Al Gore has got nothing on Microsoft.

From our WTF department comes word of Microsoft being granted a patent for, of all things, the double-click. As in, clicking an application button twice to launch a function.

Microsoft granted patent for double-click

Microsoft has been granted a patent on the double-click by the US Patents and Trademark Office. The patent, number 6,727,830, was granted on April 27.

An abstract of the application says: “A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time.

“An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click.”

The inventors have been cited as Charlton E. Lui and Jeffrey R. Blum and the assignee is Microsoft Corporation.

The field of the invention “relates generally to computer systems, and more particularly to increasing the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device”, the patent application says.

Pardon me, while I recover from my stunned disbelief that our Patent Office is so incredibly fucking clueless. I had such a hard time believing this to be a real news item that I went to the Patent Office webpage and looked it up myself and there it was.

Having had the chance to read the actual patent it’s not quite as outrageous as it first sounds. Seems this patent is aimed particularly at Palm-size PC devices, though it’s still questionable if there isn’t prior-art that would conflict with this patent. Without spending more time studying the patent I’m speculating on how broadly it might be applied or whether it should be considered legitimate, but with the Patent Office’s record of not really carefully considering some of the patents they hand out it’s easy to be pessimistic about this development.

13 thoughts on “Al Gore has got nothing on Microsoft.

  1. There may be a method behind all this madness. Stick with me on this one:

    A company patents something bleedingly obviously common. To make it challenging, they limit it to a certain subsegment of applications.

    * The patent application gets money for the US government.

    * The patent application process gets money for the employees of the company, by giving them continued work to do.

    * The patent application gets money for the shareholders, by increasing the paper valuation of the company.

    They sue the bejeezus out of other companies for IP violations. The trial drags out for months, even a year or two.

    * This gets money for the legal eagles on all sides, who have to research and argue the case.

    * This gets money for the court employees, such as the bailiff, judge(s), court recorders, and so on.

    * This gets money for the general marketplace, because in the speculation surrounding the Patenting Company’s valuation, other companies’ relative values may rise. This stimulates trading (which gets money for the stockbrokers, the folks who take care of the day-to-day minutae of stock market administration and reporting, et cetera.)

    * The potential fear surrounding penalties levied spurs people to come up with alternate means of accomplishing whatever task this patented thing did. This gets money for the people who think it up, market it, produce it, document it, and so on.

    * This gets money for the government, who taxes the snot out of everyone below them.

    Ugh.

    I think I need a wash after that one.

  2. I have a distant realitive in law who was a telegrapher in the 1870 time frame. He and another gent applied for a patent on a device called a duplex relay (or somethig close to that). When I did some research to see whether the patent was ever issued (it wasn’t), I came across a patent issued to Edison. While other people were issued patents on telegrahic devices, Edison received one for a system of telegraphy.

    Laughing Muse, the government isn’t taxing the snot out of everyone below them. If you are making less than $500,00 that may well be true. If, however, you are a rich or happen to be a corporate entity, you are probably doing your patriotic best to pay no U.S. taxes at all. Corporation have found it beneficial to move intellectual property off shore.

  3. VernR, I pretty much know that – being part of a (very small, nay, larval) corporation myself. However, there’s only so much cynicism I can pass in one go without ripping something.

  4. There’s plenty of prior art on this one! I can’t imagine how this can have slipped by the patent reviewers???

  5. Alright.  Would have jumped in here earlier but I had to run out and get my patent on the [B]single-click[/B].  The way I figure, each failed double-click will qualify as a [B]single-click[/B] and I can collect royalties galore.

    Microsoft must have had an intern staking out the patent office 24/7 waiting for a 90 year old clerk to come on duty for this to go through.

  6. I have not had the chance to use a palm PC yet, but I do not recall them having any mouse right? And they are not patenting the double click per se but the more generic category of length of time one person holds a button.

    Is there prior art with regards to the field of palm PC and ‘double click?’ There may be prior art with regards to double click on a PC mouse computer but for a Palm? Prior Art must lead directly to the invention in question and not merely set up flags or give a possible inclination. Furthermore, even if the ‘double click’ claim is invalidated, the application launched depending on how long one holds a button might still stand.

    Therefore I am leaning more towards the category of obviousness as a means to invalidate the patent. The reason it seems is that I do not think this patent refers to clicking on icons but rather just clicking the button at any point on the screen and an application is started. I guess it operates like youe (F1-help) button.

    However, at the end of the day the mere fact that a patent is granted does not mean it is valid the 20 year duration. There have been many silly patents issued such as:
    Beerbrella: Yes an umbrella for your beer
    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=6,637,447.WKU.&OS=PN/6,637,447&RS=PN/6,368,227

    OR a if you look to the British and this person who patented the most silly stuff such a Cat operated Earth Orbital Nuclear deterrent system
    http://www.patent.freeserve.co.uk/pedrick2.html

    Or since we are on the topic of cats, using a laser pointer to play with your cat has also been patented.

    I am not too certain what is the current waiting time although in 2003 if I am not wrong the waiting time for a patent between filing and grant is about 26 months. So you have to look at the field of Palm PC technology about a year ago.

    Which leads to the point that there are growing calls to increase funding to the Patent office as back logs are increasing the waiting period. As for the point of moving intellectual property off-shore, it is not quite likely. Not in the tax sense. While there are international treaties that aid one in recognition of patents grant in other countries. There is still a need to individually go to these nations and file for a patent, if you wish to protect you patent that is.

  7. Odd – the description of what double clicking does, and what clicking and holding does, pretty much matches what Apple’s been doing with their single-button mouse for ages. Double-click to launch a program, click and hold for a contextual menu. I think deadscot must be right about waiting for the most ancient clerk to show up…

    did

  8. PopTarts said
    >>As for the point of moving intellectual
    >>property off-shore, it is not quite likely.
    >>Not in the tax sense. While there are
    >>international treaties that aid one in
    >>recognition of patents grant in other
    >>countries. There is still a need to
    >>individually go to these nations and file for
    >>a patent, if you wish to protect you patent
    >>that is.

    This is a quote from Perfectly Legal

    A much bigger tax trick involves putting intellectual property—a patent, a drug formula, the ownership of a corporate logo—in an envelope and mailing it to a tax haven. The American drug industry tends to favor Switzerland for this purpose because not only is it politically stable, but it has a side deal with Luxembourg that can result in a tax of less than 10 percent on profits.

    Putting intellectual property in an envelope and mailing it overseas is “international tax planning 101,” according to Richard E. Anderson an international tax partner at the firm of Arnold & Porter in New York…

  9. I guess I was not too clear on my point and also I mis-understood your post. I thought you were referring to avoiding the examination process by the patent office in one country by filing it in another country and then using international treaties to make it become recognise in the local country. For example, filing your patent application in let us say Tunisia and then using internation treaties to get that recognised in the US to avoid perhaps more stringent examinations in the US.

    Therefore I guess using the phrase ‘not in the tax sense’ is a bad choice to describe avoiding the examination process in one nation. My point is focused on the examination and grant of the patent rather than the tax liability. Actually, I went back to re-read my statement and it seems ok just a bit ambiguous.

    A proper statement would be:
    One may not circumvent the examination and grant process by merely filing the patent overseas. One may not avoid the examination process in the same manner as one may avoid paying taxes.

    Actually I see no wrong in avoiding taxes as long as it is not tax evasion. It is all a matter of weighing the pros and cons. For example, a company may raise cash through a debt rather than an equity issue that way they can avoid taxes through the use of a debt shield.

  10. You cannot sue someone for infringing the Abstract of your Patent.  The CLAIMS of the Patent are what are enforcable. 

    So it doesn’t matter what the Abstract says, or even the Specification, it only matters what is CLAIMED.

    Armchair Patent Lawyers like to make postings like this, where they quote from the Specification or Abstract and then say “See, the whole damn system doesn’t work!  Time to throw it out!!!!”.

    In reality, the claims of this Patent are quite narrow, and that is what is enforced in Court, not the Abstract, not the Drawings, not the Specification….

    ….not the part that says “printed on 100% recycled paper” (OHMYGOD! They are trying to Patent recycled paper!!!).

    So climb down from the Chandelier, the world ain’t over yet. 

    Taking it one step further, the scope of the claims can only be reviewed in view of the FILE WRAPPER HISTORY, that is, the exchange of comments between the Examiner and the Applicant.  These comments narrow the claims even further (File Wrapper Estoppel). 

    Another favorite trick of Patent-bashers is to take a line or two from a Patent Claim, and then say “Bill Gates is Patenting breathing!” when in fact, the claim, in its entirety, reads much narrower, and when read in view of the FILE WRAPPER HISTORY, is so narrow as to be unenforcable.  (you have to infringe ALL the elements of at least one independent claim to infringe.  You cannot partly infringe, just like you cannot be partly pregnant).

    Microsoft had no Patents until after 1995 or so.  Nobody thought software was Patentable.  They have since been on the receiving end of Patent suits more than the giving end.  Small companies, like Stakker, have had more success suing Microsoft for Patent infringement than vice-versa.  So the Patents DO protect the little guy.

    Think carefully before you buy into this anti-Patent thing.  If small inventors (like you) are stripped of their Patent rights, they will have no recourse whatsoever when a big company comes along and says “good idea, WE’LL take that!”

    And it is large companies that are pushing the anti-patent agenda, and spreading these wild patent rumors.  Why be a pawn in their game?

    And no, Bill Gates did not invent Windows or the Mouse.  Those were invented by Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) and donated to the public domain.  A young Gates and Steve Jobs both visited there, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    (Ironically, Gates and Apple sued each other, each claiming to have invented the GUI.  The court correctly held that it was invented by Xerox, and after both sides enriched a lot of lawyers, the case died a well-deserved death).

    If you are a software developer, a software Patent may be the only thing protecting you from being ripped off.  Before you say “junk the system” think about it…..

    I have many solo inventor clients who spend years of work on projects, only to get ripped off by larger companies.  Without their Patent rights, they would have had nothing.  With their Patents, they were at least able to collect royalties.

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