Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

Summary: Talk about a group of strange allies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apache Foundation, Apple, Facebook, Google and a cast of others are backing Microsoft's attempt to make it easier to invalidate an issued U.S. patent.

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Talk about a group of strange allies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apache Foundation, Apple, Facebook, Google and a cast of others are backing Microsoft's attempt to make it easier to invalidate an issued U.S. patent.

Microsoft's ultimate goal, company officials have said, is to make it easier for companies to fight bad patents. By lowering the requirements for proving a patent invalid -- to the same standard as the one required to prove patent infringement -- Microsoft and its backers say would be more fair to those defending themselves in patent-infringement cases. (The EFF, for its part, is claiming that the patent-invalidation change would especially benefit open-source companies.)

The eleven backers filed amicus briefs on Septemer 29, which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case where Microsoft is trying to push through this patent-invalidation idea. The specific case around which this battle is occurring is the Microsoft vs. i4i case involving custom XML. Microsoft lost that case and subsequent appeals of it, resulting in Microsoft having to pull the custom XML feature from Word and pay i4i more than $200 million.

Law.com has a good explanation of the ins and outs of what's happening from a legal standpoint, plus links to the various briefs.

"A decision by the court to take the case could lead to a historic realignment in the patent litigation arena," Law.com said.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Google, Legal, Open Source

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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21 comments
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  • This is a good thing.

    Hopefully they are able to push this through.
    mikefarinha
    • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

      @mikefarinha http://shopping-followme.com
      vogue1
  • Once again, Microsoft leads...

    Apple follows.
    NonZealot
    • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

      @NonZealot usually the other way around; Microsoft copies everything Apple does zealously, just not as well usually. But it's a good thing that the large corporations are finally realising how untenable the situation is, and says something of the status quo that someone like Microsoft is pushed into this; they generally love using their patents as a blunt instrument when is suits them, same as most corporations, including Apple. Less fortunate when you are on the receiving end of patent trolls.
      msandersen
      • History simply doesn't support you

        @msandersen
        [i]Microsoft copies everything Apple does[/i]

        From MP3 players to tablets to smartphones to multi-user OSs with support for non admin users, MS is always there before Apple. So no, it is Apple that does the copying.

        [i]they generally love using their patents as a blunt instrument when is suits them[/i]

        Again, you are confusing Apple with MS. MS has almost never sued anyone over patents. Apple on the other hand does it constantly. And not only for patents, Apple uses the legal system as a blunt instrument to drive out the competition. Just ask Psystar.
        NonZealot
      • Oh yeah, sure, that allways happens

        msandersen. (note the sarcasm)
        John Zern
      • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

        @msandersen I can't think of anything that Microsoft or Apple has done that is innovative, other than that mp3 player thingie for Apple and, well, zip for Microsoft. Both companies have built on others innovation. Microsoft wants to be able to invalidate others patents, but will still enforce their own. The majority of all software patents are stifling standardization. If this had been the case back in the early 1900's, the steering wheel would have been patented by Ford, and then where the hell would you be if you wanted to buy a Chevy?
        chinese.bookie
      • Actually in one way msandersen is correct

        @NonZealot and John Zern Microsoft blatantly copied the original Mac OS Lisa (Which was based on Xerox technology) and released their copy to the world as Windows 1x.

        Also Apple is not always the first one to sue over patents... there have been several suits filed against Apple by various companies - some nothing more than patent trolls, others more established companies such as Nokia. Not to say I think any suit Apple files is right but I'm just saying that Apple is not always the one to file suits.
        athynz
      • @athynz: Prove it

        [i]Microsoft blatantly copied the original Mac OS Lisa (Which was based on Xerox technology) and released their copy to the world as Windows 1x.[/i]

        Prove it. You should be able to find some court case, somewhere, where Apple sued MS and won.

        If you can't, you have to at least consider the possibility that Windows 1 was based on Xerox UI and not Apple UI.

        But if you are right, it shouldn't be hard for you to find the court case that MS lost.
        NonZealot
  • Let's Start With The FAT Longnames Patent

    nt
    Alan Smithie
  • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

    NonZealot,
    You truly have no clue, you just provided free advertisement for Apple.

    Why, because someone else will post good things
    You will post bad things. Good, Bad and so on.

    Apple setting back and thanking you for free advertisement they did not have to pay for.
    daikon
    • I don't think this advertising is free

      @Linux Rocks
      Apple pays ZDNet bloggers a lot for their "opinions".
      NonZealot
      • And media journalists...

        Wally, Dave, and the bunch.
        Joe_Raby
  • Microsoft at it again

    Microsoft is simply trying to push this because they lost this last patent battle with i4i. And, if you look at the long list of thousands upon thousands of patents that Microsoft currently holds, you will soon see why they want this. In reality, we need to get rid of software patents altogether. The Bilski case will hopefully help. Software patents promote Microsoft's monopoly, and weed out competition, which has always been their game. Let's get rid of patents and allow level competition, which will lead to better products and better situations for the consumers.
    Chris_Clay
    • So why do you think Apple is supporting this too?

      @apexwm
      I'm sure Apple would have done this themselves had they thought of it first (but Apple never things of anything first, they always follow where MS leads).

      So why is Apple supporting this action too?
      NonZealot
    • Sorry, but history says you're wrong

      @apexwm

      "Software patents promote Microsoft's monopoly, and weed out competition"

      If I understand the FLOSS argument, software patents aren't about copyrighting source code, but a more general registration on "how do to something", and yet Linux hasn't figured out HOW to be a more popular OS with a creative way for a user to use a computer. It's still all menus, icons, taskbars, and a legacy command-line environment from days-gone-by, or am I completely missing something? Where is the creativity with Linux? Perhaps if they had something original to think up, they'd protect that idea themselves.
      Joe_Raby
      • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

        @Joe_Raby <br><br>Linux does not need to be popular. You provide the free advertisement just fine as does Steve. <br><br>You can stay where you, no one will get mad at you.<br><br>In September 2008 Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) claimed 60% of servers run Linux and 40% run Windows Server.<br><br>In 2009 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that Linux had a greater desktop market share than Mac, stating that in recent years Linux had "certainly increased its share somewhat". <br><br>Its protected just fine. <br><br>Hooay.
        daikon
      • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

        @Joe_Raby <br>FLOSS is just another term for free software. <br><br>I can't imagine one could patent "how to do something in general". E g one way to do something could be better in some respect that deserves recognition. Also, a computer could by itself be considered being a very general code executing machine and therefore any code running on it is then merely a special way of using the same machine and hence rightly belong to the patent holder of the computer.<br><br>And I'm not too sure that Linux isn't popular either. True, most ppl don't use Linux but that doesn't mean it isn't popular in other senses of the word.<br><br>I also think creativity is stifled more by non-free code than by free code. What we need isn't patent software, but potent software!
        makep
    • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

      @apexwm <br>I haven't heard of this "Microsoft monopoly" in years. I think they may still have the ability to monopolize in some respects, but so do quite a few other companies in their respective strengths. MS may own the desktop OS/Office by the numbers, but how much of a monopoly do they have on a mobile platform? Do they control all development in the world of .NET vs JAVA? As far patent count, I know other companies hold quite a few. IBM comes to mind.
      pjdiller
  • RE: Google, Apache, Apple back Microsoft's patent-invalidation play

    To athynz and NonZealot: Actually, both Apple and M$ copied the Xerox machines GUI with a much lower power OS supporting it. All the Lisa did was prompt M$ to release it's first clumsy attempt at a GUI. Remember, too, M$ bought out a much better OS named QDOS (better than CP/M86, at any rate) and got involved with OS/2, so they hardly needed to "copy" anyone. Windows would have come out with 3.0 as their first version a year or so later if it had not been for the Lisa.
    RyuDarragh