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Microsoft Granted Patent for double-clicking


Triple clicking too - it's a broad patent.

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,727,830.WKU.&OS=PN/6,727,830&RS=PN/6,727,830

Fun!

Dennis Atkins
Friday, June 04, 2004

Another example of the absurdity of the patent process as it is currently managed in the U.S. Why does the fact that it's a "limited-resource computing device" have any bearing on the substance of the claim? (Philo, as a member of the bar *and* a Microsoftie, please help us out here!) It seems analogous to noticing that wheels on cars are really useful, and then patenting wheels when used on toy cars.

More importantly, isn't there prior art for the specific claim here? iPods implement precisely the kind of functionality they seem to be describing, and certainly predate the filing.

John C.
Friday, June 04, 2004

And here's a link to the announcement a few months ago that MS would be licensing the FAT file system, which it protects with several patents:

http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/tech/fat.asp

Licensing of FAT is 25 ¢ per-unit, even per floppy disk.

Licensing of double click wil be similar - you'll pay a small fee for each place in your program where multiple click means something, or where a time held click means something, like when you acre dragging the mouse or such. So if you have 100 things that double click or drag or wait a moment before popping up in your application, that might be a $25 fee for each copy of the program sold.

In any case, those of you who are of the opinion that MS is washed up and should divide into multiple companies because they have no future revenue source are sadly mistaken -- MS OWNZ you.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Limited resource" is an intentional red herring thrown in to confuse detractors. You say the patent is unfair - MS says don't worry, it applies only to handheld devices. THe patent mentions handheld devices, yes. But it also says that the patent is NOT LIMITED to those devices, that they are only mentioned as an example of a posible embodiment.

Telling is that 'limited resource' is not defined in the document and is not a standard term.

Obviously,  all computers are limited resource - embedded systems to supercomputers have limited memory, limited CPU speed, limited drive storage, and so forth.

This is a patent on ALL software everywhere - that which exists and that which has not been written.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, June 04, 2004

I like how lawyers can stretch four lines of "if" statement code into an 80-page patent description, with flow charts and illustrations.

Guy LeDouche
Friday, June 04, 2004

The only patent still in force related to FAT is long file name to short file name translation/compatability.  Avoid short file names and all the other FAT patents are expired.

As to the double-click absurdity. some large company with a stake in handhelds (like Nokia or Sharp) will have to challenge that.  It may be that most handheld manufacturers don't even care (who double-clicks on handhelds?).

hoser
Friday, June 04, 2004

Regarding "limited resource computing device..."

The scope of the patent is actually defined only by the language of the claims (number 1 through 27 here.)  The rest of the patent is basically superfluous -- it just helps explain the terms in the claims and the background of the patent.

Each of the claims is limited to a "limited resource computing device."  (Some of the claims incorporate that language by reference.)  The patent's fairly clear that that term means a handheld computer or equivalent (like a PDA phone.)  Consequently, this patent couldn't apply to a desktop or regular notebook PC.

However, it is does seem like a suprising basis for a patent.  If there is any prior art, like the iPod or another handheld device, then the patent wouldn't hold up in court.

Robert Jacobson
Friday, June 04, 2004

Here is the problem though, it does not have to hold up in court.  What company, other than a major play like Sony or Apple, could stand to be in court with MS. 

I imagine anyone MS went after would either go under or license.  Just to avoid court. 

This process is terribly broken.  (Did you notice the reference to the 1985 Patent on typing with one hand?) The problem is no one will fix it because big money pays for it to be broken.

MSHack
Friday, June 04, 2004

I haven't bothered to look at the patent but it strikes me that Xerox hold prior art for the clicking of a switch changing or indicating choice on a computing device, regardless of the number of times it was clicked.  Since multiple clicks are themselves trivial extensions I'd have thought the entire application to be invalid and a misuse of the patent process.

Personally, I'd like to see the US establish a law that would enable misuses of patent law to be prosecuted as corporate fraud if they're going to persist in allowing patents without examination.

Simon Lucy
Friday, June 04, 2004

FWIW the filing references not determining behavior not just by the number of times pressed but also on the duration of the press(es).

John C.
Friday, June 04, 2004

Wow, that got garbled pretty badly on the way between my brain and the keyboard.

Anyway, part of the idea is that [short press] and [long press] can be interpreted differently. (Just like the Pause and Menu buttons on the iPod.)

John C.
Friday, June 04, 2004

How's that for a solid spec?  No ambiguity there!  Maybe we should all start writing our app specs that way, taking into account every possible click location, duration of click, number of clicks, what the user was wearing when they clicked, their blood type, what they had for lunch that day, their sun sign, etc :) 

Lawyers are interesting creatures, aren't they?  And we wonder why software is so expensive...

Seriously though, how can any one hold a patent for that?  They're even trying to lay claim to a recording button -- press to start, release to end.  Do they seriously think they invented that?

Joe
Friday, June 04, 2004

The reason for applying it to handhelds is to avoid claims of prior art.  The patent officers have to explore not double click, but double click on handlhelds.

The patent office does investigate, but it looks through printed journals. Little research or practise in IT is written down there.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 04, 2004

So if I put my laptop in my hand, does that make it a handheld?

Rob
Friday, June 04, 2004

Seriously, should I be in the US of A, will I be able to patent the 'impriting of a single point on paper or papers or notions of papers on any equipment, for example computer documents, by using a writing instrument or electronic documentation tool, after a series or sequence of lexical words, to denote contextual completion of aforementioned series or sequence. Such a representation is to be termed as "full-stop" '? And charge people for using full stops? Or sue people for misrepresentation by calling it a 'period'?

.
Friday, June 04, 2004

In Microsoft's defense, this patent isn't about double-clicking in general, it's about running different programs depending on how long and how many times a button is pressed. Trivial, yes, but I haven't seen this before myself. (and I kind of doubt its usefulness).

Also, flowcharts and graphs are mandatory for a patent. Even though source code or pseudo-code would be a better way of expressing the idea, patent law still requires some kind of "graphical" illustration.

Dan Maas
Friday, June 04, 2004

So how would MacOS not represent prior art?  Click = default action.  Click-and-hold = context menu.

I'm sure someone's used MacOS on a resource-limited device (like an iMac *snicker*) and/or a touchscreen.

Richard P
Friday, June 04, 2004

That's probably why Microsoft isn't trying to enforce it.

Guy LeDouche
Friday, June 04, 2004

Whenever you read about a new patent, remember - patent clerks are civil servants that are graded based on how many patent applications they clear each month.

The *fastest* way to clear an application is to grant it.

Now, putting aside any stereotypes of government employees, realize that at the very least, there's no incentive to really dig into a claim looking for prior art.

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 04, 2004

What about Donald Norman's description of the problems he had with a slide projector about a million years ago (see The Design of Everyday Things). If there are any  slide projectors with an embedded processor and similar functionality (in fact, you could probably argue that even the embedded processor was irrelevant) then there's some prior art for you.

bah humbug
Friday, June 04, 2004

The USPTO approves 95% of patent applications (although some that 95% are approved only after being amended to add or remove claims). Patents are presumed valid when applied for, and the burden is on the patent examiner to prove why something should NOT be granted a patent, rather than on the applicant to demonstrate the novelty and usefulness of the alleged invention.  A system like that guarantees a large number of ridiculous patents.

T. Norman
Saturday, June 05, 2004

So maybe the patent-granting system needs to be more explicitly adversarial. If one set of folks are graded on how many patents they clear each month, another set of folks could be graded on how many patents they are able to find prior art for and disqualify.

There are probably a hundred reasons why that wouldn't work, but I'm just thinking about how one could counter the fact that the incentives are one-sided. It's like tying your developers' compensation to how many lines of code they write without regard for actual functionality implemented or quality/bugginess of the result.

John C.
Saturday, June 05, 2004

I think the "check and balance" to bogus patents is that if some company goes around extorting (I mean, getting royalty payments for) their bogus patent, and somebody refuses to pay, then it goes to court and the judge declares the patent invalid (e.g. due to prior art), all those previous companies could then sue to recover their money.

Which means if Xerox or somebody ever sends you a bill demanding payment for having hyperlinks or a "simulated button press" that takes viewers to another page on your site, just throw it in the trash... (right, Philo?)

Guy LeDouche
Saturday, June 05, 2004

I have not read all the posts on this thread.. but.. incase no one else has mentioned this..

Is Microsoft planning to patent the blue screen of death, the End Now dialog, and other inventions?

Sriram
Saturday, June 05, 2004

The trouble with using the courts as the "check and balance" is that many companies can use the mere threat of court to extort licensing fees.  The checks need to be in place before the patents are granted.

If the checks can't be in place before granting, patents should not be given the presumption of validity.  When there is a dispute, the first thing should be a re-examination of the patent and reconsideration of prior art to challenge or establish its validity before it ever sees the walls of a courtroom.

T. Norman
Sunday, June 06, 2004

You know what an interesting solution would be? Have another branch of the PTO whose job it is to invalidate patents - they get reviewed on how many patents they can find prior art for.

So - patent goes to examiner, examiner researches and approves patent, so it goes to the review branch. If a reviewer finds prior art, it goes back to the examiner (first strike against the examiner - now he has to waste time defending the patent). If the examiner can't defend the patent, then it's a ding on his record. If he can, it's a ding on the reviewer's record.

And obviously doing the job right the first time (on either side) is their best bet.

Patents are adversarial in the courts, but I think having an in-house adversarial system would be more beneficial to everyone in the long run.

BTW, the PTO runs at such a profit that they just built a huge new building and Congress is still trying to take excess fee money back into the Treasury.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Prio Art
Gameboy
various Games:
Short button click:
Fire Weapon
hold button:
Activate super weapon/ablility/...

You dont play games?

hmpf
Sunday, June 06, 2004

> some large company with a stake in handhelds (like Nokia or Sharp) will have to challenge that

No, they'll just trade one or more of theirs for one or more of MS'. That's why patents are good if you are a big company with an established patent portfolio and a killer if you are a small company trying to make something new. Patents stifle innovation.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

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