Developer claims Microsoft stole his idea and now earns billions from it

In 1996, V_Graph approached Microsoft with a product that they called ‘Web Widgets’, which was able to incorporate web content within applications. Microsoft ultimately did not formalise a deal with V_Graph and declined to use their product in the development of its next web browser.

But, as VentureBeat reports, when Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 3.0 a few months later, it featured similar technology to that of V_Graph. The former head of V_Graph, Rob Morris, has now accused Microsoft of having “appropriated” the company’s technology, which he says resulted in the demise of his business.


Microsoft Internet Explorer 3

Microsoft was awarded a patent, which it filed in 1997, for "a web browser control for incorporating web browser functionality into application programs", and today it is one of numerous patents from which the company earns licensing fees for its use on Android devices.

Morris claims that the technology helped Microsoft to defeat Netscape Navigator in the ‘browser wars’ of the 1990s, and that it also enabled the company to argue that Internet Explorer was a separate component from the Windows operating system during antitrust trials. He said that he “didn’t think they’d actually get a patent on it, because for a patent you need something novel, and we’d been selling it already for well over a year.”

More than simply complaining, though, Morris is planning to take action, seeking to get the patent overturned before it expires in 2017. "We did not act until now because my little company was basically extinguished by this whole experience," he says. "However, now with the ability to do crowdfunding, it is finally possible to try." 


The 'Free the Browser' campaign aims to raise $35,000 to fight the patent

He has established an Indiegogo campaign called 'Free the Browser', which he says intends "to fight [Microsoft's] bad browser patent" and "to stop them charging for this. Right now, for example, they collect billions of dollars from Android users, with their patent portfolio licensing machine."

He initially hopes to raise $35,000 to file an objection with the US Patent Office, but if he succeeds in raising $250,000, he says he will be able to make the case in person, "to object and to stay in the fight and counter Microsoft's arguments." At time of publication, the campaign had raised $214 in the six days since its launch.

He claims that "this bad patent currently affects every smart phone and tablet user in America today. It was annoying when Microsoft started giving this technology away as part of their operating system, but that only hurt my company. Now, they are making billions licensing their patent portfolio, and it makes us mad to think they are charging Android users for this." 

Source: VentureBeat via WinBeta | upper image via liberliber.it

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Never is too late specially since MS is still profiting from old licenses as a patent (up to 20 years) or as a copyright.

All it takes is one rich guy/company who feels like donating money to ###### off Microsoft. I'm surprised Google asnt made an anonymous donation just out of spite.

Plus, nifty perks when you donate $25k to the crowd source. Physical CD and manual!!!

This guy is on his own. Unless former MS employees are willing to testify on his behalf (not likely) that the concept was indeed implemented after a V_Graph demonstration, he'll lose. What's difficult to understand is why did he wait almost two decades before making a stink about it?

I'm speechless at how some members here are quick to react protecting Microsoft. Maybe it's because some of you are young, or maybe t's plain fan-blindness, but MS DID some nasty things in the 80's and 90's and things like this case would rank as one of the mildest so I would not be surprised.

Heck, MS was even suspected to be involved in the death of some people. Many former company owners blame directly Bill Gates of their demise. The US went full-force against MS monopoly. Companies like Compaq, HP, Dell and Sony were bullied into not including software that competed with Windows preinstalled apps, or else, MS would stop selling Windows licences to them.

Come on people, stop being so gullible, read how MS-DOS started, for example. Read about the Basic fiasco in the 80's, read about the strong-arming and code stealing of IBM's products in the 90's, read about Gary Kildal's death.

No, not a MS hater, but, unlike many, I have a memory. Do you even have any idea how much money it costs to fund a sue like this against a gargantuan company? For you it's so easy to say the timing is "suspicious" because you threat brands like religions and MS it's untouchable.

Makes me sick.

sanctified said,
The US went full-force against MS monopoly. .

The US government LOST their case. But let's not let an inconvenient truth get in the way of a good rant, eh?

sanctified said,
I'm speechless at how some members here are quick to react protecting Microsoft. Maybe it's because some of you are young, or maybe t's plain fan-blindness

I lean towards the latter. The Koolade is strong around here lol.

sanctified said,

but MS DID some nasty things in the 80's and 90's and things like this case would rank as one of the mildest so I would not be surprised.

MS never stopped doing nasty underhanded things. It's in their DNA. They're better at hiding it somewhat these days, wrapping potential anticompetitive agreements in NDA's so no one can speak out. Still, the same old Microsoft comes through when it railroads OOXML though ISO using questionable third parties, funds SCO to attack Linux, spreads F.U.D about patents it holds against GNU/Linux, lobbies for antitrust actions against competitors using third party proxies (ICOMP, FairSearch ), or Mafioso-like protection racket patent extortion schemes. Yes, it's the same old Microsoft, no matter how much people on here claim they have changed.

sanctified said,

Heck, MS was even suspected to be involved in the death of some people. Many former company owners blame directly Bill Gates of their demise. The US went full-force against MS monopoly. Companies like Compaq, HP, Dell and Sony were bullied into not including software that competed with Windows preinstalled apps, or else, MS would stop selling Windows licences to them.

That's why Bill runs his faux-charity foundation, which encourages the privatisation of schools (and adoption of Microsoft software of course), invests in Monsanto, and pushes big pharma drugs to the developing world. It's quite insidious actually.

sanctified said,

Come on people, stop being so gullible, read how MS-DOS started, for example. Read about the Basic fiasco in the 80's, read about the strong-arming and code stealing of IBM's products in the 90's, read about Gary Kildal's death.
No, not a MS hater, but, unlike many, I have a memory. Do you even have any idea how much money it costs to fund a sue like this against a gargantuan company? For you it's so easy to say the timing is "suspicious" because you threat brands like religions and MS it's untouchable.

Inconvenient truths like what you wrote will always fall on deaf ears around here ;) Better to save your energy for more worthy pursuits :laugh:

Major_Plonquer said,

The US government LOST their case. But let's not let an inconvenient truth get in the way of a good rant, eh?

Governments are incompetent at best, entirely corruptible at worst. Either way, it doesn't render the company innocent. Only that the case couldn't be proved.

One only has to look at the infamous Halloween documents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween_documents) to realise what lengths Microsoft will go to in order to destroy the competition. Very little has changed over the years.

Microsoft was working on DDE/OLE/COM since the late 1980s. By 1993, OLE 2.0 was in production supporting exactly this capability of embeddable objects.

Microsoft exposes functionality of many apps through embeddable objects, including Word and Excel. It is a big leap to think that MS only decided to create IE in this manner after seeing this guy's software.

Whut? That happened 18 years ago... We'll see where this is going, I don't expect to much from it, through. Also, what makes him think Microsoft didn't had something similar in development before he walked in? Also... This:

"We did not act until now because my little company was basically extinguished by this whole experience."

Is BS.

I'm assuming this is about the ActiveX IE control, however ActiveX is COM and OLE smashed together, which predates 1996 by quite a while.

Please give me a few tens of thousands of dollars, so that I can roll the dice on winning a few hundreds of millions of dollars. Thank you!

By my calculations, if he continues collecting money at the current rate he'll reach his 250k target three years after the patent expires. How cool is that?

He said that he “didn't think they'd actually get a patent on it, because for a patent you need something novel, and we'd been selling it already for well over a year.”

He's obviously not familiar with software patents. The fact that multiple programmers can arrive at the same technique independently clearly demonstrates the lack of novelty in most of them.

I think Elon Musk's reason for open sourcing his EV patents says it best:


When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

That's what software patents have come down to. In fact not only software patents, but patents in general have been usurped by the giant monolithic corporate structures with the intent to suppress all forms of competition through litigation. Even the threat of litigation is often enough to silence them.

Yet another reason why there should be a 6 month window - either take it to court within 6 months of a new product hitting the market and suing the said company or for ever lose any rights over the patents. Maybe once a time period is put on it we'll see businesses either spend the time to enforce patents rather than using them as a form of FUD to undermine possible competition.

Sounds fishy to me. This guy had a great invention and didn't bother to patent it? MS saw a demo, reverse engineered it, and added it to a major program in 'several months'? All of the android folks were totally unaware of this guy's prior art and didn't bother to attack the patent? He never heard of a lawyer taking a case on contingency?

I think that some people seem to have missed the point he was making.

They allegedly stole his code/ideas and put them in their browser. They weren't directly making money off of it. It was only last fall, less than a year ago, that he found out that they were charging android users for it as part of the licensing fees for their patents, so that is why he waited so long to act.

That being said it still seems utterly pointless.

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