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Yahoo Patents 'Smart' Drag and Drop

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the will-wonders-never-cease dept.

Patents 128

Unequivocal writes "According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Yahoo has filed a patent for 'smart' drag and drop. From the article: 'A computer-implemented method for manipulating objects in a user interface, comprising: providing the user interface including a first interface object operable to be selected and moved within the user interface; and in response to selection and movement of the first interface object in the user interface, presenting at least one additional interface object in the user interface in proximity of the first interface object, each additional interface object representing a drop target with which the first interface object may be associated.' How do these patent claims differ from normal drag and drop? In pretty trivial ways if at all, but it may be hard for a patent examiner to understand that trivial changes in drag and drop user interface are not in fact novel enough to warrant a patent. If Yahoo gets this patent, they'll have a mighty big stick to shake at competitors."

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128 comments

SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137354)

Simply post links to papers which do exactly this, contextual drag and drop and you can blow this patent out of the water!

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (3, Informative)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137576)

There may be prior art, but after carefully reading the patent, I suspect claim 1 may hold up. It uses the word 'presenting' confusingly, which can invalidate a claim, but the body of the patent makes it clear that 'presenting' means creating new objects on the screen that weren't there before in that location. If you drag an object, they might pop up a recyle bin right next to it, which otherwise wouldn't even be visible. I'm afraid this claim wont infringe any drag-and-drop application I've ever seen.

Two points: First, who cares if Yahoo patents some tiny area? This patent is so specific that few will ever feel the need to violate it. Second, this patent sucks because it's a software patent, not because it's obvious. I have several software patents. You need them in the US to protect your company from your competitor's software patents. However, the EU got it right when they rejected the concept. The world would be better off without them.

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137816)

Not an HCI specialist, but it sounds like they really need to look at Green from Sun Labs in the early '90s, which did exactly what you describe.

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138172)

I saw a video that came out of Microsoft a few years ago that did just what you're talking about. They were experimenting with the concept due to icon-based GUIs being so terribly inefficient on large displays or spanned across three or four displays. There were some really cool features shown in that video, I wish I still had a link to it.

Konqueror does this. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139094)

First, who cares if Yahoo patents some tiny area? This patent is so specific that few will ever feel the need to violate it. Second, this patent sucks because it's a software patent, not because it's obvious.

We should all care because it wipes out a lot of good software. Context sensitive drag and drop is obvious and Konqueror, for example, makes extensive use of the concept. Menu options change based on file types and associations. Files dropped to players play, dropped to file managers produce a menu about move, copy or link. Even if you buy into the foolish notion of software patents, you should hate this one because it's obvious and there's lots of prior art.

Re:Konqueror does this. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139898)

The way I would interprert the description of the patent is this: as soon as you start to drag an image, icons for GiMP and a trash can would appear next to the icon you're dragging. As soon as you start to drag a text file, icons for vi and a trash can would appear. And so on. In other words, it doesn't cover any of the things you think it does.

That's not saying there isn't prior art, but it isn't about having drop targets. It's about having source-specific drop targets appear dynamically. It is more closely related to context-sensitive pop-up menus except that it has larger targets for choosing what to do and it is done with the normal click and drag gesture instead of requiring a second mouse button or control-click or whatever.

That said, I have not read the actual patent, so I could be wrong.

Re:Europeans were right to reject software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141930)

the EU got it right when they rejected the concept. The world would be better off without them.
And their lawyers have perfectly well explained the reasons why to the world as well - just look at what their favorite reading [oxfordjournals.org] has been for years.

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (1)

UserDesigner (1225084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22145976)

My two cents: I am a SIGCHI slashdotter, author of the mouse gesture program wayV (a few years ago now) and I've recently read up on different drag and drop methods, which I (shameless plug) wrote up about in "drag-and-pop, push-and-throw, push-and-pop" http://www.user-designer.com/index.php/20071213/drag-and-pop-push-and-throw-push-and-pop [user-designer.com]

Without a deep reading of the patent application: For possible prior art have a look at Patrick Baudisch's (Microsoft Research) work on drag-and-pop. Drag-and-pop is designed so when a "user starts dragging an icon towards some target icon, drag-and-pop responds by temporarily moving potential target icons towards the user's current cursor location, thereby allowing the user to interact with these icons using comparably small hand movements". There's a bunch of online videos and interactive flash demos where you can play with the technique. Mountaz Hascoët's work on push-and-throw may also be relevant.

I often wonder why the KDE/Gnome/Pick your favourite window manager don't cannibalise CHI research?

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137934)

Alias/Wavefront and Maya have a similar interface. You click an object(point, line, spline, polygon, etc) and then right click and you get a "ring" of options. Then move your mouse ever so slightly and you select the action.

Re:SIGCHI slashdotters could help out! (1)

calyphus (646665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139962)

...click an object(point, line, spline, polygon, etc) and then right click and you get a "ring" of options hmm, sounds just like The Sims.

NeverWinter Nights (2, Insightful)

ilithiiri (836229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137356)

Wouldn't this describe NWN interface?
Drag, choose option, drag some more..

Re:NeverWinter Nights (2, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137412)

What about the task bar in Windows 95 and beyond? I can drag a file from an Explorer window to the task bar, make a Window get focus so I can drop it on that Window......

I don't understand from TFA (which I read...I did not read, however, TFPA) what makes their system so smart? Is it the pop-up text that says "Move to Top"? Or just that it does what I want it to do?

Layne

Re:NeverWinter Nights (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137876)

How is anybody supposed to program anything with the way these patents are worded? I have no clue what they are even talking about. Each patent should be able to explain something in plain english as to what they are actually patenting.

Re:NeverWinter Nights (1)

jdschulteis (689834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22143582)

It is a context menu, except initiated by dragging instead of right-clicking, and instead of a menu it pops up one or more drop targets.

The wording of patents [seds.com] is an attempt to avoid the potential ambiguity of plain English.

Re:NeverWinter Nights (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22144604)

So, you mean like when I drag with right click in windows, and it shows me a little menu once I drop allowing me to copy, move, or create shortcut? Isn't there tons of prior art for this?

PhotoShop too (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138162)

This also sounds a lot like Photoshop's guidelines that they've had for several years. There's got to be more to this patent than this.

Also like Windows (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 6 years ago | (#22143902)

Also sounds like dragging and dropping in Windows when you have taskbar grouping enabled and multiple Explorer windows open.

A large mug (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137360)

A large mug is what I'd call whoever granted this patent. Isn't it just a normal drag and drop crossed with some context sensitivity?

Re:A large mug (1)

leamanc (961376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137804)

A large mug is what I'd call whoever granted this patent.
The patent hasn't been granted. It has only been applied for.

Re:A large mug (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138534)

The headline says otherwise. Har, har, you read the article. LOLZ@U, N00B!!

Re:A large mug (1)

leamanc (961376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141250)

The headline says otherwise. Har, har, you read the article. LOLZ@U, N00B!!
I did not RTFA! I only read the Slashdot summary. I know that's still reading too much though. :-)

I was going to post something. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137362)

But it's not worth it.

Re:I was going to post something. (0)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138310)

Good thing too, because I hold the patent on posting worthless comments.

You other posters will be hearing from my lawyers soon.

-mcgrew [slashdot.org]
(link is to latest journal. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine.)

No they won't (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137370)

If Yahoo gets this patent, they'll have a mighty big stick to shake at competitors."

No they bloody well won't.

I have the patent [uspto.gov] for shaking a stick at competitors.

Re:No they won't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137516)

Ummm, the link doesn't work. I'm beginning to doubt that you actually have a patent on that...

Re:No they won't (3, Funny)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137736)

Maybe so, but *I* hold the patent on misdirected links, soooo, as my team of lawyers race after you for my millions... we will just call it even!

Truth Be Told (1)

mfh (56) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137920)

The only reason companies use patents is to create phony investment potential.

Re:Truth Be Told (1)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137994)

And you see it all the time. So many product literatures I get from vendors trying to sell us their appliance boxes love to tout how many patents they have or have pending. Personally, I see that number as a bad thing, but many management types might not.

Re:No they won't (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138006)

Does the text of the patent include terms suchas "a plurality", "providing in the instance of" and other obscure legalese? It's not valid if it doesn't.

Re:No they won't (1)

Codifex Maximus (639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139260)

>I have the patent for shaking a stick at competitors.

I'm sorry Rooseveldt beat you to it. By the way, the KDE drag and drop interface used to present a mini menu that let you decide to copy, paste, etc...

This patent/application deserves to die a grisly death.

Prior Art (1)

s2theg (1185203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140108)

A project called Open Rico has had an open-source javascript api that does that for a long time, and it works quite well. There is an online demo at: http://demos.openrico.org/demos/drag_and_drop_custom_dropzone [openrico.org] No login required.

Re:Prior Art (1)

jdschulteis (689834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22143780)

A project called Open Rico has had an open-source javascript api that does that for a long time, and it works quite well. There is an online demo at: http://demos.openrico.org/demos/drag_and_drop_custom_dropzone [openrico.org] No login required.
Unless there's some way to arrange for the drop zones to not appear until after you start dragging, Rico is not prior art for this patent. It does look like a nice Javascript library.

Re:No they won't (1)

Snafulligan (1088263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141314)

Well, if they do get this patent they will be soon hearing from my lawyers since I 've already patented the 'ingenious' drag and drop last year!

Misleading headline (5, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137386)

They've applied for this patent. It has not granted yet. Seems like a small point but it isn't.

Re:Misleading headline (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137760)

"Seems like a small point but it isn't."

Have you SEEN some of the patents they've put through in the last 5 years? This most definitely IS a small point.

Re:Misleading headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141298)

They've applied for this patent. It has not granted yet. Seems like a small point but it isn't.


big company with lots of lobby money and political connections just erased that point.

i bet you it gets granted.

Prior art (3, Interesting)

Have Blue (616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137396)

How is this different from spring-loaded folders which have been in MacOS since before it was X?

Re:Prior art (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138820)

Better question how is this different than Finder's varible icons? The trash can becomes an eject icon when you select an external volume?

Re:Prior art (1)

realthing02 (1084767) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139192)

It's only a guess, but I'd assume because the trash can is not always in proximity to the drive you're dragging. This seems much more like the 'Ring' of options described above, which would appear when you being to move an object. What they are actually using it for is unknown to me, but it'd be interesting to see it and see if it really is a new or interesting idea.

Re:Prior art (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138970)

IBM had desktop objects that did similar things in OS/2 over a decade ago. Everything on the desktop was an object and depending on the type of object being dragged and the drop target of the object different behaviors could be initiated. Of course Yahoo could add "On the Internet" to this description and STILL get a patent for it, assuming that IBM doesn't already have one. I wouldn't make that bet personally, seeing as how IBM is one of the biggest patent powerhouses in the world and has probably already thought of that.

It is a little treasures like this... (0, Flamebait)

mgblst (80109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137398)

that will stop Yahoo for having to fire 1000s of its employees over the next few weeks. Go Yahoo!

Hey, something just occurred to me (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137410)

Patent tax revenues are backdated to the day of filing. So patent trolls are claiming that all those inventions that were suddenly extant and infringing on day 0 didn't exist as prior art on day -1. They just appeared fully formed overnight.

How can anyone working in the patent racket sleep at night? It must be where lawyers end up when even child molesters, cannibals and politicians won't employ them any more.

Re:Hey, something just occurred to me (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137866)

WTF are you talking about?!? 1) There is no such thing as "patent tax revenues". 2) Which "patent trolls are claiming that all those inventions that were suddenly extant and infringing on day 0", you gibbering, faux-cynical moron?

Re:Hey, something just occurred to me (1)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138540)

How can anyone working in the patent racket sleep at night?

Duh. You don't need to sleep if you don't have a soul. ;)

Re:Hey, something just occurred to me (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22139144)

I am sorry - but that isn't insightful. The day of filing has to be within a year of invention being made public. The day of filing is NOT the day of invention. An idea can have been in public knowledge for any time period less than a year and a patent can be filed. The definition of public knowledge is also complex, in this case. You don't have to have announced it. If you are using an idea deep within a service you are providing to a customer, that is considered "making public". So, if you start selling a product or providing a service within which you have some ideas which you believe are patentable, you can file for those up to a year hence.

Re:Hey, something just occurred to me (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140754)

Can you point to anything factually incorrect in my post, or... wait... I'm talking to a machine.

What competitors? (2, Insightful)

Trevin (570491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137442)

Every windowing system in existence? How could Yahoo! possibly implement a drag-and-drop interface without the support of a window system that has already implemented it (whether they use the window system's native drag-and-drop or not)?

Re:What competitors? (1)

jdschulteis (689834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22143920)

The patent isn't on every drag-and-drop interface, just one that presents context-sensitive drop targets after you start dragging.

Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137528)

EVE:
-click on some object on screen (typically ship in space) and hold mouse button down
-several "drop targets" appear around selected object
-by "drag and drop" one of these "drop targets" can be selected. Each "drop target" launches a specific activity, like locking weapons on, unlocking target....
"Drag and drop" in parentheses because the selected object is not visibly dragged, only the mouse cursor moves.

Overall, this is not quite the same but might be similar enough to count as prior art. That is, if it was present in EVE before March 29, 2006.
Unfortunately others have to confirm or refute this as I started EVE in December 2006, after the date of the patent application :-(

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137692)

That was a noble attempt at finding prior art, sadly it is in vein as they don't give two fucks about prior art, all they care about is what the load of bull patent they shoved through says. This is a prime example of why all software patents are bullshit, there is no way you should be able to patent mathematics, specifically algorithms.

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

mmalove (919245) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138062)

I have to agree. Although it's too bad really, I'd love to own a patent on the flavor of statistics where you pull a number out of your @$$ and claim it as a percentage of the population that believes/does X. I'd make a killing on at least 90% of the forums out there.

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

Homr Zodyssey (905161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138754)

I'd make a killing on at least 90% of the forums out there.
35% of Slashdotters disagree with you.

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138278)

This is a prime example of why all software patents are bullshit, there is no way you should be able to patent mathematics, specifically algorithms.

The software == mathematics argument loses some wind when used to attack a patent application such as this one. Mathematics describes universal truths. This application describes a user interface feature. Mathematics are exact, and often uses specialized notation to avoid ambiguity. This application uses a lot of words to describe several concepts and uses words to establish the boundaries of what was created that is novel and non-obvious (sadly, words usually being quite a bit less precise than the various notations used by mathematicians). This patent application describes the application of software technology for a useful purpose. It does not describe some abstract mathematical concept.

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138494)

Not all software patents are bad, but bad ones like this are.

software engineering still has room for creative, news ways to perform functions, hence, there is still room for innovative, creative ideas that should be protected. However, patent applications like this one simply degrade the patent process. Clearly this patent should not be awarded and should be summarily dismissed, but there is a process in place that has to be followed.

What I would like to see is a heft fee slapped on people who file bogus patents and waste the USPTO's time. Say a few million dollars. Make the potential expense for filing bad patents exorbitant and public.

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138610)

sadly it is in vein as they don't give two fucks about prior art
Do you mean prior artery?

Re:Seems similar to EVE Online (1)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138036)

Overall, this is not quite the same but might be similar enough to count as prior art. That is, if it was present in EVE before March 29, 2006. Unfortunately others have to confirm or refute this as I started EVE in December 2006, after the date of the patent application :-(

The functionality of EVE that you described could support an argument that at least some of the claims are obvious given the state of drag-and-drop technology. You are right to be careful about the dates when the functionality existed. Even if EVE came out with the cited functionality before March 2006, there are circumstances where the EVE technology would not be considered prior art. USPTO patent examiners prefer prior art from at least 12 months before a patent application was filed because such prior art is solid and doesn't evaporate under some of the circumstances that affect technologies within the 12 months preceding an application.

Even combining the EVE technology described with pre-existing drag-and-drop technology probably would not be enough to knock out all of the claims. There are some pretty narrow claims in this application. Look at claim number 7:

The method of claim 1 [A computer-implemented method for manipulating objects in a user interface, comprising: providing the user interface including a first interface object operable to be selected and moved within the user interface; and in response to selection and movement of the first interface object in the user interface, presenting at least one additional interface object in the user interface in proximity of the first interface object, each additional interface object representing a drop target with which the first interface object may be associated] further comprising, prior to presenting the at least one additional interface object, identifying the at least one additional interface object with reference to at least one of a parameter associated with the first interface object, at least one currently instantiated object in the user interface, previous user interaction with the drop target, a user preference, a speed of movement of the first interface object in the user interface, a direction of movement of the first interface object in the user interface, a position of the first interface object in the user interface, and a position of a preexisting drop target in the user interface.

With this more narrow claim, instead of a drop target such as "move to top of list" showing up as soon as you click on an object, the system waits until you start moving the cursor. If you are moving it quickly towards the top of the interface, a "move to top of list" drop target might appear. If you are moving it quickly towards the bottom of the interface, a "move to bottom of list" drop target might appear.

If that is the only claim that Yahoo! manages to get through the system, then it would easy to engineer around: just bring up the drop targets once the user clicks and holds on an object regardless of where the user is moving the mouse cursor.

Re:Seems similar to a popup menu (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139008)

Except for "dragging" the initial item, this is the same actions as a pop up menu. Your Eve example is a pop up menu. And there are circular pop up menus, and menus drawn as lots of floating icons, and menus that don;t appear until you start to drag or you hesitate. Some of these are already patented, so not only is their prior art, there may be patent violations here!

Fuck the PtP project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137530)

I'm too busy to sweep my floor, perhaps PtP or the USPTO could send some people over to do it for me? Not that I'm going to pay these suckers or anything but honestly...

How much do patent examiners earn a year and how much are the USPTO going to pay us for doing their fucking jobs for them?

Microsoft and Apple APIs (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137542)

I would think that someone should send a copy of the Microsoft and Apple APIs and corresponding documentation for implementing "Drag and Drop" in Windows and in MacOS 9 / MacOS X. I suppose that this documentation would count as "published" because everyone who wants them can download them from the Internet. Actually, you would have to find versions as they were available at the time the patent was filed, plus any previous versions. Anything that is in either of these APIs would have to be removed from the patent as "prior art"; anything that is obvious (once you know the prior art) would have to be removed as obvious.

A way to fix all of this (4, Funny)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137546)

Patent Examiners should post ALL technology-related patents onto Slashdot and then just wait to see what WE have to say about it =P

Re:A way to fix all of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22144514)

<Lackey> I posted the query to slashdot about the patent on buying stuff over the internet sir.
<Patent Officer> Excellent, what did they have to say?
<Lackey> Well, there was a bunch of stuff about niggers, and some guy wrote a story about eating turds. There was one relevant comment, but it got modded Troll by crack users and kicked off a flamewar about Mac OS X versus Windows.
<Patent Office> Seems clear to me. Patent it up!

Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (5, Informative)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137552)

People are asking about traditional drag-n-drop or drag-n-menu, but let's try to be specific to the claims made. After reading them I am convinced Apple's "spring loaded folders" match the description. They were released in the 1990s, I believe in OS8.

"A computer-implemented method for manipulating objects in a user interface, comprising: providing the user interface including a first interface object operable to be selected and moved within the user interface;"

Since this is the "drag", this portion of the patent is prior-arted by just about everyone. Next...

"and in response to selection and movement of the first interface object in the user interface, presenting at least one additional interface object in the user interface in proximity of the first interface object, each additional interface object representing a drop target with which the first interface object may be associated.'

This is the key. Although other UIs might meet the first portion of this part of the claim, the second is more narrow. Specifically it has to open something near the first that is a drop target. Menus are not drop targets, so they don't apply. Launchers are not related to the original drop target, so they don't apply.

But spring loaded folders absolutely do. They opened in response to a "hesitant drop" over a folder, creating a new window under the cursor showing the contents folder (as if one had double-clicked it). This window is "at least one additional interface object", it is most definitely "near the first that is a drop target", it is definitely an "object representing a drop target", and finally, it is [related to] "the first interface object may be associated".

Flush.

Maury

Re:Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22139052)

Is this like when you drag a document to the Windows task bar and hover over a task for a while so that it maximises, then allowing you drop the document into that window?

Re:Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140604)

> Is this like when you drag

Perhaps, but the task bar is not the same as the original or final object. That seems to be key to the patent.

Maury

Re:Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (1)

zenslug (542549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22139564)

It sounds a little different to me. In my mind, the patent is describing how, when grabbing something to be drag-n-dropped, other elements reveal themselves differently immediately. That is different than the spring loaded folders in that all you have to do is grab something. You don't need to know already that a folder is a target. Instead, folders might tell you that they are valid drop targets so you don't have to guess what is possible.

"in response to selection and movement of the first interface object in the user interface" just means that a drag has been initiated. The movement doesn't need to be over anything in particular.

Re:Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (1)

dedrop (308627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140386)

It's arguable whether "spring-loaded" folders fit the patent or not. After all, it's not the selecting or moving of the first interface object that triggers them, but the separate action of moving it over the folder.

However, the patent clearly covers other UI actions. And more than just "other elements revealing themselves differently". It also covers brand new elements appearing. Take a look at the images that came with the patent application. It shows someone selecting an email message in a list and beginning to drag it upwards, at which point a brand new "Move to Top" target appears.

Re:Apple has clear prior art, I'm sure others too (1)

Cycloid Torus (645618) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140266)

Maury- Thanks for confirming my understanding of this patent. I think prior art also exists in games- specifically in my experience in Jagged Alliance 2 (copyright 1999 Sir-tech Canada, Ltd.), where you remove a money object from your inventory and "give" it to Pablo at the airport. In this case, you drag the object (money) over the drop target (Pablo's mitts)with information about the action being initiated ("give") and this results in Pablo's happy response "Coffee money - to keep my eyes open.", which means you may receive your shipments when they pass through Pablo's tender care.

I guess it is too bad that Sirtech didn't patent this "unique UI" and make bazillions. We would have JA3 today (maybe).

For those interested in developments in the JA world, including some fine mods, please check http://www.ja-galaxy-forum.com/board/ubbthreads.php/ [ja-galaxy-forum.com]

Prior concept from SIGGRAPH? (2)

Trevin (570491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137572)

After skimming through the patent [peertopatent.org], it seems the "smart" component of this is in bringing the possible drop targets within close proximity to the object being dragged. I vaguely remember reading about a system of that nature in one of my SIGGRAPH conference proceedings a few years back. I don't have time to look it up right now though, as I have to get to work. Maybe later tonight, unless someone else can find it first.

Re:Prior concept from SIGGRAPH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137624)

SIGCHI you doofus.

Re:Prior concept from SIGGRAPH? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138694)

After skimming through the patent [peertopatent.org], it seems the "smart" component of this is in bringing the possible drop targets within close proximity to the object being dragged.
Man, I bet that's not annoying. Much.

I hate it when damn machines start trying to second-guess me. Whole-word select irritates the hell out of me, so stupid icons flitting around to be 'helpful' will have me spitting blood.

Prior LucasArts (3, Funny)

Kirth (183) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137604)

Sounds like the interface of a LucasArts-adventure to me. If you pick up a banana the pointer changes and the environment reacts differently if you click on something.

Re:Prior LucasArts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22143228)

I would say that this comment was insightful. LucasArts games and other adventure games depended heavily on this patented technology. So that is prior art almost 20 years ago.

My Mac II SE (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137616)

From 1990 had a drag and drop interface. Windows 3.0, and OS/2 back in the early 90's had a drag and drop interface. IBM PARKS in the early 70's used a drag and drop GUI. I dont see how Yahoo can claim this as theirs.

Re:My Mac II SE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137864)

My Atari 520ST had drag and drop in 1987! Thank you, GEM; may you never be forgotten.

Smells of Wii (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22137638)

How about those icons that appear when you start throwing a Mii around by the scruff of its neck?

Re:Smells of Wii (1)

jdschulteis (689834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22144420)

How about those icons that appear when you start throwing a Mii around by the scruff of its neck?
This covers almost everything in claim 1 of the patent application, except for the "in proximity of" part. I think the icons for things you might want to do with the Mii always appear in the same place, regardless of where the Mii was on the screen when you grabbed it.

Let's get as many of these granted as possible. (2, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137658)

If every company submitting such silly and obvious pattent applications gets their way then the system is bound to collapse. Business as the USA knows it will come to a halt, because each and every piece of equipment is being threatened by dozens of lawsuits.

Fine. Let it happen. China and India will be more than happy to ignore US patents and create new economies on that. It's already happening and stupid stuff like this will only help to make the process go faster.

Re:Let's get as many of these granted as possible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22139202)

Thats true. The technology industry in the US is slowly choking on the government bureaucracy.

Bad patents are a drag... (2, Informative)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137660)

But it looks like this isn't just plain old drag and drop. Can't say if it's patent worthy, or even something with no prior art. Read the article if you didn't get the difference from the description. My summary- It's sort of like they combined a right-click with a drag, popping up drop targets when you start to drag an object (similar to opening a new menu when you right click on something). I wouldn't think it's patent worthy, but that standard seems to have fallen recently...

ProTools (2, Informative)

log0n (18224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137662)

has had this for years. Dragging/dropping in context of what the content is your manipulating - and then initiating an action (or series of).

Hell, anytime you've burned a CD in OSX by dragging to the trash can and it changes to a burning icon, you've just prior-arted Yahoo.

patent claims differ a little from normal d&d? (1)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22137708)

The way I read this, it's describing something similar to.. well, let's take Flickr as a Yahoo example. If you had an interface which you could pick photos on, but really don't have a great deal of space for myriad menus, and click-click-click operation. Imagine you select and drag a photo image, and the user interface darkens and presents a ring of graphical menu items - perhaps a trashcan, or a couple of previews of certain filter effects which you can drag the photo object onto and apply the effect.

That's my take on it. I'd say if that's what it's getting at (although it may be worded a little too generically, for sure), then this is quite a novel use.. not totally unique in a "oh that's so obvious" kind of jealous way, but novel enough to justify a patent.

Now I think of it, I actually think.. no, I am sure.. I have seen this menu operation as described in the patent claims on Nintendo's Wii Menu or Paint app or something..??

Re:patent claims differ a little from normal d& (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22138300)

So it's a context sensitive d&d interface -- obvious and fails novelty criteria.

peer review already in the works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22138262)

The USPTO is trying to develope a new system wherein the public can take a look at applications and submit prior art for them to use in rejecting the patents. Check it out here:

http://www1.uspto.gov/go/og/2007/week26/patsuba.htm [uspto.gov]

The only problem I can see with this is the dumping of massive amounts of references onto an already burdened patent examiner. Hopefully, the public will think before posting, and help more than hinder.
Keep in mind - to those bashing the office, we are talking about engineers like you and me, who are given a certain number of hours with which to search all the patents, applications, and documents in the US and around the world for that matter... so take it easy on them.

I wonder how this argument would pan out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22138270)

I've been thinking about this for a while as the basis of all things of "intellectual property" but on the basic level of how patents are a joke, for any reason other than profit why do people try to quantify intellectual property when it has no technical or actual value? Sure, it can be useful, but the price is set by individuals. Just in the same way I have ideas in my head, but how can any value be put on that, in any form?

Just curious as to what the arguments are to the side of "intangible goods being given values"

Yet another example of prior art: (2, Informative)

who's got my nicknam (841366) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138406)

Apple's Final Cut Studio. When you drag an item from the Browser over to the Canvas, a number of drop targets pop up, offering the editor a bunch of options for how to integrate that particular item (video clip, still picture, etc) into the timeline. Pretty straightforward stuff. Not sure if Apple has patented it, but it's definitely prior.

"trivial" changes (2, Interesting)

pbhj (607776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138450)

>>> How do these patent claims differ from normal drag and drop? In pretty trivial ways if at all, but it may be hard for a patent examiner to understand that trivial changes in drag and drop user interface are not in fact novel enough to warrant a patent.

Firstly I think you're confusing novelty and "inventive step". Something is either novel or not, there are no degrees of novelty. . It's very easy to create something novel, by collocation for example, but there must be a synergy between the elements as any application can only cover one "invention". The inventive step is the difference between the "state of the art" and the patent being considered, whether that step is obvious is often the crucial point.

Looking at the claims (eg http://peertopatent.org/patent/20070234226/overview [peertopatent.org]; assuming they are copied correctly) then they seem to follow a pretty standard formula. Often (and in certain jurisdictions there's a benefit in this) the first claim is intended to be too broad. This means that the applicant gets an extra period of time for amending the patent before it can be granted and hence before fees have to be paid. Other reasons for broad claims are to get an overview of a field from the examiners perspective - they site a spread of patents that knock out your claim 1. The claim 1 in this case is to broad for this however.

The claims then branch off, methods, devices, systems each incorporating or excluding details of what might be the envisaged product. This way the broadest possible scope of monopoly is sort - it's an adversarial system really. So the article is bunk when it claims to be fighting overly broad patents - the applicant wouldn't want claim 1 to stand as such a patent wouldn't be enforceable as it's clearly invalid wrt the prior art.

Now back to that quote "trivial changes in drag and drop user interface are not in fact novel enough to warrant a patent". Well the issue if indeed the steps are minor is that drag and drop interfaces are used by a plurality of users in a plurality of places (!). So the field is extremely well worked. A very minor change therefore is critical, it could easily corner the market. Say the change from a static to a dynamic "wait" cursor (egg-timer) - a minor alteration but a very significant one. Now we say such a change is obvious, but we have to assess this question from the time of filing (or more properly the priority date) and from the perspective of the man skilled in the GUI art and in possession of the common knowledge of the GUI field or research. Do citations in the field mean you could produce that inventive step without being inventive. Is it plainly obvious.

In any well worked field it appears to me that it's perfectly reasonable to argue that any small feature that can't be hit for lack of novelty must be inventive as otherwise it would appear in the prior art. That argument can't easily be refuted; though I think it lacks rigour, personally.

FWIW.

[I was a UK Patent Examiner a few years ago.]

Re:"trivial" changes (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138580)

The way it reads, it almost sounds like the way Google widgets interact on a customized Google search page.

The Witcher Interface (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22138816)

The most recent game I played, The Witcher, has this interface. Take a weapon from your inventory bag, and the slots you can drag and drop it into in your character (hands, for example, but not the feet) light up. I think that's exactly what the patent means. Yahoo doesn't specify (at least in the /. write-up) that it's web-only, so I predict this being nixed by prior art.

And my guess is, the 4 month old Witcher is hardly the first application to do this.

Same thing as context menus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22139152)

This is basically the same thing as context menus. When using a context menu, you actual "drag and drop" a little invisible ball from the client area -- a context menu pops up and then you drop the invisible ball on the menu item you want to select. They've just made the ball real.

Doesn't matter whether or not prior art exists (1)

biscon (942763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22142514)

Patents like this are outright ridiculous and a symptom of much greater problems (with law and society).
Stop searching for prior art, doesn't matter who came up with the idea first when its so obvious and simple as this.
Just say no.

You /.ers are reading it all wrong (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22145390)

Drag and drop: Hit the joint, and pass out
_Smart_ drag and drop: Hit the joint, and drop a stamp

Has no one else here even heard of LSD?
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