Wednesday, 02 June 2004

The United States Patent and Trademark Office never ceases to amaze. Working as an intellectual property litigation attorney will be the biggest, fattest, most lucrative cash cow of a position of the next ten years, mark my words. Here's why:

According to a bunch of people on the Internet (here's one), it looks like Microsoft has patented the double-click. No joke. Wow.

Now, I'm a Microsoft fan, and I make no qualms about saying so - but this is going a little far, isn't it? I mean, this is amazing, really (and it has to be true, it's on the freakin' Internet!) Probably most shocking thing about it is that the patent was granted within the past month or two.

Or is it really that big of a deal???

Articles have been posted on the Internet, predictably describing this as a completely out of control situation. But, when you read the patent, it's not exactly as some might have you believe. In reality:

  • The patent is primarily related to hand-held devices (I'd feel a little better if it was limited to handheld devices, though).
  • The patent application states that the invention “relates generally to computer systems, and more particularly to increasing the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device.”
  • It describes the way an application or the OS on the device determines what kind of soft-key press has occurred, generally short, long, or multi-press events.
  • From the patent: “As those skilled in the art will appreciate from the following description, while the invention is ideally suited for incorporation in a palm-type computing device and is described in such a device, the invention can be incorporated in other limited resource devices and systems, for example mobile devices such as pagers and telephones.”

Okay, so while it may be a little surprising, it's hard to say this is truly a patent on the use of the double-click action in any computing application. But it is pretty broad-reaching, and as always open to interpretation and challenge. Which gets expensive, every time it has to be litigated or challenged (see “cash cow,” above). Especially for smaller companies without major corporate resources.

And Microsoft has made no secret of it's position that there are thing it's invented (or at least claims to have invented) and for which it's recently been issued patents. The FAT file system and ClearType technologies are two recent examples, and Microsoft (some would say rightfully) has also stated publicly that it intends to pursue completion of patents to protect and increase its earnings. And even though it's a big company with big profits, that's no reason to start yelling about how they already make too much money. Whether it's the first dollar earned or the trillionth, it's not about how much, it's about who's idea it was in the first place. If Microsoft can't own ideas that are truly theirs, neither can Apple, IBM, my employer, or anyone else - whether they be big, small, corporation, or individual.

But hey - you don't really need Microsoft to be amazed. All we seem to need is the U.S. Government Patent and Trademark Office. At least recently.

Well, there is one positive thing to take away from all this: If it makes you smile, it's at least a little bit good for you (even if you do shake your head at the same time). :-)



Add/Read: Comments [1]
Random Stuff | Tech | Things that Suck
Thursday, 03 June 2004 02:06:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Well, it does not really make me shake my head in astonishment about the extent to which patents are granted - it rather makes me shake my head about the way those patent officers obviously do not do their job. There's plenty of add-on software for PalmOS who does just that - enabling a user to launch different applications or access different functionality within the same application by means of longer or shorter button presses and / or double clicks and combinations of presses.

Plus: Have you ever seen an UNlimited computing device??
Comments are closed.