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.