Microsoft Patents Sudo

Nov 12, 2009

A further patent by Microsoft brings the software patent discussion to a renewed boil: the software giant has claims on "sudo."

At regular intervals Microsoft issues reminders that Linux and other free software allegedly infringes 235 of its patents. Now sudo could become number 236. Sudo is short for "super user do" and familiar to every Linux and Unix-like operating system users as a way to apply root privileges to a process. Now packaged with a graphical interface, the function is registered at the U.S. Patent Office under number 7,617,530. Microsoft describes in the usual perplexing patent lingo how they position their claim. Pamela Jones, who runs the Groklaw site, summarizes the formulation into a few words: "Sudo for Dummies."

The first reference Microsoft makes to sudo's origin is in the year 1997. The sudo command actuallly goes back to somewhere near 1980 when Bob Coggeshall and Cliff Spencer developed it at the State University of New York in Buffalo and applied it for the first time to 4.1BSD. Sudo is currently maintained by Todd Miller of OpenBSD. Referring to its long history, Jones mentions quite dryly in her Groklaw blog, "I guess Microsoft forgot to mention that." The conclusion to the patent has the far-reaching final wording, "the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or steps described."

Open source lawyers are putting their hopes into the so-called "Bilski case." In October 2008, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that business ideas are not patentable. The case is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court and experts believe that the ruling could significantly affect the patentability of software.

Related content


  • Hi every One

    This is why what the US Supreme Court does about program patents means a lot. Hopefully they will address the topic in their decision on Bilski. Sudo is an integral part of the functioning of GNU/Linux systems, & you use it in Mac OSX also. Perhaps the Supreme Court doesn't know that, & perhaps the USPTO didn't recognize it. But do you think Microsoft knows it?

    Perhaps Microsoft would like everyone in the world to pay them a toll at least, even in the event that they don't need to make use of Microsoft's program? Like SCO, but with more muscle behind the request? Or perhaps it might be used as a barrier to competition? What do you personally think Microsoft wishes patents on things like sudo for? To make definite innovative new companies can compete on an even playing field with Microsoft?
  • hello

    You may have already heard, but the unthinkable has happened. That�s right, Microsoft, the self-proclaimed enemy of Linux and free application, has announced that they are going to be submitting some twenty,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel. Come again? Yes, Microsoft wishes to get its code in to the Linux kernel. You read that right! It is important to note that this code has not yet been included in to the official Linux kernel. The code has also not yet been thoroughly scrutinized by the wider community to see what the code actually consists of. Is it all code, or does it depend on binary blobs? Will the quality of the code make the grade, or will the community be expected to neat it up and maintain it?
  • Microsoft Has Yet to Be Matched

    Microsoft is far beyond any of there competitors. I use there software regularly whether using the computer for entertainment or for running servers for websites. I always use Microsoft software. The others really don't compare in my eyes. I guess that is why the others are using Microsoft patented ideas. I doubt any of these competitors are being sold in stores or online. So what can Microsoft really do but, keep listing these new software developments preventing them from becoming actual competitors.
  • NAV

    Todd Van Doren is J-Lab’s Assistant Director of Operations. He graduated from American University with a dual-major Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and International Studies. With a growing appreciation for the role J-Lab plays in new media, <a href="">Birthday Scraps</a> Todd’s contribution to the team comes in the form of managing the accounting expertise, working with J-Lab’s affiliate American University’s School of Communication, and maintaining his unofficial office title of “numbers guy.” On his own, he is completing the necessary coursework and preparing to sit for the CPA exam. Todd is a native of Washington State, but has lived in the DC area for the past 5 years.
  • Microsoft is a big baby just asking for more candy

    I think Microsoft one of the richest company in the world should concentrate to write good code.
    They can't.
    I have the proof of this... easy.
    Since 1996 they try to patch holes in Internet Explorer and this piece of junk is like a piece of Gruyere where there is no cheese left !
    The math is hum ... 2011 - 1996 = 15.
    15 years to prove nothing.
    Just like the automotive industry: my father in law was mordicus for GM 30 years ago. Guess what,
    he bought a Toyoya 3 years ago. I told him way before he should do the move. I asked what decided you finally.
    He said :"GM and all the other american car makers had 30 years to correct their problems they sat on it and did pffffit , look where they are going now.

    Think about it minisoft !
  • Microsoft

    I've Checked and they dont talk about sudo
  • Microsoft Patents Sudo

    A further patent by Microsoft brings the software patent discussion to a renewed boil: the software giant has claims on &quot;sudo.&quot; In case you consider that the subject of this short article is important, it’s likely you are considering about using Linux as your main or simply another Operating system if you are simply tired of your old system. However , many consider that Linux is too difficult that it is attractive only to geeks, can certainly show that this terrific operating-system is in fact for all people. It is almost always captivating to find out about Microsoft Patents Sudo.

    Deonna Katten,
  • sudo

    sudo do not elevate the walking process. It creates a new process as if impersonated user.
    This patent describes a process of privilege elevation of walking process. Seven different things.
    I have find same article from here
  • Why I hate microsoft

    Let me count the ways... Does someone out there have an infinite bit integer they can lend me?
  • What sudo really means

    The article is wrong, Sudo is short for su "do" (see, and "su" stands for "substitute user" (, so it's "substitute user do".
  • heh

    "God your dumb"

    The irony is THICK with this one.

    His what is dumb?
  • Scott Evans....

    ... God your dumb.
  • Re: Ms patents Sudo

    Ack! How can they do this?!
    All right, I'm patenting the letter "e" (and "E"blunk you owe me a doozie.
  • Microsoft Patents Sudo

    Hmm... here we go again!

    So open a CMD terminal in win2k, win-XP, Vista & win7 and I bet if you type "sudo" you get this is not a recognised command!

    Also open for win95/98/ME and type "sudo" again it will be unrecognised!

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More