Patently absurd

Microsoft accidentally receives a patent for a kind of apple tree: Apple patented by Microsoft. It should be noted that Canadian patent law does not allow you to patent living things, although one could patent the techniques in genetic engineering or breeding.

In other news, Wired reports that the NRC is recommended some “decisive steps” to fix the US patent system:

Those steps include, among other things, hiring new patent examiners, creating a more open system for challenging questionable patents, and rejecting more patents on processes that are deemed to be “obvious” by people in the field.

Chris Pratley weighs in with some thoughts on patenting at Microsoft (and gives a few potshots at open source software too, but what can you do):

“Microsoft gets “submarined” quite often. A small company or individual has an idea, which they patent as quietly as possible. Then they sit back and wait (years if necessary), until some big company develops something (independently of course) that is sufficiently similar to their idea that they can surface and sue us…The people involved often never had any intent of developing their idea, and they also make sure to wait until we have been shipping a product for several years before informing us they think they have a patent on something related, so that “damages” can be assessed as high as possible…

Another view is that big companies patent lots of things, and then by the implicit threat of suing the “small guy”, prevent innovation from moving forward.”

As you know, SCO, Eolas, Patriot and Forgent have pulled this stunt recently. Did you know there are many other companies like these out there whose major source of income is from litigating other companies for patent infringement? Pretty sad but true.

I get less insults in Counterstrike

Starting about two months ago, I started going to badminton sessions at my local community centre. I figured it was a good way to hang out with Juice, get a little cardio, and basically stay out of trouble four hours a week.

I confess, I never played badminton until two months ago. I played tennis only briefly in university, and own a tennis racquet that’s never been used in five years. I have lousy depth perception to boot.

However, I’ve trudged along, and Juice has encouragingly told me I’ve already improved immensely.

So it came to my surprise to be insulted twice for my beginner’s skill last night.

One of the “regulars” confided with me that I was a poor player, and I was cramping everyone’s game. “They are just too nice to tell you,” he said. He continued on this point, and concluded by saying I should practice at home before coming.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to practice badminton by myself in my apartment. Unfortunately, he was not as helpful in providing tips on this regard as he was on commenting on my apparently pathetic skills.

It was if he told me not come back to the public swimming lanes until I did enough few breast strokes in my bathtub to keep up with the other participants.

The second fella, my playing partner, was even more blunt. Right before a serve, he noticed I was wearing a Goodlife Fitness t-shirt, and remarked, “You should go to Goodlife more often.”

This was from a guy who wasn’t exactly Mr. Universe himself, although he wouldn’t look out of place at a hotdog eating pageant. I seriously wanted to point this out to him in an equally derogatory way, but just playfully wagged my finger at him and continued playing.

Later that night, I noticed that I’ve never seen a single person compliment another person on the courts. With attitudes like these, it’s no surprise that many novices decide to quit. I won’t, but I’m not terribly impressed right now.

I apologize to everyone. I thought I was in a community centre, not the World Badminton Championships.