back to article What did we learn today? Microsoft has patented the slider bar

Microsoft has capped off a bumper year of epic patent stupidity all round with an award from the EFF for claiming ownership of a simple slider bar design. slider The design patent ... Some of Redmond's finest work apparently Graphical slider bars like this – used for setting audio volume, fill color, or the zoom scale of a …

  1. Pompous Git Silver badge

    The real focus of the legal challenge is on copying the design of the Microsoft Office ribbon bar.

    The Microsoft Office ribbon bar is "patently stupid". I paid to get my menus back in Office so I could work the way I'm used to.

    Then I discovered that Libre Office lets me do the same. And it's free :-)

    1. tin 2

      patently stupid

      Yes indeed. And now I know the reason that it was invented, so it could be patented, "migrate" everyone over to it and then sue anyone that tried to copy.

    2. aidanstevens
      FAIL

      The problem I find with LibreOffice is not so much functionality, which is adequate, but performance, which is absolutely pitiful!

      1. keithpeter
        Windows

        Performance...

        "The problem I find with LibreOffice is not so much functionality, which is adequate, but performance, which is absolutely pitiful!"

        1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you.

        What kind of stuff are you doing? Are we talking factors of 2, 10 or 100 here? Does the time scale as O^2 or higher?

        Not trolling just actually interested...

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Performance...

          For most usage and users the performance difference is nil because the real performance is user dexterity (how fast they can type, etc.) than speed of execution.

          1. Tim 11

            Re: Performance...

            For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

              Could this be because, like the case was/is with IE ("loading" much faster than other browsers), Windows has a lot of the libraries required by MSO already open, where LO needs to load a large number of them that aren't?

              Also, don't confuse "time to show screen ready for input" with "time to ready for input".

            2. Chemist

              Re: Performance...

              "Also 350k spreadsheet loading over wifi from fileserver ~2-3 secs."

              That time includes starting LO BTW

            3. Chemist

              Re: Performance...

              "For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office."

              Try it either with the internet connection turned off or load an .xls file - I certainly have this weird problem when traveling (not on my home wifi) where starting LO whilst connected produces a VERY long lag before the sheet is ready. Easy to work round and only applies on first opening of an .ods file.

              From memory it seems to be that it goes looking for my networked printer - which at home it finds - as to why ? ?

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Performance...

              "For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office."

              Yes me too, because I constantly open and close my office suite all day, rather than start it once in the morning and then close it once at the end of the working day !!!!!

            5. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              "the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office"

              Microsoft preload the office libraries at bootup - something they pulled with MSIE to get startup advantage over firefox and were thoroughly thwapped over a decade ago.

            6. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              >For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

              I'm pretty sure you can set LO to do the trick MS-O does - preload everything into a cache at boot time. If you have ram to spare and use LO a lot, its probably worth doing.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Performance...

                I've been playing with my first word processor for the PC: Borland's Sprint. It was pretty nippy running on a 4.77 MHz NEC V20. In a VM on a 3.5 GHz i5 it's blindingly fast. It's also still the most powerful word processor I ever used 28 years after I purchased it.

          2. petur

            Re: Performance...

            Not to mention the time lost due to the ribbon bar... I could never get used to it at work, so I ended up installing LO to get my productivity back

          3. chasil

            Re: Performance...

            I haven't used extensive spreadsheet functions since Lotus 1-2-3/Symphony on PS/2-class-class machines, which were 80386s at best.

            That said, sometimes automatic recalculation is disabled because it takes too long for every cell. In particular, 1-2-3's /(D)ata (T)ables, or Symphony's "multiple pass reports" would sometimes render a system unresponsive for hours on a big data set.

            In the old days, these operations were FAR SLOWER than my typing speed. This experience might have no relevance to modern MS/Libreoffice, granted.

            p.s. Microsoft - I hope any victory that you find in this is Pyrrhic, and that your market share burns, not just for your overpriced office suite, but for the rest of your core products as well. There was hope for you in these last days, but your spyware, greed, and maliciousness has truly shown that the Windows platform is a self-correcting problem.

        2. Blitterbug
          Happy

          Re: What kind of stuff are you doing?

          Can't speak for the other guy, but on my clean Surface, LibreOffice (which I love) has a sluggish UI and laggy loading speed - just generally feels clunky.

          As I said, I love it but if you want to DV an honest observation based on opening and manipulating the same docs in Word 2010 to test compatibility, go fer it!

        3. Chemist

          Re: Performance...

          "1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you."

          Can't compare with Excel but 400000 sine calculations here too quick to measure. Also 350k spreadsheet loading over wifi from fileserver ~2-3 secs.

          That's on an 8GB i7 OpenSUSE 13.1 LibreCalc 4.1...

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Performance...

          "1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you."

          If you're doing this kind of shit in a spreadsheet then you need to be tarred, feathered, set on fire and drummed out of town on a rail.

          Just because you can run a regional health authority on MS Excel(*) Doesn't mean you should.

          (*)Yes, really(***) - and when my business used the same programmers at insistence of one of the directors(**), we found 20% discrepencies in accounting answers vs using quickbooks after it was realised the Excel system was a hopeless piece of crap for a business less than 1% of the size of the RHA. (and it didn't produce output acceptable to any accountant, unlike QB)

          (**) "Quickbooks is expensive. We can't afford it." etc etc etc

          (***) I've been informed that the RHB in question is not the only one to do so.

          1. keithpeter
            Pint

            Re: Performance...

            "If you're doing this kind of shit in a spreadsheet then you need to be tarred, feathered, set on fire and drummed out of town on a rail."

            @ Alan Brown

            Why?

            Seriously, 5 minutes it took to think it out on the back of a payslip, set up the formulas and run the simulation with 10k rows. Then about 10 more minutes to get the macro sorted and collect 30 data points, then about 2 minutes to graph the lot. Answer back on viability of project within the hour.

            How long would an alternative take? And what would be your alternative?

            Genuinely interested, not trolling.

            I see the humble spreadsheet as a sort of doodle pad for numbers. A way of getting the *logic* sorted and then take it further into something with a bigger overhead if needed.

            This is mathematical modelling, not your corporate 'business application'

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              Even for doodling we find that errors creep in when compared to proper tools like mathematics.

              When spreadsheets are used as live accounting systems one of the biggest problems is the lack of audit trail.

              Spreadsheets are useful for simple stuff but the problem becomes such simple stuff grows without proper design.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Performance...

                Odd then that my brother-in-law managed the financial modelling for the Australian branch of a US-based company here in Australia using Excel. What he was doing (as I understand it -- I'm not an accountant) was constructing a financial representation (model) of various aspects of the firm. The model performed mathematical calculations, and was used to make recommendations based on that information.

                To say that "proper tools like mathematics" do a better job seems to be a non sequitur.

              2. Chemist

                Re: Performance...

                "Spreadsheets are useful for simple stuff but the problem becomes such simple stuff grows without proper design."

                Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation - the caveat is that they are not short cuts, require as much thinking as anything else complex and need as much care and checking as is necessary. For example using large sheets to manipulate /calculate large datasets I used to be paranoid and always added large amounts of known good data with known outputs into the set to check. All of this is especially important if macros are used - I try to avoid their use personally.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Performance...

                  '..Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation - the caveat is that they are not short cuts, require as much thinking as anything else complex and need as much care and checking as is necessary...'

                  I don't know if it's still the same (been away from the game for a while) but back when, the only spreadsheet software I recall anyone using for anything serious was Origin, certainly not Excel, with the heavy lifting being done with either IDL or Matlab.

                  (ISTR the argument made for the purchase of a site license for Origin was to do with accuracy, i.e. the output from Origin could be trusted to be accurate [for a given value], whereas Excel... I can't comment, for the little modelling and number crunching I did back then I used Mathcad & Matlab)

                  As to the subject of the article, I was surprised/amazed to see that Corel are still selling an Office suite..I thought they'd gotten out of that game and that Wordperfect had finally gone the way of Wordstar.

                2. P. Lee Silver badge

                  Re: Performance...

                  >Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation

                  The biggest problem with spreadsheets which I've come across is that they are really easy to modify accidentally and very difficult to verify.

                  A recursive piece of code is far easier to get right *over time* than a calculation which ripples across hundreds of rows and multiple sheets, any one of which may be accidentally altered.

                  May I recommend, the perl hash... or perhaps that newfangled php or ruby or JS or whatever the kids are using today.

                  1. Chemist

                    Re: Performance...

                    "The biggest problem with spreadsheets which I've come across is that they are really easy to modify accidentally and very difficult to verify."

                    So those of us that use them extensively have to develop working practices/ mitigations to ensure that we do stay safe.

                    If any data transformation becomes a standard requirement I code it in c

        5. Aqua Marina Silver badge

          Re: Performance...FIX

          A lot of the performance issues can be fixed by changing one group of settings. The original settings for OOO / Libre were decided in the late 90's, when 32 MB of ram was considered high.

          Open up Calc, and go to Tools - Options - Libre Office - Memory.

          Simply multiply all the values on this page by 10 then restart. Your OOO / Libre will be a lot quicker than it originally was.

      2. Lord_Beavis
        Coat

        RE: Perfomance

        I find Libre Office damn quick on my Ubuntu laptop, but dog ass slow on a Windows desktop that is inherently faster than the laptop.

        It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out Microsoft is sapping clock cycles from the CPU when Windows tries to run LO.

        Mines the one with the aluminium hat in the pocket...

      3. kryptylomese

        Have you optimised it?

        https://www.organicweb.com.au/17237/general-technology/libre-office-slow/

    3. Amorous Cowherder
      Happy

      I once read that if you find the speed of your spreadsheet calculations cause you to need to make a coffee while you wait for them, that's the sign that it's time to dump your spreadsheet and move to a proper database.

      1. keithpeter
        Pint

        Performance

        "I once read that if you find the speed of your spreadsheet calculations cause you to need to make a coffee while you wait for them, that's the sign that it's time to dump your spreadsheet and move to a proper database."

        In the example I gave above, it would be time to write a program in a compiled language. Spreadsheets are still easy for 'quick' doodles and getting the logic sorted. Quite often, I just get the answer anyway and don't write the proggy.

        OP hasn't come back to me. <Gallic Shrug>.

        @Chemist: possibly doing egg-sucking tutorial here but is that calling sine with same argument or random/varying argument? LO and Excel can cache results &c.

        @Blitterbug (chap with the Surface): Have a look at Data Smart by John Foreman. Basic model making with a spreadsheet - you can run the practical activities in both LO > 4.xish and MS Excel. Not too much difference between a 4Gb core-duo desktop / win7 /Excel 2010 at work and a Thinkpad core-duo X200 / LO 4.something at home, except for macros (who ever designed the macro dialog for LO needs an award - preferably in N. Korea and collected in person with return journey by boat) and some aspects of value dependent formatting.

        Happy new year all

        1. Chemist

          Re: Performance

          "possibly doing egg-sucking tutorial here but is that calling sine with same argument or random/varying argument? LO and Excel can cache results &c."

          That's having 400000 sines each dependent on a previous cell's value and then changing the first cell manually but at random. and waiting for the last cell to change.

          So as far as I'm concerned if forces 400000 sequential sine calculations and spreadsheet output refresh. I'm sure better benchmarks could be used but for the sort of numbers I use ~~100K rows with calculations ~~ this complex it's plenty fast enough. Anything more complex and I have a number of programs written in c to handle the data.

          Mostly retired so I don't need this so much but I do find it all so amusing when people complain about LO's speed.

          1. keithpeter
            Pint

            Re: Performance

            "That's having 400000 sines each dependent on a previous cell's value and then changing the first cell manually but at random. and waiting for the last cell to change.

            I accept no caching under that scenario.

            Mostly retired so I don't need this so much but I do find it all so amusing when people complain about LO's speed.

            I'm beginning to notice a trend: global evaluative statement about oOo/LO but then when engaged with I can never get any detail...

            Pint: I'd better stay offline for the next 24 hours as, you know, that will be safer.

            1. Chemist

              Re: Performance

              "I'm beginning to notice a trend: global evaluative statement about oOo/LO but then when engaged with I can never get any detail..."

              As someone else mentioned Office is one of MS's cash-cows - they and their 'friends' shall we say will probably do a lot to protect it.

              A further note on performance. I used Excel extensively for data manipulation/modeling a few years ago but when I first started using OO I was disappointed with Calc's performance. It was much slower than Excel for the size of dataset I was manipulating. That's all changed - it's now very fast.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Stop

      Copying the design of the Microsoft Office ribbon bar.

      So MS are suing Corel because Corel used the class that MS make available so that anyone can have standard-looking ribbon bars in their own programs?

      MS are really going downhill these days...

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Me too ( except the paying bit)

    6. Holleritho Silver badge

      Libre of Open

      I used OpenOffice, jumped to LibreOffice after a friend enthused, then jumped back to OpenOffice when Libre couldn't do stuff I wanted, or did ot so weirdly or slowly that I threw up my hands. Sorry that Open has been thrown into the fade.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Libre of Open

        when Libre couldn't do stuff I wanted, or did ot so weirdly or slowly that I threw up my hands

        Might be a better strategy to go hunting for a solution; throwing your hands in the air tends to be an indication that you are surrendering. Took me the best part of an hour of Googling/Gaggling/Goggling [delete whichever is inapplicable] to discover the reason for Chrome suddenly slowing to a crawl. It required turning off hardware acceleration (go figure!). Despite its manifest shortcomings, Google can be a very good friend indeed.

  2. elDog Silver badge

    Does Bill Gates feel any remorse whatsoever?

    I realize that he is considered a very bright businessperson but his company's shredding of decency over the years puts him in the realm of vulture capitalism.

    Yeah, I know that he is no longer in operational control of MS but, just like Jobs and Sculley and Ellison and everyone up there; you have to first be a real prick to make all those bucks.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you patent the volume control from a stereo just because it's digitally represented?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      It seems you can. There's a probably another separate and different design patent for one "on a mobile device" too. Apple probably got that one.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      what next?

      Patenting digital versions of a slide lock latch for a gate?

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Yes, adding "on a computer" or "over the Internet" to anything makes it patentable.

    4. Tromos

      When it comes to design patents, seemingly anything goes. After all, Apple got rounded corners for their phones which were a feature of 1950s 'Old Holborn' tobacco tins to name but one example.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Have an upvote

        Old Baccy tins are essential recepticals in any decent Model Engineers Workshop.

        I have around 100 that contain things like 8BA Nuts. Naturally, they are clearly labelled using Dyno Tape

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Have an upvote

          Dy_M_o tape.

          1. PNGuinn Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Have an upvote - dyno tape

            He was probably using the (patent expired) prehistoric version ...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Have an upvote - Dy_M_o tape.

            Emo tape is better.

            It cuts itself

            I'll get my coat ........

      2. Mike Bell

        Old Holborn may well have a design patent on the appearance of their product, as they are entitled to do so. Such a patent would include a visual depiction of the particular form factor, typography etc. Although it makes for amusing (and regular) reading, Apple do not have a patent on rounded corners. They have design patents for devices that incorporate specific form factors which, in conjunction with many other elements, contribute to the overall design. The Coca Cola corporation doesn't have a monopoly on bottles that have rounded elements, but they do have a design patent that covers the specific implementation of their Coke bottle.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Not only Holborn tobacco tins

        Holborn computers also have rounded corners

    5. Franklin

      A design patent isn't the same animal as a utility patent. A design patent is only a patent on the exact look of something, and it has to be on a look with no practical utility to the underlying thing.

      Which makes me believe that had Corel put the + and - widgets at the end of the slider inside squares rather than circles, or made the design of the slider bit look different, they wouldn't have this mess.

      Not that the patent is anything but bonkers, but still.

  4. Graham Triggs

    *Design* Patent

    Microsoft does not have a patent on the concept of a slider, they have a patent for a particular *appearance* of a slider.

    The "stupidity" is in the crass reporting of the patent exhibited in a number of places.

    1. linicks
      Go

      Re: *Design* Patent

      Agreed - the whole patent office is broken. It's been said/stated lots of times all over the Internet that it looks like those in control don't even read the submissions - they just grant them to get rid of the workload.

      I am now putting in a patent for a subject forum title that uses *Design* as a subject.

      You owe me £10,000,000

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: *Design* Patent

        A patent application approved is a work unit completed.

        A patent application denied is a work unit in limbo that can require additional work repeatedly, year after year as it is resubmitted with amendments, until it can be approved or finally denied.

        The performance appraisal incentive for the examiner is quite obvious.

        The category of patent requested probably is immaterial.

    2. Amorous Cowherder
      Facepalm

      Re: *Design* Patent

      More or less what I gathered without even reading it, another "click bait" story to encourage mock outrage from people who haven't calmed the feck down for 5 seconds and had a sensible think about it.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: *Design* Patent

        The equivalent in UK law to this is a "registered design": legal protection for the appearance of a product. Some people just see the words 'Patent' and 'Microsoft' and go nuts..

        This is a look and feel suit, nothing to do with Software Patents at all... and further evidence that EFF has lost touch with reality.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: *Design* Patent

      Microsoft does not have a patent on the concept of a slider, they have a patent for a particular *appearance* of a slider.

      That this even exists is testament to the utter stupidity of the american art of "capitalism", which has nothing to do with actual capitalism but quite a lot with nepotism, protectionism and toll-boothing of everything that you can. The environment is extremely toxic. This is what you get when lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians dependent on slush money are given free reign.

      This is a look and feel suit

      There are actually people out there who think "a look and feel suit" makes sense. How about a "touch and hear" suit?

      It is not a "software patent" and the EFF says as much. But the word "patent" is not in there for shits and giggles. The fact that a suit exists is testament to the fact that this a real "patent": it claims some kind of ownership.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: *Design* Patent

        Well said - makes sense to me (but reign > rein).

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: *Design* Patent

      "Design patents" - which the rest of the world calls "registered designs" or something similar are hard to refuse.

      It's about "trade dress" - but something as common as a slider bar should never be allowed.

      This particular case is evil. They're using the slider as headline so that when corel capitulate (over the ribbon), they can start going after anyone else using similiar sliders.

      Hopefully these design fragments were not allowed EU protection (and in the case of the Ribbon, if MS made statements about interoperability/portability, they're likely to find any claims invalidated)

  5. Pompous Git Silver badge

    you have to first be a real prick to make all those bucks.

    Sounds like you are jealous of their money but lack the talent to earn your own. Not all self-made multi-millionaires are "real pricks".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Walsh_(art_collector)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Your are right. It's the media whore ones who are pricks. You never hear of the reasonable and "normal" ones because they and their businesses are not in court 24/7/365 fighting the next battle against their customers and competitors. They're too busy making more money.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        You never hear of the reasonable and "normal" ones because they and their businesses are not in court 24/7/365 fighting the next battle against their customers and competitors. They're too busy making more money.

        And in David's case provisioning the largest privately owned museum and art gallery in the Southern hemisphere. Entry is free for Tasmanian residents. He also puts on many free music concerts. IIRC two of the three that John Cale performed at were free and the main concert was $AU40.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        " 24/7/365 "

        Let's just think about this for a moment.

        24/7/365

        Spotted the error yet?

        24/7/365

        There you go!

        1. Chris Evans

          You can have...

          24/7

          24/7/52

          24/365

          and even 24/7/4.33/12

          but 24/7/365 makes no sense

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Well, Walsh is at least honest about his wealth. In that he gained it by gambling, and does not believe that in doing so he did anything useful for society, hence his philanthropy. He's also paid very little tax as compared to someone doing an actual useful job, but I think he settled that out somewhat.

      In general there are almost no "self-made" multi-millionaires.* Either they come from wealth, and hence can take much larger gambles with their life, knowing that even if it all goes to shit they are still rich (BIll Gates being the classic example of this). Or they get made by directly or indirectly stealing wealth from the people of a country, be it your dictator-for-life types, or companies like Virgin being given assets at knockdown prices.

      People are in general much better at making money the less they care about the people they make it from. Having to try and teach ethics to business students (as compared to engineering or medical) is suitably enlightening as to the various attitudes towards their "customers". Also towards their expected remuneration relevant to how hard their course of study is (med students do worst, engineers in the middle, and business just takes the piss).

      * I've known one, who did it without being too much of a dick and owns a fair bit of property (8 houses, 4 shops). But he doesn't appear or act "rich" other than the fact he really hates spending money on things he considers wasteful. 7 figure bank account, 7-8 figures of assets, still won't spend more than $300 on a car or $100 on a computer.

  6. RegGuy1

    People still use Microsoft products?

    Wow.

    1. Herbert Meyer

      Re: People still use Microsoft products?

      People still use Corel products ?

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: People still use Microsoft products?

        People still use Corel products ?

        Been using CorelDRAW! since version 2 when I believe I was the southernmost licence-holder on the planet. I have also used to use Corel Ventura for technical documents and will use it again if I ever find the need. More bang for the buck than Adobe products except for InDesign that is better for graphics-intensive page layouts. Corel products feature more keyboard controls than Adobe where RSI mouse controls predominate.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: People still use Microsoft products?

        Yes we do. For some things, it's tied to hardware... sadly. Along with Microslurp's Win7. Working with Win10 is far in the future if at all. But the hardware demands Corel for some reason.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People still use Corel products ?

        We've been using WordPerfect since MSDOS - it's simply a better product with real formatting control so that you can actually get what you want out of the printer.

        If it were not for Outlook we would not have MS Office installed at all.

        1. Tannin

          Re: People still use Corel products ?

          Corel have really buggered up the sulime Quattro Pro, but it's still vastly more pleasant to use than Excel.

          You know what I really, really miss in computing these days? Companies who just made standout quality products as a matter of pride and habit - Borland and Word Perfect are the obvious examples.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: People still use Corel products ?

            "Borland and Word Perfect are the obvious examples."

            Perfect is the enemy of "good enough"

            MS took the market by being "good enough" and cheaper - plus tolerating widespread piracy which meant their product was ubiquitous. It was only after the competition was virtually eliminated that they started their antipiracy drives and jacked prices up whilst locking customers in (this was Gates/Balmer at the helm). The competition they couldn't drive out of business was simply purchased and shut down - or in some cases, stolen and paid peppercorns for when challenged (norton defrag being one example) as the smaller company would have been wiped out by litigation costs.

            Bear in mind now that Windows itself is a minor income part of MS. The cash cow is Office - which is why they're totally terrified of LO(*) and will put in Dos4isms(**) to keep it off the MS desktop.

            (*) There are other office suites, but LO undercuts them on price and doesn't touch the ribbon. Corel must have them worried if they're taking this action and being a company that's targettable is more useful for followon litigation of 3rd parties.

            (**) "Dos4 isn't ready to ship until Lotus 123 won't run" - although they're smart enough these days to NOT simply refuse to run LO when strapping a few boatanchors to the keel will work just as well.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: People still use Corel products ?

              MS took the market by being "good enough" and cheaper

              Back in the mid-90s, MS Office was the most expensive of the three main office suites. Lotus Smartsuite was second and Borland Office was the cheapest by far. By the late 90s Smartsuite was being bundled at no cost with new PC purchases and I purchased Novell Perfect Office for ~$AU100 on 27 floppy disks as a "competitive upgrade".

              Hint: if you want people to take what you write seriously, you need to get the facts right.

              1. x 7 Silver badge

                Re: People still use Corel products ?

                " Lotus Smartsuite was second and Borland Office was the cheapest by far. By the late 90s Smartsuite was being bundled at no cost with new PC purchases and I purchased Novell Perfect Office for ~$AU100 on 27 floppy disks as a "competitive upgrade"."

                During my period at Time Computers we switched from bundling free with new PCs Lotus Smartsuite, then StarOffice(pre-Open Office) , and finally WordPerfect suite. A few premium branded machines got MS Works.

                It was never overly clear, but the hints we got from management was that the choice went to whichever company gave the biggest subsidy to bundle their software. Effectively IBM/Lotus, Star Division and Novell/Corel were handing the software out for free: they obviously recognised the malevolence of Microsoft's marketing

                1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

                  Re: People still use Corel products ?

                  Exactly, back in the late 90's I was buying Lotus Smartsuite CDs for resale to customers for about £3 a piece from VIP Computers. Every client I supported had it. It really is surprising how MS Office won out in the end considering it was about 70 times more expensive.

                  1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                    Re: People still use Corel products ?

                    It really is surprising how MS Office won out in the end considering it was about 70 times more expensive.

                    I suspect that there were multiple factors at work. My colleagues training spreadsheets were frequently asked "How do I present my data like this using 1-2-3?" while being shown output from Excel. Upon being told that 1-2-3 was incapable of doing what they were being asked to do, they would sign up for Excel training.

                    There was also support. MS had Technet and nearly always problems with Word etc were solved by simply querying the MS Knowledge Base. While Borland, Novell, Lotus etc provided support, it was far from uncommon for there to be no known solution. See my previous comment regarding a failed mail merge using Word Perfect.

                    The largest training contract I ever had was with a business transitioning from dumb terminals to Win95/MS Office. They had purchased IBM PCs and they were bundled with Lotus Smartsuite. I asked why they hadn't gone with the lower cost option and was told that their existing word processing and spreadsheet users were using MS product in preference to Lotus because they were more productive. Management, wisely I thought, decided to keep their existing users happy and go with uniformity, rather than a mixed environment.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: People still use Corel products ?

                    '..It really is surprising how MS Office won out in the end considering it was about 70 times more expensive.'

                    Oh please, everyone knows why..Piracy.

                    At a Certain University in London, back in the early/mid 90's, we had one legal copy of Office....

                    Installed on over 35 office machines..

                    about 10 Lab machines...

                    FSM knows how many Academics home machines..

                    (and that was just my Department, the copies of the copy did the rounds)

                    This wasn't uncommon.

                    (As I type this, I'm ashamed to say that there are a couple of legal copies of MS Ofiice installed on a couple of laptops within sight of this machine, happily, I didn't pay for the licences, doubleplushappiness, I only need them to convert to PDF the occasional Word Document that LO screws up the formatting on)

                    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                      Re: People still use Corel products ?

                      Oh please, everyone knows why..Piracy.

                      That argument would only work if the rival products were copy-protected. They weren't.

                      While you are ashamed to pay for software, I'd be ashamed to be a thief. So it goes...

                2. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  Re: People still use Corel products ?

                  Effectively IBM/Lotus, Star Division and Novell/Corel were handing the software out for free: they obviously recognised the malevolence of Microsoft's marketing

                  Er... how is charging ~$AU500 "malevolent marketing"? When rival software is free, you need a very good reason indeed to spend that kind of money.

  7. Terry Cloth
    Joke

    Why they're doing it

    The 2015 financials must be shaping up to be disastrous if they have to stoop to this level to get revenue.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Why they're doing it

      Maybe Ballmer is onto something, the financials may be constructed to hide some atrocious news. A few patent shakedowns will help the balance sheet but they have to win.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Why they're doing it

      Well the utility patents they are trying to assert are coming to the end of their life.

      Going through the MS court submission, which is surprisingly detailed in some respects and a couple of the patents, I suggest this case is more about MS not getting the access it wants, on the terms it wants, to Corel's IPR.

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    "the use of Help windows overlaying a document"

    You mean like WordStar on CP/M?

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Revenue Stream?

    Software as a Service (Office 365 model... pay monthly or yearly), maybe Windows 10 based on the description (as a Service) and now.... Patent Troll for an obvious patent at that.

  10. channel extended

    Next for Win10!!

    Coming to a computer near you soon, MS next patented invention 'TOILET PAPER' needed for all the crap they are going to do to you next!

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Coat

    What is this Micro-Soft you speak of?

    Yes, I know... see icon.

    1. Soruk

      Re: What is this Micro-Soft you speak of?

      The origin of the name "Microsoft" is that it was suggested to Gates and Allen by Gates's then-girlfriend, after an encounter of theirs one night underneath the sheets.

  12. DerekCurrie
    FAIL

    Blame the USPTO, which I consider abominable

    Thanks to the inability of #MyStupidGovernment to act in a reliably coherent manner, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is a catastrophic mess of poor funding, ridiculously poor research of prior art and overall responsibility for its blundering. The result is lots of wasted money being fed into the pockets of opportunistic patent trolls, receivers of bogus patent approval and of course lawyers. :-P

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Blame the USPTO, which I consider abominable

      Government of the shysters, for the shysters, and by the shysters.

    2. TheProf
      Devil

      Re: Blame the USPTO, which I consider abominable

      Of course they'll give you a patent on anything; they get a minimum of $70 for every one issued. Kerchinggggg!

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Blame the USPTO, which I consider abominable

      All Government Legislation has the opposite effect to that intended.

  13. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Prior Art

    Xerox should sue Slurp because they should have prior art on GUIs. If I remember correctly some of the prior art actually dates back to the 60's. Can Corel change Slurp under RICO, sounds like mob shake down.

  14. bill 30

    Dear Mr. Microsoft

    You fucking idiots.............

  15. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    it's look and feel all over again.

  16. tempemeaty
    Mushroom

    Mind blowing...

    Microsofts' action look like nothing less than all out total corruption...imho.

  17. Lord_Beavis
    Linux

    Microsoft is the new SCO

    Since they can't make decent product and are driving their customers to Linux, they are going to start suing for stupid shit now.

    Fuck Microsoft.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft is the new SCO

      "Since they can't make decent product"

      I have to disagree. SCO had a very decent product but they couldn't/wouldn't compete with "free as in beer". If they'd cut the prices I suspect Linux would never have got off the ground.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft is the new SCO

        "If they'd cut the prices I suspect Linux would never have got off the ground."

        Linux worked on my systems. SCO didn't. It was about more than price.

  18. Richard 12 Silver badge

    It's a "Registered Design"

    However, I don't see how they can possibly have a case when their own documentation specifically recommends using the same style as MS Office.

    Direct quote from Microsoft's User Interface Principles document:

    For example, if your application supports, application or an add-on for, Office OneNote 2003, it is wise to follow the styles of UI and interactivity standards of Office—and OneNote itself, in particular. This includes using the Office-style command bars instead of the standard toolbars, and other such things— both visual and behavioral.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: It's a "Registered Design"

      However, I don't see how they can possibly have a case when their own documentation specifically recommends using the same style as MS Office.

      It's been years since I read Microsoft's licensing terms for the ribbon ... but I do recall that there was some wording in there to prevent the ribbon style being used in any software that directly competed with MS Office (which is what Corel have done).

      ... though why anyone should want to do so is beyond me!

  19. Boonie

    Good old days

    Memories of the XOR cursor patent.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Patent office has gone downhill....

    ... since the guy who invented Relativity left.

    It has now been replaced with a single rubber stamp marked 'Approved'

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: The Patent office has gone downhill....

      "... since the guy who invented Relativity left."

      I'm sure we all refer to the Swiss Patent office (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Federal_Institute_of_Intellectual_Property) as THE Patent office. However, here we are debating a US Design Patent.

  21. J J Carter Silver badge

    MSFT Baaaad!

    So MSFT aren't allowed intellectual property rights?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: MSFT Baaaad!

      "So MSFT aren't allowed intellectual property rights?"

      No, MSFT aren't allowed to own others intellectual property rights. Nor dictate them.

  22. Jonjonz

    Lawers

    Come the revolution, line them all up...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lawers

      (I shall admit upfront, I am a lawyer (of sorts - there is more than one type of legal representative)).

      I understand the mentality, and when directed at lawyers (predominately US based) who incite actions themselves (e.g. by creating class actions, only to take the lions share of the settlement) then it is perhaps fairly applied.

      However, in respect of lawyers who only do what they are asked to do by a client, on the client's initiative (like myself), then it is not (so) fairly applied. In this case, we are just doing what we are good at and someone is willing to pay for.

      I am sure many people will happily do something they are able to do (by knowledge and legally), and have been paid to do, regardless of what it ends up 'costing' others. For example, I personally think it is a dreadful state of affairs that grown men can be paid millions of pounds per year to kick a football about a pitch, especially since that situation has largely been driven by the likes of Sky/BT offering stupid money for exclusive rights, and then holding fans to ransom to pay it off afterwards. However, that's the football business for you.

      A more mundane example - a builder is unlikely to not do an extension that has been given planning permission just because the neighbor has complained to him that he doesn't like the design, or it was a bad decision by the planning department. That is between the client and neighbor, not his problem. The builder just wants to do what he is good/able to do, and earn some money.

      Also remember, generally speaking (but some people do like to defend themselves), that for every "bad" lawyer that is litigating for the 'baddy' (MSFT here), there is a "good" lawyer defending the "goody", and some even do this for free (called pro bono), so they can't all be bad and henc eonly worthy of wall alignment.

      Furthermore, if there were no lawyers, then how would disagreements or judgments be settled? Society depends on these things.

      I suspect that if, come the revolution, the lawyers are first up against the wall, then the revolution will only bring in more chaos, which will probably lead to a further revolution when the people realize they cannot/do not want to live in a post apocalyptic type world where it is simply the biggest/best armed person who rules, and in the next revolution, perhaps it will be those who carried out the first revolution that are against the wall...

      That's enough, it almost party time.

      Happy New Year.

  23. menotu

    Why NOT

    After all the Apple patents that have been granted on old tech etc.. I'm surprised the auto manufacturers don't sue each other for having round wheels...

  24. Milo Tsukroff
    Coat

    Looks like Microsoft forgot about when Apple sued them ...

    It looks like Microsoft forgot about when Apple sued them for ripping off the Mac interface with Windows. Microsoft fought back with, prior art, since the Mac interface ripped off the Xerox PARC architecture.

    I also remember when WordPerfect and Microsoft Word were shamelessly copying each other's features, and every new release came out with more and better stuff. It was wonderful for us users. Eventually Microsoft out-performed and out-featured WordPerfect, IMO because while the WordPerfect menus were great, the product still used its historic and abysmally arcane key sequences. But that was when Bill Gates was still in charge, and he worked his tail off on making better products rather than lawyering up.

    So maybe this is the case of trying to win the poker game by throwing down more chips than the opponent has. If Microsoft can take out Corel by out-lawyering them, maybe that's the game.

    Okay, I've blathered on. Mine's the one with the hemlock needles in the pockets ...

  25. x 7 Silver badge

    Am I right in believing that Corel Home Office is based on the old WordPerfect suite?

    And I seem to remember that MS Word in the past had a compatability view which reproduced the menus of WordPerfect...........

    It would have been around Word 6 / 97 /2003..........

    How else do you think Microsoft smoothed the transition from WordPerfect to Word?

    Perhaps Corel should claim for the profits on all copies of Office / Word on the grounds that they infringe the design of WordPerfect

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      How else do you think Microsoft smoothed the transition from WordPerfect to Word?

      It was Word Perfect (particularly 6.0) that "smoothed the transition" by being as unstable as buggery. WPfW 6.1 was much better, but still less stable than Word. Mind you, the worst of the lot was Wordstar for Windows 5.0. That was particularly prone to crash the computer when running a spell check, or printing.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        "It was Word Perfect (particularly 6.0) that "smoothed the transition" by being as unstable as buggery."

        is that a generally accepted view or just your experience? At the time I was working in a small office with a couple of girls typing on 486/586's and WP6 on Win3.11 / Win95 seemed stable........mind you I knew little about computers at the time and my experience was very limited. However I don't remember many crashes with it

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          @ x7 WP stability

          A bit of both. in the mid-90s I was managing a training business with 16 computers, initially 486s running WfWG 3.11 and replaced by P133s running Win95. The most popular courses by far were for Word and Excel, though Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Perfect for Windows were strong revenue earners. Number of trainee-days was somewhat in excess of 2,000 per annum so a reasonable sample size.

          WP 6.0's stability was woeful and this was much improved with the release of 6.1. Clients were grateful for the advice to reboot their computer at work when going for a tea or lunch break. We used to provide up to an hour of "free" post-training support and on one memorable occasion visited a WP client at her place of work to attempt to resolve an issue. Her mail merge wasn't working. Everything she had done was "by the book" and the cause a complete mystery. A few weeks later she was back for Word training. She had not enjoyed creating several hundred letters by hand late on a Friday.

          In a city as small as Hobart word of mouth counts a lot. It was amazing how rapidly the popularity of Word Perfect declined over the twelve months following the release of Win95. Pre-Windows it had been far and away the most popular training. Reasons cited for coming to Winword training courses were the instability of Word Perfect and demands from head office. This latter was that Australian spelling be used and Word Perfect only had US and UK English dictionaries. Word also had the Macquarie English Dictionary so no time needed to be wasted looking up words in dead tree form.

          1. Not That Andrew

            Re: @ x7 WP stability

            And then it turned out the reason for WordPerfect's instablility on Win95 was MS deliberately changing the behaviour of the libraries it depended on in order to sabotage the program.

  26. Mark Simon

    Deja View

    “The real focus of the legal challenge is on copying the design of the Microsoft Office ribbon bar.”

    The first time I saw something like the Microsoft Office Ribbon Bar was on DreamWeaver when it was still a MacroMedia product. Unlike MS Office, DreamWeaver’s was useful and not down-your-throat.

  27. RS232 4 Eva

    I've just done an image search for 'Corel Office Ribbon', and how they thought they would ever get away with an exact copy of the Office Ribbon I'll never know.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      re: exact copy

      Need to get the glasses out!

      This case, just like Apple's round'ed corners case, is all about details.

      For example whilst there is a superficial similarity between the MS D554140 patent and the control in Corel's products, closer examination with reveal several potentially important differences:

      1. The slider control is hard against the bottom right corner of the application window, whereas the MS design shows space on all four sides of their slider control.

      2. The MS design patent indicates the '+' and '-' buttons and the slider itself are the same colour as the control's background, whereas the Coral one's are contrasting.

      3. Within the boundary of the control on the Coral control a numeric percentage is also displayed.

      4. The Corel slider itself is missing the vertical dark central line, clearly shown in the MS design patent.

      I suspect there are other differences.

      Looking at the toolbar's, it is interesting that the MS design patents show square corners to the tab's whereas the Coral programmes are shown using rounded corners...

      Hence this is a case about details, which given the age of many of the patent's will exercise people as in some cases prior art needs to predate 1997.

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