Doubleclick's Banner Ad Patent
Ok, something to know and understand here is that the USPTO has taken a lot of crap over the last 30 years. Repeatedly the courts have blasted and reversed decisions by the USPTO office. I personally know of two a case where patents were denied, the USPTO was taken to court, and the plaintiff won. Not only did the take up USPTO time, but it also whittled away at the authority the office holds.
In addition to the effect that the courts have had on the system, the number of patents has been growing at an incredible rate. I mean you have to realize something, prior to computers and programming it was a big hassle to develop something new, build it and then prove it worked. Now days you can write a few lines of code, do something new and different, and then file. This means the USPTO has seen the same increase in users and fillings that the NYSE has seen. Computers have brought the actions and powers previously open only to the few to the masses.
The USPTO used to require that if something new was "devised" you either had to build it and prove that it worked. Or, develop detailed drawings and have engineers and others review them for "accuracy and operability". Now days it is hard to find and hire enough well trained programmers who are willing to spend their time just reviewing code.
So what does this mean? Well, quite simply the USPTO is tired of being reversed it court and flooded with administrative issues in the middle of the largest increase in fillings in history. So, they have turned the power to review patents over to the courts to decide. The USPTO rarely even checks patents to see if they are repeats or overlap others. This is the responsibility of the filler- and if he/she screws it up, then they have to pay up (in court). While the USPTO has removed most all of this administrative review functions- they have passed them along to the courts. So, if you file for something that already exist, it may be "covered", but you will be required to defend it in court.
Now, true some reviewers of patents simply refuse the ridiculous and ludicrous- especially in the trademark office. However, if the item is technical in any way they just let the individuals (or corporations) battle it out in court.
So, the real issue here is not that Doubleclick got a patent(s) for their design(s)- but whether or not they can hold on to and defend the patent(s). Most likely they will lose- not only do you have to be first, but you also have to prove that it is not "similar" to an existing media advertising form. That could be very difficult to prove- and thus the Doubleclick thing seems silly.
IMHO someone at Doubleclick said- "lets give this a try, if nothing else we get a lot of good frontage coverage (read advertising) on the web and in print. More than likely this thing will be challenged in court, by one of the heavy weights. Doubleclick will fail in its defense (if there is even one) and things will be back to 'normal'.
Just my 1½ cents