June 8, 2004 11:30 AM PDT

Microsoft checks off patent win

Better not get too fancy with your grocery list, now that Microsoft has patented a glorified form of the to-do list.

U.S. Patent No. 6,748,582, granted and assigned Tuesday to Microsoft, covers the use of a "task list" in a software development environment.

The patented technology essentially integrates certain comments left in the source code of an application under development with an accompanying checklist. Leave a "TODO" comment in the source code, and an authoring application automatically creates an item in the task list. Check an item off on the task list, and the corresponding source code comment is changed.

A Microsoft representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the new patent is specific enough to software development that vacationers penning "what to pack" lists don't have to worry, it fits with Microsoft's ongoing efforts to enlarge its patent portfolio.

The company embarked on a campaign last year to generate more revenue from its intellectual-property portfolio and has since applied for hundreds of patents. The company has received patents covering everything from seemingly elementary aspects of computing technology, such as double-clicking, to arcana such as XML-scripting methods.

The software giant's patent push seemed to reach comical proportions earlier this year, when the company was accidentally granted a plant patent for a variety of apple tree.

7 comments

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Patent violation
grep TODO *.c > ~/tasks

Sorry, but, har har, I do that for years - isn't that prior art?

Patents, pfff! Thats all getting too stupid to be real, ha? F***ing idiots.

Andre
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Absurd.
I totally agree with Andre. I've been doing the TODO: grep thing for over 20 years. This process is obvious, it certainly wasn't invented at Microsoft, and it's an absurd abuse of our legal system.
Posted by ruibo (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How is it possible?
I don't know much about US laws, but how is it
possible to patent well known and well used
things?

I notice that this happends all the time. What
happend if MS decide to put power behind this
"patents"?

Who have to prove that they is right if this
happends?

Jostein
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
any takers
I've got a patent I'd like to sell them...
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://164.195.100.11/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&#38;Sect2=HITOFF&#38;d=PALL&#38;p=1&#38;u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&#38;r=1&#38;f=G&#38;l=50&#38;s1=" target="_newWindow">http://164.195.100.11/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&#38;Sect2=HITOFF&#38;d=PALL&#38;p=1&#38;u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&#38;r=1&#38;f=G&#38;l=50&#38;s1=</a>'5,953,504'.WKU.&#38;OS=PN/5,953,504&#38;RS=PN/5,953,504
Posted by Shel D. (2 comments )
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Irrelevent
Just as a patent or copyright is only valid if you have the money to enforce it, anyone with enough money can "take" a patent or copyright regardless of prior art if they have enough money to pay off the patent office and run any challengers into the ground through extending court cases past the challengers ability to finance.

Wonderful country.. land of the 2nd class citizens and home of the fearful of companies that can do whatever they want.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
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Eclipse has this
Eclipse has had this feature for some time now, though I don't believe that it changes the comment in response to the user completing the task. Its a trivial extension though, and I wonder if the patent as stated would allow Microsoft to go after Eclipse.

That said, they patented a package management system identical to Debian's a good few years after Debian invented it, and have not tried enforcing that one as yet.

Its a strange world where you can patent such trivial and generic ideas - and patenting an apple tree - how odd! I thought patenting the use of XML, a standard _document_ storage format, to store a document was bad enough.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
we pay the bill...
Well, either way, if patents get enforced through all instances or if companies pay license fees, at the end, all of us will pay the bill... It does not add any value to economy and society!
Posted by (1 comment )
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