Microsoft and LSI–Move Over Novell? Time for More Open Source Patents.

Thanksgiving Day or April Fool’s Day?
Just about everyone knows Cary Milsap of Hotsos and other fame. On Thanksgiving Day, he sent out a real turkey of an email (I just couldn’t resist that one) to us on the OakTable email list. I thought it was a joke when I first saw it.

The email pointed out that LSI had been granted a patent on the Linked List. Yes, the title of the patent is simply “Linked List”. As the holder of a couple of software patents, I tend to play devils advocate. I see entirely too much of the open source anarchy mentality when it comes to software patents. However, this particular patent is really out there. I really see no way that this patent could have made it through scrutiny on prior art or novelty. There are millions of software applications of the following quoted summary of the invention:

The present invention overcomes the disadvantages and limitations of the prior art by providing a system and method for traversing a list using auxiliary pointers that indicate the next item in a sequence. The sequential list may be created in one sequence, but used in a second sequence without having to resort the list.

Uh, there is nothing novel about that. But that is not all. Look at claim number 4:

A computer system capable of traversing a list having at least two sequential pointers comprising: a plurality of items that are contained in said list to be traversed; at least a primary pointer and a secondary pointer for each of said items of said list such that each of said items has an associated primary pointer and an associated secondary pointer…

That is weird. Find me a computer that can’t do that. Was there a C compiler for the TRS-80? Yes, in fact, there was. Hmmm…I better dig further…

I don’t think this patent is a reason to abolish software patents, but clearly something is out of whack. Maybe this gentleman could explain it?

This is Not A Software Patent, Is It?
OK, this other patent granted to LSI this year is interesting. It doesn’t even describe a software program really. I wonder if Microsoft is paying royalties. How is the following abstract from the patent not in fact precisely what Microsoft Project does? Oh, I know, MS Project doesn’t send email.

The present invention is a computer-based system for managing projects. It allows the user to input data concerning a project and associate individuals with the project. The system then determines a deadline for completing a task associated with the project and send out reminders accordingly. The system provides the user a number of options not available on the conventional docketing systems, such as automatically increasing the frequency with which reminders are sent as the deadline approaches, and automatically increasing the number of individuals to whom the reminders are sent as the deadline draws near.

 

 

3 Responses to “Microsoft and LSI–Move Over Novell? Time for More Open Source Patents.”


  1. 1 Noons November 28, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    I simply cannot beleive those two patents have been granted.
    (Not yours! The ones from LSI!)

    Absolutely unreal. I guess professor Knuth must be having a fit, if he’s seen them: linked lists have been described in detail in his books since I don’t know when. Prior to that I do remember Data Structures and Algorithms from good old McGraw-Hill back in the mid 70s, describing the whole thing in painful detail! And the memory management manuals for various mainframe OS’s befoe that.

    Absolutely eerie how this sort of stuff can pass a patent check. It really describes the complete mockery that is the patent registration process nowadays!

  2. 2 Noons November 28, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    oh, even more interesting: if you follow the list of patents for the LSI folks, they also patented the ASIC. In April 2006.
    It MUST be a joke!

  3. 3 Mark Nowotarski December 3, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    A couple of observations may help you understand how this patent (7,076,439) issued.

    1. It was filed back in 2001. What counts is what was known at the time it was filed, not what has been developed since then.
    2. The Applicant had to fight for five years to get this through the office. It’s not like they rubber stamped it.
    3. Only 5% of the patent applications in the field of this invention (class 705 – Computer implemented business method inventions) filed in 2001 have issued as patents.
    4. It was rejected three times. Each time the applicant narrowed his coverage in response.
    5. Even with all of the narrowing, it still had to be appealed.
    6. The patent that finally issued ONLY covers project managment software related to two or more attorneys. One of those attorneys HAS to be an in-house counsel. The other HAS to be an outside counsel. I don’t think Bill Gates is loosing any sleep over this.
    7. Abstracts have NOTHING to do with what a patent covers. They only give you an idea of what an invention is about.
    8. To see what a patent actually covers, you have to look at the “claims”. Claim 1 is below. If you don’t do EVERY SINGLE STEP of the claims, IN ITS ENTIRETY you are not infringing.
    9. To see the reasons why this patent was allowed, you can look up the file history at http://portal.uspto.gov/external/portal/pair

    Claim 1

    1. A method for managing a project, comprising the steps of:
    (A) assigning from a membership information database (i) an in-house council and (ii) an outside council to a project based on a first input from an individual;

    (B) receiving a document having an initial date;

    (C) storing in a global event database (i) said document and (ii) said initial date based on a second input from said individual;

    (D) calculating a due date based on both (i) a type of said document and (ii) said initial date;

    (E) storing in a calendar database said due date;

    (F) selecting said outside council to perform a first task for said project;

    (G) receiving from an events engine database as selected by said in-house council an authorization response for said outside council to perform said first task;

    (H) sending automatically to said outside council both (i) a work authorization defined by said authorization response and (ii) said document when an authorization event occurs;

    (I) receiving from said events engine database as selected by said in-house council a first conditional response for said first task, wherein said first conditional response is (i) set when said authorization event occurs and (ii) performed if set when a first reminder event occurs;

    (J) calculating a first reminder date for said first reminder event;

    (K) storing in said calendar database said first reminder date; and

    (L) sending automatically on said first reminder date to said outside council a first reminder email to complete said first task if said first conditional response is set, wherein a supervisor does not receive said first reminder email;

    (M) receiving from said events engine database as selected by said in-house council a second conditional response for said first task, wherein said second conditional response is (i) set when said first reminder event occurs and (ii) performed if set when a second reminder event occurs;

    (N) calculating a second reminder date for said second reminder event; and

    (O) sending automatically on said second reminder date to both (i) said outside council and (ii) said supervisor, a second reminder email to complete said first task if said second conditional response is set.


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