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Google Patents the Design of Search Results Page

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the look-and-feel dept.

Google 114

prostoalex writes "ZDNet is reporting that USPTO issued a patent to Google, Inc. for 'ornamental design for a graphical user interface'. This is not, as ZDNet points out, a software patent (which is usually issued as a utility patent), but a design patent, which governs the look and feel of the product and prevents others from directly copying it." Ironic, given Google's recent slip-up of copying a Yahoo page. In news on the flipside, Google has launched a patent search service (in beta).

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Do no evil (5, Funny)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235236)

Except occasionally.

Google's byline is a handwaving canard (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235630)

According to Googlel [google.com] , the best way to ascertain how evil you are is to take a quiz [att.net] . As far as this quiz is concerned, your stance on software patents has nothing to do with it.

Really though, Google's "do no evil" schtick is just a bunch of crap^H^H^H^H marketing gibberish. Google does page rank really well, and sells lots of ad sense. They have hired lots of smart people. Try to get Google to delete your gmail. Try to get Google out of China. Try to get Google to take an ethical stance on software patents or copyrights. Just what did Google do, exactly, that makes anyone think they deserve the moral high ground. I can't think of a single thing, other than they don't suck as hard as MS. Yet.

It's time for people to stop inhaling all the smoke Google is blowing.

Re:Do no evil (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235772)

What happens in China stays in China.

-Eric

Mod Parent Up! (0, Troll)

d_54321 (446966) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238384)

nt

Re:Do no evil (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236004)

On the subject of them "copying" a Yahoo page:

Has anyone thought that maybe, just maybe, that's a template provided by Microsoft? You know, since it's pitching the IE7 upgrade and all that.

RTFA (5, Informative)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236160)


On the subject of them "copying" a Yahoo page:

Has anyone thought that maybe, just maybe, that's a template provided by Microsoft? You know, since it's pitching the IE7 upgrade and all that.


From the article [zawodny.com] ,
Quote "And I've checked with our PR group to make sure that this wasn't just a template that Microsoft gave to all partners. It's not." Unquote.

Re:RTFA (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17241626)

Why use the words quote and unqoute when you are already using punctuation? For that matter, you could use <blockquote> or <quote>.

Re:RTFA (2, Funny)

Ambidisastrous (964023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17245926)

Comment
      We have a name for that:
      Quote "Natural Language XML" Unquote.
Uncomment.

Re:Do no evil (1)

EnderGT (916132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236358)

RTFA - Yahoo checked with MS, MS said "no templates provided".

Re:Do no evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236944)

No, this isn't a MS template. I've seen it used for many many Google downloads, long before Yahoo used it.

Re:Do no evil (1)

charlieman (972526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17244368)

So Yahoo used their look n feel... so that's why they are patenting...

I used pastel colors in a web years before gmail... can i patent it?

Please, Google's actions are NOT bad here! (2, Funny)

Bamafan77 (565893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237082)

Google is different from all other software companies and show that you CAN do business without resorting to "questionable" tactics. There's an obvious explanation here if you people would only care to look. The difference here is that...well you see......hey is that Britney Spears over there?!

*runs for the hills*

Re:Do no evil (4, Interesting)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238590)

Do no evil...Except occasionally.

Since we're linking to Jeremy's blog post, I thought it might be worth while to also post Matt Cutts blog [mattcutts.com] regarding this 'drama'. Matt acknowledges Googles mistake (and by Google, we mean a person(s) working for Google who first, thought copying a Yahoo! page was a good idea and 2) got through management approval to let it go live.)

Matt also points out, probably more interesting, how Yahoo! is not entirely innocent [yahoo.com] when it comes to 'copying' what the competitor does. However, the comments on his page have an interesting discussion of which is truly worse? Copying UI/Layout/Design or Graphics/Layout/Design.

This is a tough call for me (as a web programmer/developer). I can kind of go both ways on this one. Patents and such are always a difficult concept to talk about. On one hand, they protect inventor and innovators, while on the other hand they're a forced 'legal' monopoly of "If they make it, you cannot make it too". As an inventor, I'd hate to create something, be original, and have it copied. As an average everyday person, I'd hate for one company to control a product and prevent natural competition.

In this sense, I cannot agree with myself on this situation. A photographer buys a Hamburger at a popular fast-food chain. Takes it home and opens it up and takes a photograph of it. A 2nd photographer see this photo (on the 1st photographers website) takes a hamburger from the same food-chain, and shoots a drastically similar photograph (the pickle is on the other side). A 3rd photographer cooked his own hamburger, and decided to take a photo of it, and has never seen photographer 1 or 2's photos, and his photo turns out to be almost the exact same image of the 1st photographer. Who's right? Who's wrong? Has a 'crime' (either moral, ethical, artistic, respectful, or legal) been committed?

Regarding the Google vs Yahoo!, it raises another question... online media. Graphics/Photos (JPG, GIFs, PNGS, etc) are protected, but what about UI? Layout? Coding practices? If it 'looks' the same on a monitor, is it not like being a Photo? After all, I can take a screen-capture and make it one easily. So, should it be equally worse to copy ones layout or design? Or even use similar or the same color palettes?

If I spend hours of time and money in R&D for the perfect usable interface, should my 'innovation' also be protected, the same as if I took the time to take a photo of something? After all, a layout/design is artistically placed in the same manner a photographer or painter choose the placement of objects in their shot and a designer chooses their color and brightness the same as a photographer or painter chooses theirs.

Cheers,
Fozzy

Re:Do no evil (2, Insightful)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17245192)

A photographer buys a Hamburger at a popular fast-food chain. Takes it home and opens it up and takes a photograph of it.

OK, that photographer has copyright in the image

A 2nd photographer see this photo (on the 1st photographers website) takes a hamburger from the same food-chain, and shoots a drastically similar photograph (the pickle is on the other side).

There has been actual copying and this is a breach of the first photographer's copyright.

A 3rd photographer cooked his own hamburger, and decided to take a photo of it, and has never seen photographer 1 or 2's photos, and his photo turns out to be almost the exact same image of the 1st photographer.

This is not a breach of copyright since there was no copying. Proving that there was no copying may be difficult though. When there's a design patent, the equivalent of this 3rd photographer's actions would be illegal for violating the patent, even though in no possible objective sense could you suggest the 3rd photographer has done something wrong.

Design patents are evil like any other patent - the very concept of exclusivity even when somebody else independently invents the same thing amounts to perpetrating an injustice. It makes conduct illegal when the person engaging in that conduct has no knowledge of the circumstances making it illegal. Such laws can only be justified where independent invention is very unlikely and proving copying very difficult - factors which sadly do not apply for most patents.

Fortunately design patents have much shorter duration than invention patents./p>

It's Don't Be Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17238912)

tard.

Look and feel patents, like software patents... (3, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235246)

should not exist.

that's what's copyright is for!

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (3, Insightful)

dsaraujo (798502) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235734)

Well, if you're talking hypothetically, in a better world, copyright shouldn't exist either. Go ahead, mod me troll, but the world would be better. :)

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (4, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235782)

then how can people make a living out of creating things for the public to enjoy? How can we encourage those to do it, and do it well when otherwise they wouldn't have the time and resources? Copyright protection is important in the regards, abusable, yes, but the advantages are worth more than the contrary. Additionally, I'm speaking of this within limits, not the draconian rules that some with to apply to copyrights...

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236530)

Patronage. Someone pays you to create a work, or to perform it, or to improve upon an existing work.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236750)

Yep, basically the same as is done now.

Except if the patronage people/groups could make a profit off of distributing that work and sharing it with others, there would be a lot fewer groups. Effectively all music/tv/movie media would be the equivalent of what the independant and low-budget-for-donation-only groups do. I'm not saying those groups are all bad, but we'd still be missing a lot of quality stuff we have now.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (2, Insightful)

srussia (884021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237034)

This reminds me of a conversation I had in a previous life some 7000 years ago.

Og: Hey, I just got this crazy idea of connecting two round stones to the ends of a horizontal pole. It'll make it easier to haul stuff around.

Me: Sounds great, but who will do your harvest duties while you build it? And how do you expect to get any money out of it, people will just copy you. I myself thought of this great tune, sang it to my wife and she loved it. But I'd never sing it public, they'd just learn it themselves and where's the money in that?

Og: Ya, that's a good point. Forget about it then.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237870)

then how can people make a living out of creating things for the public to enjoy?

Simple: they don't!

What is it with everybody always assuming the world needs full-time professional artists?! The human race did just fine -- and in some places, is still doing fine -- with everyone having a "day job" and making folk art for fun!

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (2, Funny)

Flwyd (607088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238390)

Copyright infringement is the sincerest form of flattery.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 7 years ago | (#17245146)

I've heard it argued that copyright/patents is the reason countries that have them are technologically more innovative than countries that don't have them.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

GeffDE (712146) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235806)

What about the analogue of "look and feel" patents in the analog (i.e. physical) world? Can you patent the design of something? Should you be able to? Yes.

I'm sure that whoever makes those nice cushion things on pens got a patent, and I'm sure that's part of the user interface that makes it nicer. The patent on it makes sure that whoever invents it can profit from their work inventing it. Should that be unpatentable? The reason patents were invented were to protect innovation and invention. That's still a good thing.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237014)

I'm sure that whoever makes those nice cushion things on pens got a patent, and I'm sure that's part of the user interface that makes it nicer.

You can't get a design patent on that. You can only get a design patent on the nonfunctional parts of something. Since the pad serves a functional purpose of enhancing grip and comfort, you can't get a design patent on it.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (2, Interesting)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236014)

14 years vs. longer than our lifetime (there is stuff from my year of birth, 1982, that will not make public domain until long after my death). Hmmmm, let me think on that. Also, the design patents cover a lot of things that copyright and trademark were never meant to cover.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239726)

From 35 USC 171 [cornell.edu] :


Whoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.
The provisions of this title relating to patents for inventions shall apply to patents for designs, except as otherwise provided.


In a nutshell design patents protect the ornamental design of an article of manufacture; utilitarian aspects play no part in evaluating this.

To cover a functional aspect of a screen layout a regular utility patent might be obtained.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17240278)

(there is stuff from my year of birth, 1982, that will not make public domain until long after my death).
Let me help you out here. "All stuff from my year of birth, 1982, will not make public domain. Ever." There we go.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (4, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236702)

Wrong, Copyright does not cover look and feel of a software interface. Apple v Microsoft, and others.

Design patents have existed forever. They are really no big deal. An item has to be almost exactly the same to infringe on them.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239222)

Then you'd have to give copyright protection for the "look and feel" of stuff, which you currently cannot get. Considering that the 14-year lifespan of a design patent is about an order of magnitude shorter than the life span of a copyright (and significantly shorter than the life span of a utility patent), I'd say the design patent is the much better option.

Re:Look and feel patents, like software patents... (1)

Arguendo (931986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17241730)

Design patents and copyright are different forms of protection. For one, you don't have to "copy" the design to infringe under a design patent - you could have developed it independently and would still infringe. Under copyright law, you actually had to have copied it.

Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235266)

Weren't "look and feel" patents prohibited in Lotus vs Borland? I thought this matter was settled long ago.

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235364)

Design patents aren't "look and feel" they're "exact look". Unlike utility patents, a design patent covers one thing and one thing only: the decorative appearance of something. So I can make a doorknob that looks a particular way, and since it's a physical object and not a play, song, book, whatever, it's not copyrightable but with the design patent, I can prevent other companies from making the exact same doorknob. But I can't stop them from making a "kind of roundish square doorknob", which was the idea behind the feel part of the "look and feel" patent attempt.

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236274)

But it's weird, isn't that what copyright is for? Why patent an exact look?

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (1)

Peter Mork (951443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239554)

So that only Zippo can make a lighter that looks like a Zippo, for example.

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (1)

danlock4 (1026420) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237496)

But I can't stop them from making a "kind of roundish square doorknob"
Is a "kind of roundish square doorknob" exactly like a "kind of squarish round doorknob"? ;-)

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (2, Insightful)

TheDoctor_MN (669362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237654)

Not according to the principles of design patents. Like the previous poster said....design patents cover the EXACT LOOK AND FEEL of the covered thing. Very hard to infringe, and very easy to work around. Put the text entry field in a different place in the browser window, and voila, the Google patent doesn't apply. Let's not get worked up in a lather over this folks. Cheers, Bob

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237910)

So I can make a doorknob that looks a particular way, and since it's a physical object and not a play, song, book, whatever, it's not copyrightable

I would say it should be classified as "sculpture" and be copyrighted instead, but since copyright lasts (effectively) forever and patents don't, I'm happier with the patent!

Re:Look and feel patent? Prohibited long ago. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239364)

Every so often, against all odds and despite all expectations, I learn something on /.

padding the patent portfolio (5, Insightful)

sreekotay (955693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235332)

Uh [yahoo.com] Oh [aol.com] ... too [live.com] bad [ask.com]

In theory a problem for all the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em (*ahem* confuse 'em?)" school of search destinations, but.. Google will never enforce the patent, so its probably moot...
----
graphically speaking [kotay.com]

Re:padding the patent portfolio (5, Insightful)

finkployd (12902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235726)

Google will never enforce the patent, so its probably moot...

That is some scary thinking. Of course it would be silly for them not to enforce the patent now, they don't need to. What happens down the road though when google is not doing so well and stockholders and calling for blood? They will leverage any assets they have to turn a profit, they have little other choice. Then we will see just how damaging these "patent portfolios" can be.

We will never see IBM, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, or any other company with a huge patent portfolio go out of business under the current patent system. If all else fails, they will turn into the ultimate leech, a patent holding company bleeding off of everyone else. They stockholders will demand it, to not leverage an advantage they have when other people's money is at stake is criminal in the eyes of business.

Finkployd

Re:padding the patent portfolio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17237598)

Google will never sue over patents for the same reasons no software giants sue over patents. Because everyone is violating them. Google sues Microsoft and Yahoo, Microsoft and Yahoo sue right back. If Google or Microsoft, or whoever, is "not doing well" a stupid move like getting sucked into patent litigation would just be finishing off the job.

That's why the only people you see initiating patent lawsuits are these little patent clearinghouses that buy up patents from small software companies, but don't own any IP. That way they can sue over patent violations, without having any IP that can be sued back for patent violations.

Re:padding the patent portfolio (5, Interesting)

finkployd (12902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238018)

Google will never sue over patents for the same reasons no software giants sue over patents. Because everyone is violating them. Google sues Microsoft and Yahoo, Microsoft and Yahoo sue right back. If Google or Microsoft, or whoever, is "not doing well" a stupid move like getting sucked into patent litigation would just be finishing off the job.

You did not think that through all the way.

Google will sue over software patents the second that the income they could expect to get from those lawsuits exceeds the income they expect to gain from their software. Right now they feel that building their software portfolio is a much better revenue stream, but that does not mean that things cannot change.

That's why the only people you see initiating patent lawsuits are these little patent clearinghouses that buy up patents from small software companies, but don't own any IP. That way they can sue over patent violations, without having any IP that can be sued back for patent violations.

Right, but do the math. Creating software is significantly more expensive (and fraught with uncertainty regarding future income) than licensing a patent. If Office and Windows sales dropped so low that MS felt it could get more money by not selling any more software and instead using it's vast patent portfolio to export money from those who do produce software, doing so would be a no-brainer.

Finkployd

Re:padding the patent portfolio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17241548)

But, ceasing to sell licenses for their software would not be enough. They would have to sell off complete ownership of all software. Even then, I'm not sure how their liability would work. Granted, this could squeeze out some liquid asset, but it would also ensure the demise of the company and squash out any hope of making a rebound.

Re:padding the patent portfolio (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17241992)

but it would also ensure the demise of the company and squash out any hope of making a rebound.

You are looking at these companies as the powerhouses they are today. What happens in 5 years (forever in Internet time) when one of them is on the ropes and facing demise anyway?

And it would not ensure the demise of the company anymore than PC clones ensured the demise of IBM. It will just be a change in strategy. Making the change from a software company to a patent holding company would not be easy, but it would certainly be more lucrative than rolling over and dying.

I am not suggesting this is what they want to do, I am saying this is what they WILL if their back is ever against the wall. So what do we do? Hope Linux/openoffice.org never actually threatens MS since we know they have a nuclear option?

Finkployd

Re:padding the patent portfolio (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236060)

Well AOL is kind of an exception since their search just so happens to be powered by, uh, Google.

Fanboy defense (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236198)


Google will never enforce the patent, so its probably moot...


That's the fanboy defense. Google will never enforce till they are doing well.
But the moment, Google starts making loses, starts getting screwed by some competitor,
I am sure the option of using the patent will look good.

Re:padding the patent portfolio (1)

seweso (842331) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237290)

They need to look exactly like Google because else people might realize it's not Google.

Prior art and my previous patents (5, Funny)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235370)

Sorry - I already patented putting words on blank web pages. Also graphics on blank web pages. I took out a 3rd patent on putting some combination of words and graphics together on a blank web page.

The entire content of the World Wide Web is in violation of my patent rights. E-mail me for the address to which you may send payments.

Assholes.

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (3, Funny)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235696)

Oh yeah? Bring it on! [blankwebpage.com]

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (2, Funny)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239002)

>Oh yeah? Bring it on!

Only on /. will someone know where to find a blank webpage. Clearly, I need to call my patent attorney... :)

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (1)

LiquidFire_HK (952632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17241988)

I like this one better. [something.com] (at least it contains something)

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237992)

The entire content of the World Wide Web is in violation of my patent rights. E-mail me for the address to which you may send payments.

Oooh, too bad for you -- I've already patented the business method of "trolling for patent royalties via email." So yeah, just forward all those payments to me and I we'll call it even, eh?

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (1)

DaveM753 (844913) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238108)

Sorry, but your patents are irrelevant in these cases. Putting words, graphics and/or a combination of both renders the web page no longer blank.

:P

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17239264)

Sorry honey. But I have a patent for "background of a webpage". Now forward those emails to me, as well as one with your address.

Re:Prior art and my previous patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17239418)

Dear sir,

This is a cease and desist letter. My client currently holds a patent on communications as a means of recording or transfering information, concepts, thoughts or any derived form.

Your patents are a derived work and in violation of our patent which includes utilizing the Internet as a medium since information or concepts are clearly being transfered using it.

Please contact our law offices of Fitzgerald & Ungood Inc. (FU Inc.) to see about resolution of and to arrange for restitution of damages your claim has made on my client.

Fun Queries (2, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235372)

what happens to other ad networks? (1)

slashthedot (991354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235394)

Can't they give a linked list of vertical or horizontal ads or banners? What exactly has google patented?

Some like it (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235402)

There are those who argue that similar interfaces make things simpler for users. I actually subscribe to that train of though. Though, it sucks when everybody is copying M$'s horrible interfaces. Doesn't pertain to the web, though.

Design? Google? (4, Interesting)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235408)

"Design" is a dangerous word to use here, since it seems to me that what we're
really talking about it "organization". Afterall Google's result pages are
about as graphics-lite as a page can possibly be. Furthermore, they're affected
by client-side issues from screen-size to font settings. So the look of
the results page is in many ways a matter of client side rendering.

So I'm guessing we're talking about patenting the "organization" of data, and not
the specific visual identity of the search results themselves. So.... I'm not sure
I see the originality here. Google's advantage over previous-generation browsers
was ultimately speed and a kickass search & pagerank algorithm. But ultimately
the organization of the results doesn't seem entirely dissimilar from other
search engines.

And since this wasn't awarded a "utility" patent, we know we're not talking about
anything that has functional value -- just "visual originality". Take away
the Google logo and IMHO there's a whole lot of "visual originality" to the
results.

Re:Design? Google? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235798)

Design fits, but unfortunately, you are referring to the unfortunate connotation that design is only about aesthetics, which is an extremely limited scope.

Re:Design? Google? (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237516)

No, not at all. Quite the opposite. I clarified the term
design to having two potential meanings aesthetics and
form ("organization"). Then I expressed my *opinion* that
in terms of "form" I do not believe that Google has
significantly differentiated themselves from their
competitors.

Kapisch?

Re:Design? Google? (1)

phorest (877315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235828)

Hear Hear!

What I want to know is what happens when they make a change to their page. Does that get covered too and all other (previous) versions not covered?
After all, when you patent something, then change it you have to get another patent to cover the changes (keeps the lawyer-monkies busy).
Rendering definitely has effects on overall design 'look & feel'.
Copyright should be the issue, all others: natch....

You can't copyright.. (1)

PyrotekNX (548525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235428)

an idea!

Re:You can't copyright.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235498)

Sir, you just expressed my copyrighted idea. Expect to hear from my lawyer soon.

Finding Out What Patents Are (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235450)

It struck me as kind of interesting, the notion of looking up patents. But I was wondering if that kind of stuff would also be the area of the Wikipedia. From an entertainment point of view, the art work of the patent might be interesting. I think that the prior art thing might be easier to consider if more people could respond; Maybe from a "common public good" viewpoint, this could prove to be helpful for everyone. Just a thought, but I am wondering if there would be value in seeing what patents have been registered in other countries?

Hey!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235536)

This is almost news! !!

This is Slashdot and not Fark where people go for news and journalism.

I want my FUD and politics, dammit!!!

But Carbon Copy (of Lotus) was OK? (5, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235572)

I don't believe this.

Years ago, there were Lotus 1-2-3 clones, which copied not only the general visual appearance but the actual menu layout, sequences, names, and functionality.

One of the more famous was literally named "Carbon Copy." That was the product name. Really.

Lotus took the company to court and lost. IIRC The court ruled that it was OK to copy the look, feel, and details of the Lotus product's menus, because there was no other way to produce a competitive product.

How the heck can a perfect functional duplicate of a complete menu tree be OK, but a vague organization of elements on a web screen be copyrightable?

This is not a case of Google being evil (although they are), this is a case of a sea change in what the United States is willing to grant IP protection to.

But at least it was the Google News screen. I was afraid maybe they'd gotten a patent on the spare, lean, mean Google Search screen and that it would now be compulsory for everyone else to have a cluttered web page.

Must hit Preview... must hit Preview... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235636)

(I meant "patentable," not "copyrightable." Of course)

Re:But Carbon Copy (of Lotus) was OK? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236584)

How the heck can a perfect functional duplicate of a complete menu tree be OK, but a vague organization of elements on a web screen be copyrightable?

Probably because Lotus didn't bother to get a design patent on their interface. This may have something to do with them ripping off the interface from VisiCalc in the first place.

Re:But Carbon Copy (of Lotus) was OK? (3, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239498)

Years ago, there were Lotus 1-2-3 clones, which copied not only the general visual appearance but the actual menu layout, sequences, names, and functionality.

One of the more famous was literally named "Carbon Copy." That was the product name. Really.

Lotus took the company to court and lost.


I've never heard of Carbon Copy. The only lawsuit I know of over a product with the degree of copying of 1-2-3 that you refer to is Lotus v. Paperback Software over VP-Planner, which Lotus won, on copyright grounds.

IIRC The court ruled that it was OK to copy the look, feel, and details of the Lotus product's menus, because there was no other way to produce a competitive product.


The court in Lotus v. Paperback actually ruled the exact opposite, on the basis of the fact that there were successful competing products that didn't do that.

How the heck can a perfect functional duplicate of a complete menu tree be OK, but a vague organization of elements on a web screen be copyrightable?


Patents are not copyrights and are governed by different law. The reason people seek these kinds of patents now is that efforts to use copyright to protect general look and feel and short of fairly exact copying (such as that at issue in Lotus v. Paperback) failed in the 1980s and 1990s, (e.g., in Apple vs. HP and Microsoft, and in Lotus v. Borland), which have led companies to seek different means of protecting this aspect of their product from copycats; I don't think is a case of a change in what the US is willing to grant IP protection for so much as a change in what companies are seeking a particular kind of IP protection for, as a direct result of the failure of a different kind of IP protection to protect it.

Re:But Carbon Copy (of Lotus) was OK? (1)

Dan Berlin (682091) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239682)

Lotus had a utility patent (which covers processes and methods).
This is a design patent (which covers ornamental designs).

World of difference.

Patent Search is much more interesting (3, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235608)

The Google patent search beta could be big news. If anybody can get relevant patent search results out of that mass of legal speak, it's Google. I expect it wouldn't constitute a legally valid patent search but it could be Very Helpful.

The usual favorites:

http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6368227&id= hjwMAAAAEBAJ&dq=swinging+on+a+swing [google.com]

http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5443036&id= OfwkAAAAEBAJ&dq=exercising+a+cat [google.com]

Re:Patent Search is much more interesting (1)

JBFrobozz (20469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235860)

I agree that the Patent Search is big news. It could actually catch on within the legal community. There really is no such thing as a legal patent search.

The results of patent searching have always been very dependant on the person performing the search. Patent agents/attorneys frequently use the USPTO search site, and it is terrible. Delphion probably still beats Google in terms of algorithms and raw searching power, but Google has advantages. The advantages namely include nice organization and insanely fast results.

If someone asks me to check out a patent and sends me the number, I will probably head here first.

Re:Patent Search is much more interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17239522)

Sadly this Google patent search is only US patents and there is more to searching patents than looking up stuff at the USPTO.

Most professionals don't just use the USPTO public website. There is a huge industry of patent and non-patent literature database search tools. Check out Dialog (http://www.dialog.com/ [dialog.com] ), Questel (http://www.questel.orbit.com/ [orbit.com] ) and STN Express (http://www.stn-international.de/ [stn-international.de] ) for example.

If any professionals do use Google they will use the advanced page http://www.google.com/advanced_patent_search [google.com]

Re:Patent Search is much more interesting (1)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17240144)

I agree; it looks pretty good. I especially like the ease with which the image version of the patent is presented; no wrestling with those horrid tiff images on the PTO's site (rotten ui; I have lots of problems using it with Firefox on my system; perhaps I need a better plugin).

I used the Google search to pull up a "memorable" application I examined that had a third party Reexamination request filed within a year of issue; the image file had the Reexamination certificate displayed right at the end of the original patent; I haven't checked if they do that for Reissues; it realy enhances the value of the search to have this all together; All they need to add to this is a direct link to the online prosecution data (PAIR) to get a good "first assessment" on a patent when it comes up for discussion here.

Re:Patent Search is much more interesting (1)

Arguendo (931986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17242092)

The "Method of Swinging on a Swing" patent was subsequency invalidated on reexamination by the way, a fact that is frequently not mentioned when holding it up as an example of a bad patent. See Swinging Reexamination Certificate [google.com] (see page 7 if the link doesn't work). I can't explain why the other patent is still valid.

Re:Patent Search is much more interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17245186)

The fact it got through at all is enough.

No way (1)

styryx (952942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235714)

Lockheed Martin are ripping off Willy Wonka!!

Proof! [google.com]

What happened to "Do No Evil"? (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236314)

Guess that's just marketing BS...

Re:What happened to "Do No Evil"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17239110)

From whom? It's "Don't be evil." It's only three words -- how can it be that hard to remember?

Re:What happened to "Do No Evil"? (1)

finiteSet (834891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17240032)

What happened to "Do No Evil"?
Actually, they were only able to patent the "look and feel" of do no evil.

Yet another Google beta (4, Funny)

LoonyMike (917095) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236368)

I bet they're also trying to pantent the concept of "releasing beta products for widespread usage".

MS patents an artwork for a desktop wallpaper (1)

free2 (851653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236374)

This one really looks like it should be protected by copyright instead:
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPATD506475&id= i4UVAAAAEBAJ&pg=PP1&zoom=4&dq=google&ie=ISO-8859-1 [google.com]

Another proof that big corporations use their cash to patent everything they can.

Design patent definition (2, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236896)

Since so many people are confused as to what a design patent is :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent [wikipedia.org]

And for those of you too lazy to even click: "In the United States, a design patent is a patent granted on the ornamental design of a functional item. Design patents are a type of industrial design right. Ornamental designs of jewelry, furniture, beverage containers (see Fig. 1) and computer icons are examples of what can be protected with design patents."

Re:Design patent definition (1)

whargoul (932206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237956)

...And for those of you too lazy to even click...
Thanks for thinking of us!

Seems to cover product/news/travel results (1)

soboroff (91667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237004)

Looking at the images in the actual patent, this actually seems to specifically cover how they present travel, product, and news results on top of the regular search results.

I'm not 100% sure, since I can't seem to get to a technical description, just the pictures. But this isn't a patent on the design of general search results pages.

Great for old patents (1)

Jeff1946 (944062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237456)

This is great. It is much faster than the US patent office site and you can see the text of old patents. I was easily able to find and read a 1919 patent by my wife's grandfather. For fun check out this patent: Number 219628.

What about Booble? (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237562)

Does this mean the end for Booble?

You insensitive hclod!? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17237646)

committerbase and EFNet, a8d apply one or the other reformaated

It's time to patent my Ass (1)

Gilatrout (694977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237712)

It is particularly comfortable to sit on and is very suitable for walking around on. Moreover My ass(TM) is distinctive and totally unlike any other ass. As I am fond of My Ass(TM) and I don't particularly feel like paying royalties for using it, one of those fancy defensive patents may be in order.

Deja Vu all over again (1)

AnalogDiehard (199128) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238552)

Here we go again - if's Apple vs Microsoft and Lotus vs Borland all over again, as this has been done before. [mit.edu]

Unfortunately the courts have no clear opinion on this. Lotus vs Borland made it all the way to the Supreme Court but was split 4-4 with one justice recusing himself.

Re:Deja Vu all over again (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17241238)

Well, no, Apple v. Microsoft and Lotus v. Borland were copyright cases.

Those cases are a big part of the reason that software companies now seek patents to protect look and feel (since copyright fails to protect that), but the legal issues aren't the same, as patent law is not the same as copyright law.

How close does it need to be? (1)

LParks (927321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238608)

Will http://www.thotbott.com/ [thotbott.com] be getting a cease and decist or similar friendly e-mail from Google?

Design Patent != Utility Patent (1)

Dan Berlin (682091) | more than 7 years ago | (#17239544)

You all are complaining about patenting look and feel, but there is a very important difference between what has been done, and things like Lotus.

Lotus had a utility patent on their look and feel.
Google has an "ornamental design" patent on their look and feel.

Utility patents cover methods and processes
Design patents cover look and only look.

In other words, to infringe a utility patent, you have to do the same thing in the same way (this is vastly simplified).

To infringe a design patent, you have to make something that looks *exactly the same*.

They really shouldn't even be called patents.
They just aren't that interesting.

Lotus attempted to stop anyone from making menus that performed the same processes and actions as their menus by using a utility patent.

If Lotus had only gotten a design patent on their menus, they wouldn't have even had a case because Borland's menus don't look the same.

You can't get a design patent on something like using keystrokes to perform an action, since it's not a look.
 

Patent Search Using Google Would be a Huge Mistake (1)

FathomIT (464334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17240434)

When searching for a patent you don't want ANYONE to know even remotely what you are thinking. By using a Google supplied tool you are subject to Google reviewing your searches. You'd be saying: "hey google here's kinda what my patent is" and they'd say "thanks we'll look at what you're thinking is a unique and private idea". Even Patent Attorneys use secure patent search services that contain a database of the downloadable USPTO data. They don't even trust the USPTO admins....so if you're going to a private company and doing a search you're saying to them "here have my idea". Deee deee dee.

Bringing Yahoo, Microsoft etc. into the discussion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17244420)

This is particularly about Yahoo, but to a lesser extent about Microsoft. Every single time there's a story about Google doing something which seems to quite obviously go against most peoples' definitions of their "Do no evil" motto half the posts will bring up something (arguably) worse done by Yahoo, or sometimes Microsoft. How about the notion of evaluating an action by its own merits instead of always comparing to the competition? In the context of a discussion about Google I don't care if "Yahoo does it too" etc. what I care about is what Google did, and why/why not that is a good thing for them and for us. Bringing Yahoo into every debate about questionable actions by Google is like saying "But we're still better than China" every time free speech is trampled in the US, it makes no sense, we don't want to compare ourselves to the bottom of the barrel, we want to compare ourselves to the best. The same should go for Google, if Google wants to be held in as high esteem as they currently are, they should be compared to the best and their actions taken for what they are, instead of the tired old "Yahoo did it too" posts.
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