It's Not A Bug, It's A Patented Feature

Fake News written by James Baughn on Monday, September 15, 2003

from the c-lots-of-lawsuits dept.

SILLYCON VALLEY -- At 1:00 PM today, a large flock of attorneys gathered outside the office of Mr. Pat Entmonger. They came from far and wide, hoping to secure him as a client. Why? Well, Entmonger has just been granted the most potentially profitable patent in the history of intellectual property, and the lawyers all wanted a piece of the action.

"This is the motherlode," explained one lawyer waiting outside. "This gentleman has procured a 59-page patent that will make a whole bunch of people billionaires. I just hope I can be one of them."

In the end, Entmonger picked a team of 10 lawyers to help him litigate his patent. He demanded upfront that these lawyers pay him (not the other way around) a legal fee for the right to represent him in this historic endeavor.

"I made it! I made it! This is the biggest day of my career," boasted one attorney who made the cut as the tenth and final team member. Everybody else was sent home, without consolation prizes. A few of the unlucky lawyers, however, have threatened to sue, but none have done so yet.

The patent litigation is expected to begin next week. Anybody who has ever written a software program more complicated than "Hello World" is a potential target (and even "Hello World" might not be invincible). End-users could be in big trouble as well.

"Just about every piece of software, particularly code written in C, infringes on my intellectual property," Entmonger boasted.

Utilizing a business strategy pioneered (but not patented) by SCO, Entmonger has refused to actually explain the basis of his claim. But the lack of details hasn't stopped him from drafting a bunch of bark letters that will be mailed to thousands of companies starting next week.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of the Humorix Vast Spy Network(tm), which spent a grueling five minutes searching for the text of the patent on the US Patent Office's website, we have been able to obtain a copy of the super-secret patent filing.

One section of the patent describes a "protocol for memory allocation and pointer manipulation allowing remote users the ability to insert arbitrary executable code into memory, serving a variety of benevolent and/or malevolent purposes."

In short, Entmonger has patented buffer overflows. Moreover, the patent also covers dozens of other common exploits and bugs found in both Unix and Windows based software. However, none of these bugs are considered 'bugs' by the patent -- they are treated as 'features'. The patent says, "The aforementioned protocols can be used for legitimate purposes to allow remote users to execute shell commands seamlessly and effortlessly."

Entmonger, the founder, CEO, majority stockholder, secretary, treasurer, janitor, spokesman and sole employee of "Litisue, Inc.", has surprisingly not yet been contacted by SCO for a potential buyout offer, but it's only a matter of days.

"This is truly scary," one industry fearmongerer said. "Right now SCO doesn't have a leg to stand on legally, but combined with Litisue's patent, they could easily establish industry or even world domination."

One Linux advocate was worried about another problem. "While there's always the risk that Entmonger could use his patent to sue Open Source into oblivion, I think we should be more concerned about another possibility. What if the threat of a multi-trillion dollar lawsuit finally provides the incentive for Microsoft to actually clean up its code and start focusing on security? What if Microsoft software actually becomes secure? Then suddenly the Linux world would lose a major talking point!"

Based on past experience, however, such a radical scenario seems unlikely.

"Entmonger has really got Microsoft by the [expletive]s," observed an industry observer. "Microsoft simply won't be able to purge their software of the offending code, no matter how many talented engineers they hire. Linux could be [expletive]ed too, but at least the Open Source community could shift all development to more rational countries where this patent doesn't apply. Microsoft would not be able to turn on a dime like that."

So far, Entmonger has not yet announced which parties he plans to sue first. He might go after the deepest pockets first (Microsoft) or he might first test the waters by suing some podunk, cash-starved, easily-intimidated company that couldn't even afford to hire Lionel Hutz, much less a competent, non-fictional lawyer.

"Right now the BFG is in Entmongers's hands and we've all got bullseyes painted on our chests," another industry pundit said. "I want my mommy."

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