Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Microsoft Moves To Patent Time-Based Software Licensing 118

theodp writes "Microsoft's Open Value Subscription offering didn't get the warmest reception. Nor did the follow-up announcement of Albany, a planned MS-Office Subscription Service. Now comes word from the USPTO that Microsoft feels it deserves a patent for the 'invention' of 'Time-Based Licensing,' which aims to make the traditional pay-once perpetual license model a thing of the past. Hey, if your customers were waiting nine years between OS upgrades, you'd try touting a three-year lease with a balloon buy-out payment, too!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Moves To Patent Time-Based Software Licensing

Comments Filter:
  • Matlab (Score:5, Informative)

    by volpe ( 58112 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @06:31PM (#29699497)

    Invention? What the heck are they talking about? My Matlab license has been time-based for years. I remember one day Matlab stopped working for me because I never got around to entering the new license number that our IT folks emailled me a few weeks earlier.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @06:54PM (#29699765)

    This patent is absurd.

    It is (like every patent described on Slashdot) described poorly.

    The patent is not a business-model patent for time-based licensing, its a technology patent for a specific scheme of enforcing time-based licensing rules.

    The way its described in TFS there would certainly be massive prior art. I'm less sure about the particular scheme they're actually trying to patent.

    Though, from the description in TFA, regardless of prior art, the scheme seems painfully obvious, so I wouldn't be surprised if existing time-based licenses use this enforcement scheme already.

  • by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @07:57PM (#29700127) Homepage Journal

    This patent is absurd.

    Two things. One, this is not a patent. It's an application. You can put literally anything you want in a publication, and it will get published after 18 months, even though nobody's looked at it. I could file an application, and my first claim could be, "I claim a data storage device comprising a magnetic platter containing a plurality of magnetic bits, each bit configured to have two states, wherein each state represents alternately a 0 or a 1." That application would publish after 18 months with that claim, and everybody on /. would be hoppin' mad that I'd gotten a patent on the hard drive. And they would be completely wrong. Just because you ask for a particular, broad claim, doesn't mean you're going to get it.

    Second, I doubt that you've done anything close to the analysis to even know if the filed claims are "absurd." What do the claims say? Do you know? What disclosure supports them? Does the disclosure have any limiting definitions or statements? Is there any file wrapper estoppel? Are the claims statutory subject matter under Bilski? I'm betting you don't know, which means you don't know if these claims are absurd or not.

  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @08:12PM (#29700219)

    I implemented this system in it's entirety with another engineer back about 6 years ago. Complete with the license server and the multiple parameters of the license. Is there a way to protest this being patented? It's still in daily use for my wife's company.

    Yes. It's still in the application phase, so you can make a representation to the patent office as to why you believe it shouldn't be granted. You need some legal advice on how best to provide such a representation. There are several people who may be able to give you such advice; it may be worth contacting either the EFF or the Public Patent Foundation, both of whom have a lot of experience in this field.

  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @08:24PM (#29700309)

    The patent is not a business-model patent for time-based licensing, its a technology patent for a specific scheme of enforcing time-based licensing rules.

    No, it isn't. The claims of the patent are so ridiculously vague they would cover any such technology. Here's claim 1:

    "1. A machine-implemented method for licensing a software product, the machine-implemented method comprising:generating a time-based license from among a plurality of types of time-based licenses in response to receiving a request for the time-based license, each of the plurality of types of time-based licenses having a plurality of configurable parameters, a combination of the plurality of types of time-based licenses and the plurality of configurable parameters being capable of accommodating a plurality of licensing business models; andsending the time-based license to an originating processing device of the request for the time-based license."

    This patent would cover any automated software licensing business offering multiple types of limited time licenses, and is therefore a business model patent, not a technology one.

    The more specific claims don't add much, either:

    2 - some licenses are renewable
    3 - supports a restriction on how many times the software can be reactivated
    4 - product keys that can be used on a specified number of computers
    5 - system for switching to a permanent license after a certain number of limited ones
    6 - (I don't understand this claim; can somebody translate for me?)
    7 - some licenses might not start immediately
    8 - computer with the above scheme in memory
    9-14 - covers a management user interface, really boring stuff
    15 - above scheme stored on machine-readable media
    16 - a command line interface to license management
    17 - displaying a warning when the license is about to expire
    18 - making the software stop working when the license expires
    19 - informing the user how long the software will continue working for
    20 - an api whereby a program can query whether it is licensed or not

    Seriously. This is all _basic_ stuff, and covers just about every possible implementation, not just a single implementation of the idea.

  • Re:Matlab (Score:3, Informative)

    by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @11:55PM (#29701417) Journal

    Back in the early 90s one CAD vendor (no, not that one) had a novel approach to licence renewal..

    We got a call from one of our big customers saying that a number of machines in the drawing office had popped up a cryptic message saying that there was a problem with an installed application and to stop using the computer otherwise data may be lost. I rushed over to find that the company had ordered all staff off their (networked) PCs and had shut them down in case there was a spreading virus.

    I isolated one PC and powered it up, scanned it to death and found nothing. I scanned a few more (nothing) and slowly got the company up and running. Then one of the CAD PCs popped up the message again and I had a read and noticed a phone number - our customer had not got that far before panicking and switching the PC off.

    I rang the number and found myself speaking to the CAD Company's sales team, who glibly informed us "Oh yes, that means their licence has expired and the message is designed to make customers call us as soon as possible to renew!"

    I passed the matter back to our customer and "words were had". I think some form of compensation for downtime and our charges was agreed.

  • by ffreeloader ( 1105115 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @11:29AM (#29703787) Journal

    Hmmm.... And here I could have sworn people were mocking MS just for applying for this patent, not for being awarded a patent.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.