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Microsoft [to patent] Verb Conjugation 382

streepje writes "Here [to be] the latest egregious patent application. Microsoft [to be] [to apply] for a patent for [to conjugate] verbs. Future postings [to look] like this."
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Microsoft [to patent] Verb Conjugation

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  • by sporkme ( 983186 ) * on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:32AM (#16050164) Homepage
    It's called a language-to-language dictionary, or a stack of them in this case. Futhermore, many websites and applications already offer complete translation, from single words to long texts (clearly not a secret) and the conjugation of verbs is intrinsic to this type of software so that context is preserved. All that the patent seems to offer is comprehension of strings like "present indicative of [verb]".

    From the article:
    For example, the user may input "present indicative of sein," "prasens indikativ von sein," "1st person plural of sein," and "erste Person Plural von sein".

    I think this is a nonstarter.
  • Oh please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grym ( 725290 ) * on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:35AM (#16050176)

    I dislike Microsoft's business practices as much as the next guy, but give me a break. If you actually read the linked patent, it isn't a patent on conjugating words. It's a patent on automatically providing all of the different possible conjugation forms of any verb on the fly, which is something I, for one, haven't seen before and think could be pretty useful...


  • Yay, whatever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deblau ( 68023 ) <> on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:44AM (#16050210) Journal
    NJStar Japanese Word processor 5.01 [], released in 2004 (before filing date of the application). Note the features marked, respectively, "Instant English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary/translation" and "Japanese verb forms generator for Japanese study."
  • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shreevatsa ( 845645 ) <> on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:52AM (#16050230)
    It's a patent on automatically providing all of the different possible conjugation forms of any verb on the fly, which is something I, for one, haven't seen before and think could be pretty useful...
    Have you looked at a (good) dictionary?

    Of course it is pretty useful. In fact, it is something fundamental to language. Which is why it is reprehensible that some company should have a patent on it. It is like giving them a patent on changing sentences from passive to active... no, it's worse.

    (This Onion article [] might not be too far from reality, after all. :-)
  • Which language? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by klang ( 27062 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:56AM (#16050240)
    Would this patent only cover American English, or would it cover Spanish (verb conjugation galore) or Danish (no verb conjugation at all) as well?
  • by Heir Of The Mess ( 939658 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @01:58AM (#16050245)

    If you have been following recent history you will see that Microsoft have been sued for just about anything they do with software, and often they have lost for even things like including something like an interactive control on a web page.

    Given this, it only makes sense for them, or any company for that matter, to patent any ideas for present or future functionality that they might have.

    Software patents are here to throttle the rapid development of technology to the point that the powers that be can keep up with what's going on.

  • First to File (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abandonment ( 739466 ) <> on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @02:14AM (#16050300) Homepage
    This is due to the recent patent system 'overhaul' that the big companies have been pushing through - it's not 'first to invent', but 'first to file' that they are trying to move the patent system towards.

    If this actually goes through (if it hasn't already), then all of the prior art in the world doesn't matter because the ruling goes to whoever files the patent first.

    Basically adding yet another layer of bullshit on a completely broken system. The funny part is how companies like MS try to claim that first to file will help clean up the backlog of bs patents clogging the system.
  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @02:34AM (#16050358)
    by religning their administration to the original stated goals. We have to reevaluate what we have patents for. When the founding fathers put them in the constitution, it was to promote progress and the sciences. They stated this themselves.

    Yet, during WW2, the government invalidated many radio patents to spur progress (and help the war effort) and radio considerably advanced in that period. Also, computer science advanced very nicely in the US until software patents showed up.

    It seems that, if anything, patents hinder progress in many cases. It seems to me that patents help in situations where there is no market yet or is very research heavy (drug industry) and help funnel research in such an area, but once a competitive market is established, it only hinders progress in many instances.

    So a blanket ban on patents seem unfeasible but perhaps there should be a ban of patent by industry. Industries with rapid progress should have no patents because the promotion of science and advancement is obviously not needed.

    OTOH, where there is very little market or industry itself has a high upfront/continuing costs - an extra incentive is needed (protection at the marketplace) and thus patents are necessary.

    In other words, patents will be considered almost like tax incentives.

    The problem with patents today, in lieu of manufacturing going overseas, is that the US is trying to pad its economy with IP, so the government as a whole has no incentive to be sparing of patents. This path is problematic and will impoverish us all over time. We really need to overhaul the patent system.

    I would be particularly interested in hearing the opinions of historians who have studied scientific revolutions/industrial revolutions/economic upheavals of the past and what their opinions about the environment/variables that time has shown truly promote advancement/progress.
  • Re:Oh please (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @02:39AM (#16050372)
    “It's a patent on automatically providing all of the different possible conjugation forms of any verb on the fly, which is something I, for one, haven't seen before...”

    I don't mean to be rude, but this is the same attitude that leads to Microsoft (or anyone else) registering these crappy patents in the first place. FWIW, I have seen such a system before (Web-based, no less) wherein I could enter verbs (or nouns or any other words) in non-infinitive forms and the system would automatically determine the dictionary form of the word and provide appropriate variations, definitions, examples, etc. If it weren't for this I would have been totally screwed whilst trying to learn a non-English language recently...

  • Re:Oh please (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @03:14AM (#16050451) Homepage
    Oh please indeed!

    Does a dictionary provide all the possible conjugation forms of any verb on the fly? No. No, they don't. Dictionaries don't do anything on the fly.

    What is reprehensible is you willfully misunderstanding the patented invention. No one is patenting verb conjugation. Microsoft patented a way of getting a machine to take a verb (conjugated or not) and then list all conjugated forms of the verb. Obviously you know nothing about information retrieval, and natural language processing, or you wouldn't be so cavalier with your rightous indignation. (Oh what am I saying, one can't be anything but cavalier with rightous indignation,)

    Secondly, conjugating verbs isn't fundamental to language. Chinese for one doesn't conjugate verbs at all, and that's one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet. Arguably conjugation is completely unnecessary for language. If conjugation be necessary, then this sentence are completely not understanding to anyone.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @04:40AM (#16050670) Journal
    "A method of doing integrals via computer software is still a mathematical method"

    A method of doing ANYTHING via computer software is still a mathematical method [].
  • Re:prior art? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @05:30AM (#16050786) []Perseus conjugates on a computer Ancient Greek and Latin. It even declines nouns and adjectives. Take that, Microsoft!
  • Re:Oh please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by treerex ( 743007 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @06:19AM (#16050880) Homepage
    The issue I have with this patent application is that it doesn't even present a novel method for generating conjugation tables for a given verb form. The entire patent comes down to: lookup entered words in a table. From that table, link to this or that table, from there link to that or this table, ad nauseum. Everything is precomputed. They are patenting the brute-force, high-school freshman BASIC assignment version of this problem. Oh, it mentions possible UIs to display the disambiguation data. Big Whoop.
  • Euroglot! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nyh ( 55741 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @07:43AM (#16051054)
    Well, if I read the application correctly it can do some of the functionality found in: []:

    Euroglot gives the user: all conjugations and declensions
    Conjugations and declensions: * EuroglotOnline also recognizes declined words!

    Hmmm, it seems Euroglot has been violating this patent application at least since 1999.


"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."