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(Network World)   Google Doodle gets a patent because nothing can stop the march of technology   (networkworld.com) divider line 33
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3100 clicks; posted to Geek » on 23 Mar 2011 at 10:28 AM (3 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2011-03-23 09:40:54 AM
Now I enjoy a good Google Doodle as much as anyone, but a patent? For Google Doodles? Really, Google? Really, patent office people?

Apparently someone thinks the patent office shouldn't be looking at novelty and nonobviousness, but instead at how "important" the invention is, or some other moral quality.

'Course, that someone has apparently never read any of the case law dealing with utility.
 
2011-03-23 10:40:52 AM
The problem isn't that Google is pushing stupid patents (as do all the other big tech firms). The problem is that the USPTO is fundamentally backward when it comes to granting stupid patents.

Seriously, we're seeing patent warfare. It's like an arms buildup between the superpowers, and anyone not a superpower is going to get screwed in the process.
 
2011-03-23 10:47:58 AM

Fubini: The problem isn't that Google is pushing stupid patents (as do all the other big tech firms). The problem is that the USPTO is fundamentally backward when it comes to granting stupid patents.


In what way? If they're "fundamentally backwards," you can probably give some good examples and explanations, no?

Seriously, we're seeing patent warfare. It's like an arms buildup between the superpowers, and anyone not a superpower is going to get screwed in the process.

... says someone every single year that patents have been around.
 
2011-03-23 10:52:25 AM
It must have taken them at least 5 minutes to develop this technology. It's sooo complex and non-obvious. To the patent office. Like it always is.
 
2011-03-23 10:55:44 AM
To me it seems like there are three kinds of patent holders...

The first hordes patents with the intention to sue anything that even remotely happens to resemble their patents (which are often general and broad)

The second is what I imagine Google as doing, these companies patent their products and technologies to PROTECT themselves from the first type I just listed, shielding that potion of their technology from the patent litigation sharks.

The third is the people and companies that actually use patents for a new idea/product. These people are lame.
 
2011-03-23 10:56:31 AM
Hold on, this looks potentially nasty : "...special event company logo to entice users to access a web page". Does this mean that if I use a tweaked version of my companies logo for, say, Easter and encourage visitors to click on it for special "Easter offers", then Google have the patent for that and I have to pay them?
I really, really don't like the sound of this.

Someone please tell em I've misunderstood this.
 
2011-03-23 11:01:00 AM

hippyneil: Hold on, this looks potentially nasty : "...special event company logo to entice users to access a web page". Does this mean that if I use a tweaked version of my companies logo for, say, Easter and encourage visitors to click on it for special "Easter offers", then Google have the patent for that and I have to pay them?
I really, really don't like the sound of this.

Someone please tell em I've misunderstood this.


Doubtful, as I pointed out in my previous post it seems more likely that Google is just doing this to protect itself from YOU.

As in if you got a patent for changing your companies logo to an easter logo and getting the bright idea to patent it and then subsequently sue Google.

I highly doubt that Google will ever sue anyone over this patent.
 
2011-03-23 11:01:49 AM

hippyneil: Hold on, this looks potentially nasty : "...special event company logo to entice users to access a web page". Does this mean that if I use a tweaked version of my companies logo for, say, Easter and encourage visitors to click on it for special "Easter offers", then Google have the patent for that and I have to pay them?
I really, really don't like the sound of this.

Someone please tell em I've misunderstood this.


Remember, it's the claims that matter, not the abstract, title, or some article about it. The claims, for example, require you to modify the logo with one or more animated images. If you don't have an animated image, you're not going to meet that element.
 
2011-03-23 11:10:30 AM

Kwasek: To me it seems like there are three kinds of patent holders...

The first hordes patents with the intention to sue anything that even remotely happens to resemble their patents (which are often general and broad)

The second is what I imagine Google as doing, these companies patent their products and technologies to PROTECT themselves from the first type I just listed, shielding that potion of their technology from the patent litigation sharks.

The third is the people and companies that actually use patents for a new idea/product. These people are lame.


Unfortunately, that analysis is wrong. You get a patent and it protects that patented idea. There's nothing that says what you're actually doing is covered by your patent, nor does it say that you're not infringing someone else's patent.

For example, say I'm a chair maker and I get a patent on "An article of manufacture providing seating for a human, comprising: a flat portion sized for the user's ass; at least four legs supporting the flat portion at a height from the floor between 2.5 feet and 3 feet; and an upright portion connected at one end to the flat portion, oriented to support the back of a sitting user."
Sounds good? But wait:

1) Say I make chairs with 3 legs, or sized for tall users at 3.5 feet. My patent doesn't cover it.

2) Nothing prevents someone else from saying "An improved seating device, comprising [Theaetetus' chair]; and two armrests connected to the flat portion." If I add arms on my chair, I'm infringing their patent. Improvements are patentable.

3) Similarly, nothing prevents my patent from being an improvement on someone else's... Maybe someone already has a patented stool with 4 legs and a flat portion, but no back. If I build my chairs, I'm incorporating every element of their patent.

Patents don't necessarily give you a license to build whatever you claim... They give you the ability to prevent others from building what you claim.
That said, yes, patents can be used defensively. Namely, when someone fires off a lawsuit at you, you counterclaim infringement of a dozen of your patents... and simultaneously offer a cross-license and settlement.

The current smartphone fight is an example of this. All the players are positioning themselves for a share of the cross-license and patent pool that will develop. There is no way those suits are going to trial.
Cross-licensing is one of the best ways to use a patent.
 
2011-03-23 11:10:46 AM

Theaetetus: hippyneil: Hold on, this looks potentially nasty : "...special event company logo to entice users to access a web page". Does this mean that if I use a tweaked version of my companies logo for, say, Easter and encourage visitors to click on it for special "Easter offers", then Google have the patent for that and I have to pay them?
I really, really don't like the sound of this.

Someone please tell em I've misunderstood this.

Remember, it's the claims that matter, not the abstract, title, or some article about it. The claims, for example, require you to modify the logo with one or more animated images. If you don't have an animated image, you're not going to meet that element.


This.

Plus, the animated logo has to be the link to the deals page. If you just have a logo with a hopping Easter Bunny and a link next to it with "click here for major savings!" as long as the logo isn't the link you also arent infringing. This patent is narrower than people seem to think.
 
2011-03-23 11:12:37 AM

Theaetetus: In what way? If they're "fundamentally backwards," you can probably give some good examples and explanations, no?


Well, the lawsuit against fark is a pretty good example...

Patent trolling is a major issue. By granting these stupid, broad patents to shell companies, the patent office is serving to stifle innovation rather than protect it like it's supposed to do. That's the "fundamentally backwards" part.

I suggest you read up on the issue before commenting further. You might start here (pops).
 
2011-03-23 11:18:22 AM

nmrsnr: This patent is narrower than people seem to think.


Oh, yeah. This patent application was originally filed back in 2000, went through multiple rejects and an appeal, and they ended up with only 4 heavily amended claims in place of the 30-something they filed originally.
 
2011-03-23 11:22:36 AM

cptjeff: Theaetetus: In what way? If they're "fundamentally backwards," you can probably give some good examples and explanations, no?

Well, the lawsuit against fark is a pretty good example...


Someone filing a lawsuit against Fark proves that the Patent Office is "fundamentally backwards"?

Patent trolling is a major issue.

Patent trolling has little to nothing to do with the Patent Office, since it can only occur after the patent has been granted, by definition.

By granting these stupid, broad patents to shell companies, the patent office is serving to stifle innovation rather than protect it like it's supposed to do. That's the "fundamentally backwards" part.

Those "stupid, broad patents" may only look stupid and broad in hindsight, and the patent office may have granted them to the inventor or a practicing company years ago... who then sold them to one of these shell companies after the fact. By "fundamentally backwards", do you mean "not able to read the future"?

I suggest you read up on the issue before commenting further. You might start here (pops).

Heh. Yeah, obviously I've never heard of trolls or NPEs. You sure have me pegged.

Tell you what, let's just make this easier on both of us - since you clearly assume I have no idea what I'm talking about, put me on ignore. Then you won't have to reply to me, and I won't have to facepalm at your idiocy.
 
2011-03-23 11:26:38 AM
Theaetetus:

Thank you.

themoreyouknow.jpg
 
2011-03-23 11:30:07 AM
It's funny... Most of my clients read Slashdot, so a good portion of my work is dispelling myths.
 
2011-03-23 11:31:14 AM
Because I like to not be fun, here is the claim the issued:

A non-transitory computer-readable medium that stores instructions executable by one or more processors to perform a method for attracting users to a web page, comprising: instructions for creating a special event logo by modifying a standard company logo for a special event, where the instructions for creating the special event logo includes instructions for modifying the standard company logo with one or more animated images; instructions for associating a link or search results with the special event logo, the link identifying a document relating to the special event, the search results relating to the special event; instructions for uploading the special event logo to the web page; instructions for receiving a user selection of the special event logo; and instructions for providing the document relating to the special event or the search results relating to the special event based on the user selection.

So this requires (based on my quick reading of the claims and not the spec), among other things, modifying the standard company logo, using animated images, where the logo links to a document and search results relating to the special event. So no, this would not prevent you from placing some easter eggs on your normal business logo around easter time.

But feel free to continue complaining about the system.
 
2011-03-23 11:36:33 AM

rkemmerle: Because I like to not be fun, here is the claim the issued:


Odd that it's a Beauregard claim, with no corresponding method or system claims, huh?
As a result, I see something interesting in the first clause. :)
 
2011-03-23 11:43:33 AM
Rather than re-quoting all of you, thanks for all your responses to my (slightly panicky) question. I've often been unsure on what's important in a patent document and I knew someone here would put me right.

Having discussed this around the office, we think that it may be that Google want to stop other search engines (Bing, Yahoo etc) from doing something along the same lines.

While I agree that it's unlikely they'll go after me for putting some bunnies on my logo, these sort of patents do seem end up being misused by greedy corporations that get over-inflated with their own perceived importance.
 
2011-03-23 11:48:49 AM

hippyneil: Rather than re-quoting all of you, thanks for all your responses to my (slightly panicky) question. I've often been unsure on what's important in a patent document and I knew someone here would put me right.

Having discussed this around the office, we think that it may be that Google want to stop other search engines (Bing, Yahoo etc) from doing something along the same lines.

While I agree that it's unlikely they'll go after me for putting some bunnies on my logo, these sort of patents do seem end up being misused by greedy corporations that get over-inflated with their own perceived importance.


heh, sucker...

/readies litigation
 
2011-03-23 11:54:42 AM

hippyneil: Rather than re-quoting all of you, thanks for all your responses to my (slightly panicky) question. I've often been unsure on what's important in a patent document and I knew someone here would put me right.

Having discussed this around the office, we think that it may be that Google want to stop other search engines (Bing, Yahoo etc) from doing something along the same lines.

While I agree that it's unlikely they'll go after me for putting some bunnies on my logo, these sort of patents do seem end up being misused by greedy corporations that get over-inflated with their own perceived importance.


Oh, we haven't put you right, and this isn't reliable legal advice. It certainly won't help you with an accusation of intentional infringement.
 
2011-03-23 12:17:12 PM

Theaetetus: Oh, we haven't put you right, and this isn't reliable legal advice. It certainly won't help you with an accusation of intentional infringement.


That
 
2011-03-23 12:24:09 PM

Theaetetus: Oh, we haven't put you right, and this isn't reliable legal advice. It certainly won't help you with an accusation of intentional infringement.


Hee-hee, I wasn't thinking of standing up in court and saying "well, some bloke on Fark told me it was OK". Unless the judge was a Farker in which case I might get away with it.

It's just a worryingly worded concept that, to me, appears to be kind of far reaching in potentially adverse consequences for anyone that modifies their logo to highlight specific events and subsequent content. As I say, I'm not that hot on what it REALLY means and if I, or other web site managers/owners, have anything to be wary or concerned about.

(Also wish I'd thought of patenting that 'idea' so I could sue Google for - pinky in corner of the mouth - one hundred million dollars!)
 
2011-03-23 02:20:58 PM
Would love to see the original claims, just to see how much walkback the PTO required. I mean the 103 and 102 bars must have been a bear here.
 
2011-03-23 02:24:24 PM

Theaetetus:
For example, say I'm a chair maker and I get a patent on "An article of manufacture providing seating for a human, comprising: a flat portion sized for the user's ass; at least four legs supporting the flat portion at a height from the floor between 2.5 feet and 3 feet; and an upright portion connected at one end to the flat portion, oriented to support the back of a sitting user."
Sounds good? But wait:

1) Say I make chairs with 3 legs, or sized for tall users at 3.5 feet. My patent doesn't cover it.


Not to be a dick, because i agree with your rantery 100%, but all i could think of here was Doctrine of Equivalents.

The current smartphone fight is an example of this. All the players are positioning themselves for a share of the cross-license and patent pool that will develop. There is no way those suits are going to trial.
Cross-licensing is one of the best ways to use a patent.


I never say "This"

hence

That
 
2011-03-23 02:28:07 PM

Teiritzamna: Would love to see the original claims, just to see how much walkback the PTO required. I mean the 103 and 102 bars must have been a bear here.


What you are looking for is called "public pair" on the PTO website. The entire file history of this application is available there, you can see the original claims, all of the many rejections, and even the decision from the board of appeals.
 
2011-03-23 02:37:57 PM

rkemmerle: Teiritzamna: Would love to see the original claims, just to see how much walkback the PTO required. I mean the 103 and 102 bars must have been a bear here.

What you are looking for is called "public pair" on the PTO website. The entire file history of this application is available there, you can see the original claims, all of the many rejections, and even the decision from the board of appeals.


Hrm. Missed it on the website. Shows why sleep is useful. Will read it later.
 
2011-03-23 02:39:41 PM

Teiritzamna: 1) Say I make chairs with 3 legs, or sized for tall users at 3.5 feet. My patent doesn't cover it.

Not to be a dick, because i agree with your rantery 100%, but all i could think of here was Doctrine of Equivalents.


Gonna be tough to claim DoE where you explicitly claim a range that doesn't include it. DoE is great where the claim says leg and someone says "oh, ho, my chair doesn't have legs, it has feet with huge ankles!"

For example:
www.spencerinteriors.ca
One leg, four feet? Four legs? Both?

As well as:
www.nofonline.com
Four legs or two?

Those are ripe for doctrine of equivalents. Not so much is:
www.bonluxat.com
 
2011-03-23 02:48:01 PM
Actually i was thinking of DoE mainly because I was re-reading Warner-Jenkins today and your language "2.5 feet and 3 feet" made me think of "pH between 6 and 9." Now I know they lost on equivalents in that case as to the lower bound, but the language there and in Festo seems to me to suggest that you could get 3.5 in if you had a reasonable excuse as to why you claimed such specificity that was not based on the requirements of patentability.

As i said, i think you are 100% correct in your analysis, but as all things law, i felt like being a nerd and pointing out a minor potential ambiguity.

/i learned it from watching you dad! i learned it by watching you!
 
2011-03-23 06:42:42 PM

Theaetetus: 2) Nothing prevents someone else from saying "An improved seating device, comprising [Theaetetus' chair]; and two armrests connected to the flat portion." If I add arms on my chair, I'm infringing their patent. Improvements are patentable.


You seem to be well versed in these things, but this one raise my eyebrow. It seems to imply I can patent "An improved personal media device consisting of an Apple iPod Nano; and a bluetooth tranciever," and if Apple ever adds bluetooth to the Nano, they're infringing on me? You can see why I think it sounds odd? I'm not really doubting it, but can you explain it further?
 
2011-03-23 07:03:17 PM

ProfessorOhki: Theaetetus: 2) Nothing prevents someone else from saying "An improved seating device, comprising [Theaetetus' chair]; and two armrests connected to the flat portion." If I add arms on my chair, I'm infringing their patent. Improvements are patentable.

You seem to be well versed in these things, but this one raise my eyebrow. It seems to imply I can patent "An improved personal media device consisting of an Apple iPod Nano; and a bluetooth tranciever," and if Apple ever adds bluetooth to the Nano, they're infringing on me? You can see why I think it sounds odd? I'm not really doubting it, but can you explain it further?


Sure. The first thing to remember is that a patent isn't a license to operate - you can't claim your Bluetooth Nano, and suddenly start selling them, since you probably infringe hundreds of Apple patents (plus have copyright and trademark issues, to boot).

Second, the patent still must be a nonobvious combination of elements... You might not get there with a Bluetooth Nano, since the iPod Touch and iPhone have Bluetooth, and there are bluetooth add-ons for the Nano, but maybe an iPod Nano with an accelerometer for detecting your bouncing running gait, a BPM calculator, and a song search function that queues up songs at the same speed that you're running.

Anyways, let's make the obviousness question easy, since you're really asking about incorporating someone else's product into your invention. Let's say you come up with transparent aluminum (and not just sapphires, but that stuff from Star Trek: Scotty Acts Funny), and after dropping your Nano and cracking the screen decide (in addition to your multiple patent applications to the aluminum) to claim:
1. An improved iPod Nano comprising:
an Apple iPod Nano; and
a replacement screen made of super cool transparent aluminum.

The aluminum is new. Prior to your application, no one was using it, so it also wouldn't be obvious to replace the screen on a Nano until you came out with it. In examining the application, the Examiner will say "okay, got a Nano? Check. Got transparent aluminum? Nope. Not in the prior art," and allow the application.

So, you've got a patent on an iPod with a transparent aluminum screen. You can't build one, but yes, Apple can't build one either, unless they get a license from you. And if your idea is that good, they will.

Step back for a moment and consider the policy: if you could only ever patent improvements on inventions that you made, then it would be a lifetime monopoly on any new field! Say you're the first person to make a nanotech (MEMS) mirror. No one else can patent anything that incorporates one now? And even after your patent expires, you're the only person who can patent improvements?
Nah, that's not right.
Patents reward improvements, regardless of who conceives of them. Implementation of said improvements, however, is left to the contract and licensing lawyers.

/as a side note, you'd never claim the iPod Nano with a replacement screen, because to infringe, someone would have to sell both. Instead, you'd just claim "a replacement screen for an iPod Nano (or other computing device) made of transparent aluminum)," so the question is mostly moot.
//question is not at all moot in design patents. You make a new iPhone case, you can get a design patent on the aesthetic features... regardless of the fact that you don't make iPhones.
 
2011-03-23 08:03:51 PM

Theaetetus:
Anyways, let's make the obviousness question easy, since you're really asking about incorporating someone else's product into your invention. Let's say you come up with transparent aluminum (and not just sapphires, but that stuff from Star Trek: Scotty Acts Funny)



I found this deeply funny if only because nanos are coated in transparent aluminum (the sapphire kind). +1 to you sir
 
2011-03-23 08:16:41 PM

Theaetetus: Those "stupid, broad patents" may only look stupid and broad in hindsight, and the patent office may have granted them to the inventor or a practicing company years ago... who then sold them to one of these shell companies after the fact. By "fundamentally backwards", do you mean "not able to read the future"?


Those stupid and broad patents are often somewhat obviously stupid and broad to the people in the field. A far bit of the stuff in terms of coding would full under the "obvious" label. The stuff you describe as "stupid in hindsight" could often have been spotted with some degree of foresight. Just becuase you do not have the knowledge to predict something properly does not mean it cannot be predicted.

Ever wonder why, when you close a window on a computer, a weird image of a different document sometimes appears in the shape of the window? That's because the method used to draw windows has to work around a patent. The most obvious way of doing it is patented. By most obvious, it's the way any computer science student in an introductory course would guess when first building more interesting GUIs. But the patent office granted it, probably because they weren't that well versed in coding. Now, every OS has to work around that patent and do things in a much less efficient way because it's in the hands of a troll company.

When that kind of thing can happen, and happens often, it speaks to a flaw in the system. When that flaw discourages innovation, then the patent system is turned against its original purpose.

That is bad.


Yes, there are mitigating factors, yes, the process wherein the patents get in the hands of trolls may vary. But the point is that many of these patents really aren't novel or nonobvious, but they get granted anyway, and litigation to cancel the patents out is prohibitively expensive, so companies usually wind up paying a fee to the shell companies to avoid going to court, often to the tune of millions of dollars a pop. Just because that shell company owns an idea that it never intends to put into use itself, instead choosing to make money off people actually innovating and creating useful things.

If you think that parasitism is the point of the patent office, good for you. Keep going to work and believing that you're not the problem. Not all of us outside observers feel the same way.
 
2011-03-23 11:16:15 PM

cptjeff: Theaetetus: Those "stupid, broad patents" may only look stupid and broad in hindsight, and the patent office may have granted them to the inventor or a practicing company years ago... who then sold them to one of these shell companies after the fact. By "fundamentally backwards", do you mean "not able to read the future"?

Those stupid and broad patents are often somewhat obviously stupid and broad to the people in the field. A far bit of the stuff in terms of coding would full under the "obvious" label. The stuff you describe as "stupid in hindsight" could often have been spotted with some degree of foresight. Just becuase you do not have the knowledge to predict something properly does not mean it cannot be predicted.


And so, I'm sure you have citations in the form of multiple theses, patent applications, white papers, etc. that you've published for things that do not yet exist, but that you've seen with your foresight?

It's really easy to claim, in hindsight, that you could have predicted the thing in foresight years earlier, but it really doesn't prove anything. Let me see the lottery numbers tonight, and tomorrow, I'll tell you that I could have predicted them last Monday. Therefore, you should fight for my rights to that money, right?

Ever wonder why, when you close a window on a computer, a weird image of a different document sometimes appears in the shape of the window? That's because the method used to draw windows has to work around a patent.

Or because I've got an old non-compositing window manager?

The most obvious way of doing it is patented. By most obvious, it's the way any computer science student in an introductory course would guess when first building more interesting GUIs.

You mean, "by most obvious, it's the way any computer science student in an introductory course would guess having been given the tools by a professor who knows exactly how it's done."

Sure, and that's kinda the point. Engineering and CS students solve problems all the time. Just because multiple people can solve a problem doesn't mean that it was obvious. In fact, by definition, it wasn't - they had to solve a problem.
Now, sure, they weren't the first to solve that particular problem, but that doesn't mean they didn't utilize any effort to do so. If some guy in the middle of the woods suddenly comes up with E=MC^2, that doesn't mean he didn't exert any effort... He did, it's just not valuable since it's been done before.
Same thing with those students - they're making innovations, just that they've been done before.

Now, had they not been done before, those would be patentable. Since they hadn't been done before.

This is primarily a result of the way engineering is taught in this country. Students like yourself are given problem sets to solve, and you spend four years doing so, so, as a result, you think that those problems aren't sufficient for a patent...
... but patents aren't there just to reward GIANT innovations. They're set up to reward incremental innovations. Sure, 10,000 students can take several weeks and come up with the same thing, but that's several thousand man hours right there. If you publicly disclose your solution in exchange for the patent, that's several thousand man hours you just SAVED.
That's the point of patents.
Not opening up entirely new fields where the inspiration comes once in a lifetime, though they may do that tangentially...
... no, the point is in saving thousands upon thousands of man hours by preventing everyone else from performing the week of thinking, experimenting, and testing that you had to do to move from a v1 to a v1.1.

And that is good.
 
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