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Re: Microsoft patent

dlw <> writes:

> How will the gcc maintainers avoid being ensnared
> by Microsoft patent 6,748,585 awarded June 8, 2004 when including
> new compiler techniques and features in gcc ?
>                      ABSTRACT
> "Programming language constructs called pronouns and referents, and
> a method, system, and apparatus for translating computer source
> code that contains the pronouns and referents. A referent is any
> semantic or syntactic construct in the source code (e.g., a
> statement, a portion of a statement, an expression, or a value) to
> which a pronoun refers. A pronoun is a programming-language
> defined source-code symbol or a sequence of symbols that refers to
> the referent. As a result, pronouns eliminate the need to define
> new names or macros for repeated program segments. When a
> translator encounters the pronoun in the source code, the
> translator searches the source code for the referent and
> substitutes the referent for the pronoun. Thus, by using pronouns
> and referents, the programmer can write programs faster and easier
> and eliminate program redundancy without losing readability."
> This thing is so broadly written concerning sytax and semantics
> in computer languages that it could encompass just about anything.

The abstract and the claims are pretty crazy, but it seems from the
patent text that they are describing a system in which the compiler
interprets a general pronoun reference and determines the referent.

Oddly, this is prefigured by COBOL, which actually did have pronouns
of this sort.  The patent appears to fail to mention COBOL.

I wouldn't worry about this too much.  Every sizeable program,
including gcc, violates some software patents.  Microsoft, for all its
other evils, has never shown a tendency to misuse software patents.  A
lawsuit on the basis of this patent would obviously be unfortunate,
but it seems unlikely.


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