Vote buying and software patents

The pace seems to have gone up a few notches. MS is going around different national bodies to “lobby” them to switch to yes at the upcoming BRM. I can tell you one thing: MS will not properly support their own dog food aka ooxml, but they want it to be approved at the ISO level. MS has the game planned out. Let ooxml become an ISO standard, then continue to make things difficult for developers to do a proper implementations, manipulate even more national bodies and governments to require that this broken specification be a requirement for tenders.

While all that is happening, check out the patents filed by MS with regard to this:

US20060271574A1 Exposing embedded data in a computer-generated document
US20060259854A1 Structuring an electronic document for efficient identification and use of document parts
US20060206794A1 Method and apparatus for maintaining relationships between parts in a package
US20060190815A1 Structuring data for word processing documents
US20060149785A1 Method and Apparatus for Maintaining Relationships Between Parts in a Package
US20060149758A1 Method and Apparatus for Maintaining Relationships Between Parts in a Package
US20060143459A1 Method and system for managing personally identifiable information and sensitive information in an application-independent manner
US20060143195A1 Method and Apparatus for Maintaining Relationships Between Parts in a Package
US20060136816A1 File formats, methods, and computer program products for representing documents
US20060136812A1 Method and system for linking data ranges of a computer-generated document with associated extensible markup language elements
US20060136553A1 Method and system for exposing nested data in a computer-generated document in a transparent manner
US20060136477A1 Management and use of data in a computer-generated document
US20060136432A1 Method and system for controlling software to facilitate cross-version collaboration of files
US20060107225A1 Method and computer-readable medium for interacting with a portion of an electronic document
US20050278272A1 Method and apparatus for maintaining relationships between parts in a package
US20050268221A1 Modular document format
US20050149861A1 Context-free document portions with alternate formats
US20050125720A1 Programmable object model for namespace or schema library support in a software application

What gives?


  1. Patent on OOXML
    The patents that you require to implement parts of OOXML fall under the Open Software Specification (OSP) by Microsoft.
    That mean everybody can use the technology, described in the patent claims, for OOXML implementations without having to need a license.
    However ODF implementations might well be in troubles with several of those patents.

    • Re: Patent on OOXML
      Microsoft is more than welcome to join the Open Invention Network and do away with all the smoke and mirrors around the “Open Software Specification”?
      The caveat that that is mentioned in your last line is indeed what is really annoying. If Microsoft truly and honestly wants to be taken seriously and engaged as a willing and honest partner in any of these conversations, you have to prove to us that you are indeed willing. Put all the code, specs, and patents on to the OIN. Do that first and then we can talk. All the huffing and puffing is merely reconfirming that Microsoft is not honest and keen to engage. Microsoft wants to continue to have the cake and eat it whole.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML

        If Microsoft would put the patents in OIN then they would be for free use by anybody and not just OOXML implementers.

        Why would they do that.
        If for instance OpenOffice is violating valid patents unrelated to a OOXML implementation they can ask for a license on them from Microsoft or use an alternate technology or take a risk Microsft won’t sue them for infringing on the patent.
        And of course if they or anybody else was using the technology before MS patented it then those patetn would not be valid patents.
        Have you actually looked up as well which patents Sun and IBM have on Office documents ? (for the Sun patents you might want to look up not just Sun but also on Star Office and for IBM not just IBM but also Lotus)
        I can easily see Sun/Staroffice having several Office related patent in a quick view. And similar for IBM/Lotus.
        Your views expressed in this blog post and your reaction seems clouded by your negative views on Microsoft as their actions are actually no different then the actions of ODF supporters IBM and Sun which also use similar method of patent promises on certain technologies they support.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        Let’s first agree that software patents are false. It is a disgusting and intellectually pygmied. Reading BillG is perhaps interesting: “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. … The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.” See how MS thinks? They *know* software patents are bad, yet, want it to lock and block others. There is no intellectual leadership coming out of Microsoft on this count.
        Having said that, you are asking if there are software patents by IBM and Sun on these office documents. I have not checked. There may very well be some, but don’t let it distract from the argument here. It is a bad thing to have software patents. Add to that, since both Sun and IBM are pushing ODF, why would they want to act against office document patent “infringers”?
        Saying that my views are clouded by negative views of Microsoft on my part is being simplistic. Even if it is true that I have negative views, it has been my philosophy of life that one does not judge another but give every one the benefit of the doubt. Treat every one at the highest level of respect until proven otherwise. I have seen too many contexts how Microsoft is able to throw around their weight and market monopoly to tilt whatever it is in their favour. These same folks put pressure on many a national body (including Singapore’s) to vote in favour of OOXML. I say that the company is unethical, prove to me that it is ethical.
        If Microsoft sees the light that the world of technology has moved on from the old way of doing things, then please come and join us in making the world a better place. Open your patent portfolio. Open it to anyone who needs to use it and innovate on it. You have the means to make a significant impact – grab the moment. Be honest, be ethical.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        ‘ I say that the company is unethical, prove to me that it is ethical.’
        This statement itself is unethical. The entire evolution of the civil liberties in the world has led to the exact opposite.
        This principle ‘I accuse you. Demonstrate your innocence.’ is only used by dictatorial regimes or the most unacceptable propaganda.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        Thanks for that comment. I prefaced my comment by saying that the organization has consistently shown in many, many places to behave unethically. I don’t have to say anything more than to point to their conviction in open court that they are a monopolist. Need I say more?
        BTW, who are you? You are posting from somewhere in Nivelles, Brabant, Belgium.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        ‘Need I say more?’ No, of course, but you did say more and what you said is ‘I accuse you, prove your innocence’
        Why did you add this? It does not add anything to your point. Your comment would have had the same impact without this reference to a principle that was abandonned by the legal system in Europe about a thousand years ago. But you made it.
        As someone interested in language evolution on the internet, most notably the free/libre speech possibilities, I find the OOXML story fascinating. Not because of Microsoft or ooxml itself which are, for me, irrelevant from this point of view.
        Here is my point: the fight against Microsoft comes from people that strongly believe in the freedom of knowledge, in the sharing of intellectual progress for the benefit of mankind. They are (usually) politically conscious and do this because of their belief in a higher cause for humanity. They spend their free time on this, they contribute … the kind of people everyone (well not everyone) would like to be friend with.
        Then, when you look at the language and the communication techniques that are used, you find this:
        – Boycott Novell uses Gothic letters to spell out ‘Boycott Novel’; I guess you remember when the word boycott in gothic was used last in Europe: by the nazis, against the Jews. Are the anti Novell nazis? Of course not; Are they anti-Jews: of course not. They are at the extreme other side of the nazis but they do it: same graphic code. Does it add to their message? No. But they do it. Unbelievable they do not catch the negative reference.
        – no-ooxml: the language code used (microsoft supporter = puppet, ooxml supporter = corruption and bribery, neutral voting mechanisms described as microsoft tricks although they apply also to anti ooxml, to name a few) are all language propaganda techniques used among others by dictatorial regimes. Is no-ooxml of dictatorial inspiration? Of course not. Does FFII need this kind of language to push their argument? Of course not. As for Boycott Novel, their aspirations are at the extreme opposite. But they do it. I’ve read Benjamin Henrion decided on a negative campaign but are these techniques compatible with the global ideal that FFII promotes?
        That’s a question for them, of course, not for you.
        For you, coming here from no-ooxml and seeing your ‘Prove your innocence’ statement, I could not resist but point it out, hoping that you could explain why you, unnecessarily, wrote it.
        At the moment, I am tempted to draw a parallel between this internet phenomena and the behavioral change of car drivers. The car driver seat acts as a social insulator although many car owners express themselves through their car, some even through heavy customization. I see the same mechanic at work in ‘at home’ blogging, expressing oneself, some even through heavy customization (FaceBook, My Space…).You’ll also agree on the violence or obnoxious side of some/several blog comments/car drivers, yet, the same driver, at home or with friends is a normally friendly human being.
        Sorry for eating your space. As said above, ooxml does not matter here. It’s the language and a communication phenomenon that is of interest of an internet observer, at home in Nivelle, Brabant, Belgium.
        PS: I’ve commented a few times on this elsewhere. Normally, I am immediately declared a troll, whatever the subject is btw. I agree this is not on the subject, so feel free to ignore/delete.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        Invoking Godwin’s Law here.
        But having done that, my statement that Microsoft is unethical in the way they do business should certainly be supported by me by way of proof. Try and how about the vote buying during the OOXML voting?
        The list is long, but it has been tested in the court of public opinion . Microsoft started off live as a great company, *anyone* would want to work for them. I have. But I left. I left because I had to do dishonest things to keep the business going. Enough said.

      • Sure it was downloaded by your IP, but that does not prove that you did it. A hacker could have hacked into your computer and then made it download a movie.

      • Perhaps it would be if we were talking about some other company. It would be ungenerous if we insisted, say, on bringing up Wal-Marts dealings with labor when it was rescuing people so magnificently during Katrina.

      • Perhaps it would be if we were talking about some other company. It would be ungenerous if we insisted, say, on bringing up Wal-Marts dealings with labor when it was rescuing people so magnificently during Katrina.

      • The best it can hope for is a billion or so in patent license fees and, if all of its agreements look like the one it struck with Novell, then the money will be flowing out of Microsoft, not into it.

    • Re: Patent on OOXML
      Actually they may not be covered under the OSP. If you need a particular type of text kerning to emulate Microsoft Office (certainly not something that’s explicitly defined in OOXML) then this is outside of the OSP.
      Many of these patents cover things not defined in detail within OOXML and they are outside of the OSP.

      • Re: Patent on OOXML
        That is exactly what the problem is. The OSP is really a handwaving exercise to say “hey, we would like you to come and play with us. we promise not to bite too hard.” The invitation still stands to Microsoft to come and join the Open Invention Network. Release *all* of your software patents to be a) RF (royalty free) and NOT RAND (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory), b) promise to work with the various national bodies and patent offices to ensure that no one will allow software patents.
        Thanks, for the post from somewhere in Wellington, NZ.

      • Thanks, mikemolineux. Why put out something new ala OSP, when there are far simpler ways to do things? I cannot trust Microsoft’s actions. They have consistently proven to be untrustworthy.

  2. Trivial patents
    What I find amazing is the triviality of these patents. It seems that any random combination of obvious and existing component parts can be patented. Any possible way to solve a problem can be patented it seems, if you have the money.
    And I guess that’s were the system fails. The cost of patenting an idea would normally self-limit applications by individuals, i.e. the sale of the invention itself would need to repay the cost. But cross subsidised patent applications by large companies remove this limit and allow trivial patents to be used purely to block or impede competition.
    On another tack, it would be interesting to try to discover whether patents actually combine to effectively deadlock innovation completely. E.g.
    Patent 1: Method and Apparatus for putting left sock on before right sock
    Patent 2: Method and Apparatus for putting right sock on before left sock
    Patent 3: Method and Apparatus for putting both socks on simultaneously

  3. Why? They may be honest, but this does not means they are competent or not brainwashed. There are tons of people who honestly think Window is the best thing since sliced bread. Is a mistake to think every government choosing Windows is corrupt, the reality is more complex.

  4. Let’s be honest for a second… is there any way that you can ever know for sure if a particular business is allowing a government entity access to the data flowing through corporate servers?
    I’m not surprised that skype is allowing the chinese government to do it. The real question is what 21st century telecommunication services company’s are NOT providing access to governments on a jurisdictional by jurisdictional basis? We sort of expect the chinese to do this, but what other governments are peeking into corporate data?
    And even if they say they are not, how can you be sure? The only way to deal with it is to setup your own encryption and have the person at the other end be able to decrypt it.
    If you think skype text messaging is a problem, take a second and think about all the cellphone text messages that are flying around unencrypted. Hell, voice calls on cellphones too. Think about all the people with blackberry devices doing unencrypted messaging. We’ve already fallen down the slope, making a big deal about skype specifically seems a little late. The lack of security of cellphone data set the standard that voip providers are going to be expected to meet…and its a pretty low one.

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