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IBM Patents Checking a Box

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the science-and-the-useful-arts dept.

Patents 186

theodp writes "What do you call it when you drag a pointer over a checkbox to select or deselect it depending on its original state? Answer: US Patent 7,278,116. On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded IBM a patent for Mode Switching for Ad Hoc Checkbox Selection, aka Making an 'X'. Isn't this essentially the same concept as the older Lotus Notes selection model that IBM was recently asked to reintroduce?"

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If someone patents something stupid, do we care? (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827361)

First of all, it's not just "checking a box." It's clicking to toggle a checkmark, and dragging across a bunch of other checkboxes to toggle them all on (or off, depending on the state of the first one you clicked).

Second of all, I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, it really bothers me in a cosmic sense that there was a patent granted for something so patently stupid. (Pun slightly intended.) I'm sorry, but this falls squarely in the realm of obvious to me. I mean, really, are programmers expected to patent every single frickin' thing they do out of fear that someone else might? Because that's the world we're living in, and I'd really like for it to change.

On the other hand, I'm sorry, but the Lotus Notes selection model is one of the most frustratingly stupid things I've ever encountered in my life. Almost every other piece of software follows the old click-first-item, shift-click-last-item model. (Or ctrl-click individual items.) It's been in use since... Well, as long as I can remember using a GUI, and I'm really hard-pressed to think of any other way that selections work. Except for Lotus Notes, where they use this asinine system of selecting messages which means that if I have several pages of stuff to select, I have to scroll past each. and. every. one. Frankly, if IBM is the only company that can do this and it prevents any other company that has the bright idea from implementing something like this, then I can almost bring myself to say that this is a good thing.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827423)

I have prior art for this. I call it, the pencil and eraser. Oh wait. That prior art isn't mine. This is a technology at least a hundred years old. You want to select a bunch of boxen at once? You just drag the pencil accross all of them. You want to deselect? Turn the pencil over and repeat the motion! w0w!!!

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (5, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827867)

I have actual prior art on this. This is a common UI design in the audio world. If you click on a mute button and drag across multiple tracks, it mutes all of them just like it would if you drug your finger across the mute buttons on a console. Most DAW software I've used does this---BIAS Deck, MOTU Digital Performer, Apple Logic.... the list is almost endless.

This is another example of a really obvious patent that adds NOTHING to advance the state of the art. The very fact that this patent was awarded is further evidence that every cool new idea that could possibly be patented in software has already been done at least once, and probably more than once, and hence, software patents to not do anything to improve the state of the art and only serve to harm innovation and stifle competition in the marketplace.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

djchristensen (472087) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828509)

I'm pretty sure I've seen this same mechanism in the client software for IXIA network test equipment. They have a spreadsheet-like pages, and when there is a check box in a column, you can click it, then select a range of cells in the column and it will apply the setting for the check box you just changed.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (4, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828953)

This is another example of a really obvious patent that adds NOTHING to advance the state of the art.
At the very least there should be a "de minimis non curat USPTO" grounds for rejecting patents like this ("the USPTO is not interested in trivial matters").

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20829607)

Nice try, but I have already patented that Latin phrase.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (3, Insightful)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829213)

This is another example of a really obvious patent that adds NOTHING to advance the state of the art.
With the way Patent lawsuits are going, don't blame IBM for this. They literally patent the hell out of everything they can to avoid being sued themselves. They're a patent suit target.

If you don't like IBM's actions, phone your representative for patent law reform as it's the government's own fault for the sad state in which patent law exists today.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830195)

The reality is that IBM has a huge patent portfolio. You can't urinate on a computer without violating one of their patents. Why do they need junk patents like this one? If IBM is truly doing this defensively, they should be be phoning their representatives instead of filing such dubious patents. Instead of trying to change the system, they are taking advantage of the brokenness, and that's wrong.

IBM should drop this patent or release it into the commons or something. It should never have been granted, and profiting from wrong is still wrong.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (3, Funny)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830829)

Damn! I just finished preparing my patent for "Usage of Computer as Human Waste Receptical", and you're telling me that there's prior art?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20830929)

If it is really a defensive action which I could imagine with a company around in Redmond, I think/hope they will carry Real Networks attitude. It will be completely free without strings attached to open source developers.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0, Redundant)

nozzo (851371) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829459)

LOL! 'drug your finger'! surely 'dragged your finger'?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829827)

This is a common UI design in the audio world.

Ah-hah! But this is On A Computer! Completely original!

Next up they'll patent the same thing, but On The Internet! Genius!

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830403)

How are my examples of prior art not on a computer? All those products I mentioned are audio software products that do almost precisely what is described in the patent. The oldest of those apps, Digital Performer, has been around since 1985, though it was originally called Performer. Assuming that was around in the original interface (I didn't use it back then), it is likely that there are already expired patents on this subject....

The only thing even slightly original here is that this makes an X appear instead of changing whether a button icon appears "pushed". The X UI has been in use for decades, so that's not really particularly original, either, and I even remember audio/MIDI software back in the 80s that used the checkbox UI itself for mute buttons, though I don't remember if any of those also implemented the drag behavior. I'm fairly sure (but not entirely certain) that Master Tracks Pro (MIDI sequencer) did this with a checkbox for their mute control back in the late 80s... or was that a dot in the box? Is there a difference between a check and a dot? If so, is it worthy of a patent?

In short, from my perspective, this patent makes Amazon one-click sound like a brilliant innovation by comparison. In fact, this ranks right up there with patenting the wheel [cnn.com] .

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830637)

Oh, well I thought you were talking about a physical console or mix board where the electronics inside would (on a digital board at the very least) certainly be a computer, the interface itself is traditional buttons, knobs, and sliders. Whereas IBMs patent is on a computer GUI. That's not the case, mea culpa.

More importantly, I was completely supporting your position that this is a stupid patent. I can't be more sarcastic than "Next up they'll patent the same thing, but On The Internet! Genius!" without feeling like I'm being a complete ham.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

justzisguy (573704) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830895)

Wow, someone who seems to understand the meets and bounds of the claim and proposes actual potential prior art. Now we just need to obtain some dated documentation. Great job!

It's hard to blame the examiner for not knowing about an obscure audio program that wouldn't turn up under more generalized searches. This is why the Peer to Patent [peertopatent.org] project has some potential at fixing the problems with software patents.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

PeelBoy (34769) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830123)

"The very fact that this patent was awarded is further evidence that every cool new idea that could possibly be patented in software has already been done at least once"

huh?

You're crazy if you believe that.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (4, Informative)

IronChef (164482) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830219)

Photoshop does the same thing. Click the eye to toggle vis of a layer and you can drag to do more than one.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20831243)

Right, knew I saw this somewhere before. Mod up?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830615)

If you click on a mute button and drag across multiple tracks, it mutes all of them just like it would if you drug your finger across the mute buttons on a console.
That differs somewhat from this patent. In this patent if you click a checkbox to mute, then drag it across a checkbox that is already in mute state, it would have to unmute it. The key word appears to be "toggle".

I think I implemented exactly this kind of interface in the mid '80s, though I would have to check the code (which I no longer have) to be sure. I know I had multiple checkbox selection and deselection by click and drag, it just seems likely that I would have done toggle too.

Personally, I would consider this kind of interface obvious. But thank you kdawson for yet another article with a totally clueless title. This certainly is not about patenting "checking a box".

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831543)

>That differs somewhat from this patent. In this patent if you click a checkbox to mute, then drag it across a checkbox that is already in mute state, it
>would have to unmute it. The key word appears to be "toggle".

I'm thinking that anything that "works" this way, is into "UI hall of shame" territory anyway.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831479)

Ya know...I've been giving serious thought to patenting the names Dick bin Cheney and George bin Bush. Whadyathink????

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828831)

That was my first thought as well... except with pixel painting software. Magnify the screen and use the pencil tool to set a bunch of pixels without ever releasing the mouse button. This "invention" dates back to the parc xerox days.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829225)

Kids have been drag-selecting check-buttons for years. The de-selection mode of it wasn't done because even the de-selection of even one such button was not implemented for anyone without an elevator key.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827643)

Patents are not eternal the way copyrights are. The more obvious stuff that gets patented now, the more stuff that's clearly unpatentable 17 years from now. We're not that far from clearing all the crazy stuff that was patented in the 90s.

Unfortunately not (2, Informative)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827959)

There are various tricks to subvert patent expiration, and this is one of them. Instead of patenting a large system, they patent as many small parts of it as possible, spreading the applications over years.

This way, the system as a whole doesn't lose protection until the last patent expires. The mp3 patents are an example of this, as they would have entered the public domain years ago if not for these shenanigans.

The only real solution is to require one patent per system. Make them pick the best and disallow any associated patents.

Re:Unfortunately not (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828815)

But I thought you only had one year from publication to patent something. So the trick of patenting parts of a system years after it was first put into use shouldn't work. Unless the patent office doesn't actually count the publishing of a program as the same as publishing the description of the object being patented.

No (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830865)

I'm pretty certain that's not the case.

Re:Unfortunately not (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829643)

Now if only I was a patent attorney, and could answer intelligently on this...

But I suspect that if they were to simply patent a different part of the existing MP3 format, the prior MP3 format itself would be prior art.

So, they patent a different style of handle on the milk jug, then "indented panels allowing for thinner jug walls" then "screw on cap", yadda yadda yadda, making as small and inexpensive a change as possible, that remains a "new feature".

But this argument is all hot air. As I said, I'm not a patent attorney...

Prior art... (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830935)

Only matters if it's someone else's prior art.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20827699)

It's a stupid patent, and having that as the only multi-select method is annoying.

However, if you have a set of four or five boxes close together, I can see it as being convinient.

However if you drop shift/ctrl standards in your selection method, DIAF.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (5, Interesting)

MrTester (860336) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827857)

And while we are ripping on Lotus Notes...

Why in the name of God would they take the F5 key (the key every other application known to man uses to refresh) and assign to to "Logout"?!?!??!!?

WTF?

Ive been using Lotus (against my will) for 3 years now, and still a few times a month I hit F5 because I just KNOW that I should have that email response by now.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN!!!!!
No, I dont normally invoke the name of God 2 times in an email (Well, I guess thats 3 now). Its just a sign of the wrath Lotus brings out in me.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (5, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828035)

As someone who used Notes, let me just say that God had nothing to do with it's design. You need to look in the other direction.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20830041)

why did you put an apostrophe in "its"?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20830361)

to piss off grammar fascists like yourself.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (2, Interesting)

brandonY (575282) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828237)

It is because they picked that key before F5 meant refresh for everybody else, and they don't want to change it and confuse all the experienced Notes users just because some newfangled (read: after 1990 or so) products do it differently.

You'll probably feel equally angry when you try out Notes 8 and realize that CTRL+tab doesn't take you between tabs because they decided to update themselves to use the same shortcut keys Eclipse uses for that operation, but you can't be angry at BOTH decisions and maintain internal rational consistency.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829509)

In that case, they should make it an option that can be set either way. It's not like Notes is a bastion of clean and simplistic design that would be ruined by a few more radio buttons or a set of drop-downs to define your function key behavior.

What'll really infuriate you about Lotus... (2, Insightful)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829159)

I spent the better part of last year working at a client site that used Lotus Notes for e-mail, and thus, so did I, at least for their corporate stuff. I found it incredibly frustrating to use and frequently wished I could use something with a more satisfying user experience. Say, pine or elm.

One of my lifelong best friends worked as a developer for IBM at the time, so naturally the next time I saw him I bitched at him about how much I hated Notes and asked how he could stand it. His reply? "Oh, I wouldn't know about that. We use Outlook."

I'm sure there must be some (maybe even most) departments of IBM that use Notes, but man. To foist that dog food on the world and not even eat it yourself? That's the devil right there.

I'm puzzled at this patent, but no more than I am about Notes in general.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20829401)

No, I dont normally invoke the name of God 2 times in an email

You still haven't. 'God' is not a name; it's just a noun.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20828013)

I see.

And what would be your feelings on, oh, say patenting putting your dick in a box [youtube.com] ?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (2, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828041)

Almost every other piece of software follows the old click-first-item, shift-click-last-item model. (Or ctrl-click individual items.) It's been in use since... Well, as long as I can remember using a GUI, and I'm really hard-pressed to think of any other way that selections work.

I believe, like many other standards in GUIs, this was first introduced as a standard by Apple and documented in the Macintosh User Interface Guidelines in the 80's (although I'm sure someone did it somewhere before that). Later Microsoft began using a similar standard, while XWindows was still using a "select copies, and right-click pastes" into the 90's, at least in twm and many of the common window managers (not sure what Motif did here).

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828097)

Programmers shouldn't even be ABLE to patent anything. Software patents should be abolished.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828211)

If you spend 5 years developing a physical machine that takes some physical input, does something to it in a novel way, and produces output, you can get a patent on it.

Why shouldn't you be able to patent software which takes some electronic input, does something to it in a novel way, and produces output?

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20828511)

Takes an input, does something, and produces an output.

Geez, that sounds a lot like a mathematical function [wikipedia.org] .

Sir, I'm interested in your newsletter and wish to subscribe to it.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830731)

The same reason you shouldn't be able to patent mathematical equations. It stifles innovation. Besides, you're still protected by copyright.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828669)

The last time I was forced to use Lotus Notes was 2003, and I was amazed that it _still_ looked like what I imagine software written in the Cold War Soviet Union must have been like. In 2003, it still wasn't caught up to conventions that were standard in the 1980's.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (2, Informative)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829719)

While independent claims 1, 6, and 11 do cover multiple checkboxes, they not require dragging do toggle the state of multiple checkboxes. That is covered in later dependent claims. Effectively IBM has just been granted a patent on the basic GUI checkbox which was implemented by Apple in the Lisa Office System in January 1983. Xerox probably used checkboxes before that, but I'm not certain. It seems likely that Claims 1, 6, and 11 can be invalidated by prior art, should someone be willing to invest the time and effort to do so. The dependent claims might have a better chance of being upheld.

IBM corss licensing. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830461)

iirc IBM licenses it's software patents both to all open source software, and to anybody who extends their patents to FOSS as well. Actually having patents to allow FOSS to use seems fairly irrelevant, as Google jumped in to take advantage of this deal. So pretty much anybody who doesn't have a vested interest in damaging FOSS can still do strange drag mouse to checkmark actions.

Re:If someone patents something stupid, do we care (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831493)

>I mean, really, are programmers expected to patent every single frickin' thing they do out of fear that someone else might?

NO! They are supposed to patent everything so that TWENTY YEARS from now, there will be a sudden boost to development when all the patents from the big rush of the early 21st century expire all together.

Wow... (2, Informative)

apdyck (1010443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827375)

If IBM can patent the checkbox, what's next? The radio button? The text box? Maybe even the address bar?!?

Re:Wow... (2, Informative)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827539)

TFS is a bit unclear on this, but the patent is about moving your cursor over checkbox #1 in a given list, holding down a given mouse button and dragging the cursor over a number of other checkboxes in the same list, changing their state to whatever state #1 assumed after you pressed the button. It's still very but not that stupid.

Freaking MacPaint is prior art (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830661)

he patent is about moving your cursor over checkbox #1 in a given list, holding down a given mouse button and dragging the cursor over a number of other checkboxes in the same list, changing their state to whatever state #1 assumed after you pressed the button.
Do you remember how the desktop pattern editor or the MacPaint [wikipedia.org] pencil tool from Mac OS 1 worked?

Re:Wow... (1)

UnderDark (869922) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827553)

They have just patented making speculations on future IBM patents!

Re:Wow... (1)

apdyck (1010443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827921)

Uh-oh...I can't afford to pay them any royalties...I'd like to retract my previous speculations...or can I just give them to the patent holder and forget about it?

Re:Wow... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828173)

The address bar is already patented. I think it was even reported on Slashdot. Can't remember who owns it, but thankfully I don't think they've gone suing yet.

Maybe ... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829163)

If IBM can patent the checkbox, what's next? The radio button? The text box? Maybe even the address bar?!?

I wonder if this is IBM's attempt to show how screwed up the patent system is?

Re:Wow... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829355)

Hm, almost. Mozilla has a patent on "Making webpages load automatically when you drag them down from the address bar, but then making you have to hit 'go' or 'return' in later versions and destroying all evidence of the original functionality."

They implement this in FireFox, and, so far, have successfully prevented Microsoft from implementing the second part.

Hey you useless people - it's not the checkbox. (1)

Harik (4023) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827563)

The patent is on their hybrid 'checkbox/windows selection' GUI abomination. It's really fucking ugly - note the "If you scroll the current checked selection off the screen, the behavior changes."

IF YOU SCROLL THE BEHAVIOR CHANGES.

Dear IBM: Didn't you learn to share your drugs? Please be giving me some of that crack.

Re: Patenting the Ugly!!? (0, Flamebait)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828461)

Wait a minute...

If I had patented all the ridiculously ugly things I can think of, would that have prevented Microsoft DevelopersDevelopers(woohooo) from trashing both Office07 and IE7 User Interfaces?

What do you call it? (3, Funny)

kidcharles (908072) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827603)

What do you call it when you drag a pointer over a checkbox to select or deselect it depending on its original state?

What do you call it when I drag the U.S. software patent system behind my car until it is an unrecognizable bloody mess?

Sorry for the graphic imagery, but I'm really getting sick of this crap.

Re:What do you call it? (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829245)

What do you call it when I drag the U.S. software patent system behind my car until it is an unrecognizable bloody mess?

A beautiful, but sadly never to be realized, fantasy?

Re:What do you call it? (2, Funny)

baggins2001 (697667) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829819)

Dragging it behind your car would be patentable, but making it an unrecognizable bloody mess has already been done.

Alternative. (4, Funny)

JMZero (449047) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827631)

I'm patenting my own method of box checking:

1. Cut a hole in the box.
2. Put your check in that box.
3. Make her open the box.

Re:Alternative. (1)

bigjocker (113512) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827709)

And that's the way you do it

Re:Alternative. (2, Funny)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827783)

Are you sure you meant check ?

Re:Alternative. (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827793)

I hold the patent to that numbered list thingy! You stole my IP! Where's my compensation?!

Re:Alternative. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20829847)

I hold the patent to that numbered list thingy! You stole my IP! Where's my compensation?!
You lose, because I hold the patent to "that numbered list thingy... on the internet! " It's a unique, revolutionary, and non-obvious design.

Anonymous (4, Funny)

adam.conf (893668) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827637)

Well, I guess I won't be posting anonymously for once.

Dont touch my patent IBM (1)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827721)

My patent (#2334533533.Bull.Crap) is: Drawing 2 circles on your body followed by a dot in each one prevents you from getting cooties from the opposite sex.

Circle Circle Dot Dot, now I got my cootie shot

Obviously (3, Funny)

packetmon (977047) | more than 6 years ago | (#20827987)

No one here understands the complexity involved in checking a box. I don't work for IBM and I am not a marketing expert, if you have side questions on my post please contact me at nocengineer@ibm.com with that said:

IBM's patented technology is a boon to the Interweb of Googletoolbars worldwide. This extremely proficient alternative to physically filling out a form with a paper and pen method deserves its right in Patentdumb history. The traditional approach of said former technology via the pen and the paper is an approach that is inefficient and expensive. IMB's modular design of the radio button and check button interface allows users to utilize with maximum proficiency, the power of checking a box.

Thank you

THIS AND OTHER SUBSEQUENT POSTS ARE PATENT PENDING

This is just so bad (5, Informative)

Anonymous EPA (1127109) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828187)

I am a patent attorney who tries to get his clients good, valid patents for any technology, including those that are implemented in software.

I really hate to see patents like this being granted, because they are so obviously stupid, and bring the whole system into disrepute.

If this were a granted European patent, it would have any number of oppositions filed against it. (An opposition is a cheap and effective challenges to a granted patent). IMO, no proper patent system should be without a workable system of opposition!

This is a horrible mess, and I wish that there were a way of extracting it from the US patent system in a way that will save IBM the ignominy of having such an obviously bad patent granted in its name.

A

Re:This is just so bad (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829417)

I hope you can use your attorney powers to gather up some like-minded friends...

TWO topics here: Patents/Symphony

Patents

I may be mistaken, but I think that Raining Data's Omnis Studio had such features BACK IN 1994!

When I was a contractor back at Bay Networks in/~ 1993/94(formerly Synoptics and Wellfleet, BN later bought by Nortel, I think...) I used the Mac version of Omnis's Omnis database (later I began playing with Omnis Studio, but that's another topic), and I think the developers there had some such options.

I think even Borland Paradox had such features, or something similar.

Really, whether one database application can or cannot do EXACTLY what IBM claims depends on the technology, but in effect, there are ways to simulate the patent claim, or outright cobble code to do it. It might look ugly, be inelegant, but work.

Honestly, I have not READ the patent claim in entirety, but I think that if enough older developers review the patent and can demonstrate they had created prior art, then this would be good (not to be attacking IBM) but to show how hosed up the USPTO still is. I know (I think I read somewhere) that the USPTO is opening up to more input prior to issuing/awarding/granting patents, but maybe I misread.

SYMPHONY

I'd RATHER see IBM's money spent on ditching Symphony's underpinnings and replacing it with Lotus SMARTSUITE, 2007. I suppose, though, they'll claim they don't own all the patents inside SmartSuite and signed a document that they would not try to imitate/reproduce/assist in doing so any component of SmartSuite (which excludes Notes). It's a shame, because I was decidedly underwhelmed, disappointed in fact, with Symphony. OO.o, I have to say, did a MUCH better job at opening and handling my company's ms-word-created tables and revision notes (tho, in OO.o I did not try to do any revision tracking stuff... can OO.o even do so?). I WISH SmartSuite were IBM's choice of platform.

IBM, c'mon. Reign in your attorney head count and divert that money to developers who want to help you make a better splash than you did with Symphony. There's nothing even remotely reminiscent of Lotus Symphony of old in the IBM Lotus Symphony of new.

C'mon, IBM. Bring your vast arsenal to bear by liberating SmartSuite, and using patents to protect things like SmartTabs, Smart Properties, and other features that WON AWARDS for SmartSuite when ms office wasn't EVEN WINNNG awards. YOUR property WON awards, when Corel didn't, and when ms probably was issuing payola to mag reviewers to bolster ms office's stand and market takeover.

IBM, C'MON! SmartSuite is a treasure trove of potential patents. Cross-license with Sun/OO.o so Symphony can be as strong as Lotus SmartSuite, 2007.

Re:This is just so bad (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829641)

I really hate to see patents like this being granted, because they are so obviously stupid, and bring the whole system into disrepute.
Better granted to IBM than a patent troll IMO. For all we know IBM might never implement this except in some obscure piece of software somewhere where some patent troll might try to milk it for a fifilion dollars.

The rest of us have to check them one by one (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828225)

Imagine how many index fingers will be damaged by that.

Prior Art? (1)

sleepykit (942636) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828581)

No offense, but little check marks have existed since paper tests immemorial... I guess click/drag is sorta different but still fairly obvious.

Patent Troll? (0)

Ryukotsusei (1164453) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828965)

So IBM is trying to be the next big patent troll?

At a party... (2, Funny)

Seismologist (617169) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829021)

I'd like to hear the IBM "engineer" describe that he holds a "patent" during a conversation at some party:

IBM Guy: Hey man, you know I have an patent?

Party Dude: Really? What does it pertain to?

IBM Guy: The "check box".

Party Dude: The check box? Is that a new microchip technology.

IBM Dude: No man... it's the box, that, you check... on forms 'n shit

Party Dude: Really? That's not that novel...

IBM Dude: Check it... you are on a computer and if you want to indicate that an item needs to be checked... you click on this little box, and, it totally gets checked-off... Way cool, cutting edge shit...

Party Dude: Cool man. Need to get away, um, I mean some beer. Check you later.

Shaddap You Commies (0, Flamebait)

alexborges (313924) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829207)

In OUR company, we protect our intelectual property using patents. This is the best way for humanity itself to develop breaking-ground technologies like this one: imagine when you have a checkbox and you want to select it but are to lazy to click on it... yeah, i know, you frown... it has happened to you.

Well not anymore. IBM's wonderfully patented technology will CLICK FOR YOU!

Now isnt that a great breakthrough in human-computer interaction?

That's Fine (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829285)

If IBM would kindly patent all elements of the Lotus Notes UI such that no other company may ever inflict that atrocity upon its users, I'd be willing to overlook that patents are evil. I'd ask them to also patent the use of Lotus Notes in a business environment as well, except that I have yet to encounter any other company that actually uses the software. And I like it like that.

For those of you who haven't had an opportunity to actually use Lotus Notes, think of it as Business Herpes.

Re:That's Fine (1)

Pop69 (700500) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830283)

These guys use it groupwide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lvmh [wikipedia.org] and I fully agree, it sucks big time, even the Mac version

Re:That's Fine (1)

chromeronin (914748) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831311)

Personally I thnk Notes is a great back end system, but it's client should never have been let near any users. It is terrible, slow, hard to manage and just plain ugly. Howeever is is really easy to develop some good business systems and have clustering, replication, secured access, web front ends, cross platform etc.

However MS Exchange and Outlook, there is a neat client that is fundamentally easy to use, but the back-end is very poor, hard to troubleshoot. Exchange 2007 is the first version that is even going to have some form of high-availability for its databases included right out of the box, but you are going to have to upgrade just about your entire exchange network (and every server running it to 64 bit Windows to make use of the features.)

You ALL are in violation of my US Patent 7,276,517 (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#20829379)

Which covers "Ejecting bodily excrements by restraining stomach muscles and putting pressure on the Bowels" - you all better start paying up royalties when you go for taking a dump or ill sue your butts out of you

that'll teach you to respect patents !

Re:You ALL are in violation of my US Patent 7,276, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20829701)

I don't give a shit. In fact, I can't give a shit because I have an ostomy. Go ahead and send my an angry letter about violating your patent, I'll reply with a bag of shit, signed and dated.

Oh yeah, and you can have my butt as I'll not be needing it.

I win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20829745)

I am patenting a mechanism to allow for intake of oxygen and discharge of carbon dioxide in a human apparatus. I think I may be golden.

But, is it really for "checking a box"? (5, Informative)

blckbllr (242654) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830023)

I'm biased. I really hate patent stories on Slashdot. They're oversimplified and do not substantively address the patent at issue.

That being said, let's see what IBM really patented. First, for the time being, discount everything before the "claims." Claims protect what the patentee considers his/her invention. There are 15 claims of the '116 patent ("We" usually refer to patents by their last three digits). Claims 1, 6, and 11 appear to be the independent claims. These are, arguably, the broadest claims in that the claimed subject matter is much broader than claims 2-5, 7-10, and 12-15.

Claim 1 recites:
A method for control of checkbox status, the method comprising:
  • selecting and deselecting checkboxes in a GUI according to a mode of operation the GUI having displayed upon it a set of checkboxes comprising a multiplicity of checkboxes, wherein each checkbox comprises a selection status indicating whether each checkbox is selected;
  • detecting a mode selection event;
  • changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event.

Now, we come to the crux of the matter. What do these three limitations mean? Honestly, I have no idea. This is when we have to go back and read everything before the claims. Do these three limitations mean merely "checking a box"? Somehow, I don't think so. There seems to be a lot more going on here. For example, what does it mean to "detect[] a mode selection event"? That doesn't sound like merely "checking a box." That sounds like a bit more.

The other independent claims recite a similar limitations. For example, claim 6 recites "means for detecting a mode selection event." What does this mean? I don't know, I haven't read the rest of the patent's specification. Again, however, this seems to be a bit more than "checking a box." I live it up to another reader to figure out what this limitation means.

The lesson to take away here is that the patent stories on Slashdot are sensationalism at its finest. I read Slashdot, and often, I find the stories very interesting. However, the patent summaries are atrocious and are nothing short of informative, if not misleading.

If you think you have prior art that would invalidate this patent, then please, submit it. I invite you to read about the reexamination procedures at the USPTO. You can find them here [uspto.gov] .

The views expressed herein are in no way associated with any private entity or government organization

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20830643)

I agree, i'm taking a digital ip law class right now and some of the stuff you'd think is obvious (such as amazon's one click patent) when you actually read the patent you'll find the claims aren't for what a sensationalized title says it is or its something that seems obvious in hindsight but obviously wasn't because no one was doing it before the patent was filed.

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (2, Interesting)

blckbllr (242654) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830887)

Exactly! You'll find that as you read Slashdot's postings on patents, you'll become more and more frustrated with how summaries are written. Patent law is completely fascinating, but the Slashdot summaries always manage to muck it up. If you're curious, take a look at some of my past postings where I've tried to clear up issues that the summary completely fails to address. I think patent summaries are one place where Slashdot could really benefit from a volunteer IP person working to review and edit them.

Good luck in your digital IP law class. Take lots of notes, do your outlines, and you'll be fine!

The views expressed herein are in no way associated with any private entity or government organization

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (4, Informative)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830847)

If you think you have prior art that would invalidate this patent, then please, submit it.

This has nothing to do with prior art or not. I read through about 10% of this, skipping what mostly looked like fillers to make it more technical. This is seriously basic things. You know back in the 80ies when you used the 'pen' in MacPaint, and if you clicked a white square it would 'remember' that it was going to paint everything black, and if you started on a black square it would 'remember' it was going to paint every square white. That this thing goes through shows what sad state the sytem is in. This is what those points means, in practice:

detecting a mode selection event

This is when you click the first checkbox.

changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event

There are two modes of operation: If the first checkbox is set, you enter the "clear" mode. If it's cleared, you enter the "set" mode.

Now you can drag the mouse, all checkboxes you hit will enter the state you chose with the first click.

I could show prior art; this is how the menus in DirWork 1.62 on my Amiga works, from 1992 (I just checked, to be sure I didn't imagine things). I have no wish to submit this, since doing that would just make people believe that "Hey, the system works! People can submit prior art if they aren't happy, so let's just keep giving out patents like santa on christmas day!". Something else has to be done.

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (1)

blckbllr (242654) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831047)

This has nothing to do with prior art or not. I read through about 10% of this, skipping what mostly looked like fillers to make it more technical....

Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down there. Patent law has EVERYTHING to do with prior art. The Examiner must have felt that, based on the claims presented before him and the references at hand, that the claims were patentable in view of those references. At this point, there is no debate on this subject. The claims are presumptively patentable. The only way to invalidate this patent at this point is either through litigation, such as a declaratory judgment that the patent is, in fact, invalid, or through re-examination, which requires that the references bring up a substantial question of patentability. To say that this has "nothing" to do with prior art is missing the point of the patent system in the first place.

This is when you click the first checkbox.

Is this what limitation means? Are you sure? Are you familiar with the case law regarding patent claim construction? Do you know what claim construction is? Did you read the claim? Did you ascribe the claim's terms their "ordinary and customary meaning"? Did you look at the specification? Did you read the patent prosecution history to determine whether the applicant/patentee disclaimed any subject matter relating to "detecting a mode selection event"?

To dismiss outright that "detecting a mode selection event" means "when you click the first checkbox" is to dismiss an entire body of case law devoted to interpreting what claims mean. This is precisely why I didn't take on that exercise in the first place. If claim construction were that simple, a lot more people would be patent litigators.

There are two modes of operation: If the first checkbox is set, you enter the "clear" mode. If it's cleared, you enter the "set" mode.

Are those the only modes covered by the claim? Are these modes even contemplated? Are there additional modes or other "mode selection events"? Without undergoing proper claim construction, how do you know that this is what the patentee, in fact, meant?

I have no wish to submit this, since doing that would just make people believe that "Hey, the system works! People can submit prior art if they aren't happy, so let's just keep giving out patents like santa on christmas day!". Something else has to be done.

While I agree that sometimes Examiners aren't as rigorous in their examination, the U.S.P.T.O. purposefully created the ex parte reexamination procedure to question those patents that may have been improperly granted. To say that "something else needs to be done," but not to participate in the procedures that have already been established is simply hypocritical. There are opportunities for you to challenge an improperly granted patent, and if you're going to complain about improper patents without actually engaging the system to correct those patents, you perpetuate those problems as much as the system itself.

The views expressed herein are in no way associated with any private entity or government organization

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20830979)

Ever use xfig? You "detect the mode" of a box: checked or unchecked. It inverts, and if you drag the mouse over other boxes, they become check or unchecked depending on the initial mode.

And if I can find prior art, and am not a patent examiner, shouldn't the patent examiner lose his job?

I mean really - they say "checkbox comprises a selection status indicating whether each checkbox is selected" then you claim you don't know what "detecting a mode selection event" means. Obviously to anyone even semi-literate, detecting a mode selection event means detecting a change in the selection status - aka, when someone checks or unchecks a box. Then it easily follows that "changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event" would have to mean changing whether later on you check or uncheck boxes based upon whether you initially checked the box. If you can't parse that fairly simple jargon, you really should be quiet about it. Really.

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (1)

blckbllr (242654) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831221)

Obviously to anyone even semi-literate, detecting a mode selection event means detecting a change in the selection status - aka, when someone checks or unchecks a box. Then it easily follows that "changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event" would have to mean changing whether later on you check or uncheck boxes based upon whether you initially checked the box.

As I explained to pipatron, there is an entire body of case law dealing with claim construction. Claim construction is the carefully crafted body of case law dealing with what claims mean.

Again, and as before, to simply stay that "detecting a mode selection event" is equivalent or equal to "when someone checks or unchecks a box" without reviewing the rest of the claims, the specification, and the prosecution history, there is simple no way to definitely state what these claims mean. While we can speculate what we think these claims may mean, to ascribe any sort of knowledge as to their actual meaning is to dismiss an entire body of case law going back to the 1950s.

Really.

The views expressed herein are in no way associated with any private entity or government organization

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20831563)

Abstract: Controlling checkbox status by selecting and deselecting checkboxes in a GUI according to a mode of operation, the GUI having displayed upon it a set of checkboxes comprising a multiplicity of checkboxes, wherein each checkbox comprises a selection status indicating whether each checkbox is selected; detecting a mode selection event; and changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event. In some exemplary embodiments each checkbox comprises a drag status and the method includes toggling the status of the first checkbox and statefully toggling the selection status of checkboxes experiencing drag event in dependence upon drag status, the new state of the first checkbox, and the original state of the current checkbox.

And if that's not clear enough: In exemplary embodiments of the invention, each checkbox includes a drag status indicating whether each checkbox has experienced a drag event. In such embodiments, selecting and deselecting checkboxes in a GUI according to a mode of operation includes detecting a touch event on a first checkbox in the GUI, toggling the status of the first checkbox to a new status, and setting the drag status of the first checkbox. Typical embodiments include detecting first drag events on additional checkboxes onto which a user drags the pointer, including setting a drag status of the additional checkboxes indicating that the additional checkboxes have experienced a drag event. Exemplary embodiments include statefully toggling, to the new selection status of the first checkbox, the status of the additional checkboxes, detecting subsequent drag events for additional checkboxes onto which a user drags the pointer more than once during a click-and-drag operation, including determining in dependence upon the drag statuses of the additional checkboxes whether the additional checkboxes have experienced a drag event, and statefully toggling the selection status for each additional checkbox for which a subsequent drag event is detected to the opposite of the selection status of such additional checkbox when the additional drag event is detected.

The construction of claims may be a sophisticated art, but the substance is empty and clearly so. It doesn't take legal tricks to judge the substance - just the technical validity. At the end of the day, supposedly an actual design is being patented (ostensibly). Just like a sales contract - hundreds of years have gone into the gaming of sales, but in the end the substance is I gave the man my money, and I want my stuff. Really. Parsing substance doesn't take a JD - winning in court does, particularly if you want to make the claim broader than what you've actually thought of. We can clearly see what the engineer is trying to patent (shamelessly) - what the lawyer can get away with is a completely different question. Really, I'd be sort of embarrassed if I conflated an actual product with a contract for a product.

Law is essentially substance-free - it's about how you say things, not what you say, just like an old shaman in a village or a medieval theologian. At best, a necessary evil to minimize social conflict - at worst, an unproductive parasite designing rituals to fleece the population. I think we can see which category patent law tends to fall under...

Re:But, is it really for "checking a box"? (1)

RowanS (1049078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831621)

OK, patent stories on Slashdot are sensational and poorly researched, and no one understands the patent language anyway. All true.

But a checkbox has two states. Is there any possible useful method of changing the states of a "multiplicity of checkboxes" that is not obvious and trivial to develop?

what a country! (1)

juan2074 (312848) | more than 6 years ago | (#20830897)

Too bad this wasn't obvious.

On the plus side, no more surveys without IBM licenses.

M.Y.O.B. Accounting has done this for years. (3, Informative)

Dr. Mu (603661) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831063)

The M.Y.O.B Accounting software I use in my business has had this feature for years. When reconciling your checking account, for example, just click on a cleared check and drag across all the others in sequence that have also cleared, and they all get checked.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Czech Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20831129)

In Soviet Russia you are buried in Czech Box!

Just say no... (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831147)

...to software patents.

Pretty much all stories related to company X patenting trivial computing action can be summed up with that. When you have an asinine and completely absurd legal/patent system, don't be surprised when people take that for the example of how they're supposed to act using it.

This is otherwise like... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831289)

...drawing in MS-Paintbrush with the pixel grid on

And to think IBM is participating in patent reform (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831363)

Open Source as Prior Art and Patent Peer review...both have IBM as participants...

Simple Work-around (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831405)

Just use "sticky" buttons instead of check-boxes on your GUI.

Ah Rats! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20831489)

So much for my new Tetris GUI framework.
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