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Microsoft: 'Patents are gibberish - unless you're a patent lawyer'

Ignorance is bliss

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Microsoft's internal advice when you're potentially treading on someone else's patent? "Ignorance is bliss."

Microsoft engineer Eric Brechner writes an internal developer best practices blog called Hard Code under the name I.M. Write.

Slashdot flagged his most recent entry, which tells Microsoft to completely ignore other companies' patents because they don't make any sense. His advice to follow employees:

When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section — the only section that counts — was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.

In other words, IT patents are generally worthless in providing actual information about what the invention is about. So don't bother.

Techdirt summarizes things quite swimmingly:

Of course, technically, a patent is supposed to be written so that someone skilled in the art can replicate the invention from the patent alone. But, when even patent holders can't understand their own patents, it's quite clear that reality doesn't match up with the theory here. So, the next time you hear a patent system defender claiming the importance of disclosure, it might be worth pointing out that one of the biggest patent holding companies in the world instructs its own employees to ignore patents, because you can't actually learn anything from them in the first place.

Ah, but patents do make for really good comedy. ®

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