Rockford Lhotka

 Friday, March 11, 2005
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OK, I am happy!


For years now it has been clear that the patent system is woefully inadequate when it comes to software and software-related patents. Any system that grants a patent for clicking once on a button to buy a product is insane!


Microsoft is far from the worst player in the patent system. IBM files for more patents than you can shake a stick at, and there are many other examples of egregious or opportunistic patents in the software and Internet space by many companies.


However, Microsoft recently has been under fire for Patent # ‘959 (“IsNot”). This is a patent they applied for and which has not yet been reviewed or granted, so it is still pending. The patent is basically for a VB version of the C-style != operator and thus is obviously pretty silly (sorry Paul and Amanda, but it is).


Microsoft is well within their rights to file the patent, and I give it good odds of being accepted (given the track record of the patent office). Given the current state of the patent system, Microsoft has to apply for patents like this – as do all companies. It is pure self-defense. It is really not the fault of the companies that the patent system is messed up…


The result of this patent application has been substantial discussion by Microsoft and various Microsoft “insiders”. My contention all along has been that the patent system needs reform and that Microsoft is a perfect candidate to lead the charge.


And wouldn’t you know it, here they go! Microsoft is actively lobbying for patent reform and has a cohesive list of ways they think the system should change to fix current issues.


I am sure this will lead to some healthy debate (and probably some unhealthy debate by various fools out there) about exactly what should change and how. But the fact that Microsoft is helping to spearhead the debate, to push it to the forefront so it can be discussed is very exciting.


Assuming Microsoft follows through and continues to sincerely push for reform, and participates in the ensuing debate in good faith then I say kudos to Microsoft!