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Patent Suit Targets Every Touch-based Apple Product

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the trollin'-trollin'-trollin' dept.

Patents 141

suraj.sun writes with news that a new patent suit has been filed against Apple over all of the company's touch-based products. From the article: "According to the complaint (PDF), Professor Slavoljub Milekic conceived a system that used a touchscreen that allowed children to move virtual objects around the screen, which he used to build interactive displays for the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY, in 1997, and filed for a patent on his design that same year. The patent in the suit, U.S. Patent #6,920,619 named 'User interface for removing an object from a display,' was issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2005. According to the lawsuit, Milekic formed FlatWorld Interactives in 2007 to 'promote and commercialize' his invention. Curiously, FlatWorld was incorporated on January 2007, just weeks after Apple announced the original iPhone at Macworld Expo. In July 2007, just after Apple shipped the original iPhone, FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims."

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141 comments

Even More Curiously (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775597)

Curiously, FlatWorld was incorporated on January 2007, just weeks after Apple announced the original iPhone at Macworld Expo.

Why is that curious? What's curious to me is that this patent was issued in 2005 and Apple began releasing infringing devices with massive publicity and advertising in 2007. Now five years later he finally gets around to filing suit? Just after Apple experiences the most profitable quarter in history of any tech company [slashdot.org] and the news outlets proclaim that Apple has too much money [slashdot.org] ?

Either this lawsuit was timed perfectly or Slavoljub Milekic has been living without human contact for five or more years until recently arbitrarily realizing that Apple has been infringing on his "intellectual property."

Patents wouldn't be so bad if everyone who had them cleared their throat from the beginning and got all this out of the way and agreed upon ... right now the patent ecosystem is this mentality of having a huge patent war chest because if you're producing a lot of anything, you're infringing on someone's rights and the odds are you'll pay for it at the time you're making the most money. This is unfair that Apple priced out these devices and sold millions of them with the possibility that they may be paying a hindsight licensing fee for each device.

On the other hand, it's nice to see Apple getting a taste of its own medicine [slashdot.org] .

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775675)

Well, Apple had its most profitable quarter, a good indicator that a lot more people have been recently exposed to infringing apple products. Maybe one of them was Slavoljub?

Re:Even More Curiously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775871)

Barack Obama is a stuttering clusterfuck of a miserable failure.

Re:Even More Curiously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776103)

SO BRAVE

Re:Even More Curiously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777379)

He does not stutter.

Re:Even More Curiously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778047)

But he did eat a dog.

Re:Even More Curiously (-1, Offtopic)

tyrione (134248) | about 2 years ago | (#39779059)

Barack Obama is a stuttering clusterfuck of a miserable failure.

Typical chicken shit. Go pound sound.

Re:Even More Curiously (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776165)

Well, Apple had its most profitable quarter, a good indicator that a lot more people have been recently exposed to infringing apple products. Maybe one of them was Slavoljub?

From the complaint:

Slavoljub ("Slavko") Milekic, Ph.D. ("Professor Milekic"), is Professor of Cognitive Science & Digital Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter? Someone who has a patent on touch devices and would therefore be interested in such things?

Bullshit.

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776551)

Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter?

Is there a legal requirement that suit be brought immediately after infringement is noticed? I have no idea, but I guess it's one possibility.

Re:Even More Curiously (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777075)

No, there isn't. We also don't know if he has been trying to get them to buy a license and being blown off for several years.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778115)

Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter?

Is there a legal requirement that suit be brought immediately after infringement is noticed? I have no idea, but I guess it's one possibility.

No, but it can limit the damages awarded. You aren't allowed to wait for several years just to let damages build up.

Re:Even More Curiously (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778939)

No, but it can limit the damages awarded. You aren't allowed to wait for several years just to let damages build up.

So maybe that's not what happened here. Let's just see where this case goes, right? If this man's claim is valid, then he should be awarded damages and Apple should start paying him license fees or stop making iPhones. It might be very instructive if the intellectual property laws that corporations are using to beat people over the head became a two-edged sword. It might actually lead to some reforms.

File this one under: If it's Good for the Goose...

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776759)

Not at all, nor is it needed since this is not a trademark case this is a patent case. It is completely legal to wait until the infringer is making the most money to sue. It is also strategically intelligent.

Re:Even More Curiously (5, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775769)

Or it takes 5 years to assemble the paperwork, funding, and lawyers.

I'm sure attorneys are just lining up to deal with the overwhelming defense Apple will surely have on hand, the sleepless nights before their work is torn apart in court, and the media circus if the case actually develops. There must also be rich folks out there just itching to donate money to a case against Apple, where a chunk of their other money is likely invested. Of course, everyone documents their ideas fully, with timestamps and complete lists of influences, too...

All legal matters take time. Big legal matters take more time.

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Interesting)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775965)

Or they have been negotiating with Apple for 5 years to take out a license. Most of those negotiations are in secret since most end with an NDA.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776129)

Ever noticed how the NDA and DNA acronyms are made up of the same letters? It's a CONSPIRACY!!!

suspiciously common letters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776199)

Anyone notice how these are some suspiciously common letters? What are they trying to hide?

Re:suspiciously common letters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776525)

They're hiding a NAD. DAN's NAD. He really wants it back.

Re:suspiciously common letters (1)

jamiesan (715069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776679)

RSTLN is fake!

Re:Even More Curiously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778489)

Ever noticed how NDA and DNA are not acronyms?

Re:Even More Curiously (2)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778655)

Silly me, thinking they stood for Non-Disclosure Agreement and DeoxyriboNucleic Acid.

Re:Even More Curiously (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777689)

Or they have been negotiating with Apple for 5 years to take out a license. Most of those negotiations are in secret since most end with an NDA.

Or maybe it just took this long for some patent trolling lawyer to sniff this opportunity out and make the good professor aware of the profit potential of this infringement.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776905)

Exactly, you don't just step in the ring with Ali because you think you can box... ;)

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776991)

Now you do.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778815)

Now you do.

It depends on which Ali we're talking about. Muhamad Ali's daughter Laila boxes - she could probably wipe the floor with the average Slashdotter.

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Insightful)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775781)

Patents wouldn't be so bad if everyone who had them cleared their throat from the beginning and got all this out of the way and agreed upon ... right now the patent ecosystem is this mentality of having a huge patent war chest because if you're producing a lot of anything, you're infringing on someone's rights and the odds are you'll pay for it at the time you're making the most money. This is unfair that Apple priced out these devices and sold millions of them with the possibility that they may be paying a hindsight licensing fee for each device.

Maybe there ought to be a type of statute of limitations on retroactive claims? Something like you've got a year(?) to make a claim between when you know of or should know of the infringement. If you don't, then you're assumed to have granted a royalty free license. If at a later point you do want to assert your patent, you can't make claims for any past infringement and are required to provide a royalty free grace period for usage of the patent.

Re:Even More Curiously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775873)

There are laws that are supposed to prevent people from waiting with suing until the target has more money (as that is in the word of the courts, unfair). It just very hard to prove.

Re:Even More Curiously (5, Informative)

AeroMed45N (919761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776239)

It is referred to as laches - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_(equity) [wikipedia.org] - when a party waits well beyond the point when they knew they were being infringed, in order to allow the defendant to get in much deeper before asserting your claim. If this claim is valid (and it sounds like that is a big if) it would seem that the timing of their changes means it is highly likely they were thinking about infringement from that initial point. To allow Apple to create several generations of iPhones and then the iPad before asserting the claim sounds like a laches defense might be appropriate. (Though if I read it right, the laches defense comes after the infringement suit has been won, and in the process of arguing damages).

That said, I am not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I just have spent way too many hours with patent attorneys in my career.

Re:Laches (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776541)

It's a nice principle, but lots of recent precedents (East Texas anyone?) are weakening that defense in favor of the trolls.

It might be interesting if they applied that to Copyright too.

Day 1: Guy starts cute little remake of a 2nd tier 60's SF story. Nothing happens
Day 485: Guy finally gets viral and suddenly NOW the publishing company decides there's money to be had.

Re:Even More Curiously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776517)

That's putting band-aid on a system that's totally broken.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776711)

"Maybe there ought to be a type of statute of limitations on retroactive claims? Something like you've got a year(?) to make a claim between when you know of or should know of the infringement."

Since a simple photograph has such a limitation of 70 years after the death of photograph (where I live) , this should be something like 500 years maybe?

Re:Even More Curiously (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775787)

What's 'curious' to me is the following:

In July 2007, just after Apple shipped the original iPhone, FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims.

The phrasing there makes it sound a *lot* like the old classic submarine-patent tactic of applying for/getting a vague patent, and continuing to modify it to track the current state of the art in order to catch as many 'infringers' as possible.

Re:Even More Curiously (1, Flamebait)

Altus (1034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776177)

How can you imply that they are doing something underhanded when they are suing apple?

Re:Even More Curiously (5, Informative)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776141)

Except for those that read TFA - The patent is actually narrowly defined.

"However, the patent quite narrowly claims a system used to "throw" objects off a screen when the "velocity of the touch exceeds a predetermined threshold," It also describes some specific gestures to move objects on the screen, none of which appear similar to gestures used in either iOS or Mac OS X.

It's not clear from a cursory reading of the patent, nor from FlatWorld's infringement claims, exactly how Apple's products infringe. However, we discovered that some of Apple's own patents relating to the iPhone cite Milekic's original patent—it seems likely that the company was aware of the patent and did not believe its particular implementation of a touch-based interface infringed on its narrow claims"

Re:Even More Curiously (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776807)

The example gestures in the patent don't matter. It's the claims that do, and I don't see any requirement that the gestures fit a particular design. It is a narrow patent, but broad enough to possibly cover iOS's home screen, where you can "throw" a page of apps off, or any number of other places where swiping your finger across the screen scrolls to another view.

There's enough wiggle room there for a court to work.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777423)

There's enough wiggle room there for a court to work.

Clearly, someone thinks so. However, if the claim is really due to velocity, then the example you cite likely does not infringe: the act of replacing the current screen contents with a different page is based on the current screen's position at the end of the pan (drag). No matter how slowly you drag, if you release after a threshold point (probably half-way off, but it may be 51 or 52%, for all I know), it'll continue the movement and throw the old content away.

Doesn't mean that there aren't any velocity-based discarding interactions built into iOS. I've definitely seen some in some games; while I'm not going to comment on the validity of this patent, it would be a shame if something like this shut down innovation by any number of small shops.

The more I see of this stuff, the more I believe that software and UI patents should not be awarded. Things move too quickly; an idea that's brilliant and innovative today is totally obvious based on changes to the technological landscape tomorrow. I don't know; maybe reduce them to five years instead? The sad thing is that whatever is put in place, someone will try to game the system, and of course, the person with the biggest legal budget wins.

Re:Even More Curiously (3, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778037)

It's the claims that do

And claim 1 states:

when the image is being dragged in response to the location inputs and the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display

2-6 are all variations of 1. Claim 7 states:

when the point being touched is being continually moved and the system detects that the velocity at which the point is moving exceeds a predetermined threshold velocity, the image being continually moved is removed from the screen without leaving any representative thereof on the screen.

8-14 are all variations of 7. 15 states

the computer responding to a continuing touch that moves the image across the touch screen such that when the computer detects that the velocity of the touch exceeds a predetermined threshold

16 and 17 are variations on 15.

If you do not use the velocity of the touch to decide whether something is removed from the screen or not, you do not infringe on the patent as stated. It remains to be seen whether this guy can sucker some jury with a Doctrine of Equivalents story.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

tricorn (199664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778645)

I was thinking about this as I read the claims. Is there a difference between a system that has a velocity threshold that, when exceeded, does something different, and a system that has a velocity threshold that, when not exceeded does something different? Logically, they're the same thing, legally I'm not so sure.

Specifically, the behavior of any reasonable touchscreen behavior that includes dragging at all is that movement below a certain threshold is a touch, not a drag, anything else is a drag, not a touch. In addition, that threshold could be either magnitude or velocity, and probably works better if it isn't velocity anyway.

I haven't seen any Apple products that behave the way the claims are written. Dragging, then releasing while moving, imparts some momentum to the motion, but there's no threshold to that velocity. Dragging something so that part of it (whether part of an object or a frame in a hierarchy, as the patent references) has been around a lot longer than this patent.

Any prior art that allows moving a pane around inside a more limited space would be applicable, and any prior art that has any kind of momentum to scrolling would also, since that's what Apple's products are actually doing.

Whether it's with a mouse, touch interface, trackpad, touchpad, really doesn't make any difference. It's well known in the field ("patently obvious") that such devices are all equivalent in basic behavior, even if some allow different types of modifiers (left and right clicks on a mouse; multi-touch on a touch interface, for example). This patent doesn't go beyond the simple use of a pointing device, and that's been around since the 60's at least, including the idea of dragging versus activating based on movement of the "activated" pointer.

No problem (2)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#39779131)

The patent says it is restricted to "A digital system that may be used by children two years old and older. " All apple has to do is claim iphones are fro people under 2 years old.

Re:Even More Curiously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776797)

"What's curious to me is that this patent was issued in 2005 and Apple began releasing infringing devices with massive publicity and advertising in 2007."

Thanks for clearing it all up, judge.

Re:Even More Curiously (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | about 2 years ago | (#39779285)

On the other hand, it's nice to see Apple getting a taste of its own medicine [slashdot.org] .

It doesn't matter at all. Do you see how much money Apple has? Apple will just settle with the trolls and and never worry again. But then the trolls are gonna start targeting others, e.g. Samsung, Moto, HTC, LG, etc., and it's just gonna crush competitors because they already have a precedent for high settlements. This is a little more problematic for companies that don't have the ridiculous margins that Apple does.

This model just isn't sustainable. I think Apple is as evil as anyone else (full disclosure), but between Apple and patent trolls, you still gotta root for Apple, cause the damage spreads. Get the lawyers the fuck away from the jobs where people actually do things that improve society as a whole... not just their individual selves.

Apple and Professor Patents (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775631)

This worked out so well for Apple the last time a Professor claimed patent infringement:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/05/us/david-gelernter-discusses-patent-claim-against-apple.html

Even though it's against Apple . . . (5, Insightful)

InvisibleClergy (1430277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775709)

...it's lawsuits like these which make me want to get out of programming as a profession.

Re:Even though it's against Apple . . . (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775957)

I know what you mean... I'm close to releasing an app; it's for a niche market and probably small enough to fly under the radar, but I hate the thought of some random asshat coming along to levy a tax on my work, or for some corporation with a competing product to crush me in court. Just because the patent office saw fit to grant a patent for being somewhere first (rather than for hard work leading to a genuine invention), and because I have a 1-click buy button with rounded corners in my app. And yes, as a programmer in someone's employ, this can hurt you too, if the trolls decide to go after the cool startup or struggling innovator you work for.

Way to foster innovation (which was one of the purposes of modern patents).

Re:Even though it's against Apple . . . (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777053)

I think history shows that the large companies will more often purchase a startup than kill it in court. A long court battle is an ongoing, never-ending cost with no guarantee of success. Even when MS was playing evil it was 'embrace, extend, extinguish', not sue out of existence.

Re:Even though it's against Apple . . . (3, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776031)

... and into the legal services industry ?

Yes, I too hate that paper-pushing assholes are harassing every great mind into catatonic, stunting progress at every opportunity and forcing humanity into intellectual stupor.

The problem isn't the practice of law, the problem is money. All this bullshit exists to protect and/or subvert wealth. If it weren't for money, nobody would give a flying fuck about patents and the thrill of creation would be sufficient reward to an inventor.

Seems to me... (4, Insightful)

Sparks23 (412116) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775743)

...that this would affect a lot more than just Apple if upheld. I understand Google's got a small interest in touch-based devices, too, and I seem to recall that Microsoft's considering maybe supporting some of this 'touch' stuff in Windows 8. (Sarcasm tag heavily implied there, which was hopefully clear.)

Seriously, I feel that patents have become sort of like nuclear weaponry; you either try to amass enough weapons in your patent portfolio that the other side won't launch, as with mutually assured destruction between the big companies, or else you get held hostage by patent-troll terrorists who get ahold of a weapon and threaten to take out everything they can unless you pay them. Maybe we need the patent law equivalent of Jack Bauer to deal with patent trolling. :P

Re:Seems to me... (4, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775795)

...that this would affect a lot more than just Apple if upheld.

Yep, it would affect an industrial PC I used circa 1996 with a touch-screen to emulate a mouse. Yep, some things could be dragged around in a standard windows app with that setup. Hmmm I guess touch screens have been infringing this for a while now.

Re:Seems to me... (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775875)

Yup. Every single Tablet made cince 1992 Starting with the Dauphin DTR-1 and all products made by Fujitsu in their stylistic line.

There is more prior art on this than anything else. This guy is about to get pounded hard in the taint by Apple and the Courts.

Re:Seems to me... (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776091)

But he shouldn't just be pounded hard. His lawyer should be disbarred. I'm thinking if you started tossing lawyers, you'd see a lot of less of this, from the big guys as well as the small.

"Sure I'd love to defend your claim to have patented the lead or graphite filled stylus, but you see, I'll be disbarred for fraud and lose my livelihood, so take your pencil and shove it up your ass."

Re:Seems to me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778121)

I disagree. If it's easy to disbar lawyers it's easy to keep people out of the court by making lawyers fear for the safety of their livelihoods. If you're batshit crazy enough (see Jack Thompson) eventually you'll get disbarred, but making that process too easy could really step on justice and the system's ability to evaluate and correct itself.

Re:Seems to me... (5, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776713)

Oh, really? I don't recall any matching the patent's claims:

When... the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display.

In other words, swiping your finger across the display to go to the next page of apps. Note that it is not covering "any touch-sensitive device", or "any device with a dragging mechanism", or any such nonsense. The patent's pretty specific.

The claims are the important part of the patent, not the Slashdot summary.

Re:Seems to me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777451)

My Fujitsu Stylistic 2300 running Windows 95 could do that.

The Fujitsu software loaded on added a ton of very useful features for the pen device.

The pen took AAAA batteries (one size smaller than tripple A) and was a radio transmitter.
There was a button in the tip to click, and a button on the side that when held meant the tip was right-click.

At the bottom of the screen was a drawing of some media controls.
Specifically, if you tapped the left or right arrow, it would adjust the volume. A dot in the middle was mute/unmute.
Then, if you tapped the arrow and flung to the side, it would hit next or previous. Clicking in the mute dot and flinging up was pause.

There was also another app pre-loaded that gave you virtual desktops, and you had to fling with the pen to change those too.

I could have sworn this tablet was released before 1997. His patents claims section seems to be lifted directly out of the Stylistic tablets manual!

Re:Seems to me... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777471)

Do you have an iPhone? Try dragging slowly and releasing. Works just fine. Doesn't appear to have any relation a "threshold velocity". I'm not saying you're wrong; there might be another place where Apple infringes, but if their case is built on the same assertion you've put above, Apple can easily win.

Re:Seems to me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778397)

ios homescreen seems more like a threshold position to me.

Re:Seems to me... (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778759)

No, but I do have a company-issued iPad, which I use rarely. After I posted, I realized that the home screen also has the little dots indicating the current page, so that wouldn't be covered by the patent.

I thought Apple Owned the Rectangular Touchscreen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39775749)

I thought Apple stole the patent for rectangular touch screens for Xerox, and then used its stolen technology to sue its competitors.

I had no idea, that a company as evil and sleazy as Apple actually owned the rectangular touchscreen.

I'm sure that many Apple indoctrinated baristas will defend Apple's evil behavior like some sort of woolly herd.

Whether you live the Apple lifestyle or just have AIDS, there is no denying the impact Apple has had on our lives.

What will it take.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775759)

... for people to realize that patents on ways to accomplish a desired goal, particularly when the goal does not involve manufacturing or processing of any physical goods or materials, are fundamentally a bad idea?

Re:What will it take.... (4, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775881)

When the larger companies realize that they have far more to lose from patents than they have to gain.

I hope this guy takes them for $20 billion.

Re:What will it take.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777981)

That would be ideal. Every large political contr-- oops I mean -- innovator needs to feel threatened by someone who they don't have a MAD relationship with. This is the only way our government will be bribed into patent reform.

Re:What will it take.... (1)

tyrione (134248) | about 2 years ago | (#39779073)

When the larger companies realize that they have far more to lose from patents than they have to gain.

I hope this guy takes them for $20 billion.

He's going to lose.

Re:What will it take.... (3, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776145)

Regardless of application, I feel that all patents are a bad idea. Inventing something gives you an edge over the competition, not just because you're the first to do it, but because you possess intricate knowledge while your competitors are playing catch-up. If that means that a year from now, you will be driven out by market forces, then so be it. The way patents are used today, they artificially inflate prices by forcing producers to enter protectionist contracts, also known as "licensing". You're allowed to produce X widgets at Y price, under Z abusive terms, for the low-low fee of $(X*Y*n) or else we sue you for ($X*Y*2n)^4.

Outside of the IP industry, this is often called racketeering. Instead of breaking your legs and smashing your shop like Little Joe and his thugs, IP trolls use weaponized tomes of law. I think I prefer the thugs, because it's harder to claim self-defense when you kill a gang of lawyers.

As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1, Insightful)

devjoe (88696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775777)

Yet another variation of the popular patent "do something we already know how to do, but on a computer". Now it's "do something we already know how to do on a traditional computer with mouse, but on a touchscreen". It's not like there weren't touchscreens before Apple's products of the last few years. There are even older Apple touchscreens [wikipedia.org] , so old in fact that their patents have expired or are about to do so. The previous generation's touchscreens didn't catch on because the devices were too limited. They've overcome that now.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (3)

smallfries (601545) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775807)

The patent covers something very specific: using the velocity of a swipe across a touchscreen to decide to remove an object / set of objects when a threshold is exceeds. Or in other words flicking / swiping through a collection of things, like the iPhone home screen or cover flow in iTunes. Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"? It's a HCI gesture, not sure how it could be done without a computer...

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1)

egamma (572162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775909)

The patent covers something very specific: using the velocity of a swipe across a touchscreen to decide to remove an object / set of objects when a threshold is exceeds. Or in other words flicking / swiping through a collection of things, like the iPhone home screen or cover flow in iTunes. Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"? It's a HCI gesture, not sure how it could be done without a computer...

You mean, like flipping through a book, you know, the ones made of dead trees? Moving a page out of the way to make the next one visible?

Or, for that matter, like my dog attacking the toilet-paper holder, unrolling it onto the floor.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775981)

You mean like "Removing a photo briskly off a table using your finger tips, but on a computer"? ;-)

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (3, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776009)

Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"?

Because it's obvious to the first engineer who actually encounters the problem in the course of day-to-day work. Consider the Apple swipe-to-unlock patent, or Amazon's patnet on one-click purchasing. The only "innovation" in either case was the original idea... and you're not supposed to be able to claim ideas. The actual teachings of those patents are obvious to any undergraduate compsci student or interested amateur, much less someone skilled in the art.

I haven't read the claims, but this patent sounds very similar. If the summary is accurate, then it is a typical USPTO rubber-stamp job... a patent on an idea, written to cover all practical implementations of said idea. Nobody wins but the lawyers when such patents are issued... and gee whiz, look who runs the country.

IMHO successful patent prosecutions should be based on the plaintiff's ability to show willful infringement. Otherwise, patents are literally a (civil) instance of thoughtcrime.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776801)

Also, what is the point of a touch-screen, if not to manipulate on-screen elements? Put's it in the obvious category.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776993)

Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"?

Because it's obvious to the first engineer who actually encounters the problem in the course of day-to-day work. Consider the Apple swipe-to-unlock patent, or Amazon's patnet on one-click purchasing. The only "innovation" in either case was the original idea... and you're not supposed to be able to claim ideas.

You do know that neither of those patents actually claimed "swipe-to-unlock" or "one-click purchasing," right? They claim very specific implementations, which is why even with Oreilly throwing a $10,000 bounty at it, he couldn't knock down the One-Click patent.

I haven't read the claims, but this patent sounds very similar. If the summary is accurate...

All three of those phrases indicate your error.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777313)

Then why has no one else been able to implement one-click purchasing?

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (3, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777375)

Actually, the only mistake I appear to have made was in crediting Apple with the swipe-to-unlock patent. It seems the truth is more complicated. [dailytech.com]

Read that article and the associated claims, and tell me how, in your professional opinion as a patent attorney, the "progress of science and the useful arts" was advanced when the USPTO granted a 20-year monopoly on all likely implementations of the slide-to-unlock gesture.

This oughtta be good.

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776249)

throwing things across the screen with your mouse... or even off your screen is something I have seen quite a bit of. Why is a touch screen different? Particularly for a single touch gesture?

Re:As if there were no touchscreens before Apple's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778415)

Claim 1 (end bit) "when the image is being dragged in response to the location inputs and the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display."
(Similar things in claims 7 and 15)

You need to lift your finger to flick between home screens. Nothing in the claim about lifting your finger, just moving above a velocity threshold

pretty lame UI patent (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775779)

Obviously he isn't claiming to have invented a touchscreen, since that long predates him. He presumably can't be patenting the idea of "using a touchscreen by touching it" in general, because that's the only way you can use one. Instead it seems to be an enumeration of lots of ways you can drag your finger along a touchscreen and produce UI events: it can move objects, it can produce zoom events, it can cause objects to disappear, to be replaced by other objects, whatever.

My first reaction would be that this is a pretty obvious enumeration of things you can do with a touchscreen. But since courts seem to have a strange definition of what would be obvious to a person skilled in the art, a better angle might be to ask: is there video or discussion of someone using a touchscreen for manipulating objects on a screen prior to 1997? It seems the answer must be yes, but I can't find a smoking gun. By manipulating objects I mean dragging/panning/zooming, not interfacing with a "normal" GUI like touching buttons with your finger.

Re:pretty lame UI patent (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775973)

windows did all of that in WFW3.11 for pen computing.

": is there video or discussion of someone using a touchscreen for manipulating objects on a screen prior to 1997? It seems the answer must be yes, but I can't find a smoking gun"

Look up any of the early tablets. There are several that pre date 1997.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_for_Pen_Computing [wikipedia.org]

1991-1995 That pretty much is a giant smoking gun of "prior art"

Re:pretty lame UI patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776877)

I am sure intergraph has something that dates back to the early 70's for their cad products.

1997? Bah! (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775813)

The Divinyls claim prior art from 1991.

Re:1997? Bah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776197)

In fairness, the Divinyls were all about touching myself, not touching an interactive computer display.

Prior art: 1990 (5, Informative)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775883)

I was a programmer for the "Earth Over Time" interactive videodisc in 1990. Produced by Digital Techniques Inc., of Burlington Massachusetts for the Interactive Video Science Consortium, the system was designed primarily for school-age children, and installed in dozens of museums worldwide including the National Geographic in Washington DC. Earth Over Time featured a touchscreen display of Continents which the user could "click and drag" to re-assemble Pangaea, the prehistoric proto-continent. This multimedia application (called an "interactive videodisc" in the days before "multimedia" was a common word) won several awards including an ITVA Golden Reel and the Best Overall Achievement Nebraska Interactive Videodisc award in 1990. I also have implementation notes from the project in my files.

Re:Prior art: 1990 (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776743)

I was a programmer for the "Earth Over Time" interactive videodisc in 1990. Produced by Digital Techniques Inc., of Burlington Massachusetts for the Interactive Video Science Consortium, the system was designed primarily for school-age children, and installed in dozens of museums worldwide including the National Geographic in Washington DC. Earth Over Time featured a touchscreen display of Continents which the user could "click and drag" to re-assemble Pangaea, the prehistoric proto-continent. This multimedia application (called an "interactive videodisc" in the days before "multimedia" was a common word) won several awards including an ITVA Golden Reel and the Best Overall Achievement Nebraska Interactive Videodisc award in 1990. I also have implementation notes from the project in my files.

What about the movie Die Hard(1988)? He used a touch display in that to find which office his wife worked in so they were using touch displays that far back.

Re:Prior art: 1990 (2)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39777887)

Right, but the "Continents on the Move" section of "Earth Over Time" was specifically about a system for children that contained touch-screen dragging-and-moving, and knowing when to remove or "dock" an item.

Re:Prior art: 1990 (1)

rossjudson (97786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39778911)

Nice prior art. I poked around and found http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/bpia2314.pdf, which describes pen-based gestures including drag-and-drop. I'm sure there are many more. The conceptual distance between pen and single-touch is very small.

Ready, set, TROLL (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39775941)

Here we go, the patent troll merry-go-round...

In the patent wars.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776049)

...the only winning move is not to play. /would you like a nice game of chess?

Prior Art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776067)

We had touch screens back in the 80's. Granted, it was breaking a lightbeam rather than capacitive, but still the same concept. We had mice moving things around on screen about the same time, if not earlier. Remember NeXTStep? Or the original Macs? Amigas?

This guy's not going to succeed unless it's cheaper for Apple to pay him off than to pay their lawyers.

Nothing to see here. Just another greedy bastard.

Just an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776087)

The original idea for patents was to protect the creators idea from being infringed upon. How about if you get a patent, you have 2 years to deliver the product that meets or exceeds while including the patent explanation that you own. At two years, you can then renew the patent for the additional 5 years to make the complete 7 years. This would clear the patent squaters from coming up with ideas, waiting for someone else to make said product, and then just suing for someone else's money.

As much as /. hates Apple, it was Apple that spent their money on R&D and came up with the ability to have 'swipe actions' on a phone/music player/table. Think of how you would hate to come up with a product (of any sorts), make some cash and they some slacker files suit to get your money by using some vague description on a patent.

For those that disagree, go file a patent for a ship that holds personnel and will travel 1000 miles past the earth's atmosphere; or how about a patent for a seat that holds non-astronauts while ascending into space. We know the future is going to going to need these, why not patent them so you can leech off of other companies work in the future?

Normally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776105)

I'd say fuck Apple, and good, they're getting done as they've done to others. But in this case, the guy seems to want to claim to have patented the touchscreen interface, and that will have an impact that reaches far further than just Apple, if this insanity is allowed.

So here's an idea: if you have a patent, and someone produces a product that seems to infringe that has become so ubiquitous and well known, that people no longer use the words "MP3 Player" to describe a music playing IC device, they just call it an iPod, whether or not it's even from Apple, the same way as any self-adhesive bandage is generally known, at least in the US, as a Band-Aid, (even if not manufactured by J&J, and therefore NOT a Band-Aid...), then you have ONE year to pursue C&D or damages, etc., in court, after which, your patent is null and void.

Because... this is complete bullshit. Even with Karma making it a case against Apple... too bad. This guy is obviously a tech-parasite.

Prior Art? (1, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776181)

Apple Newton, 1993 [wikipedia.org] .

Doesn't it count as prior art? Not to mention all the other touch devices that had been available before the Newton.

Stealing? (-1, Redundant)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776277)

It's about time Apple started innovating instead of stealing the hard work and research of other companies. You know...what they accused Android of doing!

Re:Stealing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776907)

ATG...
A lot of the stuff you are seeing now came from that department back in the 1980's.

Prior art to"throw away" items on touchscreen? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776439)

(Std. disclaimer: I am a registered patent attorney, but I'm not your attorney. If you need legal advice, find an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.)

The independent claims of this patent appear to focus on touching an item on the screen and "throwing it away" by moving it fast. Despite the hyperbole in other comments here, it doesn't claim all touchscreen systems.

Can anyone think of a system that allowed deleting items from a touchscreen by "throwing them away" before June 12, 1997?

M.I.T. called, and they want their royalty check (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776537)

Hello? Yes, this is the Office of Licensing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You might have heard of us? Yes, that M.I.T., professor. It has come to our attention that your patent 6920619 is based on Intellectual Property that is the undisputed creation of this Institute.

Yes, that is correct. No, I'm sorry, but your pathetic attempt to rip off the "Put That.. There" project has not escaped our voracious I.P. monetizing department. Yes, I realize you obtained a patent in 1997 for this. It's not our fault that both yourself and the Patent Office failed to make note of the P..T..T project, which has continuously been a research project here since 1979, generating over three dozen major peer-reviewed papers and at least four PhD thesis.

No, we don't take "I didn't know" as valid remuneration. We do take Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AmericanExpress, Diner's Club, and other credit cards. The entire contents of your bank account will also be a start.

Yes, you plagiarizing twit, your Patent is invalid. Yes, we have a lot more lawyers than you (we get them from Harvard, at wholesale prices). Yes, you owe us for copyright infringement, too, since your interface design (as documented in the patent submission) is a direct copy of the 1990s work in P..T..T , and U.I. and industrial design is copyrightable (big shout out to Apple, there!).

We await payment in the sum of a mid-size country's G.D.P., and no, we don't take first-born children. That would be Harvard.

End-of-line.

Re:M.I.T. called, and they want their royalty chec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777265)

lolz, whats your patent number?
End-of-line.

Troll predated. (0)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776597)

I have prior art that predates the Professor by more than a decade. Case over. The troll needs to go back under his bridge.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/butchershop [sugarmtnfarm.com]

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm [kickstarter.com]

So now we know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39776621)

...patent trolls live under a stone, coming out every ten years or so.

Apples corrupts me (1)

Petbe (1790948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776757)

I think deep down, really deep down. I sort of wish that Apple fails to defend against this lawsuit. I am just so sick and tired of seeing the lawsuits spew from Apple with no real repercussions while still able to stand on the high ground and look down on people who dare to accuse them of infringing on patents. It disgusts me and honestly, I fear for any future where the everyday man can't even consider developing an item or the next big thing for it most likely will infringe on some random patent down the line.

How to write a patent story for Slashdot (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39776803)

1. Find some obscure patent for doing X with Y using Z.
2. Post a story titled "company/person patents doing X!!!".
3. Commenters scramble to write their own post listing the obvious prior art for X without reading the article, and therefore finding out about Y or Z.
4. Fetch the popcorn and watch the page hits grow.
5. PROFIT!

Newton (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777411)

Apple's Newton. Suck my Message Pad dick.

I'm really conflicted on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39777485)

on the one hand, I really wish Apple would be taken down a notch, thanks to a dose of their own medicine with this - on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of patent trolling I abhor...

This is a patent troll like any other. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39778617)

Patents need 3 things to be valid:
1 - Be an invention. ( not an idea, or a theory)
2 - Be something that a professional in its field of work will not duplicate will little effort. ( ie, not something that is obvious. )
3 - Be something that wasn't already invented. ( prior art )

This is just a remake of a mouse motion. There is nothing new in it. ( the touch screen is an invention, not its usage)
Any one working in making a GUI can come up with this. It is in the nature of the GUI itself.
Finally: There is prior arts.

Also: but I could be wrong:

-Patent have 20 years life span. Period. "FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims", That alone is totally against patent laws.

-Patent are effective from the day they are filled ( 1997 ) and must be delivered in the next 3 years. So... Filled in 1997... given in 2005? sued in 2012? There is 5 years worth left to this patent.

-I heard, but not sure, that the US actually placed a law that limited to 3 years the time frame to sue for violation. This was to prevent submarine patent from being exploited. We are 2 years off this limit.

In short, this is a single example of doing EVERYTHING wrong.

I'm curious to see how this will be handled by the courts. Like a circus? It seems to be the norm lately.

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