IsNot, Paul Vick, Amanda Silver and Software Patents
A lot of people are all up in arms over the fact that Microsoft (via Paul Vick and Amanda Silver) patenting something such as the IsNot operator.
First, let me say congratulations to them... filing for a patent is a lot of work; not to mention the work and thought into adding a new operator into a language. (Paul has in the past explained why there's a need for such an operator.)
I've been seeing a lot of people complaining about the fact that Microsoft is patenting such an operator. Let me be the first to say that I despise such patents, but understand they are a necessary evil given the current state of things. However, I've not actually seen Microsoft accused of pulling a CompuServe/UniSys GIF/LZW campaign. This is not to say that Microsoft couldn't, just that I'm unaware that they have. (Paul Vick also shares this opinion.) For example, let's look at one EXTREMELY IMPORTANT patent that Microsoft has that is being used across so many devices it's ridiculous. This would be the FAT File System Technology. Now, I'm just guessing here, but I really doubt that everyone device out there that is using FAT as their file system (which pretty much *all* of them are) are actually licensing the technology from Microsoft. Yet, I can't remember ever hearing about Microsoft attacking these guys. I'm also unaware of any Linux products licensing the FAT technology.
Now, it could just be me, but I really don't think Microsoft would ever file an infringement suit on some other organization for using the IsNot operator in their implementation of BASIC. There are several BASIC products that exist today... several that are “compatible” with VB that exist and are selling relatively well.
So what's the point of all of this? I really don't know, so I guess I'll leave it with a challenge:
If you know of any instances where Microsoft has used their patents to “beat down the little guy”, here's your chance to point them out!
I'm ready to listen and maybe you'll be able to cause me to rethink my position. Until then, stop your whining, your belittling of others hard work and get back to working on your own stuff ;-)