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Microsoft paid millions for my Office code

But gave the cash to the wrong bloke
Tue Jun 20 2006, 14:23
THE COURTS and the patent system have been labelled braindead after forcing Microsoft to shell out millions to a man who patented code written by another man years earlier.

Yesterday, we reported how the Vole had to shell out $6.1 million to Carlos Armando Amado for having used code he patented in 1995 for its Microsoft Office.

However, a different man, Glenn Everhart, told the INQ that the technology involved was all in a bit of code he penned called AnalyRIM (no really) in 1991.

Everhart said the initial version started life as ViziKludge which morphed into Portacalc, then Analyticalc, and was written in December 1982.

"My wife can describe to people how I was writing it out on our flight to Hawaii that year, since we had been married only a few months before," Everhart said.

Everhart put the code into the public domain because it failed to make him much cash. He said that he finds the whole business incredibly annoying.

"Technology I had given to the world and thought was thus protected as available to everyone gets claimed by Johnny-come-lately as novel because the system does not force full searches of prior publications and indeed discourages such searches!" he said.

He is quite proud of AnalyRIM because it was ahead of its time with a bunch of techniques before most spreadsheet type programs, including matrix algebra integrated and FFT functions and had lots of other functions like gradient search multidimensional goalseeking.

His version of the code ran on VMS, RSX, AmigaDos, DOS, Windows, and SunOS. It could have been run on Microsoft operating systems if he had a larger machine at the time, he said.

Everhart said that because he had given the code to the public domain he couldn't sue Amando for some of the cash, and besides he hadn't got the sort of money required to pay a brief anyway.

"It is probably too late, from the sound of the news, for even Microsoft to claim prior art, though I am not a lawyer," he told the INQ.

Still, if Amando had sued him, he would have gotten a good kicking, he said.

He said the patent system was 'braindead' with a lot of the court cases over software that was just rehashes of code others wrote years ago.

"The policy scandal is that neither prior art nor obviousness is in practice considered at all. A patent applicant can keep hammering on the patent examiner if the examiner happens not to find EXACTLY the right piece of prior art, apparently almost indefinitely."

Only the big companies have the sort of money to do that sort of lark, Everhart said.

"The Australian patent office allowed a patent on the wheel two or three years ago. I wonder if you could patent 2+2=4 by stating it in obscure enough language? Some compression patents certainly are verging on this, and people are being forced to try to patent even simple ideas to TRY to prevent others from claiming the same ideas and keeping people from using their own ideas," he wailed. µ

 

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