back to article Microsoft goes Darwinian with evolutionary tree patent

A Microsoft patent application has evolutionary biologists worried Redmond could claim standard techniques used by scientists to organize how animals are related through time. The patent application, which came to light in the August edition of Science, claims invention of methods for mapping biological data to an evolutionary …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

FAIL

Seriously...

Isn't it about time that the more sane parts of the world gave the US patent system the finger and simply told it to fuck off by ignoring it?

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Would someone...

... please explain the words "Prior Art" to the US Patent Lawyers?

What next? A patent on the wheel...?

0
0
Big Brother

Friday-night rant

Microsoft can go stuff themselves with a 10-inch zucchini. Without the necessary lubrication.

Patenting /method/ goes against the grain of scientific research and publishing, as they have evolved over centuries. Certainly, researchers always play a game of hide-and-seek, publishing enough to prove results, but not too much to be ripped off -

And yet, journals provide a mine of useful information. I can, without fear of litigation, open up musty journals in university journals, or key specialist books - and learn, to expedite my own ideas based upon what I discover. This is a fundamental process in scientific understanding and invention. Not to overstate its importance, it underpins most of the modern world: the freedom to let the mind roam far and wide, through the exchange of ideas.

Whilst I myself present my own inch-high clamberings upon the shoulders of others - scientists make a habit of acknowledging their forebears - I never, ever claim exclusive use on a... method.

That would be extortion, no less: the equivalent of eating your own young.

0
0
Silver badge

Err no

They'll no doubt be prior art and it'll only hobble progress in the US where software patents are held up - everyone else will tell them to get fucked.

0
0
WTF?

Why?

There's like over a century of prior art?

0
0

That's not all

Rumour has it, that Apple are trying to patent the wheel, and Google are trying to patent fire, and Intel are trying to patent water.

However the only thing they are abusing is hot air. Now I know it's America, but surely common sense has to kick in somewhere, or on previous experiences, maybe not.

0
0
Joke

Evolutionary Software

Won't this upset the creationists?

0
0
Stop

Hypocrites

That is all

0
0
Bronze badge

Charles Darwin?

He might get all the press, but I think you'll find it's Linnaeus who pioneered modern taxonomy.

0
0

this is a title

Microsoft seek to extent patents on innovation to the realm of scientific research.

"you can't discover that, we've patented it already"

0
0

Patent on CSS

At the heart of the current Word document patent is a 2006 patent by Microsoft claiming that they developed CSS - some 3 or so years after the original work was done. Part of this is idea poaching and imitation - something M$ does well since they don't ever seem to have an original idea - and part of this is because companies make frivolous patent claims constantly in the US. Its like playing the lotto. All you need to do is come up with some vague general statement - put it in a patent and wait for someone to actually invent something useful that even remotely matches the patent description. Then go to Texas file an infringement claim and WHAM - instant millionaire since most companies prefer to settle than waste money proving the patent was frivolous in the first place.

Bunch of fucktards.

0
0
Joke

@Big-nosed Pengie

The place you are thinking of is called China.

0
0
Silver badge

@seriously

US patent system doesn't count outside the US - much the same way international law doesn't count inside it. So outside of the US is called the free world and inside...

As for patent on CSS - it was not 3 years after the world noticed but at least 11 years. Which to be honest is pretty quick for MS to notice and try and fuck up a standard.

As for patents and copyrights: I wrote a program that generates all possible texts up to 64K characters -and published the results on the web. Everything not already copyrighted is copyright me, so any patent claims are also copyright me and so mine so I own everything, including any legal cases, arguments etc up to 64k long, and anything over is derivative of my works.

0
0
Bronze badge
Stop

Don't blame Microsoft !

If they didn't do it, someone else would. It's the US patent system that's broken, and broken badly.

That's what Microsoft have to put up with as much as everyone else. You cannot really blame them for taking advantage of it or protecting themselves from it.

If Microsoft, or anyone, identifies something which could be patented but isn't they are effectively forced to attempt to patent it or risk someone else doing so and using that patent against them. Companies win whether their attempted patent is accepted or rejected, they lose when someone else gets a patent accepted, and that loss can be very costly. Companies, particularly big companies which are attractive for suing, are consequently forced to play by those rules and have little choice in the matter.

0
0

Its not the companies is the law ...

The laws create the playing field and the rules ... the companies then have to figure out how to play the game to their best advantage.

0
0
Gold badge
Stop

@Tom 7

"I wrote a program that generates all possible texts up to 64K characters -and published the results on the web"

You may have written the program, and you may have set up a web server that is capable of serving any of the texts, but you certainly haven't *served* all such texts, since there are 65536^256 of them and that's Quite A Lot (tm). Consequently, you are in the same position as anyone else who can type (or write): capable of generating the text, but not actually done so yet.

It's a bit like Microsoft. They're (presumably) *capable* of innovating, but they haven't actually done so yet.

And the US Patent System is (on past performances) *capable* of not being a complete and utter waste of lawyers (now there's a thought!), but has not done so recently.

0
0
Flame

I have...

Just applied for a patent on a method of improving general comfort an well-being by expelling excess body gas through a convenient bodily orifice, as soon as it's granted (as it no doubt will be) anyone who farts will have to pay a license fee (first).

0
0
IT Angle

I think

everyone mis-understands the patent process in the US. Companies do not really patent to stop other companies - more to protect themselves should a law suit arise. Then all of the companies pull out all of the possible patents that might apply. (A legal - "whose dick is bigger" party.) Such law suits can run for years - allowing the company to continue to operate. This is why you see patents like this. Clearly MS is using this methodology someplace - and they do not want to have to stop doing it cause patent freak has already written a patent that just might apply - if you tilt your head just right and dance on only your left foot. (Stupid tho both patents might be.) So MS is really just trying to protect a way of doing things that they seem to like - prior art or no prior art.

0
0
Pint

@ Ken Hagan

"capable of generating the text, but not actually done so yet."

Technically all you need is to pattent the characters (which is obviously not possible as it's covered by the corresponding standards). Or every possible association of, say, 2 such characters. Then anything larger than that is derivative work....

"And the US Patent System is (on past performances) *capable* of not being a complete and utter waste of lawyers"

No. No it's not. It's rotten by design and has been wide open to abuse from the start, and therefore a complete and utter waste. And it's been thoroughly abused from day one, how do you think Edison made his fortune? Any invention without a working prototype -or at least blueprints- and absence of prior art is a non-invention. Methods based on the combination of existing technical processes are no inventions. The *results* of such methods might be inventions, provided there has been some creative process involved (i.e. patenting a gene or a protein because you discovered its sequence should *not* even be considered -and yet...- though a specific non-naturally occuring alteration of said gene or protein might be acceptable). Whithout these rules (widely adopted by the whole world but the US), the system is useless and even counter-productive, as it allows the protection of *aims* instead of *means*, thus allowing anyone with enough cash to lock down entire fields when they haven't the slightest idea on how to achieve anything useful themselves.

So the US patent system is rotten at heart. *AND* they don't even pretend to check prior art (which is admittedly not a design flaw but an implementation flaw. A very ancient one, at that. Think Edison...).

Cheers

0
0
Silver badge

Corollary

From my previous post it derives that software should never be patentable (being essentially methods that put together pre-existing technical processes). That's what _copyright_ is for. You wouldn't patent a novel, why would you patent a piece of code?

0
0
Silver badge

Why not get a patent for the multiplication table

It seems that somebody might soon, you never know. You know using it to compute products and the like. Seems VERY patentable to me.

Oh, prior art? Somebody mention an IBM 1620 which had a multiplication table. Sorry, never mind. (For the interested the Model 1 of the IBM 1620 also had an add table.)

0
0

@Ken Hagan

"You may have written the program, and you may have set up a web server that is capable of serving any of the texts, but you certainly haven't *served* all such texts, since there are 65536^256 of them and that's Quite A Lot (tm)."

Hmm, is exponentiation expressed differently outside the US?

It ought to be 256 raised to the 65536.

But to give the idea more credence, one could just encode alphabetical characters, digits, spaces, and few punctuation symbols .

45 ^ 65536

Also, instead of random characters, the algorithm could only serve common words mixed with punctuation.

Rough estimate: 20,000 ^ (65536/5)

Well that's still alot...we'll need to go to the next level and only enumerate sensible word combos....

0
0
Silver badge

Great works

Even assuming you've got 27^65535 (26 characters plus spaces - let's abuse punctuation for the sake of ease) texts published, that's a very big hosting bill, but a great idea - send us a link to the pages which are great original novellas, but do be careful to not get sued for passing off previously-copyrighted works as your own! ;-)

0
0
Headmaster

@Ken Hagan

If there are, say, 90 characters used, shouldn't it be 90^65536? In which case that is quite a big number.

If every atom in our universe was a miniature universe, identical to ours, and every atom in those many tiny universes was another smaller universe, and so on... after 1600 levels of multiplying and shrinking universes you would have a total number of tiny atoms equal to the number lines on his web page.

meh.. if in some heroic attempt to gain copyright on all music to be written in the future, his CD collection contains every possible combination of music/noise data, then I'll be impressed. =)

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Actually, You Can Blame MS

"It's the US patent system that's broken [...] That's what Microsoft have to put up with as much as everyone else."

Were it not for the small fact that MS were one of the main lobbyists pushing for the patent system as it currently stands then I think it is fair to say that they can very much be held to blame for the mess the system is in today,

0
0
Silver badge
Pint

@Ken Hagan

Quote

And the US Patent System is (on past performances) *capable* of not being a complete and utter waste of lawyers (now there's a thought!), but has not done so recently.

end Quote

That is a good one. A new name for a group of Lawayers (like a 'flock of birds' or 'a pod of Whales')

A "Waste of Lawyers".

Have one on me.

0
0
Silver badge

@Ken Hagen

Generating them was easy - I'm not telling you how -that bit I may patent - indexing them is a nightmare as its 1:1. As for serving them - they are available - just send me the index and I'll send you the text to prove it.

The point here is the current laws - WORLDWIDE - are completely out of date with the technology. There are no new ideas, there are no new texts - just different filters and ownership of the same.

Microsoft are trying to exploit one filter - I managed them all!

0
0
Stop

Hold EVERYTHING!

God has just turned up. He's claiming prior art on a whole load of stuff, and He wants His money!

0
0
Happy

65536^256

1.0403171640308219849394707105207e+1233 test strings :)

0
0

language

"The laws create the playing field and the rules ... the companies then have to figure out how to play the game to their best advantage."

Oh, and Microsoft is in the vanguard of getting rid of process patents? There are two sides to this debate, not three. Microsoft and its hacks do not get to hide behind, "its the law, what can a little company like us do".

0
0
Joke

@Dweller...

No, the creationists are laughing at the whole thing.

Now that evolutionary charting is locked up, I wonder if ID and creationism will see a rise in research interest...?

0
0
Bronze badge

@ Graham Marsden

Just submitted one, I expect every person in violation to settle immediately or spend years in court trying to prove I didn't invent the wheel!

0
0
Silver badge

@@@Tom 7

Make that 256^65536 which is Quite A Bit More (TM).

One might argue that most of Microsoft's innovations have been legal and PR rather than technical. Not surprising given that Bill Gates is a drop out from law school, not engineering and most of his success was due to the guidance from his parents.

There's quite a lot of prior art from MS's main methods though. Take for example Thomas Edison:

* Take other people's ideas and present them as your own. Check.

* FUD: Edison electrocuted animals and lobbied to make the electric chair AC powered to promote his (crap) DC service. Check.

* Hostile corporate methods: Check.

0
0
Boffin

@Tom 7

Under the UK Official Secrets Act & other UK Laws, you do not have the right to:

1. Say whatever you want, like the US Constitution says US citizens are free to do inside its borders.

2. Publish whatever you want, even purloined official US Secrets, like the US Constitution says US citizens do inside its borders. (And the N.Y. Times published with the so-called "Pentagon Papers" almost 40 years ago.)

3. Your freedom. You have not habeus corpus. You can be arrested inside your own country and held without trial for years, like IRA members were. That's why the US has to resort to "rendition" of terrorists outside the US and keep them outside the US if they don't want to be subject to the Constitution that says "charge them publicly within 48 hours & give them a lawyer or let them go".

As the world just saw with the Lockerbie case, in the UK "justice" is traded in a heartbeat for an oil deal.

0
0
Unhappy

Screw you all, or pay me royalties....

You're all infringing my patent on a series of squiggles.

You're used to two sets of 26 and the previous comments collectively use about 90% of these 52 "letters of the alphabet".

0
0
Flame

@Jason Bloomberg

Fuck Microsoft! These wankers are currently fighting patent laws, after exploiting said laws. They use and abuse all that come into contact with them. They are nothing but fucking overpaid pond scum with a none ethical business who are raping the worlds economy using lies and deceit.

Honestly are you a goldfish or do you just walk around with your head up your arse ALL day?

0
0
Paris Hilton

omg

Omg. Total suprise the USPTO has no clue what it's doing - once again failing in its duty to ensure that it prevents catch-all applications from being granted.

Pretty soon no action will be possible without a patent infringment. Disband this farce of an organisation before humanity's creativity is terminally stifled.

0
0
Gates Horns

@ Gerhardt

I prefer the use of a three-day dead porcupine. Dead, so the porcupine doesn't suffer.

0
0
FAIL

@ Neal 5

You said, in part, "Now I know it's America, but surely common sense has to kick in somewhere, or on previous experiences, maybe not."

As an American, my response is this: Sadly, common sense no longer seems all that common here. Pray to the Spaghetti Monster and/or Void to save us from ourselves.

0
0

@ZenCoder

" The laws create the playing field and the rules ... the companies then have to figure out how to play the game to their best advantage."

In case of the US, it's big corporations (like MS) who make laws by lobbying. So if the laws are completely fscked up, they have themselves to blame.

The whole patent circus in the US is put in place by big business there to stifle any sort of real competition.

0
0
Thumb Down

It patently obvious

that this is quite a silly article.

0
0

65536^256

Hardly more like ^32 as case wouldn't matter and only a few punctuation marks would be needed.

0
0
Silver badge

The year is 2100...

... nothing has been invented in the US for at least 50 years. Herds of lawyers charge about this once productive land in their German saloons throwing law suits at anyone even contemplating inventing something. This in turn is then met with counter suits from herds working on behalf of the would be inventor. Once productive land is now a patchwork of golf courses, law courts and BMW dealerships. The courts are open 24/7, but even so most suits must wait at least 8 years before being heard.

The US patent office now covers an area exceeding Texas.

All paper has to be imported. The last tree in the US was cut down to make court papers filed against Mr Zak J Trudawitz in 2035. Mr Trudawitz, a farmer, had insisted on describing his product as a "Strawberry" in contravention to the patent on all fruit names granted to Mr S Jobs of Cupertino, CA in 2028.

0
0

Cloning

Wonder if this a prelude to creating cloning techniques to make a Ballmer "mini-me"

0
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: Its not the companies is the law ...

And who is it who lobbies for the Laws.

Ill give you a clue. Two words T__ C________

0
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Re: Evolutionary Software

Why would it upset creationists? They don't need to use it...

0
0

A device for converting current into heat

Patent the resistor? Maybe. A former employer's patent guidance (NB: NOT Apple(tm)) to employees was that we should patent as much fundamental stuff as we could -- to deny it to others. The wheel? Maybe not*. The click-wheel? Certainly! http://www.macnn.com/blogs/2009/08/11/apple-wins-patents-for-click-wheel-iphone-itunes-backup-while-filing-for-the-app-store-logo-trademark.html

*Maybe so: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn965-wheel-patented-in-australia.html

In 1997 the journal of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society published a patent extract showing the Japanese firm Murata had patented the pi-network, fundamental to many kinds of filters and matching circuits, and a century old when the patent was issued. And one can't use a Firewire(TM) plug for anything BUT 1394; Apple (TM) owns the patent for that.

0
0
Joke

Oh heck

I'm an evolved being. Does that mean I've violated a Microsoft patent?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Prior Art?

Can you patent something that has been used by others previously?

0
0
Unhappy

Comedy of Errors

The system is obviously fouled up, my guess is something like this happened.

1) Microsoft Researcher comes up with some cool little idea, that makes use of the idea of evolutionary trees.

2) Colleagues say "That's cool, you should patent that" ... his managers ears prick up.

3) Manger calls in a patent lawyer and asks researcher to explain the idea to him.

4) Researcher explains idea to lawyer. Lawyer doesn't understand it.

5) Lawyer writes up idea as patent claim in as generic a way as possible to cover the fact he hasn't a clue.

6) Lawyer files patent. Patent office haven't a clue about the area either but can't find another patent on it (for obvious reasons) and thus accept the application.

7) Patent is only challenged when somebody can make money out of it. (The academics that already use the idea can't afford to go to court or just don't realise that somebody just patented an idea they have been using for over 100 years.)

8) When it is challenged, whoever wins the court case the lawyers get paid anyway.

Basically there is no incentive not to patent in the most general way especially if you are the lawyer and get paid for both filing and for defending the patent, win or loose.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums