back to article Roses are red, revenge is so sweet. Microsoft extracts a few quid from Corel Office Suite

Microsoft has been awarded just over a quarter of a million dollars in its patent infringement case against Corel. A US district court jury in San Francisco decided on Tuesday [PDF] that the Canadian developer's Corel Home Office Suite did indeed willfully trample on Redmond's patented user interface and menu designs in …

  1. hplasm Silver badge


    Corel thought it was agood idea to copy the ribbon - they should be made to pay!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      Especially since it looks the main reason to introduce the Ribbon was exactly to have a patented UI, regardless if it was better or worse than the previous one.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        $275.,000 per user seems a bit extreme though!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        "Especially since it looks the main reason to introduce the Ribbon was exactly to have a patented UI"

        After they got forced into the corner of having to use open (sort of) standards for file formats they needed some other approach to lock in users. This was it.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      So the MS-provided ribbon library is a trap. Anyone who uses it gets sued.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "So the MS-provided ribbon library is a trap."

        No, as usual, you have to read the license. Last time I used it, it explicitly forbid to use the Ribbon UI for Office-like applications. Use was allowed for different kind of applications.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "So the MS-provided ribbon library is a trap."

          The indications are that the "Office UI" aka Fluent UI, licencing programme was retired in 2013. Since then developers have only been constrained by the Microsoft developer framework license terms.

          I wonder if the fact that MS retired the Fluent UI license also played a part in the setting of 'damages' against Corel.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how much money MS gave Corel? Did they give them enough to cover the payment amount and legal fees? MS needs a few companies with similar offerings to keep the Feds from getting on its back about a monopoly position.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It is a pity Microsoft won out on this one, I don't think it should be possible to copyright the laying out of a few icons in a certain order, it is hardly an original idea. It's just another way of MS protecting it's monopoly by not allowing competitors to make an office suite which allow users to easily switch without needing to learn a new UI.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "It is a pity Microsoft won out on this one"

      It looks the precedent of Borland vs. Lotus is now lost in the dust of time, together the two companies... today of course it's not just the menu layout, users do expect some elements to be in some common positions, and with a recognizable look.

      1. Named coward

        Re: "It is a pity Microsoft won out on this one"

        Borland vs Lotus is not a binding precedent since it was in another circuit, and at the supreme court it was an even split so it doesn't set precedent

  4. Alastair Dodd 1

    Corel still exist?

    I thought they died back in the early 2000s..

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Corel still exist?

      No. Corel is the place where undead software from the late 20th Century lurks.

      1. Flakk Silver badge

        Re: Corel still exist?

        Ohhhh, I thought those places were called abandonware sites.

        1. Flakk Silver badge

          Re: Corel still exist?

          I guess one person at Corel reads El Reg. Maybe the last one.

          Problem? U mad, bro?

          Want to know what being good and properly trolled is really like? Try spending a year supporting the steaming pile that was CorelDRAW 5 on Windows 3.1 PCs. That was great fun.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    If Microsoft gets too stroppy, governments all over the world could decide to use a free office suite. Cue "Government looks after taxpayers" fanfare.

    OK, it did not quite work in Munich. But local government is so inefficient, who will notice the extra problems from free office software?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "who will notice the extra problems from free office software?"

      The government workers who can't open funny cats powerpoint files...

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    You'd think Microsoft never bothered to adopt standard interfaces. Or perhaps they think they invented CUA back in the day when they decided that confusing users with the unfamiliar wasn't a good idea.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Or perhaps they think they invented CUA

      I think IBM had the first stab (as in, let's stab programmers in the back) with that one. MS got it for free as part of the OS/2 consortium.

  7. adam payne Silver badge

    infringed on nine of patents covering areas like the Office Ribbon menu,

    Ribbon *shudder*

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't Excel have a "Lotus 1-2-3" mode? Kettle and Pot?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      shhh... don't point out the hypocrisy

      "Didn't Excel have a 'Lotus 1-2-3' mode?"

      Didn't Micro-shaft rip off Apple's Mac UI with overlapping windows, which was a ripoff of Xerox? And didn't Apple and Micro-shaft SUE ONE ANOTHER [which ran on for several years] over this VERY SAME THING?

      (from the article) Suing over how they draw the slider - that's kinda disturbing, though

  9. ThomH Silver badge

    Still unclear on the Ribbon hatred

    Set it to automatically hide and it's just a pull-down menu that's wide rather than tall and which attempts better to engage your spatial instincts. It's like an alternate history version of what happened next after the '80s-Mac-esque pattern of putting everything into pull-downs got too overloaded.

    That being the case, it astounds me that Microsoft even wants to expend the energy to protect the idea, especially when its Office suite is not exactly at risk. It's a refinement at best, and the desire for a better overall Windows experience should outweigh protection for a single dominant product. Especially when you consider the message this sends.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Still unclear on the Ribbon hatred

      Why I hate the ribbon:

      a) it tries to substitute itself for a menu, and re-arranges the functionality in an unfamiliar way.

      b) I like the old way better [and it seemed to have more options]

      c) some programs seem to have no alternative to it (see MS Paint)

      d) I don't need that much screen real estate devoted to fat-finger buttons when I have a mouse

      e) the entire idea that the UI needed re-inventing so that MS could patent it

      f) the entire idea that people PREFER this when they clearly do NOT

      g) it was invented by the SAME PERSON that (essentially) invented 'the Metro' look

      h) hiding it doesn't really MAKE IT GO AWAY (like a hamburger button)

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Still unclear on the Ribbon hatred


        Why I love the ribbon.

        1. The initial display is two-dimensional rather than one-d. So you see more of the detailed options at a glance.

        2. You click on a ribbon option and it brings down a sub-list. So the third dimension is accessible with one click, rather than two. It means you have a better idea of where to start when looking for a less common option.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Still unclear on the Ribbon hatred

          > It means you have a better idea of where to start when looking for a less common option.

          Been using the Ribbon interface since 2007, but still I find Google is your friend when you need to locate both where some less used, but important option may be lurking and how to get it to work, as it works slightly differently to how it worked in 97/2000/2k3...

          Also, try talking someone through some action using the ribbon interface, over the phone... Yes, you can use shortcuts, but you want the person to be able to learn how to use the interface, rather than just key in the 'magic' key sequences you tell them to use.

          The big mistake MS made with the Fluent UI and subsequently with TIFKAM was not understanding that the majority of existing users of Windows/Office had learnt how to navigate the GUI that had pretty much been standard since the 1980's, with it's evolution proceeding much like the QWERTY keyboard, where someone from 1873 would be able to find their way around a modern keyboard. Yes my kids needed something simpler than the standard Office menu's to get them started, but that wasn't difficult - until MS decided to EoL Works and not include a 'beginners' mode in Office...

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Still unclear on the Ribbon hatred

        X) The ribbon takes up more vertical screen real-estate than the old method, and its introduction roughly coincided with the transition to more narrow screens.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hello , I'm a medium and I have someone here who'd like to speak to you Microsoft.....

    Gary Kildall.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Another hearing will be held on March 2 to make sure any loose ends are tied up

    They're going to stitch a zip onto the ribbon.

  12. CFWhitman

    What a joke.

    OK. This seems bogus on more than one level.

    What exactly related to "tabbed toolbars" (the original name of the "ribbon" interface) has Microsoft patented, and do they not exist in all the previous iterations of tabbed toolbars that were used by other companies in other software. Are they actually new?

    Also, is this a design patent? I say this because there is nothing in the ribbon interface that should be patentable as a utility patent. Utility patents are supposed to be for inventing new technology, not for making a novel choice as to layout (though, as mentioned, not really terribly novel in light of software history, just not that popular).

    The patent system is so messed up and so far away from what it was invented to accomplish that it's basically a joke at this point.

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