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Microsoft Files .NET API Patent

4 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Feb 14, 2003 8:19 AM by Paul Watson

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Frank Sommers

Posts: 2642
Nickname: fsommers
Registered: Jan, 2002

Microsoft Files .NET API Patent Posted: Feb 13, 2003 11:47 AM
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Microsoft recently filed a patent for an "Application Program Interface for network software platform."

According to an article by Lisa Bowman, the patent could stifle .Net standards efforts:

http://news.com.com/2100-1001-984052.html?tag=fd_top

Here's an excerpt:

If approved as is, the patent would cover application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow actions related to accessing the network, handling Extensible Markup Language (XML), and managing data from multiple sources. APIs are the hooks in software that allow applications to work with another system.

Microsoft declined to elaborate on its plans for the patent, but intellectual property attorneys said that if it's granted, the company could dictate how, or whether, developers of software and devices can link to the .Net initiative.


The actual Microsoft patent application is here:

http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='20030028685'.PGNR.&OS=DN/20030028685&RS=DN/20030028685

The patent document's abstract is:

An application program interface (API) provides a set of functions for application developers who build Web applications on Microsoft Corporation's .NET.TM. platform.

I thought proprietary APIs died a quiet death a long time ago. Does this development prove the opposite?


Rohit

Posts: 38
Nickname: rohit
Registered: May, 2002

Re: Microsoft Files .NET API Patent Posted: Feb 13, 2003 11:10 PM
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Do you guys think this step is wrong?I dont think so,well
MS deserves whatever they want to do with their stuff,if they want to patent it whats wrong???

Frank Sommers

Posts: 2642
Nickname: fsommers
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Microsoft Files .NET API Patent Posted: Feb 13, 2003 11:59 PM
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> Do you guys think this step is wrong?I dont think so,well
>
> MS deserves whatever they want to do with their stuff,if
> they want to patent it whats wrong???


Sure, there is nothing wrong with it. The only thing is that, based on the patent's content, it might very well include concepts that were not invented at Microsoft, and that form the basis of many Web service-related architectures. If that were the case, Microsoft could go around enforcing that patent, and making 3rd-party implementations of those techniques/technologies impossible to create without MS's explicit blessing.

As an example of how that's possible, witness the Apache vs. Sun conflict with regard the Java servlet spec and Tomcat. (In that case, though, the problem was not patent violation, but license violation, which Sun resolved by changing the licensing terms of Tomcat.)

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1153
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Re: Microsoft Files .NET API Patent Posted: Feb 14, 2003 12:08 AM
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First of all, since the patent text is patently incorrect, API is Application Programming Interface, not Application Program Interface, it should be thrown out on its ear. However, since the patent office has even approved a patent for the concept of shining a pen laser on a wall to entertain a cat, there is no telling what can be patented, regardless of how long others have been doing it. However, if they do get this silly patent, I think it will not hold up in court, unless it pertains specifically to using .net for the stated purposes.

On the point of proprietary APIs having died, I certainly wouldn't say that is the case. The Windows API is still widely used (and growing -- it probably isn't even possible to accurately enumerate how many functions it consists of, these days). There are many other proprietary APIs from Microsoft and others that continue to florish, as well. We can only hope that is on a steep downward trend, of course.

Paul Watson

Posts: 1
Nickname: thorrbjorn
Registered: Feb, 2003

Re: Microsoft Files .NET API Patent Posted: Feb 14, 2003 8:19 AM
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My personal favourite was the patent on a method of swinging on a swing.

From my perspective, the big deal with this patent is that Microsoft could use it to make life very difficult, if not impossible, for the Mono team, and others who might want to develop CLRs on non-Microsoft platforms. Now, maybe that's not their intention. Maybe they're just getting this patent to prevent someone else from getting it and making life difficult for them. Microsoft could resolve this with a simple, clear statement of their intentions.

(Of course, that's just my problem with this specific patent. I have general issues with all software patents.)

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