Patents don’t do what they are meant to (1)

I won’t beat around the bush. All patents are bad. Software patents are very bad. User Interface Patents are extremely ill-advised. I’ll address that in more depth in another post but for now:

The MS Office ribbon is a botch-together of pre-existing concepts. Why anyone would need to license it is beyond me. Except Microsoft who want to set a precident that it IS licensable. It’s basically a stretched, tabbed toolbox, bunged where menus used to live AND THATS ALL IT IS. Not new or innovative or patentable or licensable. Interestingly enough there was a thread at MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) discussing this but it no longer exists. It is archived by Google however. That seemed split between “Oh thank you great and good Microsoft for letting me use this wonderful new innovation” and “WTF? This isn’t new or innovative, why would I want to get a licence to use this concept?. Obviously I’m with the second group.

If you want to see prior art check out the inspector for Apple Pages and Keynote. Stretch it, place it at the top of your window, bingo, it’s a ribbon. For a simpler example, check out the Apple website navigation itself. Yep, it’s the ribbon. Simplified, but essentially the same concept. I use these only as easily accessible examples, not to attribute the concept to Apple.

Speaking of Apple. Steve Jobs, on launching the iPhone stressed that they had patented much of the UI design. This seemed to specifically relate to the multi-touch capabilities. Well, unfortunately for Stevie, there’s prior art for what Apple are claiming as innovative. It may not be patented but it has been publicly available on the great and good internet for some time in the form of open source development and academic experimentation. (too lazy to post links now, will edit later).

Users need consistancy, clarity, predictability, directness and most important simplicity. Improved UI is good for everyone. Implementing those improvements broadly is good for everyone. Attempting to introduce a licencing situation through abuse of the patent system makes this very difficult.

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~ by gear on March 8, 2007.

3 Responses to “Patents don’t do what they are meant to (1)”

  1. Snap! BTW – the ACM Journal had a big article in 2006 basically coming to the same conclusions – and I don’t need a PhD to figure this out. I’ve got 2 US patents – during that process – I realized this is NOTHING to do with inventions. The PTO could not even understand my patent – because it was a REAL invention (I figure about

  2. (I figure about

  3. Snap! BTW – the ACM Journal had a big article in 2006 basically coming to the same conclusions – and I don’t need a PhD to figure this out. I’ve got 2 US patents – during that process – I realized this is NOTHING to do with inventions. The PTO could not even understand my patent – because it was a REAL invention (I figure about 5% of applications are)!

    So the PTO process today is simply a job-creation scheme for lawyers and the PTO.

    Essentially what a patent is is a small tactical nuclear device that they hand out to any Charlie with $375 and a bunch of time to waste applying and getting one issued. This forces big corp’s to spend $$$ defending against these “terrorists”.

    Notice noone is this system is inventing anything – they just take existing ideas and write them up in the “patent claims format”. The more the idea is already in common use – the better – because that is more victims to terrorize. Particularly vulnerable and preyed on are small companies in Asia doing business in the US. They are basically forced to pay “protection” – and the “mob” are shark law firms.

    And why are we still supporting this stupid system? Because the lawyers control if the system should continue – and of course they vote “YES” on that.

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