best job we've seen summing up the situation, by basically saying Microsoft needs to file for these patents, or someone else will and later come back and sue Microsoft, potentially winning, say, $500 million for a totally obvious technology that was in widespread usage. As Dodge says, it's the patent lunacy defense, or as we like to call it, the need for nuclear stockpiling. Not to speak for Dodge, but I don't believe he's defending these patents, but just pointing out that if you're in Microsoft's shoes, it's the most reasonable thing to do, given the ridiculous mess that our patent system has become. The whole idea that you should need to file for patents on all sorts of stuff just to avoid later being accused of infringing on an obvious idea should be evidence enough that our patent system is in drastic need of a remake. So, yes, while both of these applications look ridiculous, the thing to blame is the patent system itself.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 4:12pm


    it's saddening to see our patent system being abused so much...

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

  2. identicon
    zcat, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 4:17pm

    "Linux comes from the community, and the fact that this product uses Microsoft's patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders.

    "We spend $7bn a year on R&D, and our shareholders expect us to protect or licence or get economic benefit from our patented innovations.

    Yep. Novell totally needs to pay MSFT for the use of FAT32 (oops, no, that one got invalidated), XML to store documents (Oops, no, also invalidated) and RSS feeds (Yet to be invalidated, but it will be!)

    What a load of horseshit.

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

  3. identicon
    Don Dodge, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 5:44pm

    Patent conundrum - either way you lose

    Mike, You nailed it! Patents like this create a conundrum for Microsoft. File them and look bad, or don't file them and get sued for hundreds of millions by a patent troll.

    It is analogous to a hopeless conflict between an elephant and a mouse - futile for the elephant with everyone's sympathies on the side of the mouse.

    Microsoft, in my opinion, is not trying to pretend they invented RSS, and is not trying to use the patent to collect royalties, or stifle innovation. They are simply trying to protect themselves from frivolous, but very expensive, lawsuits.

    I can't think of a single case in 30 years where Microsoft has sued a company for patent infringment. There may be one, but it is rare indeed. This is a defensive move in my opinion.

    Eolas cost Microsoft over $600M. NTP cost Blackberry nearly $1 Billion. RedHat had to pay millions for some obscure "Hibernate" patent. Sad, but is the way the legal system and patent system work...or more accurately...don't work.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 5:53pm

    A better fix?

    Isn't this the whole reason for the existence of prior art; to get rid of junk patents?

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

  5. identicon
    Tashi, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 6:51pm

    The unfortunate part is the ridiculous amounts of money it takes to take advantage of it. Otherwise I'd get in on it myself, flawed that it is. But I'm in the wrong tax bracket.

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

  6. identicon
    weebit, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 8:29pm

    stupid patents

    Here is a good stupid patent for you to read. This is why the system fails, and the patent office should all be fired for letting this crap go through. Stupid Patent Here is a list of other stupid Patents Crazy Patents

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

  7. identicon
    semi_man, Dec 24th, 2006 @ 2:55pm

    I work for a semi and feel this every month when another engineer informs us how we are doing towards our patent filing goal. The lawyer tells us once every three months how important it is to file for patents to "protect" ourselves. It's ridonkulous but MS shouldn't be hated on. The apathetic nature of the PTO in regards to fixing the system is the real problem.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2006 @ 9:55pm


    ... did you even read the article? or did you just search for Microsoft to criticise it?

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

  9. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 2:12am

    Re: stupid patents

    Wow - so basically licking a stamp is patented as are sticks?

    Has anyone tried to sue the forestry department yet? I happen to know they manufacture millions of sticks every year!

    In general Kudos to MS for this move - I happened to like ActiveX pre Eolas and like RSS, it would be a shame for another Inovhater to get their grubby paws on it

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

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