Microsoft Collects a Pair of Patents

The United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) has granted Microsoft a pair of software patents, one that deals with software compilation and another that addresses software editing.

U.S. Patent number 6,836,883 is titled “Method and system for compiling multiple languages” and was first applied for by Microsoft researchers on June 21, 2000.

A USPTO abstract on the newly-granted patent explains it as “a method and system for compiling multiple source language files that share a common library.”

“The present invention relates to source language compiler technology and particularly to the use of compilers to create a runtime library and environment that is independent of the source language used to generate the executable programs or applications that execute in the runtime environment,” the patent abstract said.

It also cites James Gosling (creator of the Java language) in references about compilers, as well as a document produced by the Free Software Foundation (FSF, purveyors of the GPL license) about its the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC, arguably the most popular compiler currently in use).

US Patent 6,836,884 is titled “Method and system for editing software programs” and was applied for by Microsoft on June 4, 2001.

That patent deals with various “improved” systems and methods for editing software. “A method and system are disclosed for editing a software program in a common language runtime environment, wherein the software program has a source code component, an intermediate language component, and a native code component,” the USPTO abstract states.

Microsoft officials were unable to comment on the specifics of the two newly issued patents, however a spokesperson was able to comment about the importance of Microsoft’s intellectual property protection initiatives.

“The protection and licensing of intellectual property allows companies and individuals to obtain a return on investment, sustaining business and encouraging future rounds of research and investment in the IT industry,” the Microsoft spokesperson explained to

“Microsoft’s $7 billion annual commitment to R&D has resulted in one of the leading IP patent portfolios in the industry. By providing access to fundamental patents in areas like operating systems, software engineering, computer communications, networking and graphics, Microsoft has made it possible to expand existing innovation and deliver new solutions for customers.”

The US Patent system has come under increased scrutiny in 2004 from a variety of sectors. At the beginning of the year, the Federal Trade Commission held a conference on reforming the patent process.

Cisco, Intel, eBay, Symantec, Chiron, Microsoft, and Genentech all participated in a conference, saying they would work with regulators and legislators on patent reform.

IBM and Novell have both said that they would use their patent inventories to defend open source. Other open source players like MySQL AB and Red Hat have joined efforts like in an effort to stop software patents in the EU, where they are currently under review.

Nick Godici, the USPTO’s Commissioner for Patents, told in an exclusive interview that he doesn’t believe the US patent system is broken. Godici said the increasing number of patent filings in recent years and companies’ market values based on their intellectual property, are proof the system works.

“If you look at U.S. innovation, and you look at industries where we lead, you’ll see a correlation between a strong intellectual property system and those industries,” Godici said.

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