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The DreamLand Express - Charles Oppermann's Software Blog

Commentary on software design, development and management

February 2005 - Posts

  • Microsoft vs. Slashdot

    Is anyone else getting sick of the anti-Microsoft bent Slashdot has?  For years I avoided the site because of it's slated, often fact free view towards Microsoft, Windows, etc.  A year ago however, I subscribed to their daily news summary and have found most of the stories interesting.

    Nevertheless, it is undeniable that many of the featured stories about Microsoft and/or Windows will take a negative tone that isn't applied to Linux.  That's understandable given the majority of the readership. 

    However, of late has been this trend of bashing patents related to software.  There have been dozens of stories in recent months about frivolous software patents.  The granddaddy of such is the legal fight that SCO is fighting against IBM and others concerning the alleged use of trade secrets in IBM's AIX product and Linux offerings.  The open source community has vehemently opposed these claims, without really knowing much of the facts.  Slashdotters have decried SCO’s lack of evidence, but fail to grasp that in many legal fights, the plaintiff will naturally play it close to the vest and not reveal any more than necessary before trial.

    Now, I’m not a lawyer and have no idea which way this case will go.  If you read Slashdot however, you’d think that SCO has no case and is the devil incarnate.

    Back to patents; for all the whining about patents, Slashdotters rarely complain about IBM – which probably has the largest war chest of patents of any technology company.  Take today’s example under the headline of Microsoft WMV In Patent Trouble.  See, if Microsoft is potentially infringing on a patent, then the patent system is working.  If it’s Linux or any open source project, that’s bad and software patents should be abolished:

    European Parliament Rejects Software Patents
    Linux Kernel Maintainer Joins Patent Celebrations

    Full disclosure:  I’m the lead inventor on two patents (6,334,157 and 6,334,157) owned by Microsoft related to work I did on Active Accessibility.  I’m proud of those patents because for me, they reflect acknowledgement of unique professional effort.  Of course, given the nature of the patents (helping people with disabilities), My co-inventors and I would be incensed if they were used as weapons in corporate warfare, but that is very unlikely.  I understand companies use patents as a way of protecting their investments in people and technology.  The idea behind the patent system is preventing someone from stealing your ideas and implementations.  Like any legal construct, they can – and have been – abused terribly.  I’m equally confident that the legal system generally corrects any abuse of the system – although it can be lengthy and expensive for the wronged party.

    I’m of the opinion that Microsoft has not abused the patent system and that it’s probably been wrongly sued for patent infringement more so than it’s sued another corporation for infringing on its patents.  In the current discussion about the WMV patents, many Slashdotters lament that Microsoft will simply pay off Sony or do a patent swap.  Duh – that’s how corporate warfare works.  If the infringement is likely to be proved, Microsoft will have two options – settle out of court for an agreed sum of money or take its chances in court, where Sony will have the right to demonstrate potential losses and win a greater sum.  I have no idea if the legal merits exist in this case or not.  When it comes to compression algorithms and such, I assume that it’s easy to step on someone else’s idea and since having the best algorithms in this market space makes for more competitive products, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that corporations will protect their patent portfolios.

    Slashdot in general needs to grow up (so many of the postings are juvenile and uninformed) and work to achieve some balance in its reporting.

  • Google toolbar tip - Shift+Enter

    When using the Google toolbar, you can press SHIFT+ENTER after typing a search query to open a new browser window with the search results.  Nifty.

    Also try out the new version 3 beta.

    Posted Feb 28 2005, 10:56 PM by ChuckOp with no comments
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