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01.04.16

Design Patents (e.g. Sliders) Are Becoming as Much of a Problem as Software Patents

Posted in America, Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung at 8:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Copyright already covers many designs, so why extend so-called ‘protection’ to the vastly broader domain of patents?

Slide to unlock
Slide to unlock: put it on a computer and you’re apparently a genius deserving a patent

Summary: A fine demonstration of how dumb a lot of patents in the United States have become, including so-called ‘design’ patents that pertain to an abstraction on a computer (hence software patents)

IN SOME sense, many design patents are inherently software patents, as schematics attached to patent applications often serve to show. I have personally reviewed some patents before, so I know how particular lawyers — not programmers — try to give a ‘life’ (or a form) to algorithms by drawing things*. Doodles are not algorithms. They’re often a spurious presentation that attempts to give a physical form to something which is inherently abstract. It can mislead examiners and judges, presumably by intention. Just look at the many post-Alice articles composed by patent lawyers; just look at the tips they’re giving to one another. They almost self-incriminate.

“Doodles are not algorithms. They’re often a spurious presentation that attempts to give a physical form to something which is inherently abstract.”Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols called Microsoft’s latest high-profile patent attack “design patent wars” and said that the “Electronic Frontier Foundation has declared “User Interface for a Portion of a Display Screen” to be this month’s stupid patent. Here’s what’s really going on between Microsoft and Corel over the Office ribbon design patent.”

We wrote about this in last week's coverage regarding Corel. “The EFF named Microsoft’s design patent for a slider as its Stupid Patent of the Month,” one person wrote to us, just over a week after it all happened. But actually, it’s more of a software patent, or something in the blurry line/s between design and software (like interface elements).

“Just because one takes something that has existed for thousands of years before computers (like a fence/gate’s metal or wooden lock) and draw it on a computer with some callback function/s doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make it magically patent-worthy, just as doing something “over the Internet” doesn’t make old and trivial ideas patent-eligible.”Consider today’s patent lawyers’ views [1, 2] about Apple’s attacks on Samsung, which include the infamous slide-to-unlock patent (slider again, amongst other patents). And speaking of sliding, how about the “LANDSLIDE article” mentioned by Patently-O today? “And as a larger policy issue,” said the author, “it’s questionable whether verbal claim dissection is either desirable or appropriate in the context of design patents. The better approach may be, as Chris Carani argued in the LANDSLIDE article mentioned above, to simply instruct juries “that design patents only protect the appearance of the overall design depicted in the drawings, and not any functional attributes, purposes or characteristics embodied in the claimed design.””

We wrote quite a lot about Apple’s so-called ‘design’ patents (in principle software patents) more than half a decade ago when Apple’s patent war against Linux/Android began. When authors mention terms like “design patents” it would only be fair to read or interpret this as software patents, or a particular subclass of these. These patents don’t allude to any physical thing like a bar that you slide, only an abstraction thereof. Just because one takes something that has existed for thousands of years before computers (like a fence/gate’s metal or wooden lock) and draw it on a computer with some callback function/s doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make it magically patent-worthy, just as doing something “over the Internet” doesn’t make old and trivial ideas patent-eligible. Then again, this is what the USPTO brought about with its laughable quality control.
____
* I am a software professional with experience both as a programmer and a researcher, having reviewed papers for the world’s top international journals (even in my twenties), which meant I needed to identify prior art (existing/published research) in areas like computer vision and machine learning.

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