All your thoughts belong to us…

Today I heard about the VB team applying for a patent on the IsNot operator.  This has got to be one of the saddest days for intellectual property that I have encountered.

My first reaction was won’t that patent stifle 3rd party products such as SharpDevelop.  And it really does raise an issue that goes beyond this single patent.  Is VB purely Microsoft proprietary ?   Why restrict the language from being universal ??

But this patent issue bugged me more than just that. I could feel it knawing at me inside. Something was terribly rotten with this patent. I could had sworn I had heard the community suggest this some time ago, but now MS was claiming it as their own.

Sure enough, a quick search of google newsgroups showed this being suggest as early as 1997.  And there were many discussions of it in 2000 and 2001, all without Microsoft’s involvement. These were community discussions, yet now MS claims the idea, the patent, belongs to them ? 



4 Comments so far

  1.   Larry A. Duncan on November 20th, 2004          

    Having a history with the PTO in my previous history as a CEO, I can assure you that they view the origins of a concept and the actual development of a concept into a tangible property are viewed as completely different items.

    If a couple people sit around discussing the next great widget and one goes on years later to make it happen, who does the patent belong to? Both? Why?

  2.   Bill McCarthy on November 20th, 2004          

    Hi Larry,

    This isn’t just people sitting around discussing a concept. It was clear documented evidence of other people suggesting this be added to the language. Those claiming the patent clearly cannot claim to have invented the idea.

  3.   Bill McCarthy on November 20th, 2004          

    Oh, and to further answer your qusetion (if indirectly), let’s consider a person invents something. They think of a great concept. They then discuss this with others. Is it okay for those others to claim that as their own ? If they wait one year, is it then okay to take the inventor’s idea and claim it as their own ? Is it simply a question of who can afford to lodge the patent, who can afford the laywers, who can implement the idea first ?

  4.   Jonathan Allen on December 1st, 2004          

    I think the biggest problem with the patent system is that they they forgot the obvious clause. This alone should invalidate most of the bogus patents we hear about.

    Title 35 Part 2 Chapter 10 Section 103

    (a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains.