Sunday, December 27, 2009

microsoft got patent-trolled.

This is just insane. A Linux zealot I may be, but I feel for Microsoft in this case.
Patent law was intended to prevent a company from duplicating a better mousetrap without anyhow paying for the invention of that mousetrap. Patent law intends to prevent companies from ripping off the inventor. It is fairly certain in this case that Microsoft has paid engineers to develop a solution, which they did, without using anything whatsoever from i4i. Most likely before i4i showed up demanding the money, neither Microsoft nor their engineers have ever heard of i4i and their 'patent'. The patent covers storing text separately from its layout data. This is so trivial that any qualified software engineer would come up with it quicker than it'd take for him to read patent itself.
Programmers and software engineers are specifically selected&trained to be able to immediately 'invent' simple things on demand. Someone who can't immediately 'invent' this on spot wouldn't be working at Microsoft as software engineer.

Patent law is here to compensate inventors for their ingenuity - for creation of nontrivial things that wouldn't have existed for a while if not for the inventor. Patent law was never intended to let the 'first' expert who got a specific problem and straightforwardly solved it forbid others from independently solving this problem in the most natural and straightforward way imaginable.

The issue is that even the simplest solution could be presented as to appear very profound and mysterious to the totally clueless - just throw in a couple meaningless diagrams and other idiocies, and you get very nontrivial looking nonsense (see that patent, hiding triviality behind verbosity).
It is not understood by a court just how straightforward and retarded the patent is. The increased specialization results in perfect ignorance. It's perfectly equivalent to having 3 years old children for judge and jury - 3 years olds aren't stupid, but they do not know anything, they are not qualified to make any decisions on such case - and neither are adults whom do not understand the topic any better. Back in the day when patent law was introduced, the specialization was not so extreme as to prevent sensible trials; judge and jury could see if a patent is covering something totally straightforward.

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