Oh, you silly bill (H.R.29)

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed bill H.R.29, also known as the “Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act or Spy Act.” Incredibly, the first text in the summary of this bill includes:

Makes it unlawful for any person who is not the owner or authorized user (user) of a protected computer (a computer exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the U.S. Government, or a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication) to engage in deceptive acts or practices…

Now read carefully between the lines, and realize that the above also means this (changed text underlined):

Does not specificially make it unlawful for any person who is not the owner or authorized user (user) of a protected computer (a computer exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the U.S. Government, or a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication) to engage in deceptive acts or practices…

I’m glad they left the loophole in for financial, communication, commerce, and federal organizations to continue engaging in deceptive practices. After all, that loophole ensures a majority of all business can still deceive us.

More stupid Microsoft Patents: U.S. Patent #6,895,426 – a direct attack against Thunderbird?

Back in April, I blogged on one of Microsoft’s stupid patents. (Arguably, it’s not Microsoft‘s stupidity, but the stupidity of the patent office in allowing such patents to be filed.) Well, they’ve done it again.

We all get email each day. In each email we get, we see email addresses that messages are sent from or to. It’s all rather simple and common. But Microsoft has patented a better solution:

The present invention is directed at a system and process for allowing a user to treat email addresses as objects. This allows easy manipulation of the email addresses, such as allowing them to be added to a contact list, copied to the computer’s clipboard, or double-clicked to open the related contact information for that email address sender. Email addresses are treated as objects in the message preview pane and full message windows of both incoming and outgoing email messages. [From United States Patent #6,895,426]

Ironically, if you’ve used Mozilla Thunderbird (which I do), you are familiar with clicking on an email address to access some nifty features like add the name to the address book or copy the email address to the clipboard (among other features). So what is so novel about this patent? Apparently nothing, but it does open the door for Microsoft to potentially sue the Mozilla Foundation – developers and distributors of Thunderbird – for violating this patent. That’s pretty pathetic, and it not only shows Microsoft’s lack of focus in applying for valid patents, but also shows that the folks in the U.S. Patent Office who allegedly review these patent applications do almost nothing to check their validity.