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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.
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  1. identicon
    Don Dodge, 22 Dec 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.

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