Microsofts Stance on Patent

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-03-22 Print this article Print

Reform"> RFCs are built on conversations regarding technical merits among the engineers that sit on working groups at the IETF. The IETF has a rule that states that such engineers sit on working groups solely on the basis of personal interest in the technology—a stance that many find naively ignores the fact that employers exert influence on their engineer employees. Microsoft itself has been beating the drum recently in its quest for patent reform that would, conveniently enough, legitimize its alleged behavior with the patent in question. Earlier in the month, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith presented patent reform proposals during a day-long seminar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington.
The Redmond, Wash., company has much at stake: It filed 3,000 new patent applications last year and is among the largest targets of patent litigation in the country, spending close to $100 million annually to defend against some 35 to 40 simultaneous patent lawsuits.
Specifically, amongst a long list of patent reforms, Smith proposed that the country move to a "first-to-file" system, as opposed to a "first-to-invent" system, thus following the patent procedures to which most other countries adhere. Such a system would mean that those who win the race to the patent office, as opposed to those who innovate in the first place, would win a given patent and thereby control the rights to the intellectual property contained therein. Read more here about industry responses to Microsofts proposed patent reform platform. According to the Software Freedom Law Centers Moglen, Microsoft would have little success at enforcing the patent in question. "We do not believe this patent could ever be successfully enforced, in view of its invalidity at time of issuance, and we are studying the process by which this patent came to be in hopes that we can use it as an opportunity to prevent future abuses of the patent system," he said. Underscoring the invalidity of Microsofts patent is the fact that Microsoft should have confessed that work had already been done on the technology in question, Moglen said. "Microsoft, like all other parties seeking patents, has an obligation to fully disclose all relevant prior art," he said. "We believe, on the basis of our investigation, that it is likely that Microsoft deliberately failed to disclose the state of industry standards development and the technical publications accompanying that development at the time of the patent application." Microsoft had not yet responded to requests for comment by the time this article was posted. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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