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Just be careful about Microsoft's Patent US6748582B1; it doesn't expire for another few months. ;)

From the patent (edited down a bit):

> According to various example implementations of the invention, a task list facilitates code development by assisting developers in keeping track of and managing a variety of tasks, such as errors to be corrected, opportunities for optimization, and other user-defined tasks. As the developer edits source code, warnings and coding errors are detected and inserted as tasks in a task list. The developer can also embed keywords known as comment tokens in the code. These comment tokens are detected and used to define tasks.

> [...]

> Tasks can also be identified using tokens or keywords. These tokens or keywords typically preface comment lines in the code and may include predefined labels such as, for example, “UNDONE,” “TODO,” or “HACK,” as well as labels that are defined by the individual developer. If the source code has no syntax errors, the parser [...] determines whether any of the keywords are present in the source code[.] If so, [it] extracts the comment from the source code and uses the tag to determine the priority of the task. The task is then inserted in the task list[.] For example, if the source code contains the comment, “/TODO: Need to add copyright text/”, the parser [...] adds the task “TODO: Need to add copyright text” to the task list with a priority rating assigned to the “TODO” tag. [1]

[1] http://patents.google.com/patent/US6748582B1/en






This patent is invalid! Look at the source code in HN comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21685660#21689915 bellow and see the TODO tags in files last modified on 13. November 1999 which predates the patent application by Microsoft.

How is it you are aware of this? Affiliation with MS or a project that ran into it?

Wouldn't the key part:

"and in response to completion of a task, modifying the task list during the interactive code development session to indicate that the task has been completed."

mean it doesn't apply?

Worst case, just put a US exclusionary clause in the release so US copyright law doesn't apply. At least Europe is ahead of the US in this and doesn't allow such trivial patents and considers them invalid by definition.


I am an X-Microsoft employee. Pre-Nadella era, most teams had a patent budget. People would file patents for all sorts of reasons. The game was who can get away with vague-ish patents and collect the most cubes. There was a cube you got per patent.

Needless to say the number of cubes someone had, the more clout they had and it became a dick measuring contest.

There are VPs and distinguished engineers with 100s of cubes.


Someone discovered it years ago online, and it's done a couple rounds in the media[1] as an example of an "overreaching software patent", similar to the "pop-under" patent, which patents a pop-up ad that opens after a window is closed[3].

So no personal experience, but I definitely think it's pretty frivolous; I don't imagine its ever been tested in court. :)

[1] https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1040068/microsoft-... from 2004 [2] https://www.geek.com/news/microsoft-granted-patent-covering-... from 2010 [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop-up_ad#Patent_controversy


That is one of the dumbest patents I have ever seen.

Well.... [0]

I have a whole list of absurd patents... this is the classic go-to example of a patent that should have never been issued... basically, a patent issued saying that if you exercise a cat by moving a laser pointer around a floor, you're infringing on this patent.

[0] https://patents.google.com/patent/US5443036A/en




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