back to article Microsoft loses battle of the piggybacking passwords

Microsoft has been told to fork over $140m because Windows XP and certain versions of Microsoft Office require more than one activation code. You see, there are patents on the use of more than one activation code, and they're held by a clever company in Michigan that has successfully sued the bejesus out of the Redmond …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Oh the irony

    of having to side with either "M$" or a patent troll

  2. Daniel B.
    Pirate

    I cite...

    X-Win32. They use something similar for their products, which unlike M$ products, actually work.

    And as the previous user commented ... eek. Its like rooting Sauron or Emperor Palpatine. Though if the troll prevails, that would be the end of Windows lockout protection schemes. I hope WGA also gets axed with that...

  3. Brian Miller

    Software patents are wrong

    Yes, software patents are wrong.

    Bad software patents are upheld. (prior art??)

    Until the notion of patenting software is chucked out the window, this kind of crap will keep happening and keep happening.

    This kind of stuff is why Microsoft likes keeping $40bn cash in the bank.

  4. Lou Gosselin

    No software patents.

    In today's technological world where there are millions of coders, it is crazy to hold the notion that the government should/could maintain a registry of all software inventions and their inventors. It is too monumental a task to seriously justify the enormous costs of doing it right, while doing it wrong can be (and is) devastating.

    There are those who staunchly defend "IP" rights and patents without even understanding the differences between copyrights and patents. These people should not be making policy or voicing their opinions, please go read up on what a patent is.

    If you are a lawyer or a troll, well go find a job that actually benefits society, I don't care about you and neither should the government.

    As for the rest of the pro-software-patent crowd, please realize that patents raise the overhead costs of doing business for both the patent holders and the licensees: lawsuits, application fees, the constant uncertainty, the eternal delays.

    Why should developers pay $ to Company X instead of developing the technology internally for a fraction of $?

    The answer: IDEALLY Company X WOULD MAKE the SALE, but only because they produce a better product for a better cost in a shorter time frame than the developers could have achieved on their own, otherwise Company X doesn't deserve the sale, patent or not.

    Why does Company X need a government backed monopoly on a technology unless it's making inferior software, charging too much, or is a troll.

    Think about this very carefully, and I think you'll agree that software patents should be obliterated.

  5. Crossbow
    Stop

    err....

    Does this mean that any forum or website that requires you to complete a captcha and also enter a password also violates this patent?..... because these days, thats pretty much all of them

  6. Tuomo Stauffer
    Coat

    Something is weird?

    Excluding the good comment about capcha and password which may or may not be same as using two keys there has been forever the requirement for a name ( one key, user, company, whatever registered to product instance ) and the given key. Both needed to activate a product and I remember back to early 80's and probably used before that. So a 1998 filed patent is a little late?

  7. Billy Verreynne
    Paris Hilton

    Warning

    I have patented a utility that allows programmers to not only code better, but code faster,

    It works in any programming language. For any type of application, On any operating system.

    It is called coffee.

    And if anyone of you bastards drink coffee while coding, you owe me royalties!

    (The obligatory Paris angle: She goes well with coffee?)

  8. Matware
    Flame

    What were patents created for

    My history may be a bit shaky, but I believe that the concept was invented to avoid businesses having trade secrets, and building multi generational monopolies out of them. Patents exposed the secrets to the world, and allowed people to build on that secret knowledge once it was exposed. Hence the obviousness test. If something couldn't reasonably become a trade secret, then what's the point in giving someone a government sanctioned monopoly for 25+ years, it would hinder innovation rather than expand it.

    No I believe that patents were abused right from the start, Watt (of the steam engine fame) was notorious for having sued his competitors into the poor house, and then taken their ideas when they couldn't defend their own patents.

    I also know that drug companies use the double whammy of trade secrets and patents, they only patent drugs when they wish to sell them, and keep better replacements as trade secrets until the old drug has gone out of patent, and worse, bullying companies that release a safer variant of the original drug. This is a gross misuse of the patent system and means that medicine is decades behind where it could be.

    A case in point of this was the anti-depressant that caused kiddies to kill themselves. Another drug was available and tested before the first went on the market. The better version was patented and available only when the old one went out of patent, but the test data showed that it was created at the same time.

    So in summary, our current patent system kills children.

  9. Steve Browne

    Decisions, decisions

    Having to choose between Microsoft and a patent troll ... hmmm.

    Let me see, patent trolls are just out and out parasites, they contribute nothing to society yet expect to reap rich rewards.

    Microsoft buys up competitors, revises their products and rebadges them as Microsoft. They also support patents on software and are pressing hard via their EU representative (have you met George ?) to inflict loonie US laws on the rest of the world.

    Through their use of software patents, Microsoft create the environment for the trolls to survive.

    Physician heal thyself begins to form !

    So, if the troll wins and Microsoft are forced to continually hand over large sums of cash, will their support for software patents diminish.

    If Microsoft wins, will this mean the end of software patents as they would now be unenforceable.

    Sounds a bit like a dog eating it's tail.

  10. David Haworth

    @crossbow

    > Does this mean that any forum or website that requires you to complete a captcha and also enter a password also violates this patent?

    Maybe. And if so, DEC also violated the patent in the mid 1980s by having a dual-password feature to log in. So when will DEC^H^H^HCompa^H^H^H^HHewlett Packard get sued?

  11. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    New patent

    I'm hereby staking a claim to the technique where, after optionally entering the first password and the second password, the user will be required to bend over backwards to continue to use the software. MSFT will surely have to surrender all their net worth to me as that's what every piece of software they've ever designed requires.

  12. George Johnson
    Paris Hilton

    So...

    Maybe I'm being thicker than one of the Thicky-Twins ( Paris an Pal ) here, but if i understood it correctly, if your software uses a single mechanism with two seperate password/code entries to allow you to use/activate it, then you are infringing z4's patent? I assume this case makes a very specific point about it's use, else what of secure online systems like bankin and Citrix remote access which routinely use two level mechanisms to try to maintain security to use the apps, let alone as previous posters have said, the captcha systems.

  13. Greg

    @Lou Gosselin

    >Why should developers pay $ to Company X instead of developing the technology internally for a fraction of $?

    The answer: IDEALLY Company X WOULD MAKE the SALE, but only because they produce a better product for a better cost in a shorter time frame than the developers could have achieved on their own, otherwise Company X doesn't deserve the sale, patent or not.

    Think about this very carefully, and I think you'll agree that software patents should be obliterated.

    I think you know about nothing about economy or the patent system and its justification.

    Fortunately, you have Mattware two posts after you to start teaching you a thing or two on this.

    WHY an inferior and more expensive product should be protected is quite simple: if I have to spend 1.5 billion dollars in R&D, like is the average currently, to create a new drug, I NEED to have a protection against generics companies who will, oe month after I get the product out, have identified the molecule in their facilities for $5 millions, and will then start churning it out of their factory for the same basic cost.

    Then what? Then two very efficient companies will have to compete on a price that will be the pure production price. None of them will make much money, which is very much OK as it benefits the consumer with lower prices.

    Trouble is, the one that invented the drug will go bankrupt as it can't repay its 1.5 billion investment.

    And guess what? 2 years later, there's no private research in drugs anymore. Not at all. Not anywhere in the world.

    THAT's the principle of the patent system, and focusing on the "better product, better cost" mantra is missing the obvious.

    Now there are very good arguments against handing monopolies for many, even most nowadays it seems, patents.

    I don't think the idea of using two activation codes really required a big investment tha twould give a competitor - who would "steal" the idea without "doing R&D" for it - an edge over the company that "invented" the idea.

    But that's why, as Mattware said, there is an obviousness test.

    If it's difficult to be the first to find something, you have to reward the first, even if he's less efficient afterwards, because otherwise everyone would wait to be second, since being first means you're out of business. If it's easy, then there's no reason to give you an edge, since noone will shy from using an idea that "just comes up"

  14. Greg

    Activation Code <> Password

    Does anyone actually read the story?

    It's already ludicrous enough when considering what is really said, that is TWO ACTIVATION CODES, no need to get all worked up abuot double passwords whereas nothing was said about this at all and on the opposite, it seems firmly based on activation.

    Could still be vaguely related to forums (though there is actually only one activation code, the link you receive and have to click, the captcha being a registration code which is something else), but certainly not what you all seem to be starting to think.

  15. Steve
    Stop

    @Lou Gosselin

    > IDEALLY Company X WOULD MAKE the SALE, but only because they

    > produce a better product for a better cost in a shorter time frame than

    > the developers could have achieved on their own, otherwise Company X

    > doesn't deserve the sale, patent or not.

    If the developers can make it better and faster than Company X then they are surely doing it differently, and so won't infringe the patent held by Company X?

    Then they patent their improvements, license the basic technology from Company X, and get rich selling the improved version...

    The problem with patents, software or otherwise, isn't their existence. It is that they are all-too-often granted for ideas which are too broad, by examiners who don't understand the technology and so aren't qualified to judge either prior art or obviousness.

  16. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Prior Art

    To the extent that the patent is comprehensible, it suggests having separate "passwords or groups of passwords" for each copy of the software and a possible registration step that might involve customer-specific information being sent back to the publisher so that it can be munged into a second "password or groups of passwords".

    I submit the bizarre notion of each user having their own password as prior art for the first claim and challenge-response as prior art for the second claim. I also submit that the first is so bleedin' obvious that one wonders how they even had the cheek to propose it.

    All else is bollocks. The only reason these patents got granted is that they were written in such turgid terms that both examiners died of boredom whilst reading them.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Microsoft: "We're above the law"

    > "The facts in this case clearly show that Microsoft developed its own product activation technology well before z4 Technologies did, and that Microsoft’s technology is different," Bowermaster said.

    So basically, Microsoft is right and the Courts are wrong... nothing new there then. I don't know why Bill Gates doesn't just pay for all government officers and elected representatives to be assassinated, and just move the seat of government to its Redmond HQ, where he can get on with the job of being Supreme Ruler of the world uninterrupted by all this legal nonsense...

    Jeez... being a convicted predatory monopolist doesn't seem to dissuade MS from trying to annihilate democracy, does it...?

  18. D. M
    Jobs Horns

    Patent is out of control

    The current patent system is crazy, it is safe to invalidate 99.9% of them, and still having stupid patent left.

    Just in case, I patented the method that requires "push a button in order turn on a computer". Time to pay, all of you.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    misunderstanding of what a patent should require...

    Someone invents a lock.

    Someone invents a door.

    Someone combines the two.

    Someone else patents a door with two or more locks???

    Maybe I can patent using passwords using more characters than currently allowed. That way, when when the field is expanded from X characters to X+Y characters, I can sue too!

  20. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Anonymous Coward

    hmm

    Here I thought that wearing belt and suspenders was just a sin against fashion--evidently it is also a patent infraction.

  21. Roger Merchberger
    Gates Horns

    re: New Patent

    Quoting Vladimir Plouzhnikov: "...the user will be required to bend over backwards to continue to use the software. MSFT..."

    Microsoft would never fall under that patent, because they require all users to bend over *Forwards* to use their software!!!

  22. Shakje

    Re: Microsoft: "We're above the law"

    Yes, it's ridiculously easy to take a bash at MS, but really, this isn't the place as the patent is ridiculous. The courts do in fact get it wrong sometimes, and MS do sometimes get it right.

    To further the cause of MS I've patented ranting, trademarked M$ and copyrighted fanboi.

  23. Lou Gosselin

    Response to @Greg and @Steve

    GREG: "WHY an inferior and more expensive product should be protected is quite simple: if I have to spend 1.5 billion dollars in R&D, like is the average currently, to create a new drug, I NEED to have a protection against generics companies who will, oe month after I get the product out, have identified the molecule in their facilities for $5 millions, and will then start churning it out of their factory for the same basic cost."

    I specifically said software patents, I don't hold an opinion on other patents one way or the other because it is not in my field of expertise. I don't regard your comments relevant whatsoever to the software field.

    Just like you say, patents in general were intended to compensate the R&D process, however with software this is completely unnecessary, as R&D costs are minimal (compared to your example).

    For about the costs of filing a patent of a "software invention", one could probably hire hackers to implement the algorithms of said invention from scratch within a week without the benefit of prior work. Assuming that this is true, what then is the public benefit/justification of software patents?

    STEVE: "If the developers can make it better and faster than Company X then they are surely doing it differently, and so won't infringe the patent held by Company X?"

    Should developers be wasting time and resources by the fact that they must compare their home grown algorithms to those vaguely described in the patent registry? It is a pointless legal endeavor with no technical merit. It should not matter if they happen to develop and use the SAME software algorithms, they should be entitled to.

    You may not be a developer, but you are misunderstanding that there are mathematically only so many efficient ways to code things, patents restrict developers from using the best implementations. So even if there was no significant R&D for the work covered by the patent, there sure will be for the developers trying to avoid the patent.

    STEVE: "Then they patent their improvements, license the basic technology from Company X, and get rich selling the improved version..."

    Even if a developer chooses to apply for a patent on an improvement of an existing software patent and succeeds, Company X is not legally required to license the original software patent to the developer under Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms. So the improvement may be worthless. Additionally, unless the developer files a broad patent or several patents to protect the first, it may be possible to side step his patent.

    Neither of you addressed my base point that patents create a huge source of completely unnecessary overhead, resulting in less development funds, and ultimately raising costs.

    We see the patent lawsuits in the news all the time, who do you think is paying for it??

    I reassert that those who understand software patents objectively would do away with them.

  24. Marcus Bointon
    Stop

    Adobe was doing this ages ago

    Both Adobe and Macromedia did this well before 1998. When you got an upgrade to something like Director or Photoshop, it was standard practice to have to enter a previous version's serial number (i.e. activation code) before entering the new one. I believe it was also normal to have to have supplied that serial number prior to ordering the upgrade, and thus entirely feasible that the new serial could be dependent on the old one.

  25. Danny
    Dead Vulture

    @greg

    'if I have to spend 1.5 billion dollars in R&D, like is the average currently, to create a new drug, I NEED to have a protection against generics companies'

    Bad analogy to use. Most new drugs, particularly for high profile diseases have had the research paid for by the general public through charitable donations. Just one example, how many readers have contributed to the Cancer Research charity? If they manage to find a cure for one or all cancers, do you really think they will give it to all the pharmaceutical companies for free, so they can make it as cheap as possible? Not a chance, it will be patented and only those who own the patent or have paid to be licensed to do so will be allowed to produce it and charge whatever they feel like. Most charities do not own their own labs, so chances are they are allowed to use labs belonging to a big company in return for either the patent on anything discovered, or the exclusive rights to produce it.

  26. ElFatbob

    does this mean...

    can i patent the probability that all my personal information will be recorded, targeted, and held (insecurely) for no discernible reason?.....

    ...then those that hold it will..sell it to to the highest bidder?

    Who then might pay / and who might have access by virtue of the lowest ranking civil servant (who quite logically might sell some 'good' info for a profit).... then depends on the various shite we're facing..... ........

  27. Conrad
    Gates Horns

    Software patents only make lawyers richer

    I am still totally puzzled how an algorithm which could have been written by a script kiddie who has just learned to program and has not prior knowledge of 'said' algorithm could invent/implement all on his/her own can be patentable?

    Anything that can be whipped up and shown to work in under 2 hours by someone without special nor advanced domain-knowledge of the algorithm-area should only have a patent life-span of as many years! It's all about money, I mean my own software protection uses a reasonably similar activation method, and I am not seeing anyone come after me, because I am not making any money. But did anyone at the patent office bother to check if I perhaps GPL'd my code in 1997? Not likely because there is no money in it! Unfortunately the score lies at : Altruists=0 : z4=4

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020