Sun Exec Rips Microsoft Patent Application - InformationWeek

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1/28/2007
01:51 PM
Edward Moltzen
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Sun Exec Rips Microsoft Patent Application

Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun Microsystems, took aim on his blog at a Microsoft patent application for an object test bench.

Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun Microsystems, is not mincing words when talking about an effort by Microsoft to patent technology believed to be all-too similar to what a Kent University researcher has been laboring over for years.

"This is pretty disgusting behaviour from the monopolist," Phipps wrote Sunday on his weblog.

Phipps was referring to a patent application by Microsoft for "an object test bench" that Dr. Michael Kolling, a senior lecturer at the Computing Laboratory, University of Kent, says matches his work on the BlueJ java development environment. Sun has provided assistance to the BlueJ project.

According to Kolling, a reading of Microsoft's patent application is "almost creepy" in how it tracks with BlueJ:

Now, you may or may not be familiar with BlueJ. In case you aren't let me say this: this [patent application] is an exact description of the core BlueJ functionality (interactive object instantiation and invocation) that we have implemented, distributed, and described in published work since the mid-90s. (In case you are familiar with BlueJ, read on a bit in the patent. The description gets more and more detailed, and the more you read, the more it resembles BlueJ in every small detail. It's almost creepy.)

Microsoft has its own lengthy description of the Object Test Bench as it relates to Visual Studio:

Object Test Bench (OTB) is designed for simple object-level testing. Use OTB to create instances of your project's objects, invoke methods, and evaluate the results. This way, you shorten the task of coding, debugging and re-coding.

Microsoft says the test bench can be used for development in the .NET Framework.

Kolling says Microsoft's Dan Fernandez, lead product manager for Visual Studio Express, acknowledged the earlier work of the BlueJ developers as early as 1995, in an item posted on Microsoft's MSDN.

To that, Kolling writes:

Let's get that clear: four months after management were clearly aware of our prior work (and with developers being aware from the start), Microsoft knowingly filed a patent application claiming original invention of this mechanism.

To my nose, it doesn't get much smellier than that. That stinks.

The patent application is pending.

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