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IBM Patents Changing Color of E-Mail Text

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the how-very-precious dept.

Patents 132

theodp writes "Last week, the USPTO granted IBM a patent for its 'System and method for comprehensive automatic color customization in an email message based on cultural perspective.' So what exactly did the four Big Blue inventors come up with? IBM explains: 'For example, an email created in the US in red font to indicate urgency or emphasis might be mapped to a more appropriate color (e.g., blue or black) for sending to Korea.' IBM took advantage of the USPTO's Accelerated Examination Program to fast-track the patent's approval. BTW, if you missed the 2006 press release, IBM boasted it was 'holding itself to a higher standard than any law requires because it's urgent that patent quality is improved.'"

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great ideas make the world go round (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981443)

Thanks to slashdot for highlighting one of the many great ideas that Big Blue has brought to our meager existences. It's things like color fonts in email that really put a smile on my face every day. I'm glad slashdot posts stories like this to remind us of who's behind some of the great ideas we use every day.

To celebrate this remarkable achievement I am going to send all my emails today using a Big Blue font.

Re:great ideas make the world go round (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981525)

No, no, dont do it! Your readers will just hate it... instead use comic sans with pink huge font!

For the chinese? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982283)

instead use comic sans with pink huge font!

Last I've heard, pink is a lucky colour in China.

Re:great ideas make the world go round (1, Insightful)

home-electro.com (1284676) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982479)

I can understand IBM filling a patent for something as useless as this...

But I fail to understand /. editors posting this here.

Re:great ideas make the world go round (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982611)

But I fail to understand /. editors posting this here.

We need to hear this before the aggressive IBM patent lawyers show up and avoid laughing in their faces. That could result in a larger licensing fee.

Re: communication barrier (5, Funny)

az1324 (458137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982613)

Hmm.. so that's why Kim Jong-il doesn't respond to our urgent messages.

Well, fuck me over flying backwards . . . (1, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981447)

. . . except that nobody will be able to read this post anyways, as that IBM thingie will present this text as "white on white."

Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (2, Funny)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981583)

hmmm, aren't those fat multi-color pens and multi-color typewriter ribbon evidence of prior art?

hope they don't find out about using carbon paper (CC = carbon copy) to transfer a copy of the letter you're typing onto another document or i'll have to pay insane royalties each time i forward those dumb internet chain letters i send to over 9000 of my friends!!

/fat freddy sez [wikimedia.org]

Re:Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981717)

hmmm, aren't those fat multi-color pens and multi-color typewriter ribbon evidence of prior art?

This should be modded +1 Funny, because there is no way that this post can be serious. Writing a letter with a multi-color pens gives you a letter with multiple colors. When you send it to people with different cultural backgrounds, the colors of your letter don't automatically change so that they have the same cultural meaning for your recipients as they do for you. Maybe such a pen exists in the world of Harry Potter. But in the real world, this doesn't come even close to prior art that anticipates this invention.

Re:Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (-1, Offtopic)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981869)

>Maybe such a pen exists in the world of Harry Potter.

In Harry's world they wouldn't give a shit about highlighter pens, and I wish our world didn't give a shit about cultural highlighting in emails. I certainly don't.

Re:Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982007)

Writing a letter with a multi-color pens gives you a letter with multiple colors. When you send it to people with different cultural backgrounds, the colors of your letter don't automatically change so that they have the same cultural meaning for your recipients as they do for you. Maybe such a pen exists in the world of Harry Potter. But in the real world, this doesn't come even close to prior art that anticipates this invention.

But is Cascading Style Sheets prior art? You serve one stylesheet for web browsers set to Korean and another for web browsers set to a Latin-script language.

Re:Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (1)

mokus000 (1491841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982155)

If that's the mechanism they're trying to patent, then finding prior art shouldn't be too hard. On the other hand, if it isn't, then you're free to do exactly that without risk of violating the patent.

(Assuming my understanding of patents is correct...)

Re:Well I'll be dipped in dogshit... (1)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981819)

"hmmm, aren't those fat multi-color pens and multi-color typewriter ribbon evidence of prior art?"
Only if you somehow have magical ink that changes color depending on the country it is in.

Well, I'll be violated by a poopsicle... (2, Funny)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982531)

Isn't Harry Potter evidence of prior art?

But... wait... (4, Insightful)

Bazman (4849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981457)

Can't we just tag the text with some kind of semantic markup, and then use some kind of "sheet of styles" that relate the markup to the appearance? Sound familiar?

Re:But... wait... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981499)

Perfect idea! I just *want* more of those emails embedded inside bloat html for no reason!

But more on it, if you want to implement it on the normal text view, there's millions of email clients you would need to get to support it. And as far as HTML email goes, No Thanks.

Re:But... wait... (5, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981595)

Perfect idea! I just *want* more of those emails embedded inside bloat html for no reason!

<x-html>
<!x-stuff-for-pete base="" src="" id="0" charset=""><DIV></DIV><w:fonts> <w:defaultFonts w:h-ansi="Times New Roman" w:cs="Times New Roman"/> </w:fonts> <w:docPr/> <w:body> <wx:sect> <w:p> <w:pPr/> <w:r> <w:rFonts w:h-ansi="Helvetica" w:cs="Helvetica"/>
<w:t>I agree.</w:t> </w:r> </w:p> <w:pgSz w:w="12240" w:h="15840"/> <w:pgMar w:top="1440" w:right="1440" w:bottom="1440" w:left="1440"/> </w:sectPr> </wx:sect> </w:body>

Re:But... wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981705)

Probably the best laugh I'll have all weekend. Good show, chap.

Re:But... wait... (1)

Iluvatar (89773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981877)

Dude, that's the spirit -- you should be a Chief Data Architect at IBM! :-))

"It'll Be Messy" :-)

Re:But... wait... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982015)

Come on! In these times, this argument is completely and utterly outdated. And besides: The spammers do not care anyway.

No why not use HTML as it was intended: To mark-up hypertext.
You know, it's actually a cool and useful technology.

And there is not a single real-world e-mail client I know that still can't do basic HTML. Where do you live? in the 80s?
We techies usually aren't so conservative. So why here?

Examples for which HTML is good:

  • Emphasizing elements.
  • Properly embedding links.
  • Properly embedding those images that say more than a thousand words. (Emphasis on useful)
  • Semantically structuring your mail: Paragraphs, sections, headings, addresses, code, etc.
  • Other useful semantic structures, like tables, lists, definitions, etc.

Works best, when used with UTF-8, for real extended characters. (Can't live without those since I installed the first NEO 2.0 beta [optimized and extended German keyboard layout]. Slashdot is the only site I know that fails hard at UTF-8.)

Mind you, that I did not mention CSS in this comment. I think in mails, the visual style should be decided by the reader. (Ok, the submitter could suggest a style. But he can not expect it. [Same as here on /.])

Oh, and, this comment was written in extrans (HTML-on-text). (Wrongly called "Plain Old Text" on /., because of a bug in Slash that exists for ages.)

Re:But... wait... (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982279)

I prefer plain text because its 100x more secure than HTML with how its rendered. Theres various exploitable software and even drive-by-download exploits, and then you can use hotlinked images to track who reads emails (and spam them even more).

Yes, my email client supports html emails. It even has it enabled by default. But because of that, I changed it to show text version to me before and just when I click it will show me the html version

Re:But... wait... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982397)

Hmm... Sure it adds some complexity. And complexity can add bugs. (But does not have to.)

But it is well worth it. Same as UTF-8.

If you fear exploitability then I ask you: Do you run Windows? A browser? A instant-messaging-client? (They transmit HTML too.)
A file sharing program? (Those things are always scanned for exploits. All the time.)
Do you use cracks off of sites like astalavista, gamecopyworld, or straigt out of the p2p nets?

If you at all do any of those things, then I think it's pretty much irrelevant to worry about your e-mail-client allowing HTML. :)
No offense, but I just think it's a bit unrealistic. ^^

Besides: The thing with hot-linked images is long solved. Thunderbird for example asks you (non-modal notification bar) before it loads images. And it asks again, before loading non-embedded (=hot-linked) images. :)

Of course, you can do what you prefer, and not see the proper layout and emphasis. It's a part of being free, to be able to do things, even if they make no sense (to others or at all). :)

UTF-8 is disabled on purpose (5:erocS) (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982529)

Slashdot is the only site I know that fails hard at UTF-8.

This is intentional. Slashdot is in English, and English requires no characters outside Latin-1 plus the € character. Slashdot used to allow more characters, but that was turned off on purpose due to abuse [slashdot.org] .

Re:UTF-8 is disabled on purpose (5:erocS) (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983633)

The problem is since they switched to the new ajax interface they even fail at stuff from latin1 (at least if entered directly, a handfull of html entities for latin1 stuff work).

Re:But... wait... (1)

jakykong (1474957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27984353)

And... Why HTML is bad (on its own):

- Odd e-mail situations. I often access my e-mail over SSH when I'm at school. It takes extra work to get past the HTML, even when used for legitimate purposes, when accessing e-mail in less common ways.

- Spam fighting. I know from firsthand experience that stripping e-mails of HTML significantly increases the accuracy of statistical filters (like bogofilter, my preferred spam-fighting tool). The conclusion I draw from this is that HTML messes with statistics. HTML is often the way spammers keep their e-mails harder to detect, for example by embedding all their text in an image to prevent (or try to prevent) text-based filtering.

- Readability. Sure, you can stick to <b>, <i>, <u>, and <a> if you want. But more often, the people who feel the need to send an HTML e-mail send me things with <img> and <center> and <font> and <style> and <h1>. These things are available for abuse.

- Necessity. The <b>, <i>, <u>, and <a> tags are easily replaced. How? Simple. *bold*, //italic//, _underline_ and Link[1]. It's been used for ages (long before I was around). This is even easily parsed by an e-mail reader who wants to see this rendered graphically.

HTML has its place. Slashdot, for example. Web pages that were the original purpose of HTML. Wikis that render their pages with HTML for deeply linked pages. E-mail, however, is not the place for HTML.

Re:But... wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27984563)

Sorry, nobody informed you, but the Plain Text forces were soundly defeated in the great email wars of 1996.

You are that crazy japanese solider still fighting WWII in that episode of Gillian's Island.

Re:But... wait... (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981625)

We already do. The tags look like:

Priority: urgent

And then the receiving mail client displays it appropriately for the given locale/user.

In other words, prior art.

Re:But... wait... (2, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982033)

Sound familiar?

Sure, sounds familiar. But that's not how IBM is doing it in this patent. Try reading it - they don't require any tags to be added to the text, or some "sheet of styles" to relate "markup" to anything. So, while your solution sounds quite familiar, it has nothing to do with this patent.

nice (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981461)

IMO this isn't such an bad way to do it. Might even be patent worthly as noone is doing it.

I myself really dislike stupid red fonts in emails or whatever *urgent* messages. I understand it by words anyways and it just makes me feel offended. But if its just cultural differences, then good job IBM.

color me unimpressed (1)

okooolo (1372815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981477)

how do they came up with ideas like that? I'd love to sit on those meetings..

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981793)

I wonder why they think it's worth spending money patenting stuff like that. Even if you do get the patent, who is going to bother using that idea? Much less pay for using it.

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981823)

That's not how it works. What happens is that lower-level management is told to be on the look-out for any new functionality that programmers and engineers make, no matter how small, and forward it to a group that then scans the changes for patentability.
So a coder decides it would be nifty if the X-Face in e-mail automatically gets displayed in the address book too, and adds five lines of code to do just that. And then a completely different department sees his manager's report, and decides to patent it. The developer gets a $100 AmEx cheque if it gets patented, so he won't complain.

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

okooolo (1372815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981871)

but patents like that are worthless, so what's the point? why bother patenting something that's clearly is not gonna hold up in any court?

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

mokus000 (1491841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982185)

Patent pissing contests?

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982481)

but patents like that are worthless, so what's the point? why bother patenting something that's clearly is not gonna hold up in any court?

Because every patent they collect can be added to their balance sheet (so they get better credit ratings, potentially higher stock value, etc). Of course, these patents are third-rate derivative assets whose value has little or no basis in reality, and at one point or another the patent bubble will burst. After all, as the financial markets recently discovered: you can't keep selling and trading hot air only based on valuations from accountants' and lawyers' wet dreams.

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982799)

Patent wars.
The more patents you have, no matter how silly, the more you can credibly threat other organizations on a variety of legal and non-legal matters.
Like, "Dear Megacompetitor, so you don't want to settle for XMIO on topic Y? Let's see... have you ever used any color in your emails? How about if we sue you for that?"

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

okooolo (1372815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982983)

Well it seems to me that if a large, well known company like IBM would loose a lot of credibility if it tried to enforce pointless patents like that, so I'm not sure how much of a legal threat those patents could be ..

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983133)

Almost all settlements contain a clause of non-disclosure, so how would you know?

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

okooolo (1372815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983181)

I mean credibility at a bargaining table ...

Re:color me unimpressed (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982069)

Thats the problem, its in the last 20minutes that somebody would have pointed out, "HEY, you guys realize i was just kidding right", but because of they cut of the last 20min the boss never realizes!

Re:color me unimpressed (2, Insightful)

jthill (303417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983251)

I decided long ago that they're intentionally mocking the USPTO. Seriously.

not really new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981479)

Um, isn't the same idea as HTML phasing out i tags in favor of em tags, etc, which has been happening for years?

Colour in email? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981487)

But who would see colour anyway? Is this another Windows thing?

The (only) patent claim (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981515)

Sounds interesting. A lot of Slashdot postings regarding patents attract comments about how it has already been done or is obvious. Just to keep things in perspective, here is the (only) claim from the patent:

A method for customizing color in an email message based on cultural perspective of each email recipient comprising the steps of: determining at least one existing color used in an email message; analyzing at least one of a domain name or user information for each recipient of the email message to determine a region corresponding to each email recipient; searching a color mapping database to correlate the at least one existing color in the email to at least one approved color corresponding to each region of each email recipient, wherein said at least one approved color conveys a consistent meaning with a meaning of the at least one existing color in the email; comparing the at least one existing color used in the email message with the at least one approved color for each email recipient, wherein if the at least one existing color does not match any of its corresponding approved colors for each email recipient further comprising the steps of determining a selected approved color to be displayed to each email recipient; and automatically modifying the at least one existing color in the email to at least one of the selected approved colors for each recipient of the email message.

For something to anticipate this invention, it must include all the elements and limitations of the claimed invention. For obviousness, you do not have to find every element in a single piece of prior art, or necessarily even in a number of pieces of prior art. The differences should be small enough that you would someone familiar with the prior art would independently come up with the same invention (not the precise legal definition of obviousness, but the general gist of it).

Re:The (only) patent claim (2, Funny)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981645)

some of my favorite typefaces are black.

Re:The (only) patent claim (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981757)

Ok, so you can submarine patent the obvious by DOING IT BADLY.

It all makes sense now...

Re:The (only) patent claim (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982871)

Don't worry, making it too easy to color every message in red is just an artifact of the Lotus Notes horrible UI [eproductivity.com] . Thankfully, other email systems don't have that problem, so I don't think anyone is going to want to steal/use (or even see the value in) that sloppy patented workaround.

In any case, kudos to IBM Korea for speaking up on this issue. As an American, I'm just as annoyed by IBM's Lotus Notes user interface. I'm just sad that IBM's management sees this as an isolated cultural issue, and not as a more general usability problem with its 1980's-inspired user interface.

Flamebait Summary (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981519)

This seems like a perfectly reasonable, new idea. It's not "changing color of email text"... it's automatically understanding the meaning of the colors and adjusting them appropriately for each recipient.

Why is it that so many people on Slashdot seem to think that all patents are bad?

Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are bad (5, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981693)

Because most of them would take most competent software engineers about 5 minutes to think up themselves if presented with the problem that the patent claims to be a solution to.

The programmatic solution is often obvious from a routine logical analysis of the problem and its domain, and standard modelling techniques.

The examiners seem not to be able to have a proper idea of non-obviousness (to a practitioner in the field), when it comes to software patents.

This causes areas of software work to be unreasonably closed off to any reasonable creative developer, and that's just a pain in the ass. So we basically say, look, if I could have thought of that without breaking a sweat just by using the standard analysis and coding techniques of the trade, then I'm pretty much going to ignore the "patent" on it, aren't I.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (2, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981763)

Because most of them would take most competent software engineers about 5 minutes to think up themselves if presented with the problem that the patent claims to be a solution to.

Sometimes, though, figuring out what the problem is, or even that there is a problem in the first place, is decidedly non-trivial.

I'm not nearly as anti-patent as most people around here are, and this patent is borderline at best IMO, but I do think it falls into this category.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981865)

I don't think we should be allowing patents based on the novelty of the problem rather than the novelty of the invention to solve it.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981967)

The novelty of the problem IS part of the novelty of the solution though.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982173)

But its also preventing the problem, imagined or not, from being solved. I believe that if software patents are allowed (and I believe that they shouldn't be allowed, but for arguments sake lets say they are allowed) then the patented idea needs to be in software produced by the company within 3 months of the patent being filed. If not then the patent is automatically voided.

How many of you think this will actually be used? It won't be, it however, does prevent me from making a program to solve this "problem".

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981969)

Why not? Many, many inventions solve problems people didn't realize they had and change the world. In fact, the best inventions often do.

People who've never had a hot shower don't know what they're missing. People who rode horses everywhere didn't see the need for cars. People who like to shop didn't see the problem being solved by the internet.

You don't invent things just to be novel, you invent things to solve problems. The implementation does not need to be complex, the invention merely has to be novel. As far as I know, no one has done this before and it wasn't really obvious. People have been writing e-mail clients and servers for decades without thinking to do this, so I think this patent is a poor example of "bad" software patents. They really are doing something new here.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982811)

I don't think we should be allowing patents based on the novelty of the problem rather than the novelty of the invention to solve it.

You missed the GP's point. Sometimes, noticing the problem is the hard part.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981785)

Because most of them would take most competent software engineers about 5 minutes to think up themselves if presented with the problem that the patent claims to be a solution to.

The key part of this is "if presented with the problem that the patent claims to be a solution to." Often, understanding the problem is 90% (made-up number) of the battle. Why is software often such a mess? Because no one knows at the beginning exactly what problems the software needs to solve. While creating a solution for vague problems, the real problems start to come into focus; the direction of the software changes.

Simply stating the problem clearly, and being the first to disclose a solution, does not guarantee a strong patent monopoly. Most problems have multiple solutions. Already, some non-infringing alternatives to this patent have been discussed in this forum. It is difficult to claim all solutions to a problem, thus the negative impact of software patents is often overstated.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (2, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981983)

The examiners seem not to be able to have a proper idea of non-obviousness (to a practitioner in the field), when it comes to software patents.

So, are you a practitioner in the field of patent law with a proper idea of the legal requirements of 35 U.S.C. 103, or are you a practitioner in the field of software programming, with a proper idea of "obvious", as defined by Webster's or the OED?

My guess is it's the latter rather than the former, and you're criticizing the patent examiners of - oh, gosh - following the law.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27983059)

Perhaps he is blaming the law.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982043)

Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are bad: Because most of them would take most competent software engineers about 5 minutes to think up themselves if presented with the problem that the patent claims to be a solution to.

Agreed. It seems that the patents are being granted to people for thinking of problems rather than for thinking of solutions.

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982075)

Agreed. It seems that the patents are being granted to people for thinking of problems rather than for thinking of solutions.

What good is a solution for which there is no problem?

Re:Why we think all or almost all s/w patents are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27983909)

increasing the size of your "IP portfolio"

Re:Flamebait Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981747)

Doesn't answer which part is supposed to be patentable, the idea of changing the colour in a way that best transports the meaning to the recipient? Doesn't read like it and possibly wouldn't be patentable anyway.
Or the method? That seems to be simply lookup tables region/colour to other regions/colours - which seems not only an obvious but also probably a bit stupid way to do it since it does not scale well, namely O(n^2) with the number of regions/colours.
They didn't even think of how to handle it when someone to help non-native speakers e.g. colours the word "red" in red, what a fun the Koreans will have when it is suddenly blue...

Re:Flamebait Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27983795)

That seems to be simply lookup tables region/colour to other regions/colours - which seems not only an obvious but also probably a bit stupid way to do it since it does not scale well, namely O(n^2) with the number of regions/colours.

Or they could translate into and out of a universal checker, which would only be O(n).

Re:Flamebait Summary (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981863)

Because many are really defensive patents. They are not original in any way, but to issue a challenge to any one of them would cost several years worth of litigation. These are purely defensive - if someone sues, the company will just counter-sue.

Re:Flamebait Summary (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982055)

Actually, the person or thing performing the method steps doesn't have to understand the meanings of the colors. The database can present that mapping info to them, and the mapping could have also been provided by a third party (e.g., the recipient or sender of the e-mail).

As for the summary being flamebait, it's regular practice here to complain about a patent without reading the claims first.

WTF is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981543)

That's the stupidest thing I heard since Bush was president.

Typical IBM strategy (1)

loose electron (699583) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981559)

As an ex IBM'er this is pretty typical - IBM blankets technology with patents and many of them are not too terribly good or valid. Others are truly emerging things worthy of patent.

Several of my patents while working for them I said "well this really isn't a new thing" but they had me file anyway. Go figure.

Re:Typical IBM strategy (3, Interesting)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981781)

So you perjured yourself [technocrat.net] several times? Nicely done!

not bad idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981585)

Doesn't anyone else think such culture translation is a novel idea, if only just?

Black is the New Red (4, Funny)

skywire (469351) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981599)

I know when I'm emailing my Korean friends, I always switch from the default black to black when I really want get their attention.

Re:Black is the New Red (2, Insightful)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981767)

So all your friends in Korea are old people?

Re:Black is the New Red (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982307)

Someone give this man a cookie, for reminding me of that story from years back. Made me chuckle.

Re:Black is the New Red (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982845)

If they are really old then red could be the correct color.

Too late I patented the use of bouncing light (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981615)

For the detection of differences in things.

I am pretty sure that trumps their patent.

Royalties!!!

toilet paper (1)

heatseeker_around (1246024) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981651)

I invented a new way to fold the toilet paper that let the user's hands without any traces of shit. Should I patent something too ?

Full of sh*t.

Re:toilet paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981779)

Your idea intrigues me and I wish to subscribe to your neatly folded newsletter.

Got Same Status as AIDS/Cancer Cure Patent Apps (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981657)

BTW, the Petition To Make Special [uspto.gov] that IBM exploited to expedite the color-my-world patent's approval is also used to speed up patent apps for inventions that improve the quality of the environment, contribute to the development or conservation of energy resources, contribute to countering terrorism, or relate to recombinant DNA, superconductivity, HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

Re:Got Same Status as AIDS/Cancer Cure Patent Apps (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982167)

There are other requirements for an accelerated examination petition to be approved. For example, they have to provide their own search report (which is then supplemented by the examiner's search), and they have to point out where there is support under 35 USC 112, first paragraph, in the specification for all elements of the claim. They also have to pay a fee.

The "hot topic" rule for making an application special doesn't require a fee and only requires that the claims are directed to one of those special topics (HIV and cancer cures, etc.).

Contributing to countering terrorism (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983597)

But I had an idea for email that changes color based on what's going on with the Homeland Security Advisory System:

  • SEVERE- Severe risk of terrorist attacks
  • HIGH- High risk of terrorist attacks
  • ELEVATED- Significant risk of terrorist attacks
  • GUARDED- General risk of terrorist attacks
  • LOW- Time to be curiously apathetic everybody!

It would just be embedded in the footer- think like a Hello Kitty kind of thing, where she gets upset and stomps her foot around whenever there's a significant possibility that thousands of people might die in a terrorist attack.

Is it April 1st? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981697)

You have to be kidding....right?

..and if you are color blind? (1)

joneil (677771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981723)

Seriously, I'm color blind. I'm rather oblivious to the meaning of different colors in different cultures to begin with. One thought I had, if I ever make a Faux pas with another culture based on mis-interpretation of what a color means, can I now blame it all on software? :)

So, wait, what? (1)

Lady Serena (1461615) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981725)

So, IBM has patented something as trivial as checking the domain name of the recipient and then using str_replace() to change text colors. Does this mean forums that use a combination of regex+str_replace() to change text colors now violate an IBM patent? That's ridiculous.

Re:So, wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981775)

I love it how software patents are used to create artificial monopolies on results. If I come up with a machine/process for making crackers and patent it, nobody else can create that machine/process without licensing it from me. Other people can still create crackers that may come out identical to mine using different methods. However, if I come up with an algorithm/process for making virtual crackers and patent it, nobody else can make virtual crackers.

This just in from Armonk, NY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981729)

IBM, otherwise known as "Big Blue", has filed a for a patent on 'Corporate logo's that include blue and white striped words that spell out I-B-M'.

Re:This just in from Armonk, NY (1)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981847)

IBM, otherwise known as "Big Blue", has filed a for a patent on 'Corporate logo's that include blue and white striped words that spell out I-B-M'.

Er, no. That's called a Worldwide registered trademark.

patents (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#27981925)

#include lets_patent_patents.h

If statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27981993)

So they got a patent for what is essentially a series of "IF / THEN" statements? WTF!

Patent something before you see a trial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27982181)

The main problem is that is you do not patent something, then there is a chance that some small company does and starts a trial against you in the known Texas courts. At the end, I do not know what is worst.

Cultural difference in colors. (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982211)

Differences like "Being Blue" in English means being sad, but "Being Blue" in German means being drunk?

Does that mean the "Big Blue" is now sad AND drunk?

Or does it mean that IBM is now known as the "Big Mauve" in some countries?

Seems "Obvious" (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982289)

and thus unpatentable.

No more HTML e-mail? (4, Insightful)

the pickle (261584) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982687)

Does this mean we can expect IBM to start suing anyone who uses HTML-formatted e-mail? Because I think that would probably be a good thing.

p

Dumb patents (1)

bigdonthedj (1437541) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982941)

I think I am going to patent the reaction others give after you sneeze...like, "Gazundteit" or "Bless You". I'll make a mint.

Re:Dumb patents (1)

Boomerang Fish (205215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27984443)

I want to patent the process of applying for a patent. Then, I'll make a mint in licensing!

I'm not greedy... after my first billion I'll start rejecting all patent process licensing requests and we should start to see a decline in stupid patents.

--
I drank what?

I'm building on this patent (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27982971)

I'm going to license IBM's technology and then expand it for use with color blind users and people who only receive plain text e-mail.

xerox is as bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27983347)

http://www.google.com/patents?id=kumqAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&zoom=4&dq=proximity+business+transfer&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0_0#PPA1,M1

pl0s 5T, Troll) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27983627)

'Yes' t0 any [goat.cx]

IBM Culture and Patents (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27983663)

I think most people think of IBM as a computer hardware, software or services company like they think of Google as a search engine. Well, Google is really an advertising company and IBM is really in intellectual property company. I suspect that if you roll back the cover, you'll find that employees have to invent, patent, publish, in order to advance their careers. The cultural need to do this is why they'll never succeed at rolling back the number of patents being filed.

So now I'll go back to working on my process patent for "improving software developer productivity through the application of mild organic stimulants in a solution of elevated temperature". Coffee anyone?

Don't feel so good (2, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27984101)

This story makes me feel blue.

IBM Employees are rewarded for number of patents (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27984231)

This is the root cause, and is the case I suspect in many corporations.

At IBM, you get something like $500 USD for a filed patent, something like that again if it's accepted, plus internal "points" which give you additional bonuses after a certain number of patents have been reached.

In addition, promotions to higher levels are significantly helped by displaying a large number of patents.

Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if the lawyers that decide whether to file or not a given patent proposal also get more bucks based on the count of how many gets pushed out.

From there, it's only logical that whatever the execs say or claim, underneath, everybody's going to file as much crap as possible.

Sub Patent? (1)

myspace-cn (1094627) | more than 5 years ago | (#27984601)

Include with each IBM software DVD... (yeah I hear ya about the bloat) some killer ganja (no problem so far) laced with rocket fuel and elephant tranq (whoop whoop problem), and tell the user to take a hit and hold it for 15 seconds, before thrashing the pop3 server.

Alternatively, if IBM wanted the user to save money, the user could huff paint, (MEK)methyl ethyl keytone, or whipped cream while smoking parsley and sativa.

I've also noticed if you get punched hard enough, you can see colors for awhile, perhaps we can let the CIA work some ass over a bit. Or rig an iron pan to distribute a whack on the side of the head?

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