They certainly don’t at Microsoft, or at the U.S Patent Office.

Over at slashdot a story tells about the Microsoft move to patent a command, SUDO, that has been running on computer hardware since 1980, and was originally run on a VAX minicomputer.

The people at the US Patent Office apparently have no clue about software, which is not something to be ashamed of, but that they are too stupid to get help with problems is. No one can know everything, but those who don’t know usually have methods to obtain knowledge yet to be acquired.

Allowing things like this to pass shows a total disregard for people who write software, and makes us, as a country, look stupid to the world.

The fact that it is Microsoft seeming to benefit from all of this nescience only makes things worse.

“Just when you thought all was safe on the crazy patent front, Microsoft has come out of the obvious patent closet to file patent number 7617530, which basically duplicates the functionality of ‘sudo’ which is found in all Linux systems. PJ over at groklaw has a wonderful writeup on the entire fiasco.”

and from the piece on Groklaw

Please don’t ever again write to me that software patents are good for us because they include full disclosure, so others can build on the “invention”.

And to the USPTO, whose representative just argued in oral argument in Bilski that software should be patentable and that software can make a regular computer a special use computer, and all that drivel, please put those thoughts together with this patent, and consider the market implications of giving anyone that kind of monopoly, and especially the implications of giving it to a monopoly named Microsoft. It’s like giving a serial killer his very own machine gun, stronger than any gun his intended victims are allowed to purchase. You have to ask, what were you thinking?

Obviously, if they could figure that out, they’d never have issued this patent in the first place. The fact that they did, without realizing the implications, or the obviousness, or the prior art, tells us that the USPTO simply lacks the foundational technical information, or the awareness of technical history, to make wise patent decisions about software and patents.

Perhaps we should go back to English Common Law. You know, where common sense ruled the way things were done.

One could reasonably expect to see that the first use of the concept of SUDO came well before the date Microsoft claims it invented it ( by over 15 years). But apparently that is as silly a concept as my thinking that Microsoft would be embarrassed to try to acquire a patent for something that most people in the software industry know they did not originate.

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There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Benjamin Disraeli



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