No Joke: Microsoft Seeks To Patent Verbs - InformationWeek
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9/6/2006
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No Joke: Microsoft Seeks To Patent Verbs

The software giant's system aims to help students learn to conjugate verbs in a foreign language. But mum's the word on how it plans to use the technology.

To patent. That's what Microsoft wants to do with verbs.

Specifically, the software maker has developed a verb conjugating system aimed at aiding students studying a foreign language and has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a patent.

"For everyone who struggled through French class in high school, they know verb conjugation is tough," David Kaefer, general manager of Microsoft's intellectual property and licensing department, said in a statement. "Just like complex software algorithms can help a user spot flawed grammar or autocorrect spelling, software can help us learn new languages and we're building methods to do just that."

According to its patent application, the invention would overcome limitations in existing software that conjugates verbs, such as not identifying the correct conjugation when the infinitive form of the verb is misspelled or the inability to locate the proper verb in a foreign language when users only know the word in their native language.

Microsoft wouldn't say how it would use the technology and declined to provide an official to be interviewed. But in his statement, Kaefer hinted the system could be incorporated into Microsoft Word. "You can imagine that people writing multilingual documents might have a need for simple inventions that help them enhance their writing of those documents," he said. "As is the case with many challenges, there are often several ways of addressing the challenge and this particular patent application identifies one such way of solving a complex software challenge."

Microsoft's patent application says the conjugation system could be incorporated as program modules in various devices, including PCs, servers, PDAs, cell phones, and digital cameras, among others.

Next up for Microsoft: copyrighting Esperanto?

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