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Corporate Espionage Involving a Patent At Microsoft

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the balance-of-wrongdoing dept.

Patents 241

thefickler writes "Microsoft is taking a former employee, Miki Mullor, to court for securing a job at the company in order to steal information that would help with a patent infringement case he filed against PC makers Dell, HP, and Toshiba (in which Microsoft quickly became enmeshed). And while it appears that Mullor did the wrong thing, some pundits are asking: 'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'"

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kdawson (-1, Flamebait)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707261)

I have this picture of kdawson in my head having three multiple orgasm every time he's selecting some FUD-Microsoft story to spam the main page with.....

This article, as every single one this pseudo-editor posts is no more than FUD and speculation. It's "articles" like this what does that Slashdot is turning more and more into a cheap yelow page online magazine.

Re:kdawson (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707461)

>>>have this picture of kdawson in my head having three multiple orgasm...

Can we all pretend that kdawson is a young woman named Karen? That would be far less disgusting. ;-)

Re:kdawson (0, Offtopic)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707665)

Damn, I'm just not that imaginative.

Re:kdawson (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707471)

If it results in three multiple orgasms, can you really blame him?

(off to look for Microsoft FUD...)

Re:kdawson (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708359)

It was a mistake to read that article about the Mac trojan at work. My pants were just so, so sticky.

Re:kdawson (0, Offtopic)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708005)

It's "articles" like this what does that Slashdot is turning more and more into a cheap yelow page online magazine.

And yet you're still here. Obviously, kdawson's not working hard enough to piss you off.

Re:kdawson (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708053)

It's interesting how this comment had 5+ (interesting) only 5 minutes ago, and now it's just -something troll, just out of the blue. Censure, or just a pissed off editor?

Re:kdawson (0, Offtopic)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708121)

It's "articles" like this what does that Slashdot is turning more and more into a cheap yelow page online magazine.

And it's grammatical hotchpotches [thefreedictionary.com] like this that make the comments section become unreadable!

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707279)

No.

Re:First Post (0, Offtopic)

Jeoh (1393645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707759)

Indeed.

Re:First Post (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708301)

You're right, that would be no good because a) the information might be ruled inadmissible in court and b) it would be, as seen here, too obvious.

Instead, I'd have someone I knew get a job there to steal the information for me. Harder to prove how I got the information that way. ;)

Repeat after me... (4, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707315)

"You can't steal information." It's intangible. Thank you.

Re:Repeat after me... (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707503)

No, but you can steal someone else's labor, by not paying them for the information they produced, or the metal car pieces they welded, or the floors they sweeped, or.....

Theft of labor is a human rights violation and if a person does produce a new idea or item, and XYZ corporation takes that idea/item without compensation for the labor involved, a crime has been committed.

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Insightful)

John Allsup (987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707801)

If you make something material and someone steals it, you no longer have it. If you have information and somebody copies it, you still have your copy. You lose exclusivity as to who know that information, but that exclusivity is not a material thing and cannot be stolen (since the person who makes a copy does not gain that exclusivity.)

Material and information are totally different and it's a real shame that lawmakers aren't clever enough to see something so simple. That or they are too busy collecting campaign funds.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707899)

>>>If you have information and somebody copies it, you still have your copy.

Well then I guess we should have kept those unpaid laborers in the South. After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day. They still had all their material possessions (private hut, clothing, etcetera). The fact they labored for free is just a-okay, right?

No.

And neither is it okay for a modern-day "master" corporation to take man's labor without pay, whether that man picks cotton, or creates a schematic, or whatever. Their labor rights need to be protected. Example: Nobody wants to spend a year writing a book, just to see that book published by Microsoft, while the original author gets nothing. In such a case, MS is guilty of stealing a year of labor without pay.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708025)

After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day.

What a stupid thing to say. Those "cotton-pickers" did all their losing a loooooong time before they hit the field.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708269)

So if they had not been slaves, but free individuals like us, it would have been okay for the plantation owners to not pay them? I'll assume you'll say "no" and ask for you to explain why it's necessary to pay people for picking cotton?

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708597)

So if they had not been slaves, but free individuals like us, it would have been okay for the plantation owners to not pay them?

Well, yes, because people that aren't slaves yet work for free are called "volunteers".

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26709011)

I'll assume you'll say "no"

And you'd be wrong.

and ask for you to explain why it's necessary to pay people for picking cotton?

Why yes, it's called contract law. Been around, like slavery for a long time.

Re:Repeat after me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708029)

That would be breaking of copywrite laws and NOT THEFT

dumbass retard

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708141)

That would be breaking of copywrite laws and NOT THEFT

dumbass retard

How fortunate you signed off as "dumbass retard" if you don't even know how to spell copyright...

Re:Repeat after me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708247)

Really bad analogy. If you ignore the issue of forced labour, they lost their time, energy, and they were physically worn out. IP completely different. It's actually several things...trade secret, trademark, copyright, patents, etc. Each type of IP must be examined individually. A case can be made to protect trademarks and trade secrets. Patents, on the other hand, are bogus. Just because you invented something first does not give you the right to collect money from anyone else who invented it independently. If the employee was hired to steal information from Microsoft, Microsoft has a case. If he was hired to work around a patent, which has no reason for existing, Microsoft is grasping at straws.

Re:Repeat after me... (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708285)

Well then I guess we should have kept those unpaid laborers in the South. After all, they didn't "lose" anything when they picked cotton all day.

They lost the cotton. The difference between tangible property and information is that if someone else takes your tangible property then you don't have it any more, and if someone takes information then both of you have it.

Put another way: only one person can use a boll of cotton. An unlimited number of people can use an idea. Someone else using my idea does not preclude me also using it; Microsoft publishing a book I wrote does not preclude my also publishing it. It may make it impractical for me to profit from the book I wrote, but that falls under the category of "unfair competition," not "taking away a piece of property that I own." It's wrong, and it's also fundamentally different from stealing.

The language of copyright holders - "own an idea," "intellectual property," "stolen ideas," "piracy," is calculated to make the public forget the fundamental differences between ideas and objects, and support laws and policies that equate intellectual property with physical property. This is to the benefit of copyright (and patent) holders, who can then rely on the government to bear the cost of enforcing their copyrights, among other benefits.

The preponderance of people who claim that we have a "right" to "own" and profit from ideas shows how well this brainwashing is working. Apparently it goes so far as to make some think that a company can "steal" profits that haven't even been earned yet. The reality of intellectual property cases is quite different; see Polaroid v. Kodak. [nytimes.com]

Re:Repeat after me... (4, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708495)

An unlimited number of people can use an idea.

As an aside, the value of an idea can be destroyed when more people know it - this is why we have trade secret law.

Someone else using my idea does not preclude me also using it; Microsoft publishing a book I wrote does not preclude my also publishing it. It may make it impractical for me to profit from the book I wrote, but that falls under the category of "unfair competition," not "taking away a piece of property that I own." It's wrong, and it's also fundamentally different from stealing.

I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.
To your example, that we should use unfair competition tort law instead of trespass property law, I pose this easy hypothetical: Mr. A, with $10 to his name, "copies" your software. He then sells it to Microsoft for $100, and Microsoft publishes it as part of Windows, destroying your ability to sell it. Provided Microsoft can show reasonable ignorance of Mr. A's actions, you have no possible tort claim against them. Your only action in tort is against Mr. A, and the most you can recover is $100.
Under property law, you'd have the right to exclude Microsoft from using your idea, same as you could kick Bill Gates off your lawn.

The language of copyright holders - "own an idea," "intellectual property," "stolen ideas," "piracy," is calculated to make the public forget the fundamental differences between ideas and objects, and support laws and policies that equate intellectual property with physical property. This is to the benefit of copyright (and patent) holders, who can then rely on the government to bear the cost of enforcing their copyrights, among other benefits.

The preponderance of people who claim that we have a "right" to "own" and profit from ideas shows how well this brainwashing is working.

It's one of the few explicit powers of Congress in the Constitution, important enough that the Founders put it right there in Article I, Section 8. It's also an affirmation of a right that has existed for a few thousand years. The "I don't believe in intellectual property (in spite of making my living through its creation)" meme you're espousing is the new one, and yes, it does show just how well brainwashing works.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708969)

I'll never understand why Slashdot, primarily a group of code-authors are so willing to shoot themselves in the feet and claim that they have no property rights in their works.

I don't claim authors have no rights. I only claim that copyright is not the same as property rights, and to confuse the two is a serious misrepresentation of both the law and the business climate.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708385)

Slavery is not theft. That's why there is a different law to stop it.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707953)

That exclusivity is destroyed by process thou and can actually damage usefulness of information. Which can very directly map to profit loss and can be considered property damage.

Only if information owner releases it of his own will information can be *considered* part of "free for all" buffet.

You are mistaking trade secrets (good) and copyrights/patents (evil). Two different things.

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708091)

yeah, those evil copyrights. They stop me from being able to sell GPL code without giving back the source. I hope they abolish copyright soon because it's so evil.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708349)

yeah, those evil copyrights. They stop me from being able to sell GPL code without giving back the source. I hope they abolish copyright soon because it's so evil.

There is always some joker who thinks the GPL is all about copyrights.
You are wrong.

The GPL is referred to as the "copyleft" because it is a hack of the intended purpose of copyright - to reduce the freedoms of the end user of software. Stallman's goal is to get the software industry to the point where the automobile industry is today. Nobody would buy a car with engine compartment welded shut, the market would not tolerate it. Similarly, the market for software should get to the point where nobody would buy compiled software without easy access to the code. At that point, the GPL and its twisting of copyright law against itself would be unnecessary.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708631)

You say I'm wrong but everything I said was correct.

Without copyright law I could abuse the GPL.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708977)

Without copyright law you couldn't stop us from abusing the results. Sounds fine.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708067)

It devalues the original work making the money the original creator would have gotten significantly less then what he would have got if the work remained a rarity.

Same thing happens when you sell cheap fake rolex watches the company doesn't lose any stock however it cheapens the brand making their customer demand less.

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Interesting)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708193)

It is such a shame to me that so many people don't even know the rights and freedoms granted in the United States Constitution.

The "exclusivity" that people get from the discovery of a new idea is guaranteed in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

It's that simple. It simply boggles my mind to see so many people who try to discount that. It's there for a reason. Inventors discoveries rightfully should be controlled by the inventor (for a period of time, which is usually 20 years.) There are checks in place that allow others to use those discoveries if the primary inventor does not maintain his "rights" by notifiying the USPTO they wish to do so via maintetance fees. There are also avenues in place to allow the inventor to gain from that discovery via various licensing models.

And, yes, I am an inventor. I spent several years perfecting the technology I now have the patent on after my "inspirational moment" when I put two and two together. I also spent countless hours working on it trying to figure out all the ways in which my idea worked. I then filed the patent, disclosing all the vairous "embodiments" of my invention. If some of you got your ways, all that work and effort would not allow me to even recapture some of my investment.

Someone said it, if that work was allowed to be copied by others without compensation, I in effect, would have done their work for them providing them countless hours of free labor. THAT IS WHY THE CONSTITUTION HAS ARTICLE I SECTION 8!!!

Bill

Re:Repeat after me... (-1, Flamebait)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708303)

But haven't you been paying attention? The Constitution is just a "guideline" for our government, not actual law. We're not bound by it. (starts singing):

This I know
for the Obama
tells me so. ;-) (Just a little joke; don't get all bent out of shape.)

Re:Repeat after me... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708345)

Jokes usually have a funny part.

Re:Repeat after me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708413)

So if have spent the same amount of time inventing something that is covered by your patent without knowledge of your work and did this before you get your patent is published. I should not be allowed to benefit from my own labor? You steel my inventiveness/labor by making the claim that no one else can invent the same or similar things? Where is my compensation?

I'm not against "ip" per say. But the current situation with patents is a joke. It benefits only one group. Lawyers.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708431)

There are two important points there. It is only for the purpose of promoting the progress of science and useful arts, and it is questionable whether software patents do that, and it is for limited times. Patents are for limited times, but copyrights effectively are not.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

jenn_13 (1123793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708513)

I wholeheartedly agree with you except for the part where you seem to discount your effort by calling it an "inspirational moment". I think this actually feeds the notion that intellectual efforts are somehow less worthy of compensation than physical efforts.

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708591)

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Exactly; the difference between "exclusive right" and "ownership" is the difference between intellectual property and physical property. Using your patented idea without your permission is violating your exclusive right to that idea. It's not stealing the idea. Some people think the distinction is overly fine but I think it's critically important not to confuse control of an idea with ownership of physical property.

If two people independently cut down trees and use the wood to build cabinets, each of them owns a cabinet. If two people independently come up with an idea, only one of them gets to patent it. So your "right" to get paid for "your labor" can result in your "stealing" the profits of the other guy, who thought of the same thing but applied for the patent one day later than you did. Does that seem right?

Patents and copyrights serve useful purposes. But don't confuse them with physical property.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708565)

It's a real shame that you believe information has no value. If you spend ## time and/or ## money on some new idea only to have it copied by someone (without your permission) and then that someone sells/gives it away to the world. You would lose revenue and that is stealing. You invested time/money and now you either can't get it back or will get less - because there are lots of people who believe they shouldn't pay for information (e.g. you). That is stealing. Tangible has nothing to do with it - theft is theft. Lawmakers see that. Exclusivity allows people to recoup their investment. E.g. Pharmaceuticals who spend YEARS and MILLIONS OF DOLLARS inventing/testing new drugs that may 1) not work 2) not get approved or 3) someone else may invent a competative drug that does the same thing, except they came out with it first...but I guess years and millions of dollars of work has no value...

Re:Repeat after me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707855)

If you agree to pay someone to clean the floor, they do it and you don't pay, that's not "theft of labor". It's fraud.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

kwikrick (755625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707909)

There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour: when someone does not pay for a welding job or does not pay an employee, a contract between the parties has been breached. However, in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

In fact, if I invent something independently, and it turns out someone else has already patented that idea, then I cannot use my idea for profit, since that would infringe on the patent. But I have certainly not stolen any labour - quite the opposite.

Even when a patent infringement is clearly a case of using someone else's idea, you still cannot call it stealing someone else's labour simply because that person/company MIGHT have made money from it. There's no guarantee that investing in an idea will pay itself back.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708021)

>>>in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

Yes a contract has been breached in the Microsoft case. The national contract known as the U.S. Constitution (and State Constitutions as well) which serves to protect inventors' and authors' labor rights by protecting their labor-intensive creations. See my example below.

>>>There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour:

No there isn't. Example: Nobody wants to spend a year writing a patentable book, just to see that book published by Microsoft, while the original author gets nothing. In such a case, MS is guilty of stealing a year of labor without pay. Your own Charles Dickens was a victim of this crime where he wrote great works of literature, and he did not get paid for his labor, because others copied his work.

.

Aside: Why is there a "u" in labour? The original Latin word is "labor".

Re:Repeat after me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708279)

You can't patent a book.
You have copyright on a book, weather or not it has been published.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708537)

There's a big difference between infringing a patent and stealing someone else's labour: when someone does not pay for a welding job or does not pay an employee, a contract between the parties has been breached. However, in case of patent infringement, there is no contract between the parties involved.

Patent infringement is not under contract law, it's under property law. If you come into my backyard and start digging holes, I can kick you out, even though there was never a contract between us. In the same way, if you trespass on my intellectual property, I have the right to exclude you from it.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708627)

In fact, if I invent something independently, and it turns out someone else has already patented that idea, then I cannot use my idea for profit, since that would infringe on the patent. But I have certainly not stolen any labour - quite the opposite.

What did you mean by "quite the opposite"? Did you mean opposite as in THEY stole the labor or opposite as you GAVE them something? Because if I did independent work on project A and you did independent work on Project B (both which coincidentally are the same), you doing your work is not stealing from me, but it is also not the "opposite".

Even when a patent infringement is clearly a case of using someone else's idea, you still cannot call it stealing someone else's labour simply because that person/company MIGHT have made money from it. There's no guarantee that investing in an idea will pay itself back.

You are correct that a new invention may not earn any money - but by taking someone's work, without their permission, you have denied that person the right to make a decision concerning their invention. For that there is penalties, and rightly so; it is unfair for people to reap benefits of someone elses work without their permission.

So... Why are you not up in arms over inflation? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707989)

You earn 100. A year later it's only worth 91.

Sorry, but if you think theft of labour is a human rights offence then, your political and financial leaders are also criminals, on an epic scale.

The sad fact is that the theft of human labour is an intrinsic and well rewarded part of our society.

Re:So... Why are you not up in arms over inflation (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708041)

Yes the annual ~2% devaluation of my paper is a rights violation & theft of property. The paper should be put back on the gold/silver standard.

Re:So... Why are you not up in arms over inflation (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708673)

No, a year later it's still worth 100 but everything costs more. Or you could put it in the bank and it'll be worth 105.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708993)

Sorry commodore, but you need to look up "theft of labor" again. Copyright or patent infringement is not "theft of labor".

Theft of labor is when you get someone do work by force or deception. If I tell you I'm going to pay you for a job when I have no intention of doing so, or if I make you do work for me at gunpoint, then that's theft of labor. If you've done work voluntarily and I've pulled benefit from that work, after the fact, without your permission, it's a different thing.

In most cases, it's completely legal to benefit from someone else's intellectual work without the worker's permission. We've made copyright and patent law to protect two particular cases for particular reasons, but the concerns are different than of "theft of labor". Copyrights and patents are more concerned with protecting *investments*.

Re:Repeat after me... (2, Interesting)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707613)

I wish the truth reflected the reality.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708001)

Credit card details on an insecure e-commerce server are intangible... the money in their bank accounts is also intangible... does that means credit card fraud isn't stealing? Wicked.

Re:Repeat after me... (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708111)

A lot of the stuff I produce at work is intangible... just data inside a computer. Does that mean my employer can take my data, and not pay me? LOCKHEED: "Thank you. We downloaded the program off your c: drive using bittorrent last night. No we're not going to pay you for it."

Hmmmm. Interesting worldview these young college teens and 20-somethings have.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708341)

LOCKHEED: "Thank you. We downloaded the program off your c: drive using bittorrent last night. No we're not going to pay you for it."

Dude, did you read the intellectual property waiver you signed? Your employer already owns everything you produce. Their obligation to pay you is not based on fair exchange for your ideas, it derives from labor laws that say you work for them and they pay you for your hours on the job. They could fire you tomorrow and then patent your ideas and make a billion dollars.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708397)

A lot of the stuff I produce at work is intangible... just data inside a computer. Does that mean my employer can take my data, and not pay me? LOCKHEED: "Thank you. We downloaded the program off your c: drive using bittorrent last night. No we're not going to pay you for it."

Read your employment contract. That is EXACTLY what it says, as it does for almost every employee in the US and most other countries.

Lockmart pays you for your labor whether you produce anything or nothing, you get paid either way. But in case you do produce something, they own it, lock stock and barrel.

Hmmmm. Interesting worldview these young college teens and 20-somethings have.

Interesting worldview these people who haven't bothered to think very deeply about the issue have.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708593)

A lot of the stuff I produce at work is intangible... just data inside a computer. Does that mean my employer can take my data, and not pay me? LOCKHEED: "Thank you. We downloaded the program off your c: drive using bittorrent last night. No we're not going to pay you for it."

Hmmmm. Interesting worldview these young college teens and 20-somethings have.

Slashdot is primarily home to programmers and code authors, and yet many of them think that they have no property rights in their creations.
Personally, my suspicion is that it's a clever bit of FUD pushed out by big companies who can more easily defend unfair competition or breach of contract suits than they can defend copyright or patent infringement suits. In the former, all you frequently need is lack of privity between the parties: "I didn't steal your idea. That guy who just declared bankruptcy did. I simply bought it legally from him."

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708373)

does that means credit card fraud isn't stealing?

Yes, it means exactly that. It's credit card fraud. Also illegal, but not stealing. I would not be surprised if the penalties for $1000 in credit card fraud were totally different from the penalties for stealing $1000 in cash.

Re:Repeat after me... (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708461)

Only if you prefer to live in closed-minded world. Information has value in our society, actually in all society (even primitive societies...the local witch-doctor which people give tribute to so he can provide his juju magic). Taking that information, which has value, without the owners permission is stealing. It is such defined by law, it is such defined by most people even if typical /. users don't like that definition because it removes part of their justification for "stealing" music/movies.

While the above comments are not /. approved comments (for all the talk of free speech /. loves to mod down posts they don't agree with) they are valid. /. crew fail to be the moral compass of our society.

This guy got a job at MS with intent to steal information that belonged to MS. He says it was originally his information, not sure on the details, but if it was and he could prove so he should have taken them to court. Since he did not, even if he was correct, he broke the terms of his contract and potentially the law. We may not like how certain things are in life - but we need to follow protocal.

Secrets can be stolen (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708995)

"You can't steal information." It's intangible. Thank you.

Sure you can if the information is in the form of a secret and obtained illegally. Could be a trade secret or it could be a state secret. Once it is stolen it loses its status as a secret and with it potentially significant value to the holder of the secret. That's what spies do, they steal information or more accurately secret information. There may be legal ways to obtain the information an that is not stealing but the illegal methods are colloquially (and accurately IMO) referred to as theft.

He'll Win... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707319)

Because he's jewish, now how will M$ retaliate against that?

OH CRAP! (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707321)

I really don't like it when the RIGHT THING is to AGREE with MICROSOFT!


aaaaaaaaaaaa noooooooooo brain freeze aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Re:OH CRAP! (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707577)

Yeah, after all, it's not as if Microsoft ever steals other companies (cough Netscape, Corel) ideas or software, or been involved in U.S. or EU patent infringement cases and found guilty. I'm sure they are completely innocent with nothing to hide and would comply with a court order to turn-over information, rather than shred documents.

Yep.

The cops routinely use undercover "spying" in order to catch criminals, such as drug traffickers. I don't see why it's wrong to do the same in order to obtain documents prior to their shredding. It might have been smarter to hire a private P.I. (ala Matlock or Perry Mason) to do the dirty work, but otherwise I think you need to do what's necessary to catch the incriminating documents before they become confetti (or before the drugs get flushed down the toilet).

Re:OH CRAP! (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707647)

Have the had double-agent employees in other companies to steal information?

Re:OH CRAP! (2, Interesting)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707853)

Hm. I've asked myself that question when I first heard how http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Belluzzo [wikipedia.org] ran SGI...

Re:OH CRAP! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708465)

Everybody thought Rocket Rick was on a mission from microsoft and hp.

Re:OH CRAP! (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708327)

The cops routinely use undercover "spying" in order to catch criminals, such as drug traffickers. I don't see why it's wrong to do the same in order to obtain documents prior to their shredding.

Because cops have judicial oversight and have to obtain warrants first. This is closer to being a vigilante.

Re:OH CRAP! (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708667)

Yeah, after all, it's not as if Microsoft ever steals other companies (cough Netscape, Corel) ideas or software, or been involved in U.S. or EU patent infringement cases and found guilty. I'm sure they are completely innocent with nothing to hide and would comply with a court order to turn-over information, rather than shred documents.

Yup, then they get sued. They have to spend tons of money on legal council. Then, if they lose, they have to pay millions. I guess this guy should have to pay millions...oh wait it's OK what he did because he did it against Microsoft and it's now not information stealing since it is not tangeable...right?

Re:OH CRAP! (5, Insightful)

expat.iain (1337021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707895)

I suppose it all depends on what you see as being the "Right Thing". I would suggest that:

  • Mullor had been speaking to MS about licensing his idea.
  • MS turned down his offer.
  • MS subsequently are found to actually be using aforementioned item.
  • MS now seek a royalty free* license to continue what they have been doing.

Now, in best Groklaw tradition, IANAL, however this seems to me that when it comes to fairness the guy might have been able to get similar information from 'dumpster diving' and certainly seems to have been vindicated. So what we're really seeing here is:

  • MS get caught with hand in cookie jar.
  • Individual seeks recompense from MS.
  • MS unleash the lawyers and counter sue for good measure.

It would not surprise me if they try their old dirty tricks and try to put the US case on hold whilst they visit global MS friendly courtrooms to get some judgements onside in other jurisdictions just as they did with Lindows.

Bastards.

Re:OH CRAP! (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708209)

The sequence of events you list sound similar to what happened with Babylon 5 producer J.Michael Straczynski (jms):

- JMS had been speaking to Paramount about licensing his idea (1992).
- Paramount turned down his offer, but kept all his season 1 scripts and bible.
- Paramount subsequently are found to be using aforementioned ideas with a near-clone show called DS9.

This happens all the time in the world of television and movies, and I'm not surprised to hear the same thing happens in other industries too. The problem is that it's nigh-impossible to win a court case unless you have emails & documents..... and that's what Mr. Mullor was trying to obtain.

WTF? (1, Informative)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707325)

If you've filed a patent, and you're about to sue someone I'm guessing generally actually you wouldn't seek employment at a company that is part of it. You know, what with it firstly being a completely transparent move, and secondly because you wouldn't be able to defend your patent when you're in jail for corporate espionage. Who the hell really thinks they could outsmart the Microsoft legal team when it comes to fact checking?

Re:WTF? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707343)

Microsoft should have sent Holden around to put the Machine on the new applicants.

Re:WTF? (2, Funny)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707677)

"Are these questions testing whether I'm a Replicant, or a spy, Mr. Holden?"

Re:WTF? (1)

arogier (1250960) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707347)

I'd be tempted to do a lot of things, but I'm not sure signing a bunch of employment waivers would top that list.

The Prince And The Pauper (5, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707367)

'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'

Has the inanity and anti-logic of the patent system finally become so bad that peoples' basic judgement is now impaired. Has the concept of "Intellectual Property" so twisted the fragile mind of the commentators, and public at large, that we now must see it not only as a fundamental right [blogspot.com] , but as (Paraphrasing DeValera) an institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law and morality.

Personally, no, I don't see that a patent is so important that I should break not only the law, but also the trust and confidence other people have in me, simply to defend my rights to some obvious "invention". I may be a little behind the times here, but I can't say I would be overly tempted, no.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (1)

Stephen (20676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707383)

Personally, no, I don't see that a patent is so important that I should break not only the law, but also the trust and confidence other people have in me, simply to defend my rights to some obvious "invention". I may be a little behind the times here, but I can't say I would be overly tempted, no.

Not to mention that when it comes to a fight between you and Microsoft, you're going to lose. Not smart. (If the allegations are true, that is).

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707401)

Of course they're true.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707481)

Which only goes to show how useless the patent system has become. If you still think patents protect small time inventors, go read the story of Hakan Lans.

Row row, fight the power.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (1)

expat.iain (1337021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707977)

Not to mention that when it comes to a fight between you and Microsoft, you're going to lose. Not smart.

Tell that to the European Commission. [wikipedia.org]

(If the allegations are true, that is).

Sadly "truth" and "justice" do not always appear together.

Iain.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708081)

Unless you have successfully filed a patent previously!

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707453)

Anything can be expected for people who are so arrogant that they believe they can "own" ideas. Which, after all, was never what the patent system was supposed to be about in the first place.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (5, Informative)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707789)

Of course, if you RTA, he didn't break the law. Moreover, he told Microsoft about the company and the patent in writing, possibly depending on the fact that such writing tends to get ignored.

Moreover, it appears that he allowed his company to lapse (but probably not the incorporation to lapse, since lawyers advise against it), and had basically shut it down due to a complete lack of profits.

Microsoft is trying to make it appear that he broke the law, to cover the fact that they really did break the law. They took his work, and used it without agreed-upon compensation. Now, I too do not hold patents to be natural law. They are only a construct of the current system that we are in, historically designed to profit powerful companies like Microsoft and other King's Friends. But they are a part of our current law, and Microsoft makes heavy use of them. And Microsoft did break the law, stealing his work without agreed-upon compensation, long before Mr. M. ever applied for employment there.

I'd say that this one needs to go for full damages. Possibly triple, if the jury concludes that Microsoft has a history of criminal and corrupt behavior (though that would be harder to prove.) Hmmm... I wonder if there could be a class-action lawsuit by those whose work was stolen (including GNU and WordPerfect and Apple and others) against Microsoft. Go through their code and show that the majority of their work was stolen.

Nah. That'd take an insider to prove it. And then Microsoft would scream bloody murder, even if they had themselves authorized the insider's access.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708427)

Thanks dude, finally someone gets it. MS was hoist by their own petard here, nothing more.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708629)

Now, I too do not hold patents to be natural law. They are only a construct of the current system that we are in, historically designed to profit powerful companies like Microsoft and other King's Friends.

Intellectual property rights go back the Roman Era. And they're historically designed to protect small inventors from the powerful companies. You're a victim of FUD.

Re:The Prince And The Pauper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708735)

And does anyone here even know just what the patent was about? The article doesn't specifically say, though it alludes to some way for OEMs to ship copies of Windows so that end users don't have to activate them. If that's the case, what did he do? Patent the idea of a volume license key? The idea of putting an #ifndef OEM_VERSION around the activation code?

There are some patent cases where I have some sympathy for the patent holder. (Blue LEDs come to mind.) But I just can't see any possible innovation that this guy could have had. Same thing goes for most of the other software patents Microsoft is sued over (browser plugins, etc).

if i believed my patent was infringed... (-1, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707429)

... surely it would justify any action! the catch cry of self righteous through out the ages - "i've been wronged, therefore anything i do can't be!"

maybe /. needs to get a fucking grip on it's anti MS FUD.

So? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707437)

And while it appears that Mullor did the wrong thing, some pundits are asking: 'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?'"

Who cares what a bunch of pundits say? Wake me when they become judges or congressmen and can actually make their notions count for something?

Did these pundits question whether the patent should have been issued to start with?

What did this goob think he was going to find? (4, Insightful)

ACK!! (10229) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707441)

I mean I could easily go woo-hoo fighting the man here. I got it in me no doubts. But there is something in legal cases called the Discovery phase and its illegal during a discovery phase to conceal information requested by the court for a case. If he thought Microsoft had information that would have helped his case his lawyers should have asked for such info in the discovery phase and been done with it. The spy cloak and dagger stuff is for the movies and just fucks you over in the real world. If its true he pitched the idea before he was even hired, then don't try to keep working at the same company you are trying to sue. The counter-suit will be coming that is for sure. Easier than firing him. Sue him instead.

Would I be tempted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707445)

Would I be tempted to threaten the success of my patent infringement lawsuit, and increase the chance of finding myself on the receiving end of a counter suit such as this one?

Why no, it just so happens that I'm not a moron. Why do you ask?

Mullor "did the wrong thing"? (5, Interesting)

drunkenoafoffofb3ta (1262668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707455)

AFAIK, He had this technology before joining MS

He claims he revealed his patent when joining MS.

MS claim they were allowed to nick his IP rights since he failed to reveal this when he joined the company (although they also tried to licence the technology prior to him joining)

So the wrong thing was viewing some documents he shouldn't have? Not having your IP rights stolen, then.

Re:Mullor "did the wrong thing"? (4, Insightful)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707709)

If i recall correctly, MS can't claim such thing in the first place.

If they tried to license the IP before contracting it, that is more then enough evidence that the IP in cause was pretty much disclosed and of the knowing of MS.

Insufficient information (3, Insightful)

skyphyr (1149207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707703)

There's no evidence to demonstrate he did these things. So in order for us to assume he's guilty we have to also assume he's precognitive. It also describes it such that Microsoft "found" the evidence. That's got to be inadmissible, right? No chain of custody there it could just as easily be planted by them. Hope the trial has some evidence behind it as there's insufficient to point fingers either way, but more than enough doubt to clear him.

Re:Insufficient information (1, Interesting)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707901)

According to the Ars Technica article (http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/02/espionage.ars), Mullor was a Program Manager in the Windows Security Group. It seems unlikely that he would all of a sudden later discover on chance that Microsoft was putting functionality into Windows that he (and his seemingly defunct company) has a patent that covers it. How is this different that Rambus not telling the standards body (that they were apart of) that SDRAM might infringe on their patents?

I hate to say it but Microsoft might be in the right here. Not to mention that the patent is BS.

Re:Insufficient information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26708189)

Patent link here: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=12&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&p=1&p=1&S1=6,411,941&OS=6,411,941&RS=6,411,941

ie- storing stuff in the bios eeprom. Mind you, OEM installation disks that had this info was widely gettable before the filing date, or comparing CD images - ie oembios.exe and the like. Dell was nice enough to include it on some poorly mastered OEM disks over the years.

Too bad there are many implementations, where the contents of bios/firmware determine software capability.

The patent is flawed - secret hard disk ATA scratchpad areas, spare engineering sectors, or funky compaq/toshiba hdd partitions do about the same thing, and bios and virtualisation limit things.

I don't see the difference to the bsa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707825)

which in its history has used that as a practice as several others (bringing ppl to denounce their corporation, supply information on paper etc)

so as microsoft was one of the main founder of the bsa, i don't see why they shouldnt inhale their own medicine?

If I believed that my wife had been raped... (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708031)

... I might be tempted to kill the person I thought did it. That does not mean I actually would. In fact, I certainly would not.

Oh sure... (1)

Dotren (1449427) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708047)

'If you believed that your patent had been infringed, wouldn't you be tempted to do the same thing?

Because two wrongs ALWAYS make a right!

Mullors actions do fall under cat 'Investigation' (1)

ranjeet.walunj (1356155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708201)

those actions are nothing but Investigation methods apply by him. Every individual has (should) right to look for his lost/stolen things ...

Link to the patent (2, Informative)

spitzak (4019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708425)

U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 [uspto.gov]

Any opinions on whether this is bogus or obvious?

IMHO he did a stupid thing by taking that job. He had to sign employment agreements and contracts and they most likely invalidated his claims. And he certainly copied documents he was not allowed to copy as an employee.

snl mocking the real pepsi ad?? (-1, Offtopic)

Oo.et.oO (6530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708567)

what? as far as i could tell they just aired the entire idiotic macgruber skit where the entire dialog is "pepsi". they showed the same skit DURING SNL the night before. what am i missing?

wtf? how did this end up in here?? (1)

Oo.et.oO (6530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26708581)

supposed to be in the superbowl ads post. wtf?

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