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Microsoft Patents "Cartoon Face Generation"

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the return-of-jerkcity dept.

Microsoft 117

theodp writes "The latest round of patents granted by the USPTO included one for Cartoon Face Generation, an invention which Microsoft explains 'generates an attractive cartoon face or graphic of a user's facial image'. Microsoft adds, 'The style of cartoon face achieved resembles the likeness of the user more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques. The cartoon faces thus achieved provide an attractive facial appearance and thus have wide applicability in art, gaming, and messaging applications in which a pleasing degree of realism is desirable without exaggerated comedy or caricature.' A Microsoft Research Face SDK Beta is available. Hey, too bad Microsoft didn't have this technology when they generated Bob from Ralphie!"

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Cartoon Face Generation (0)

Steve Ka (2922929) | about a year ago | (#43717939)

This actually seems like a worthwhile invention. It if creates cool looking cartoon faces theres many uses for them, like on forums and Skype.

I also noticed that this patent is actually filed by Microsoft China. They're probably using these on their social sites.

Anyone have a link to where we could test the technology? Interesting tech from Microsoft, I must say.

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43717981)

Yeah, like that hasn't already been done by Anime Studio?

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (3, Informative)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year ago | (#43718029)

I don't have the link for MS tech but if you surf long enough you'll find some others already offering to make your avatar photo cartoonish with a pretty animated demo.

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (4, Informative)

Jaysyn (203771) | about a year ago | (#43718155)

Burger King did this via a website with the Simpson's years ago. It was called SimpsonizeMe or something like that. Also, the Wii U does it now to create Mii's.

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43719883)

Is there anything The Simpsons didn't do first?

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (4, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | about a year ago | (#43718351)

I remember people doing something like this back in about 1990 using very similar techniques - locating the nostrils, the eyes, the curve of the mouth to generate a real-time animation. Back then, this allowed people to transmit a cartoon over the existing phone network, allowing the deaf to lip-read. Back then, this was a clever idea.

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718113)

This actually seems like a worthwhile invention.

Sadly, like most recent Microsoft "innovations", it's a copy of other people's work being patented in an effort to block competition (likely including the original developers) and/or extort money from people with a real product.

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/11-sites-to-create-cartoon-characters-of-yourself/ [hongkiat.com]

Re:Cartoon Face Generation (2)

Meeni (1815694) | about a year ago | (#43719887)

So, now, mathematics are patentable.

Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43717979)

Rotoscoping : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotoscoping
See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waking_Life

Re:Prior art (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718043)

Has the definition of prior art changed? otherwise how are you claiming these completely different techniques are prior art? from my search of definition it is still "constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality.".

Re:Prior art (4, Informative)

unrtst (777550) | about a year ago | (#43718179)

I guess you didn't actually read the reference pages you berating. From the Rotoscoping wikipedia page:

In the mid-1990s, Bob Sabiston, an animator and computer scientist veteran of the MIT Media Lab, developed a computer-assisted "interpolated rotoscoping" process which he used to make his award-winning short film "Snack and Drink". Director Richard Linklater subsequently employed Sabiston's artistry and his proprietary Rotoshop software in the full-length feature films Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).[7] Linklater licensed the same proprietary rotoscoping process for the look of both films. Linklater is the first director to use digital rotoscoping to create an entire feature film. Additionally, a 2005–08 advertising campaign by Charles Schwab uses Sabiston's rotoscoping work for a series of television spots, under the tagline "Talk to Chuck".

So, even though Rotoscoping was first a manual technique done in 1915 and patented in 1917 (tracing live action frames that are projected onto the back of a frosted glass panel), that process moved to using a computer, and then was automated within the Rotoshop software.

There's even a patent from 1994 mentioned: US Patent 6,061,462 http://www.google.com/patents?vid=6061462 [google.com] for a digital rotoscoping process (that's a separate work from the Rotoshop software).

These may all be listed in Microsoft's patent - I haven't read it - but they certainly seem related, if not prior art.

Re:Prior art (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718189)

It's only prior art if they did things the same way. God help us if the USPTO's standard of an invention becomes "does the same thing as something else".

Re:Prior art (3, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43718271)

Unfortunately, that's what most software patents seem to be like. Look at the ridiculous 'rubber-band' effect for indicating you've reached the end of scrolling in iOS. The patent office approved it and I believe ruled against Samsung in using it. I can almost guarantee the code used to implement it was not the same. That is patenting the idea, not the implementation. The same goes for most other examples of software patents. You can't work around them by doing something differently, you must actually do something different, or so it would appear.

Re:Prior art (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718279)

Indeed, it's disgraceful which software patents have been approved. That is an issue. If MS have generated a new algorithm in this case then that should, in principle, be patentable. And if the algorithm is described previously elsewhere, it shouldn't be.

Re:Prior art (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43718297)

I was also under the impression specific algorithms were not actually patentable.

Re:Prior art (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718399)

I mean algorithm in the more general sense here of a process by which something is done. That was a poor choice on my part. (Yes, I'm the kind of nerd who would describe his process for sorting socks as an algorithm.)

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718507)

Realising that there's no improvement in performance between sorted and unsorted socks, and skip the step because it's a pointless timesink?

Re:Prior art (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43719139)

I find I get better performance appraisals if I don't go to work with one of my 'Wicked Witch of the West' socks and one of my sparkly gold ones.

Re:Prior art (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43719457)

Owing to laziness and slow turnover I own about fifteen brands of socks, all of which have different thicknesses. If I don't match them up, I walk lop-sided.

Re:Prior art (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43720701)

Inneficiency is the enemy of laziness. It doesn't take very long at all to make sure new purchases match your existing sock stockpile, you probably use more time every week seeking out matching socks than it would have taken to just buy same-brand socks. Your application for a Laziness merit badge is hearby DENIED.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718327)

Patents cover the idea, copyright covers the implementation.

That's the way it is for software patents. If patents covered the implementation, we wouldn't be arguing about software patents, because they would be the same as copyright, only for a shorter time.

Re:Prior art (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43720875)

NO. No, no, no. Ideas are *explicitly* barred from being patentable in the US constitution, along with mathematics, in either case the chilling effect on innovation was deemed far greater than the benefits it might provide. Remember patents and copyright explicitly exist to benefit society, the benefit to the creator is simply the carrot dangled to incentivize them to create.

It's the specific design that can be patented - in physical objects that corresponds roughly to blueprints+description, the implementation (metal, plastic, etc) is irrelevant unless stated. If we were being consistent then in software it would be something like pseudocode instead of blueprints, and the patent would extend to any language-specific implementation of that design. Of course two things would then become immediately obvious in almost all software patents:
(1) the proces is mathematical, and hence ineligible for patent protection
(2) Due to the flexibility of software development it's trivially easy to design around almost any specific design to yield the same results. (plenty of physical-device inventors get shafted by the same problem, but there are generally far fewer physical variations possible so an inventor has at least a hope of listing all the major ones in his patent.)

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718337)

I think it's sad that it isn't. This, like most patents, isn't innovative at all.

Besides, how ridiculous would it be if you could patent a method of doing something that's a bit different than other methods of doing the same thing? That's ridiculous; it shouldn't be allowed.

Re:Prior art (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718395)

So you shouldn't be allowed to patent, say, a car that does one trillion miles to the gallon, or is made out of four pounds of plastic, because at the end of the day it does the same thing?

Re:Prior art (1, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43718667)

No, you shouldn't, because that's not an invention to be patented. The car already exists as prior art. You would patent the engine design used to make it so efficient. You would patent the material composition or internal cellular structure used to make it so light yet sufficiently strong. You would patent any special, novel manufacturing techniques used to produce either of those. The car manufactured using those patents is covered under copyright, or potentially trademark.

Re:Prior art (1)

Code Yanker (2359188) | about a year ago | (#43719933)

Actually, that isn't quite right. The patent itself would cover the entire business case to be made for such an invention, that is the whole car, or any possible way in which the engine might be used.

The INDEPENDENT CLAIMS in the patent would include all of the things you listed. A solid, enforceable patent will have independent claims specific enough to exclude as much prior art as possible, but that doesn't mean any prior art would invalidate the patent. Your super efficient engine design, for example, could include components like a fuel injector that people have been putting into engine designs for decades, but that doesn't mean it isn't patentable. Your patent should at least reference the prior art, however.

Here is where lawyers like to get general. A super efficient engine is novel, but it is a useless novelty, unless you put it into a machine, such as a car, that performs a useful function. That is where DEPENDENT CLAIMS come into play. You want your dependent claims to be big, broad, sweeping and general to cover as many business cases as possible. This process invariably invokes big giant buckets of prior art. All of which you need to reference, of course.

I think it is high time for /. to stop cherry-picking lawyer-speak from patent applications. If your invention builds off of previous inventions, like all inventions do, and the patent application is written correctly, then there is always going to be some set of broad, sweeping claims which, when quoted, will send the comment section into a rantfest.

Re:Prior art (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#43721665)

Correction, you would patent the PROCESS of how to make the material composition or internal cellular structure. Cant patent the actual material.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718413)

I read it just fine. The same result doesn't constitute prior art when the process is what they are patenting and the processes are different. Perhaps you should learn what prior art means.

Mii (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718003)

My Wii U already does this, it creates Mii's from images taken with the controller camera. Mii's are ofcourse very basic.

"The style of cartoon face achieved resembles the likeness of the user more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques."
Does this mean another company can make a new patent for slightly more realistic "cartoon face generation", or am i reading this wrong?

I understand these are kinda different things, just wondering.

Re:Mii (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718169)

It doesn't even have to be more or less realistic, so long as it uses a different approach. The text about realism is to establish what their invention is supposed to accomplish, which is important in establishing that something is worth a patent in the first place but not part of their legal power.

total bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718033)

this exists as prior art, this patent is completely invalid

Re:total bullshit (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about a year ago | (#43718305)

The patent isn't on automatic generation of the caricatures, it's on their particular algorithm for doing so.

-jcr

...on a computer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718059)

Well, $SUBJECT says it all, really.

Sigh. When will those plagues disappear.

Re:...on a computer. (5, Insightful)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | about a year ago | (#43718477)

They're not patenting the entire concept of "cartoon face generation", just a particular approach to the problem that they worked on. Read the patent - they even refer to almost three dozen existing papers on the subject, so they're certainly not pretending to have invented the entire field. MS Research's algorithm tends to produce results that are recognisable and flattering at the same time, which I imagine they could find very useful for XBox Live.

I think the real problem here is the misleading "X patents Y" headings used on Slashdot to alarm people.

For Windows Phone only (4, Interesting)

raburton (1281780) | about a year ago | (#43718069)

Before you waste your time downloading the SDK note that it is for windows phone 7 only. I know they did sell a few, but I've never met anyone who bought one.

Re:For Windows Phone only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43719329)

Before you waste your time downloading the SDK note that it is for windows phone 7 only. I know they did sell a few, but I've never met anyone who bought one.

Sounds to me like they now have a reason to!

Re:For Windows Phone only (1)

laughingskeptic (1004414) | about a year ago | (#43721657)

Microsoft also provides some nice face recognition software via their Windows Live Essentials package which does work on Windows. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/essentials-home [microsoft.com] The face recognition code stores all of its state in a couple of SQLLite databases which makes it very easy to hack and integrate despite the complete lack of documentation.

Avatars and those boxes in service stations (1)

JSurguy (85240) | about a year ago | (#43718073)

I am sure I have seen those "photographic" type booths in service stations that do cartoony caricatures of people - are these not prior art? and what about avatars for forums - does Microsoft now own the patent on these? What about services like befunky? http://www.befunky.com are they now going to have to pay MS a license fee for continuing to provide services?
 

Re:Avatars and those boxes in service stations (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718181)

Funnily enough all those wavy characters underneath the title of the patent are a text - in the English language, no less - which describes what has actually been patented. The title is... well, it's the title. It doesn't actually define the patent.

Re:Avatars and those boxes in service stations (1)

JSurguy (85240) | about a year ago | (#43721611)

My apologies - I am not well versed with the US patent process but I thought that the detailed description saying:

"Described herein are systems and methods for cartoon face generation. In one implementation, an exemplary system generates a cartoon face from an original image, such as a photo that portrays a user's face. The style of cartoon face resembles the likeness of the person portrayed in the original photo more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques. The cartoon faces thus achieved render an attractive facial appearance and thus have wide applicability in art, gaming, and messaging applications in which a cartoon, avatar, or action figure is desired that captures the user's appearance with a pleasing degree of realism but without exaggerated comedy or caricature. For example, a user can insert a cartoon or graphic of the user's own face into a game or an instant messaging forum. The exemplary system achieves pleasing cartoon faces by applying pixel-based methods separately to some parts of the cartooning process. "

pretty much described a method of generating a cartoon image from a picture - hence the suggestion of prior art.

Microsoft Research (0, Troll)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#43718081)

So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do and enjoys very much, Microsoft wants to automate this "task" away from you so you can do what? Have a good time with Excel instead?

It's just like the horror that is Microsoft Song Smith [microsoft.com] , where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music" by letting a computer generate tunes instead. It's just stupid. It has no application. It leads to nothing. I'm not against fundamental research or anything, but this sort of nonsense is really just wasting the time of everyone involved.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718133)

So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do and enjoys very much

I can honestly say I don't know anyone who "very much" likes drawing cartoon faces. But then again, I'm not 12.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43719065)

So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do and enjoys very much

I can honestly say I don't know anyone who "very much" likes drawing cartoon faces. But then again, I'm not 12.

As I agree 100% with you, I actually at that point was convinced OP was being ironic, but rest of the post didn't seem to be.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718163)

Presumably it's so that the next-generation Kinect will be able to assemble user avatar faces automatically using its camera. Trying to assemble a good face using sliders and decals, as in current implementations on the Wii and Xbox, is a pain in the arse, so having it knock together a reasonable starting point using 3D scanning and face recognition would be nice..

Doesn't the 3DS already do this, in fact?

Obligatory: this gives MS a patent on an approach to cartoon face generation, not the entire idea. I've not read the claims so they could all be obvious, previously existing and unpatentable waffle but it history suggests we'll have a raft of comments about "blah blah did this already" without reading the patent.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43718423)

Obligatory: this gives MS a patent on an approach to cartoon face generation, not the entire idea. I've not read the claims so they could all be obvious, previously existing and unpatentable waffle but it history suggests we'll have a raft of comments about "blah blah did this already" without reading the patent.

In theory you're right. In reality, patents are so broadly written that they actually do cover the entire idea.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718485)

They tend to have dozens of claims. Some are so ridiculously broad that nobody on Earth expects them to hold up, to so incredibly narrow that it would be difficult to infringe on the patent on purpose. The theory being if they're granular enough, then they must have the sweet spot claims in there somewhere.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43718699)

They can't cover the idea because the idea has already been implemented multiple times before through other mechanisms. There is not only prior art, there is patented prior art. All they can do is patent their implementation of that concept, in however broad of language they can.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Aggrajag (716041) | about a year ago | (#43718175)

I haven't learned how to draw in 40 years and I certainly do not enjoy drawing.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#43718819)

Perhaps you should start to learn. You might enjoy it.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718177)

I'm not against fundamental research or anything, but this sort of nonsense is really just wasting the time of everyone involved.

QOTD: Nonsense and beauty have close connections. -- E.M. Forster

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#43718197)

Yeah, just like there's a thin line between crazy and genius. Doesn't make every crazy person a genius though, just like there is very little beauty involved with these Microsoft Research projects. I'm sure they do plenty of awesome stuff, but I don't think the notion of automating creative processes can lead to anything good.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43718231)

You will of course let me know when they patent the "Face Palm"

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718235)

Isn't Song Smith an extensions of the kind of DirectMusic research that gave us videogame soundtracks that respond to the current action? That's been pretty useful.

Just because you see a cute consumer-facing endpoint that you don't find useful doesn't mean the entire project was "automate composing music".

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#43718287)

Adaptive music in video games has absolutely nothing to do with what Song Smith attempts to do. This is Song Smith's algorithm: it analyses a melody (recorded by voice), then does a bad guess at the suggested tonal scale and harmonies (which is basically impossible to get right, because the data just isn't there) and then uses these guesses to accompany your singing with chords, played by a cheap sounding midi rhythm machine. The result can barely be called music at all and is completely unrelated to anything that happens during the actual process of creating music.

Now I'm somewhat of a fundamentalist on this subject, as I believe that any from of generative music is a mistake. In my opinion music, like any art form, is about communicating ideas. They have to be from one human to the next, by definition. Just like animals or plants, a computer doesn't have ideas it can communicate, therefore it is unable to ever create music. It might, at best, automate the task of creating variations of human compositions. That might be somewhat useful as long as a human is in control. But as the human factor decreases, the result will move away from music and toward random sound. And even if you like listening to Yoko Ono, sound does not equal music.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718391)

I would argue that whoever creates the music generation system is the one doing the expression in this instance, inasmuch as the design of the algorithm is determined by the author's sense of what is musical. Is this really any less expressive in principle than any other piece of algorithmic art?

I don't think we have to worry about algorithmic music taking over creative expression at any rate. By necessity, if the prevalence of such a system caused an objectionable reduction in expression in music, non-generative music genres would become more popular amoungst musicians and listeners.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about a year ago | (#43718539)

Songsmith is just a cheap ($30) little program obviously aimed at the casual or party game market to allow people to experience what it is like to be a singer with a backing group. It is not intended for serious use or to replace real musicians. If that had been the intention then they would have priced it much higher to compete with Band-in-a-box [pgmusic.com] .

Similarly, this cartoon drawing system is not part of some plot to put real artists out of work. It is designed to incorporate stylised caricatures within games or for generating avatars.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718565)

Also, adaptive music in games existed long before DirectMusic. DirectMusic aimed to, among other thing, be a convenient API for adding adaptive elements to music, but did not invent the concept.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43719525)

Nobody said it did.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

kav2k (1545689) | about a year ago | (#43718295)

where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music"

[citation needed], I can't find this line anywhere.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#43719095)

So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do...

Not everyone can draw a plausible caricature of themselves. Try it sometime.

Long time back, Microsoft Research China released an IM client for low bandwidth video chat at dial-up speeds. (less than a 15K modem)

It's just like the horror that is Microsoft Song Smith, where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music" by letting a computer generate tunes instead.

Not stupid at all.

The most obvious practical application would be in video games, where synching art, animation, music, audio and visual effects to the player's actions without odd incongruities and obvious repetition is a major problem and expense.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

fatmonkeyboy (257833) | about a year ago | (#43719439)

(1) Not everyone can draw a cartoon version of themselves that would be aesthetically pleasing.

(2) They animate the face to match captured motion.

Now, granted, for (2) they could instead analyze a cartoon face drawn by a human and figure out how to animate it...but I'm guessing you would think THAT was a waste of time as well.

I used to work in creating educational software. Having this technology would have been a boon for some of the stuff we were planning.

You sure are down on what, I think, are interesting research projects. I don't think anyone could have ever been under the impression that Song Smith would or was intended to replace actual composers.

Re:Microsoft Research (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#43720163)

I'm genuinely interested: how could these sort of research projects be of any help at all with anything? Isn't it this simple: if you want a drawing but can't draw one, hire an artist. If you want music but can't make music, get a musician. It's not expensive nor complicated to get some help from an expert on these things.

Software as a tool to empower people who create is great, but software that actually generates creative content itself is completely useless in my opinion.

Re:Microsoft Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43722447)

Oh my god, please kill yourself! At least you've been appropriately modded as a troll. Some faith in Slashdot has been restored. I take it you've never used an oil-painting filter in Photoshop. Yes, you trolling asshole, you could hire a faggot with a canvas and paint to make an oil painting of an existing image, spend lots of time and money in doing so, and I'm SURE you'd be happy with that because, after all, it isn't made by Microsoft. Might I also add that I doubt you have a single shred of creativity in your pathetic life. I'll be keeping tabs on you, sad, pathetic, disgusting troll.

My Wii U already does (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718087)

My Wii U already does the cartoon face from a photo. My Mii is generated using it.

Hold your horses (1)

MinamataHG (2621917) | about a year ago | (#43718093)

Microsoft patented the technique. Now, clam down...

Re:Hold your horses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718161)

Too bad. Poor idiots didn't even bother checking for prior art. I have Android app 'Cartoon Camera' for exactly that - for several months at least.
So, they are stealing from somebody else again. This is very M$, though.

Re:Hold your horses (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718167)

Setting aside everything that's wrong with patents for a moment, they don't get a patent on everything that can be described by the patent's title. They get a patent on the specific things they describe in the text.

Re:Hold your horses (1)

SuperAlgae (953330) | about a year ago | (#43718211)

From looking at the patent, the problem is it appears to be a pretty status-quo technique with only arbitrary differences from what anyone else might do. If anything there is really innovative, I'd like someone to point out what it is. To be fair, this article says less about Microsoft and more about the patent office's low bar for granting patents.

I understand that the patent office has limited resources and a lot of requests, but we cannot continue to depend on the court system to sort out what is novel and what isn't. For one, the courts are really bad at it with inconsistent results at best. Also, waiting for courts to resolve the matter does not prevent companies with lots of lawyers from using bogus patents to threaten and extort. Even if a patent is meaningless, smaller players cannot afford the legal battle.

The burden should really be on the patent submitter to point out exactly what is so innovative as do deserve a government enforced monopoly over the approach. If the patent is 90% mundane details, it should not be the job of the patent office to pick out what is worthwhile. If the submitter cannot make a concise and convincing argument, then they don't deserve a patent.

Re:Hold your horses (1)

kav2k (1545689) | about a year ago | (#43718303)

The burden should really be on the patent submitter to point out exactly what is so innovative as do deserve a government enforced monopoly over the approach. If the patent is 90% mundane details, it should not be the job of the patent office to pick out what is worthwhile. If the submitter cannot make a concise and convincing argument, then they don't deserve a patent.

Then it falls back to the patent office to pick out which arguments are convincing, which is a pretty much similar task.

Re:Hold your horses (1)

SuperAlgae (953330) | about a year ago | (#43719277)

The point is to get the scale of the task more manageable. There are already ways for the public to make arguments against patents (though I'm sure there's room for improvement), but when the burden is on the reviewers (whether in the patent office or outside) to counter every piece of fluff in the application, it becomes a huge task. I suggest something like this...

The submitter is required to highlight what they consider to be innovative aspects of the patent with the most novel listed first. They get only a few lines (maybe 500 characters) to describe each of these "assertions". An assertion can reference details in the patent body, but the core argument must be brief and clear.

A reviewer can then start at the top of the list to review the asserted innovations. Once the patent office (considering input from the public) strikes down two assertions in the list, every assertion after the second rejection is implicitly rejected. All rejected assertions become like prior art for use in evaluating future patent applications.

Realistic cartoon face (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#43718117)

How about just using a photograph instead?

Re:Realistic cartoon face (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718255)

Hey, stop giving them patent ideas!

Sooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718151)

We all have to glue animal masks onto our faces, stop talking (except off-screen on the phone) and become psychopathic drug-fuelled Russian-born Mancunian hitmen/ Triad bosses/ porn stars?

I can live with that.

Re:Sooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718199)

Sounds Ideal

3DS and Wii U (3, Interesting)

Psyborgue (699890) | about a year ago | (#43718191)

Already do this. The device takes a picture through it's front facing camera and automatically generates a "Mii" with similar features. I'm sure somebody else can find similar software that did this even before.

Yet another Microsoft Music Studio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718251)

(When Microsoft killed the Beatles.)

Re:Yet another Microsoft Music Studio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718877)

((except for Paul, John and George who were already dead))

I think the link says it all... (4, Funny)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#43718357)

'generates an attractive cartoon face OR graphic of a user's facial image'

So it can either be attractive OR look like you.

Re:I think the link says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718853)

So it can either be attractive OR look like you.

I'm a forty-two year old geek. You think I didn't know this?

Re:I think the link says it all... (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about a year ago | (#43718963)

My first thought was - well at least I am still free to generate an UNattractive cartoon face based on my own image.

Re:I think the link says it all... (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | about a year ago | (#43719373)

So it can either be attractive OR look like you.

If they said 'XOR' I'd see you're point, but they didn't. It's obviously a logical OR, not a colloquial one.

Re:I think the link says it all... (1)

flatt (513465) | about a year ago | (#43721503)

Clippy: Would you like help generating an attractive cartoon face for yourself? [Yes]
Attempting to generate an attractive cartoon face...
Error 7923: Damn, you ugly.
[BSoD]

I have to ask this... (1)

jonr (1130) | about a year ago | (#43718367)

Now, I admit I can't be bothered to actually read the patent, but does it describe the algorithms for the method? Or is it just like the linked picture? (Photograph->"magic box"->cartoon picture)

I surely hope not, because then the patent system is useless. But it also would mean that I could patent any input->magic box->output method I can dream of.

Re:I have to ask this... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43718405)

Yes, the USPTO let them file a patent which is literally just a picture.

Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718407)

People will be able to use my attractive cartoon face as a Facebook Chat Head.......

Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718451)

Pretty sure Stenroach patented this ages ago.

IMVU et al (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718533)

Patent is filed October 2007.

Same principle as IMVU, here from before Microsteals patent:

http://web.archive.org/web/20070313050356/http://www.imvu.com/?

There are plenty of webtsites doing this before Microsoft's patent date, 2d 3d, it was a research thing long before this date. The patent should not have been issued.
http://wpaisle.com/inspiration/best-sites-to-create-cartoon-characters-of-yourself/

Microsoft Patents "Cartoon Face Generation" (1)

basicasic (1185047) | about a year ago | (#43718645)

The whole f**king world has gone stark staring mad.

So, who posed for CLIPPY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718649)

I mean, it kinda looks like Bill, but I wouldn't call it attractive.

Let me tell you a few things about patents (4, Interesting)

Begemot (38841) | about a year ago | (#43718679)

First of all the bottom line - patents suck shit. I'll try to explain, although there's so much to tell.

The only positive thing about patents was the original idea that inventors need a tool to protect themselves from copycats. A pretty good idea, but then came other people and turned the idea into a steaming pile of shit, as we often do with everything.

There's a number of complexities that people do not take into account when they file a patent:

1. It's freaking expensive because at some point you have to work with patent attorneys. You can submit provisional yourself, but you must hire patent attorney in PCT or National phases and it's unlikely that you can use proper language that the patent attorney will use, so you risk not having your provisional be considered a priority document (which sets the priority date, when your invention is considered to be created).

2. You'll spend a lot of time on it. Time that could better be spent on building and improving your product.

3. You'd have to reveal all details of your invention to everyone. What if it's hard or even impossible to prove if anyone infringes it later? Patent attorneys will never tell you not to patent it (see #2 above).

4. There's a very good chance that there's something like you invented already, so you won't get a patent despite all the efforts. In other words, unless your invention is abso-fucking-lutely genius, you're doomed to fail on "novelty" or "inventive step" requirements. Almost no doubt about it. Patent examiners are not the sharpest pencils in the box. Read this if you don't believe it: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-57581797/the-letter-to-the-patent-office-you-have-to-read/

5. Let say you got your patent granted. You think you just skipped to the "profit" bullet? Ha! In order to benefit from your patent you need someone who infringes it and benefits enough from it to pay you damages. Not a small startup, they won't be able to pay you damages so no sane lawyer will take your case. If the infringing party is rich enough they still need to benefit enough from the infringing product or again no sane jury will give you the damages. Take into account that the bigger the infringer is, the stronger they'll fight you. They will bully and starve you.

6. IP cases take a very long time and cost millions of dollars, and their lawyers will drag you all the way through Inter Party Review at USPTO (where they'll reexamine your patent, another year and $500K) and it's quite possible that they will find some freaking conference presentation in Chinese that's close enough to your invention. Nobody will give a shit that you don't understand Chinese and never been to that conference.

7. In the US you could go to ITC (International Trade Commission) instead of a district court, but that only works when the infringing party is a foreign company and they import the infringing products into the US. ITC also doesn't give you damages, they can only stop the import of infringing products.

All the above taken from my very bitter experience in managing about 40 patent apps in different country.

JUST DON'T DO IT

Re:Let me tell you a few things about patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43721237)

Patent examiners are not the sharpest pencils in the box.

Like for example... Einstein, who worked has patent examiner!

Cartoon Face logon screen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43718691)

... for a Mickey Mouse operating system...

It takes two (1)

neghvar1 (1705616) | about a year ago | (#43719625)

It take to patentee to file the patent but then the USPTO to grant the patent and those involved in granting this patent need to be fired for their incompetence. Characachers have been around for a long time and I have seen booths at arcades and Dave & Busters that do exactly this since the late 90s. This is beyond obvious prior art.

JibJab and Clippy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43720279)

I can see it now, your JibJab head pasted on clippy body dancing around the bottom of your windows phone when you make a typo. Oh The joy.

inception (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year ago | (#43720557)

Can I patent my algorithm for automatically generating unique patents?

Re:inception (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43720755)

No, God, you cannot, because you are not a legally recognized entity, due to massive impersonation, that was revoked.

Sorry, you should have been more proactive in defending your trademarks.

The real innovation is it's use of decision trees (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a year ago | (#43720663)

Q: So, girly, you like roller skatin'?
|
| --> A: Yes --> Yeah, everybody loves roller skatin'..
|
| --> A: No --> Yeah, everybody loves roller skatin'...

.

More algorithm patents. Yay. (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | about a year ago | (#43720691)

Sftware and business method patents simply should not exist. Period.

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