Microsoft steals feature and patents it

This looks bad:

Today, someone (thanks!) pointed me to a patent application by Microsoft for an “Object test bench”. The patent application, filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, is here.

The patent claims the invention of “a facility” (the object test bench) that “receives an instantiated object, displays the instantiated object visually, receives a command from a developer relating to the instantiated object, and provides a result corresponding to the received command. As an example, the facility invokes a method provided by the instantiated object or retrieves a value of a property of the instantiated object.”

Now, you may or may not be familiar with BlueJ. In case you aren’t let me say this: this is an exact description of the core BlueJ functionality (interactive object instantiation and invocation) that we have implemented, distributed, and described in published work since the mid-90s. (In case you are familiar with BlueJ, read on a bit in the patent. The description gets more and more detailed, and the more you read, the more it resembles BlueJ in every small detail. It’s almost creepy.)

It sounds like a lot of things I’ve seen, including BeanShell and irb.

Update: The patent application will be withdrawn.

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