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Google, Apple, Microsoft Sued Over File Preview

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the excellent-work,-patent-office dept.

Patents 250

ClaraBow writes with this excerpt from MacWorld: "A small Indiana company has sued tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google, claiming that it holds the patent on a common file preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened. ... Cygnus's owner and president Gregory Swartz developed the technology laid out in the patent while working on IT consulting projects, McAndrews said. The company is looking for 'a reasonable royalty' as well as a court injunction preventing further infringement, he said. ... Cygnus applied for its patent (#7346850) in 2001. It covers a 'System and method for iconic software environment management' and was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office in March of this year."

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Two words: (5, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238885)

Two words: prior art.

And plenty of it. We had live preview icons in an app in 1989.

Re:Two words: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26238927)

What you dismiss so glibly in two words is actually hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars worth of highly technical legal arguments.

Re:Two words: (4, Funny)

McFadden (809368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238995)

Why not surprise those you around you with a lawsuit this Christmas? The gift that just keeps on giving.

Re:Two words: (3, Insightful)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239577)

It's a gift for the lawyers really... who is dumb enough to go against three litigiously-experienced heavy weights with a frivolous patent lawsuit.

Re:Two words: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239597)

I don't use Google, Apple or Microsoft software, but here's my story:

I dropped a brown rope this morning the size of a small black child. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was taking a shit, or it the shit was taking me. And while I'm on that point, what's the deal with taking a shit? Shouldn't it be leaving a shit? I'm certainly not taking anything with me when I'm done.

But back on topic, Google, Apple and Microsoft suck ass

Re:Two words: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239731)

I hear that, bro. I had to take a massive shit today at work. Being day after Christmas (yes, Christmas, not the holiday you ACLU fucks), and a Friday, there was basically no one in the office. Which is good, because I spent around 15 minutes in the bathroom emptying my bowels of stored up feces. When I left, the entire bathroom reeked and toilet was clogged with shit and toilet paper, despite three flushes of an industrial strength toilet (not one of those low-flow abominations, either).

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239003)

Also known as bullshit wastes of time and money for everyone besides the lawyers.

Two good things that would prevent cases like this from wasting people's time:

  1. Patent reform.
  2. Loser pays.

Re:Two words: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239177)

Two good things that would prevent cases like this from wasting people's time:

1. Patent reform.
2. Loser pays.

Patent reform only works if unfair cases are being brought to court, argued, and won in a way that is contrary to the intent of the system. It is premature to say that this suit is anything more than a paper tiger. Bring up the patent on the Patent Application Information Retrieval [uspto.gov] system. Look at the rejections, amendments, and arguments. Significant changes were made to the patent claims, gutting much of their scope. The company bringing these suits is delusional if they think they have a case that can settle for anything more than nuisance tribute, especially from such high profile veterans of more balanced legal battles. What kind of patent reform would keep someone from trying to enforce a weak and narrow patent? Would they be less likely to try to enforce it if it was even weaker and narrower? Should we only allow patents that are strong and broad? Should it matter that many patent applicants only want very narrow patents, and many dont' really care if they would have much valuable in litigation?

As for loser pays...what makes you think that is such a good idea? Record companies use the threat of attorney fees to press defendants into early settlements. Would it be alright for Google or Microsoft to sue smaller companies, or individuals, based on flimsy patent claims, but win because their potential attorneys fees could be astronomical...perhaps significantly more than any reasonable royalty for the patent? How about if they faced smaller companies with strong patents and potentially good cases, but those smaller companies decided not to try to enforce their rights because of the possibility of being bankrupted if the suits failed?

There are advocates of loser-pay [manhattan-institute.org] , but loser-pay skeptics [timesonline.co.uk] seem to be well-versed in the pros and cons of loser-pay systems. While loser-pay could have a positive effect on the American legal system, it is by no means a common-sense no-brainer.

Re:Two words: (5, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26240027)

you're missing the point. these non-inventions should never have been granted in the first place. that is what needs to be reformed about the current system.

things like file previews are currently patentable, and it's within the patent holder's rights to sue. whether you think it's contrary to the intent of the system or not, it's how the system works. right now the USPTO is wasting millions of dollars of tax payers' money each year by granting patents on trivial/obvious software features, which inevitably leads to frivolous lawsuits by patent trolls--who often win.

just look at the case between Creative and Apple [theappleblog.com] regarding file menus. the only thing that's different this time is that the defendants have much more legal muscle than the claimant (which is a separate problem with the legal system). so even if Cygnus loses this suit, that doesn't mean that when a corporate juggernaut like Apple/Microsoft file similar claims of patent infringement that they will lose.

Re:Two words: (4, Funny)

sgbett (739519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239011)

Weight of money does not necessarily add credance to a particular viewpoint.

What they are patenting is now considered obvious, perhaps not at the time, but given that it was only granted recently (ie after several independant parties had made this discovery, thus making it "obvious" in its field) its hard not to see this as just another patent troll.

Re:Two words: (4, Insightful)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239291)

Weight of money does not necessarily add credance to a particular viewpoint.

You're from Earth right?

Re:Two words: (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239309)

It was originally applied for in 1998, which might make it less obvious. It seems like NeXT was going in this direction in the late 80s, though.

Re:Two words: (5, Interesting)

r7 (409657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239393)

It was originally applied for in 1998

That'd be at least 5 years after Lotus Magellin did it, and IMO, did it better than anything MS or Apple does today.

Lotus dropped Magellin when Windows 3 came along, so most of today's techs don't know about it, but it is still
surprising their legal research overlooked it.

Re:Two words: (5, Informative)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239719)

Reading the patent, what they have patented is a third party application that grabs a screen shot and allows you to select the document you desire to work on via that screen shot. One aspect that doesn't seem to exist anywhere in Windows or Mac OS X:

The present invention provides an improved method and system for storing, navigating and retrieving files and documents in a computer system. A method by which this is accomplished includes the following: the use of graphical representations of the documents and applications as viewed on the screen at the time of `capture`, a Snapshot Navigator Menu that automatically appears when the mouse pointer is directed to the edge of the screen and disappears when the mouse leaves the visible area of the Snapshot Navigator Menu.

To me this sounds like they patented a computer program.

However, if their argument is that any kind of preview for file browsing is covered, then they are a number of years late to the party. In 1994 xv was doing this with it's visual schnauzer, providing thumbnails of all your images, etc.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239781)

Ditto on Magellan, that's what I was thinking when I read TFS. Prior art circa 1990 if not earlier.

Re:Two words: (1)

GNT (319794) | more than 5 years ago | (#26240037)

Yep. That's the piece of software that did it. I was trying to remember and for the life of me I couldn't. But yes, Lotus did that in the early 90's....

Re:Two words: (1, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239567)

If MicroSoft, or Apple, or anyone else snuck into this company's office and stole their files or source code, I think most of us would call that wrong. If Apple saw a screenshot or description of their software and decided to implement similar functionality, it might still be wrong, but it's not so black and white. But if MicroSoft engineers are sitting around thinking up new ways to waste CPU cycles and independently come up with the same idea, maybe it wasn't so obvious after all.

If this company can prove that someone stole their ideas, then by all means they should be compensated. If they lost revenue, then let them be compensated. But the only revenue they could have lost is the revenue from licensing the patent, which is to say, they haven't lost any revenue because Apple or Microsoft are implementing this functionality.

Re:Two words: (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239531)

Just because they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to try to seize ownership from the public domain of a concept for which there is ample prior art, doesn't mean the two words are wrong.

Or rather... that they hope to get hundreds of millions of dollars.

Excuse me while I go get my patent on the concept of an online hypertext-based page that permits viewers from the public to preview comments before appending them.

Re:Two words: (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239969)

What you dismiss so glibly in two words is actually hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars worth of highly technical legal arguments.

Of course, "dollars" is the operative word in this statement.

Re:Two words: (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239993)

Bilski being overturned would highly disagree.

Re:Two words: (4, Insightful)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239063)

It's going to be expensive to fight these patents one by one that were rubberstamped for years. We need to throw out all software patents and return to copyright protection like we had.

  rd

Re:Two words: (2, Interesting)

BuddyJesus (835123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239575)

Right, because the solution to a ridiculously expensive problem is another problem that is equally ridiculously expensive and far more likely to result in hazardous filings.

Re:Two words: (2, Informative)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239167)

What can be easily said, or thought to be intuitively known, may not have been legally codified, and therein lies the rub.

You can cite the Lexmark patent [patentstorm.us] , elements of Apple's HIG [patentstorm.us] , peruse the citations in one of Jakob Nielson's papers [useit.com] that would seem to support prior art, or just search Patent Storm for "iconic systems [patentstorm.us] " and seeing results dating back more than a decade figure this is a wash. Right?

While IANAL, what seems to make this patent different is that it is for a *system* involving multiple icons at one go (select a bunch of icons at one time, peform an operation on them, and automagically they're re-iconified or something like that).

If other patents dealt with singular icons or methods thereof, and if no one has lined out, in writing, a similar system prior to 2001 (the date of submission), then, well... maybe it's time to pass out the Pepto Bismol©.

Re:Two words: (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239171)

Win98SE-Pick you picture folder-right click-properties-enable thumbnail view. And I seem to remember using apps even before that time that had that. Didn't some of the "Commander" style file managers that were the rage in the early 90's have thumbnail preview? I seem to remember using something like that back then but it has been too long for me to remember the apps name. But I'm pretty sure it was one of the "Commander" style file managers that everybody always seemed to have back then. Maybe someone here remembers which one?

Re:Two words: (1)

walterbays (1136723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239355)

And I imagine the abstract was invented around the time of Gutenburg.

Slashdot v. Patent Lawyers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239375)

While the Slashdot crowd is content to read only the title of a patent and then make wild pronouncements, patent attorneys generally read the whole patent document.

Re:Two words: (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239675)

It was a feature in SGI's Irix (the Indigo Magic Desktop) well before 2001 (pre-1995 even!), and was present in Windows 95 for bitmap images if you enable it via a registry key.

So once the big guys are down... (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238895)

will they kick the sh*t out of Gnome, KDE and other GUIs next?

Re:So once the big guys are down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239013)

No, because they don't have mountains of "easy" cash to go after.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (3, Interesting)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239251)

Interestingly if this would pass (which I strongly doubt) and MS, Apple etc. were required to remove the previews - then Gnome, KDE would benefit from that.

It kinda works like this:

1. Idiot sues Apple
2. Apple must remove the previews

1. Idiot sues MS
2. MS must remove the previews

1. Idiot sues Gnome Foundation etc.
2. Gnome, KDE etc. must remove the previews
3. One day later an unofficial patch pops up somewhere
4. Two days later that same patch is wrapped up into RPMs, Debs etc. for one-click install
5. Due to popular demand this patch is continuously maintained

Re:So once the big guys are down... (2, Insightful)

JTorres176 (842422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239457)

And then immediately lawsuits are pressed against Canonical, Debian, Novell, and anyone else who allows patented material to be added to their distributions.

Free software still has to follow the law.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (4, Interesting)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239599)

Step 3, 4 and 5 do not involve Canonical, Debian or any other distro.
The DEBs and RPMs could be hosted anywhere and if they sue the hosters then the packages will just move to bittorrent and p2p.

That's the beauty of OSS at work here. You cannot effectively ban a piece of software that many people find useful.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239617)

Not if its not distributed by anyone in the US. Sure, they have to follow the law, but whos law is the question.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (1)

rpgdude (1439591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239823)

I am pretty sure that Gnome and KDE's use of this technology constitutes fair use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use [wikipedia.org]

Re:So once the big guys are down... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239873)

There's no such thing as fair use for patented subject matter.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (4, Interesting)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239891)

One would think that if you posted a Wikipedia link, you'd at least have had time to read the first sentence of the article: "Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law..."

Anyway, patent trolls rarely go after free software projects because they lack the money to dole out a big settlement. The various media standards and many other fairly standard features of Linux distros are patent-encumbered up the wazoo. Some projects actually have some fear of litigation and disable features or distribute source-only (FreeType's bytecode interpreter comes to mind), but that's fairly rare.

Re:So once the big guys are down... (1)

rpgdude (1439591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239967)

Patents are for preventing others from making money off of your IP. Since Gnome and KDE are free, the patent is working as it should.

LOL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26238901)

LOL.... yep LOL. :)

Wonderful (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26238903)

claiming that it holds the patent on a common file preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened

The page [patentstorm.us] for this patent at patentstorm.com shows users a small snapshot of the patent before it is opened.

Re:Wonderful (1)

sgbett (739519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239037)

I worry about sites that have a 'preview' option before posting content, they must be next ...

Re:Wonderful (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239117)

I worry about sites that have a 'preview' option before posting content, they must be next ...

We should all agree not to preview for the time being, lest sourceforge get sued.

Penetration Testin (-1, Offtopic)

markass530 (870112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238915)

I have been waiting to post this slightly off topic comment, because of how unreal this advertisement was This whuz it Penetration Testing Expert Penetration Assessment & More. Get A Free Quote Today! Vigilar.com Seriously? Can Someone Explain This????? I know I have a dirty mind but who can make this kind of an advertisement and not see wtf??

Re:Penetration Testin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239685)

Why do you bother?

Perfect time to know what Obama's take (-1, Offtopic)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238945)

on Patent and Copyright Reform is going into his presidency. He seems to be smart, but otoh, the Democratic Party is major friends with hollywood/media types.

Re:Perfect time to know what Obama's take (0, Flamebait)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239449)

Thank the O he became president!

It was bad enough that we couldn't have an obviously NON-political thread that didn't mention someone's personal loathing of Bush now we're going to have 4 years of latent, homo-erotic references to Obama in threads about..oh I dunno, patent trolls!?

Re:Perfect time to know what Obama's take (3, Funny)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239689)

now we're going to have 4 years of latent, homo-erotic references to Obama

Um, I think you're the only one that sees anything homo-erotic in the OP's post. I wonder what that could signify? (not that there's anything wrong with it)

Wait a minute... (3, Informative)

Jason Pollock (45537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238973)

I thought Cygnus was bought by Red Hat? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hat [wikipedia.org] On November 15, 1999, Red Hat acquired Cygnus Solutions. Ah, this is "Cygnus Systems"... I can see where there might be a small bit of confusion there.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

babernat (1429727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239265)

Ah yes. I was wondering the same thing. Thanks for clearing that up.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239473)

Oddly, had they chosen "Apple Systems", Apple Music would have sued them into the ground.

Re:Wait a minute... (4, Insightful)

MrZaius (321037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239949)

Quite - Of all the news sites not to make the distinction....

Economy is in deep shit, this is a symptom (4, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238985)

Economy (not just US economy, but especially US) is in deep f.cking shit. This is a symptom. You see, very little is actually produced in the US at this point, but more regulations, lawsuits, patents, various copyrighted materials like movies/music are still made there (I live in Canada, we are not far away from this problem here also, except that our movies/music sucks even more.)

When there is nothing to produce except for more laws/regulations, meaningless, useless, obvious patents and lawsuits, and also the greenback, at this point you have to ask yourself a question: how is this economy, that borrows so much from the rest of the world and then buys the products from the rest of the world going to pay the freaking debt? What is it, 10 trillion in debt at least?

Anyway, I read TFPatent [patentstorm.us] and thought to myself: holy shit. In 1998 I worked on a system for a purchase basket for a promotions company and I had to display thumbnails on the HTML page too.

In fact various stores and also porn sites would be great at showing prior art to this BS patent.

Re:Economy is in deep shit, this is a symptom (2, Interesting)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239057)

The patent troll in question, which won't win this suit, is based in Detroit. They are likely completely out of money and have nothing to lose.

Re:Economy is in deep shit, this is a symptom (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239129)

In fact various stores and also porn sites would be great at showing prior art to this BS patent.

Yes I can confirm from personal experience that porn sites in the mid 1990's used thumbnails.

Redhat/Fedora has had this for years (4, Informative)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239005)

talk about prior art...if this survives the challenge I'm leaving.

Re:Redhat/Fedora has had this for years (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239671)

Please don't. Mars is already crowded and resources are scarce.

Re:Redhat/Fedora has had this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239983)

And where would you be going? Mars?

patent troll patent (4, Funny)

phrostie (121428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239027)

doesn't this infringe on the patent troll patent?

Re:patent troll patent (2, Interesting)

tobiasly (524456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239871)

Not only that... check out the screen mockup [arstechnica.com] from the patent! Those are obviously representations of the MS Paint and Excel UIs, as well as shitty MS clipart... can't they sue them for copyright infringement in their patent claim??

Apple Lisa (2, Informative)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239043)

Apple and MS have had file previews since Mac OS 1 and Windows 1 back in the 80's. In fact I think the Apple Lisa OS may have been the first- at least for home users.

Re:Apple Lisa (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#26240021)

Lisa was for home users? The thing cost $10,000 in 1983.

KDE prior art (5, Informative)

fishyfool (854019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239059)

Take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KDE_1.0.jpg [wikipedia.org] see the view of the virtual desktops on the top right? KDE has had this feature since at least 98 and I think the beta's had even more. Gregory Swartz just patented someone elses work likely seen while working as a consultant in the working environments of his clients.

Re:KDE prior art (2, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239641)

The original application was in 1998. Only the final application was in 2001.

Prior Art. (4, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239065)

http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/linux/RHL-6.2-Manual/getting-started-guide/index.html [redhat.com]

Copyright © 2000 by Red Hat, Inc.

http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/linux/RHL-6.2-Manual/getting-started-guide/s1-managers-kfm.html [redhat.com]

"Show Thumbnails -- If you have images in a directory, selecting this option will show you tiny representations of them. This view is useful if you keep family photos or artwork."

--
BMO

Re:Prior Art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239107)

yea, but it says nothing about non-image documents. I think patent talks about all types of documents. Come up with prior art that shows previews for text files, MS word, emails, etc.

Re:Prior Art. (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239897)

wouldn't it then be "obvious" if you can have a preview of one particular file type/document, others would follow?

I'll testify .... (4, Informative)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239073)

In the late 1980s I wrote the Windows version of Business & Professional Software's Trumpet Presentation program. In it, I showed iconic representations of presentations.

I'd call that prior art. Just contact me.

Prior art: head -10 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239079)

This idea's been around for awhile.

Date mis-post - should have been 4/1/2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239133)

Was this mis-posted? Should it have been 4/1/2009?

Claims (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239137)

Since people are too lazy to click on the link and read the claims for themselves, I'll post the two independent claims here:

1. A method of accessing one or more computer files via a graphical icon, comprising the steps of:
capturing automatically one or more graphical representations of one ormore portions of information content of one or more computer files while an application is manipulating the one or more computer files;
creating automatically an icon including selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations ofthe information content of the one or more computer files wherein the icon graphically depicts at least a portion of the information content from the one or more computer files and wherein the icon is created while the application was manipulating theicon's corresponding one or more computer files and includes selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content;
linking the icon to the application and to the one or more computer files based on theability of the application to manipulate the information content of the one or more computer files corresponding to the icon;
storing the icon in a memory;
displaying the icon in a window on a display screen;
invoking the application for manipulatingthe information content of the one or more computer files upon selection of the icon by accessing the more or more computer files by reference to an underlying file system corresponding to the icon and opening the one or more computer files within theapplication.

16. A method for providing a user interface for accessing a file based on a corresponding icon comprising:
storing a plurality of icons in a memory along with a corresponding plurality of references to an underlying file system for storageinformation for a plurality of files, each icon having an appearance substantially depicting information content from its corresponding file, wherein the plurality of icons were created by capturing automatically one or more graphical representations ofone or more portions of information content of an icon's corresponding file while an application was manipulating an icon's corresponding file and include selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content;
linking an application to each icon based utility on the ability of the application to manipulate the information content of the file corresponding to the icon;
providing a window on a display screen for displaying the plurality of icons;
invoking theapplication for manipulating the information content of the file corresponding to the selected icon upon selection of an icon from the plurality of icons in the window;
accessing the file designated by the reference to the underlying file systemcorresponding to the selected icon; and
opening the accessed file into the corresponding application.

In order for prior art to cover this, either one reference, showing that this was known before the patentee's invention, has to anticipate every one of the limitations in the claim; or, it must have been obvious for one of ordinary skill in the art to combine multiple references which, when put together, cover every limitation in the claim.

Re:Claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239259)

I'm not sure how to parse, read, or make sense of the extensive, and perhaps unnecessary set of comma-spliced fragements, but:

Prior art does not need to address every detail of a patent. One instance (of prior art) can apply to a porttion of a claim. That prior art may be extended through reasonable extension by a person skilled in the art to further limit the validity of the patent.

To suggest otherwise is akin to suggesting that a law may not be invalid if any portion of it is valid.

Re:Claims (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239467)

and perhaps unnecessary set of comma-spliced fragements

Actually, it is necessary. Each claim has to be contained within in a single sentence.

Prior art does not need to address every detail of a patent. One instance (of prior art) can apply to a porttion of a claim. That prior art may be extended through reasonable extension by a person skilled in the art to further limit the validity of the patent.

There is a bit of wiggle room in making an obviousness rejection, but the more gaps you have, the harder it is to convincingly argue obviousness, and the more likely you are to get overturned on appeal if it goes that far. In any case, the logical leaps made by many /.'ers far exceed what any examiner would be allowed to make.

Re:Claims (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239725)

In any case, the logical leaps made by many /.'ers far exceed what any examiner would be allowed to make.

The other thing (among many) that slashdotters don't get is that the Patent Office as a whole and patent examiners in particular must apply existing law as interpretted by the courts. They can't just say "It's obvious, fuckwit!" as much as some of them might want to. Plus, if you look at what is on PAIR, a lot of back and forth was done to limit the claims. It's not the sort of "rubber stamping" that a lot of slashbots always contend that it is.

Re:Claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26240023)

To be fair, the general opinion here is rather more like gawking at the idiocy of the whole patent system. And the idea that something which is obvious to an average slashbot would require significant economical incentive to develop is... certainly far from the general justification of the patent system.

Re:Claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239271)

Don't forget to take a look at those claims as they were originally written back in 2001:

1. A method of accessing a computer file and application for manipulating the file comprising the steps of:
creating an icon corresponding to a file including information, the icon substantially depicting at least a portion of the information from the file;
storing the icon in a memory;
displaying the icon; and
invoking the file and an application for manipulating the file upon selection of the icon.

19. A method of providing a user interface for accessing a file based on a corresponding icon comprising:
storing a plurality of icons in a memory along with a corresponding plurality of references to an underlying file system for storage information for a plurality of files, each icon having an appearance substantially depicting information from its corresponding file;
providing a window on a display screen for displaying the plurality of icons;
invoking an application upon selection of an icon from the plurality of icons in the window; and
accessing a file designated by a reference to the underlying file system corresponding to the selected icon.

These claims appear to have been seriously narrows over the course of prosecution. And the claims may have been much broader in the parent application (U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/097,283, filed Jun. 12, 1998). It may very well be unnecessary to seek out prior art that invalidates the patent. The patent is probably is going to be read so narrowly after all of these amendments that it will require a dedicated effort to create an infringing product. The patent holder either does not realize how narrow this patent is, or is merely bluffing in hopes of recouping the costs of securing the patent.

Re:Claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239475)

So, they must have looked at the source of the offenders and found that this is precisely the algorithm they used to produce the preview icons....just giving them the benefit of the doubt....

Re:Claims (4, Interesting)

mpaque (655244) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239315)

NeXTSTEP 4.0 Alpha; sometimes mis-called Beta on web sites.

The software featured tabs across the screen bottom for various window types. (We cribbed these for Mac OS 8.5 after the merger, as the tabbed window feature.) The Documents tab was a window which presented icons of documents, each of which could be a preview of the actual document, badged to indicate the associated application.

This implementation nicely meets all the claims, but predates the patent application by 5 years. I won't bother going through all the details, but Cygnus is boned. Software patent litigation as a business model is so last decade...

Re:Claims (5, Informative)

dshadowwolf (1132457) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239525)

That actually does, quite nicely, compromise "Prior Art" that invalidates both the primary claim (claim 1) and the secondary claim (claim 16) — all other claims rely, either directly or indirectly, on those two.

In other words, this single piece of "prior art" — if it is validated during a re-examination of this patent — will cause the patent to disappear entirely.

Re:Claims (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239789)

I guess I'd be able to develop a better response if the claims were written in legible English.

Maybe they're new to this but... (1)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239161)

it's not April Fools day...

Show me the patent! (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239191)

I would like to see this patented process. Can someone send me a copy of the process?

I have a older family friend who patented a tool for working on IBM Selectric typewrites back in the '60s. He could show me the tool and the designs.

Patent Trolls are a GOOD thing... (5, Interesting)

fibrewire (1132953) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239199)

The moment where patent trolls battle it out with large corporations is right around the corner. I feel that this is not only the beginning of a shitstorm, but when it's finished - software patents will be made illogical if not illegal in most countries, and people will realize that it was just a marketing scam that big corporations used to squash the little guys, and then differently designed little guys built to take advantage of an unfair law will take down the big corporations at their own game. Its the way of things, until balance is found. Same with licensing software, same with MPAA and RIAA, and other such BS. No unfair advantage cannot be exploited, which is why free enterprise & the internet kicks ass. Value through innovation will always win. Period.

Re:Patent Trolls are a GOOD thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239533)

Hmm, without patents innovation and value do not go in the same sentence - especially when it comes to software. Once the word is out and it is easily duplicated/replicated/cloned there is no value for the original creator. What then?

Re:Patent Trolls are a GOOD thing... (1)

wITTus (856003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239615)

This has nothing to do with innovation, they simply exploit the system - that's all. I had similar feelings like the parent about patents, but we need them anyway. And I don't think that large corporations spend so much money to fight about something which we'll drop later anyway.

Re:Patent Trolls are a GOOD thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239963)

> What then?

Then, the end of the world: Famine, death, war and pestilence.

I wonder if.... (2, Funny)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239203)

...I can copyright the procedure to engage in ludicrous legal actions on flimsy evidence between parties. 1) Read slashdot 2) Contact lawyers 3) Profit... 4) Sue myself 5) ... :D:D

WTF . . . (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239207)

HUH?

I got dibs on malloc and free! (5, Funny)

babernat (1429727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239293)

I'm going to run out and patent malloc and free separately. Of course I would make more money off of malloc than free. :)

Shit... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239307)

Doesn't KDE use this right now?

One Word... Bilski (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239323)

Bilski sort of invalidates things that are obvious or not tied to hardware. So how do they expect to defend this patent while not getting it overturned?

I have no Idea! (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239723)

The best they can hope for is being slapped down quickly, before Microsoft, Apple and Google incur much legal costs for them to pay.
This sounds like a quick way to bankruptcy.

Does this company even produce software? (4, Informative)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239351)

Cygnus Systems [cygnus-sys.com] (not to be confused with the Cygwin guys) doesn't appear to produce any commercial software. They look like some kind of software/hardware reseller, providing some business application develop services at best. They applied for this patent in 2001, where's the product they were trying to protect? It's one thing to abuse the system to fight off competition, but registering vague patents with no intention of implementing them is patent trolling at its worst.

Lotus Magellan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239391)

Lotus Magellan didn't use icons, but did allow scrolling through the list of files, showed (instantly!) a preview of the file to the right, then allowed you to open it with the app of your choice. It handled almost any format in existence at the time (late 1980s) including archives such as ZIPs.

          This I think shows the idea of having a preview of files is not at all original; combining an app like this + icons is not at all original. Magellan alone wouldn't be enough to kill the whole patent but it sure doesn't help any.

Who needs it? (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239443)

Who needs file preview anyway? I just use less(1). You can get used to it. I don't even see the control codes. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead...

Re:Who needs it? (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239957)

Matrix jokes aside, the people I know who use file preview in windows are those that can only type with their index fingers whilst looking at the keyboard.

Troll (2, Insightful)

wshwe (687657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239537)

Just another greedy patent troll!

Abolish patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239639)

This yet another reason to abolish all patents.

See Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine for the arguments.

Please read their book for free at http://www.dklevine.com/

Have a look at the Xerox Docutech machine gui (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239773)

Our office had a schoolbus-sized Xerox docutech machine for
producing on-demand, printed, bound documents. In 1989. Documents
were stored on disk in the machine and printed using a touch-screen
with icons consisting of thumbnail images of the documents contained
in the machine. The patent claims appear to be describing this
system.

Just guessing, but I'll bet Xerox has a mountain of patents covering
this sort of thing.

Are they in Indiana or Michigan? (2, Informative)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239793)

The website for Cygnus System, Inc. states: "ygnus Systems, Inc. focuses on the unique computing, networking and application needs of small to midsized businesses and offices in the southeastern Michigan area. " and the bottom of the website says they are in Taylor, MI http://www.cygnus-sys.com/AboutUs [cygnus-sys.com]

If the article confuses Indiana with Michigan then maybe it is confused about the lawsuit as well?

This lawsuit will get tossed out anyway (2, Insightful)

Darkk (1296127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26239887)

As the judge gleams over his PC and noticed it too uses the preview thumbnails feature and started to realize...holy crap...if I pass judgment then how the hell am I gonna find my pictures?!?!

What bothers me tho as more and more of these silly lawsuits crop up it will stifle innovation. Eventually it will choke open source software as they lack funds to fight this. Apple and Microsoft have deep pockets so they will survive, just we will end up paying for it later.

I just hope I can continue to use Ubuntu without worry.

HTML prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26239943)

Wouldn't an HTML "A"nchor tag which links to an image be prior art, if an "img" tag with a thumbnail was automatically created by software? That's kind of obvious and thumbnailing was probably created pretty soon after graphical browsing was created.

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