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Microsoft Seeks Patent On Virtual Desktop Pager 716

Posted by timothy
from the enlightenment-anyone dept.
ihabawad writes "Microsoft has a patent on file for this really cool new technology called 'virtual desktops' where you see a 'pager' on the screen. Read all about it by searching under "Published Applications" for patent #20030189597 at the US Patent and Trademark Office. You know, I had a dream that I was using such a thing once; what was it called? -- yes, FvwmPager! Weird, eh?"
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Microsoft Seeks Patent On Virtual Desktop Pager

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  • by maharg (182366) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:39AM (#8385535) Homepage Journal
    It's crap, but it does provide the same functionality
    • by tunah (530328) <sam@nOsPAm.krayup.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:43AM (#8385600) Homepage
      Microsoft also has an (unsupported) utility for this, one of their XP Powertoys [microsoft.com].
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#8385789) Homepage Journal
      You know, Slashdot often posts articles on patents for apparently obvious inventions, or patents for things that very obviously have prior art, where usually the facts are rather less certain than the submitter assumes.

      I think this has to be the first time I've read such a posted patent and come to the conclusion the submitter is absolutely, 100%, right. While I see a few apparently new (but not exactly non-obvious) features (a preview button is on one of the variants), the vast majority of the inventions covered by this patent have abundant prior art, dating back to the late eighties at the latest. And, to the best of my knowledge, while Microsoft has made some of these features available in bonus packs or add-ons or downloadable features since the mid-nineties, I can't recall MS ever bothering to actually include the features by default in their operating systems. It's like they're taking credit for something they've only ever supported grudgingly.

      Full marks to Microsoft for blatent patent abuse.

      • by ProfBooty (172603) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:18AM (#8386039)
        this is a patent application, not an actual patent. All patents filed after the near end of 2000 are pubished 18 months after they were filed. This is a good thing, as examiners can now search this database of prior art, which is substantially larger than the current USPTO patent database.

        As this is only an application, it does not have patent protection.
        • joke (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:25AM (#8386139)
          this is a patent application, not an actual patent. All patents filed after the near end of 2000 are pubished 18 months after they were filed. This is a good thing, as examiners can now search this database of prior art, which is substantially larger than the current USPTO patent database.

          I hope you're kidding. Not only is the USPTO generally incompetent, they're generally overworked to the point that they have something like half an hour to research a given application. They most certainly will NOT be spending 18 months researching this.

          The number of ridiculous patents being granted is stunning, and given the crack MS legal team, I have no doubt this one will too.

          If I had means of collecting bets from /. readers, I'd propose a bet.

          • its not a joke (Score:5, Informative)

            by ProfBooty (172603) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:35AM (#8386269)
            no joke

            I work as an examiner.

            The claims presented in this application will likely be signifigantly different if it becomes allowed.

            Examiners usually have 10-40 hours based on paygrade to fully examine a case. Keep in mind experts don't need as much time to search, and unless you have a proper legal background to understand the metes and bounds, you may not realize how narrow or broad the claims actually are.

            I can not comment on office policy, or validity of the claims for this, or any other patent application.
            • by Superfreaker (581067) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:04PM (#8386753) Homepage Journal

              >>I work as an examiner

              Boy, you are in trouble now!

              Wait, shouldn't you be reviewing patents instead of posting here?
            • Re:its not a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

              by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:10PM (#8386839) Homepage Journal
              The claims presented in this application will likely be signifigantly different if it becomes allowed.

              While that's true, I wonder if the easiest way to fix the patent system or at least to significantly band-aid it would be to permanently reject any patent for which initial submission has obvious prior art that dates back more than 10 years prior to the claim. At the very least that would eliminate a ton of the claims like this without having to waste everyone's time in cycling processes of reivew an revision.
              • Re:its not a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

                by ckaminski (82854) <ckaminski&pobox,com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:23PM (#8387021) Homepage
                We'd eliminate half the problems if we rejected outright any patent who's title was something like:

                A method for doing X "on the Internet.

                <sigh>
          • Re:joke (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:22PM (#8386985)
            Examiners don't spend 18 months reviewing prior art. All applications filed after 2000 publish at 18 months. This does not mean they become a patent (that is "issued"). It merely becomes public knowledge. This means that patent applications that were never issued are still searchable as prior art instead of just getting tossed in the circular file, never to be seen again.

            And the PTO is not incompetent. Overworked, yes. Incompetent, no. I guarantee you 99% of the people posting on slashdot don't even look at a patent before crying foul. Of the 1% left, 99% of them only read the abstract and not the claims, the claims being what is considered enforceable/infringeable.

            IANAL, IANAExaminer, but I deal with both daily and the ingorance of the /. populace when it comes down to even the basics of the patent system is astounding.
            • Re:joke (Score:5, Insightful)

              by udippel (562132) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:09PM (#8387647)
              I guarantee you 99% of the people posting on slashdot don't even look at a patent before crying foul. Of the 1% left, 99% of them only read the abstract and not the claims, the claims being what is considered enforceable/infringeable.

              Thanks for pointing this out. Tried a few times before; but the message doesn't seem to get through. With respect to publishing after 18 months: the US (this time) followed worldwide tradition.

              I might not be completely agreeable though with the stated competence of the USPTO. Having been an examiner until 7 years back, they had a tendency to be politically correct; more than legally correct. And how do you distinguish between incompetence and overworked ? When our car comes back from a shoddy repair I don't bother if the mechanic was incompetent or overworked. And I wouldn't know; badly repaired is badly repaired. A horribly granted patent remains a sore; for the industry and the consumer.

              The independent claims will be discussed, eventually slightly modified and granted; I bet quite some money on this outcome. Patent business is a monkey business. Whatever they get - and they will get something - they can always use it to strangle the competitors: would you / Gnome / KDE / enlightenment have the funds to go to court against Microsoft ? So, there won't even be a need to make the patent stand in court; just a few letters and Longhorn will have workspaces and desktops while OSS won't (any more). Cease and desist: the honestly conducted business of the future.

      • by ZoneGray (168419) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:24AM (#8386113) Homepage
        I'm not sure whether it's patent abuse by MS, or simply defensive patenting to avoid becoming a target. If nothing else, by filing for the patent first, they get themselves a little protection from subsequent patent claims.

        The problem is in the patent system... once the system is in place, however flawed, you can't blame people for trying to get the most out of it, because they're competing with other people who are trying to make the most of it. Shaking our fists at MS will no good, it just means that somebody else will benefit from a flawed system. But the consumer loses either way.
      • by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:39PM (#8387254)
        A. Microsoft costs the patent office time on this, and that's our money.

        B. They cost us, as a community, time.

        C. They're gambling on getting it through under radar, and if that happens it'll cost lots of folks money to fight it.

        So there's a monetary component to this.

        Meanwhile, Microsoft KNOWS they don't have actual title to this, and are submitting it in effort to take title to this idea FRAUDULENTLY, as they KNOW they don't have title.

        That sounds to me like slander of title, and is ACTIONABLE, correct?

        And while it's hard to figure out who needs to do the actual suing, damages to the community could be set as a fraction of legal fees expected as an average of Microsoft's expenditures on patent actions.

        And it would put the fear of God into some of these slanderers of title we've been talking about for the past year(s).
    • by PetiePooo (606423) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:40AM (#8386356)
      This patent application is thorough, obviously written by someone who knows how to push patents through. The last three pages of the PDF have a listing of 25 claims that they say are the embodiment of the "invention." I'm not a patent examiner, and am not in the place to refute each of them. However, its clear that they aren't claiming a patent on basic pager functionality. As mentioned elsewhere, they give examples of prior art.

      There do seem to be some improvements listed. Foremost appears to be the ability to view a scaled version of the desktops in full screen instead of just the little icons in the pager. For instance, with 4 virtual desktops, they describe a scaled view where each desktop is essentially 1/4 of the screen. If you have two browser windows open in two different desktops, such a view would enable you to visually determine which is which. I don't remember seeing such a feature in other VWMs. They also describe animating the transition between this view and the full desktops via shrinking/expanding the active desktop.

      While this does seem to be an improvement over existing pagers, many will argue its triviality. I personally suspect it's still enough to get the patent issued and drag someone into court...
    • by alistair (31390) <<alistair> <at> <hotldap.com>> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:55AM (#8386599)
      I think there is a key difference between the KDE, Gnome implementations, Bigdesk for windows etc. and this patent.

      Reading the patent document, the key point is that the users hits a key and all the desktops are scaled within the window using animation. So if I have a 3 x 3 virtual desktop and hit the desktop view button, my screen is shrunk to (say) the top left 9th of the screen and 8 other mini desktops become visible. If I select another desktop it zooms towards me filling the screen. They make a number of references to background images and I guess animating 9 different background images for the demo above would look very cool.

      I haven't seen this implemented before. The nearest is Mac OS X.3 which allows all application windows to be minimised and switched between, I use it a lot and it is excellent, particularly if you have a number of quicktime movies or similar playing. As I recall, Apple patented this and I think this is Microsoft's answer
      • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr&ticam,utexas,edu> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:14PM (#8386888) Homepage
        I haven't seen this implemented before.

        The first X Windows desktop I remember seeing something like this with was Enlightenment, back in ~1998, whose pager had miniature screenshots of all your other desktops. I'm sure Microsoft is updating the screenshots more frequently and zooming to them more smoothly, but since even Enlightenment's improved version of the pager is too obvious an idea to deserve a patent, in a sane world "Enlightenment + more eye candy" wouldn't stand a chance.
      • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@kjer[ ]o.net ['nsm' in gap]> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:06PM (#8388603) Homepage Journal
        Hm, I'm not so sure I agree with you there... I read the claims, and while I'm always getting confused by reading claims, the only thing they could have done, that hasn't been done here is that you could scale each desktop and actually use it... Say you had a bunch of applications open, 2x2 matrix for example, and normally you'd like to work with only one desktop open, but suddenly you want all four. So you scale the whole thing in, get all four desktops on your desktop, and you can use all applications open. That I must admit I haven't seen before. I was too confused by the patent application, but I didn't see that there. Anybody?

        Come to think of it, that could be useful... :-)

        Another thing I've been thinking about when using virtual desktops with Xinerama, is the ability to connect any arbitrary virtual desktop with any screen. Rather than having them side-by-side (or whatever), you use the pager to click on the desktop you want to appear in which screen. Anybody know of a WM that does this?

        Besides, isn't it common to have references to previous relevant systems in a patent application...? I mean, if it were real, they should at least give a reference to the old FVWM pager.... (Actually, the FVWM pager was a killer app for me when I first discovered UNIX 10 years ago).

  • by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:39AM (#8385536) Journal
    to the Patent Office! Because you just know they don't read slashdot.... if they did, they wouldn't approve half the patents they approve.
    • by swordboy (472941) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:44AM (#8385603) Journal
      I don't think that you understand. The US Patent office's function is no longer to get into validity. The new function is simply to accept money and issue patents which become legal weapons for businesses.

      Microsoft will probably get this patent and go on to sue anyone using the technology out of existence.

      Embrace and extend.
    • by $calar (590356) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:47AM (#8385652) Journal
      I've never used FVWM, but isn't this the same as virtual desktops in any environment/WM? GNOME, KDE, CDE, and others have virtual desktops. KDE even has something called the Pager. FVWM? Maybe they came up with the idea, but it's all over I'd say.
    • by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:49AM (#8385683) Homepage Journal
      You know, why doesn't the US Patent Office simply open up a web submission system? Whip up your own patent document, upload it, and it's automatically assigned a number.

      It's not really the Patent Office's job to ensure that every patent is totally original and has never been done before. A patent is only really used when the invention ends up in court. If it's not defendable, it will be nullified. However, who wants to sit across from Microsoft in a courtroom? Maybe if you slip and break your leg on the sidewalk in front of their office building. Even in that case you'd probably end up paying $10,000 to repair the scuffmarks you made in the concrete.
    • by Dairyland.Net (547845) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:30AM (#8386188) Homepage
      From the USPTO FAQ:

      #50 How does one file protest on patents that are pending?

      Protests by a member of the public against pending applications will be referred to the examiner having charge of the subject matter involved. A protest specifically identifying the application to which the protest is directed will be entered in the application file if: (1) The protest is submitted prior to the publication of the application or the mailing of a notice of allowance under rule 1.311, whichever occurs first; and (2) The protest is either served upon the applicant in accordance with rule 1.248, or filed with the Office in duplicate in the event service is not possible. For more detailed information on protesting a patent, you may visit our Web site at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/mpep.htm [uspto.gov] for the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) Chapter 1900.

  • This has got to stop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ralf1 (718128) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:39AM (#8385539)
    Someone at the patent office needs to wake up and smell the coffee. We are going to have a situation like the landrush on domain names as a few bottom feeders run off and patent every idea in the book, and if the past is any indication, the patent office will grant patents on whoever is the first to show up, regardless of prior developments or use.
    • by w3svc_animal (629519) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:15AM (#8386013)
      According to the official job announcement for a Patent Examiner vacancy (special emphasis on ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING, COMPUTER SCIENCE) the duties are as follows:

      Reviewing patent applications to assess if they comply with the basic format, rules and legal requirements, determining the scope of the protection claimed by the inventor, researching relevant technologies to compare similar prior inventions with the invention claimed in the patent applications, and communicating the examiner's findings to patent practitioners/inventors with reasons on the patent ability of applicant's inventions.
      Patent Examiners are responsible for the quality, productivity, and timely processing of patent applications, which is the basis of their performance evaluation.

      See the actual posting HERE [opm.gov]

      I'm not trying to be glib, and I know one person cannot change the world, but with all of the unemployed /.'ers out there, one of you could take a leap and actually apply for this position.

      Let us know how it goes.

  • by SpiffyMarc (590301) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:39AM (#8385541)
    Microsoft reminds me of that kid who always has to be "reminded" of the rules whenever he plays a game with the other kids...

    "No Billy, that's not your toy. That's FVWM's toy. Say you're sorry!"
  • Prior art.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by kimmo (52756) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:41AM (#8385554) Homepage
    Wasn't there also something like "wintop" in some NT3.51 resource kit, in addition to Fvwm pager (and possbily some others)?
  • Direct Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by huha (755976) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:41AM (#8385557)
    Those of you who don't want to search for the document, this is the direct URL:

    http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1 =P TO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnu m.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='20030189597'.PGNR.&OS=DN/2 0030189597&RS=DN/20030189597

    It took ages to find it... *sigh*

    -huha
  • by GypC (7592) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:41AM (#8385558) Homepage Journal

    ... patents idea with lots of prior art.

    News at 11.

  • vtwm (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluestar (17362) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:41AM (#8385567) Homepage
    I'm willing to admit that I'm old enough to remember (and use) vtwm, or Virtual Tom's Window Manager. A version of the venerable twm that added virtual desktops.

    This was circa 1990, even before fvwm. I think xrooms was earlier still.
    • Re:vtwm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#8385787)
      Actually, tvtwm. Yes, I've used it. I also used (and continue to use) its successor, "ctwm".

      From the tvtwm man page:

      COPYRIGHT

      Portions copyright 1988 Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation; portions copyright 1989 Hewlett-Packard Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, See X(1) for a full statement of rights and permissions.

    • Re:vtwm (Score:5, Informative)

      by foxtrot (14140) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:05AM (#8385879)
      I'm willing to admit that I'm old enough to remember (and use) vtwm, or Virtual Tom's Window Manager.

      Sort of. :)

      vtwm was a different fork.

      twm was "Tab Window Manager"-- window managers previous to that didn't have the object at the top of the window (called a tab in this case) to do the window manipulation with. However since it was written by a guy named Tom LaStrange, it also was known as "Tom's Window Manager."

      vtwm involved a bunch of folks taking twm and adding virtual screen capabilities to it, the same thing Tom LaStrange was doing at Solbourne (remember them?) for swm (Solbourne Window Manager, of course). swm evolved into tvtwm, which is where Tom's name was first "officially" put in the window manager's name: "Tom's Virtual Tab Window Manager."
    • Re:vtwm (Score:3, Informative)

      by oolon (43347)
      I still use vtwm due to its speed, small size, and the lack of wanting to steal large ammounts of desktop space. I believe its short for Virtual TAB window manager. Tom was in tvtwm.

      James
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:41AM (#8385568) Journal
    I use a program called CodeTek Virtual Desktop for Mac OSX, and the abstract in that application sounds an awful lot like it.

    I'm sure there are differences, but is this patent, if it is awarded, going to allow Microsoft to send C&D letters to every company and organization that has been providing virtual desktop software for years, regardless of platform?

    How could such a thing happen?
  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:43AM (#8385596) Homepage Journal
    You know, I had a dream that I was using such a thing once; what was it called? -- yes, FvwmPager! Weird, eh?

    Can a dream constitute prior art?

    -kgj
  • Innovative (Score:5, Funny)

    by r0ckflite (63420) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:44AM (#8385605) Homepage
    Ah, but you don't understand. MS's patent uses xml! That's makes it sufficiently different from all previous desktop pagers. :)
    • Re:Innovative (Score:5, Informative)

      by rm007 (616365) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:08AM (#8385922) Journal
      Ah, but you don't understand. MS's patent uses xml! That's makes it sufficiently different from all previous desktop pagers.:)

      Funny but also (sadly?) true. With the provervial disclaimer IAMAL, but I have worked in R&D labs where were were regularly briefed by the lawyers and harvested for ideas, to be patentable, an idea does not have to be a completely new product area, it just needs to be a way of doing something. So if one step in a process is novel, you can try to patent it. This means, of course, that someone can come around with a different process to do the same thing and they can also try to patent it. In the realm of software, business processes etc. this means that some dubious sounding things can get through - but it also means that there are often work arounds e.g. if one click shopping is patented, add a second step.
      • Re:Innovative (Score:3, Informative)

        by rm007 (616365)
        ... sent that last one off while on the phone, so didn't spell check it (sorry for provervial)... I also forgot to mention a point about how to read ridiculous sounding patents - most patents have multiple levels to the claims that they make. The lawyers will have you try for a very broad strategic claim i.e. for the entire category, then as you work through the application, you get more and more specific about the claims that you make. So you try to get by with the everything, but if the broad claims ge
  • by Dios (83038) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:44AM (#8385612) Homepage

    This is available in XP as a power toy.


    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/downloads/p owertoys.asp [microsoft.com]


    Works fine I guess... never really got used to it myself.

  • by E-Lad (1262) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:44AM (#8385617) Homepage
    They have *applied* for this patent, so they don't actually have it yet. The poster needs to read a bit more before frothing at the mouth.

    This means that the USPTO could still be contacted and instances of prior art be submitted.
    • by nicky_d (92174) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:57AM (#8385770) Homepage
      Well, we can still froth at the mouth about the fact that MS has been brazen enough to *apply* for the patent. And then if the patent is granted, we can froth twice as much.
    • For a patent application, the applicant attempts to include everything under the sun under their claims. Of course, it's unclear how throughly the patent office will go through their claims, but it's not a given that what MS has claimed is what they're going to get. They may end up with nothing, or with claims so specific that they're nigh useless.
    • So why is everyone posting about how stupid this is and how they used various WMs with this feature ? Why aren't they busy writing up about these WMs and when they used them and submitting it to the patent office ?

      This page [bitlaw.com] has pdf's of patent office forms, including one about prior art. The USPTO website also seems to suggest that prior art is something that has been patented in this example [uspto.gov].

      If people really care about this and aren't just into recreational bitching, then write the patent office a let

  • No references (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Refried Beans (70083) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:45AM (#8385619) Homepage
    It is interesting that they don't cite any references in their application. But if you do a quick search for "virtual desktop" you'll get a dozen results with dozens more references. This patent application should be thrown out pretty quickly. This patent was filed in 2002, while a quick search shows references in the 1987 to 1995 time frame.

    Thank you for your application fees. Don't call us, we'll call you.
  • Patently abusive (Score:5, Informative)

    by shrubya (570356) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:46AM (#8385628) Homepage Journal
    To quote from the patent application [uspto.gov]
    October 9, 2003
    Virtual desktop manager
    Abstract
    A method for a user to preview multiple virtual desktops in a graphical user interface is described. The method comprises receiving an indication from a user to preview the multiple virtual desktops and displaying multiple panes on the display. Each pane contains a scaled virtual desktop having dimensions that are proportionally less than the dimensions of a corresponding full-size virtual desktop. Each scaled virtual desktop displays with one or more scaled application windows as shadows if the corresponding full-size virtual desktop has one or more corresponding application windows that are active.
    That exactly describes the little rectangles in the toolbar on my Linux box ... from several years ago.
  • Read the patent... (Score:5, Informative)

    by larien (5608) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:46AM (#8385633) Homepage Journal
    They're not actually trying to patent virtual desktops, they're trying to patent a pager with a preview of each desktop. You know, kind of like Gnome has (and probably KDE as well; can't remember).

    Doesn't make it that much better, but at least make sure you're ranting about the right thing.

    • by FauxPasIII (75900)
      > They're not actually trying to patent virtual desktops, they're
      > trying to patent a pager with a preview of each desktop.

      Both vtwm 5.4.5a and fvwm 1.24r have previews in their pagers. Granted, these are the latest versions straight out of apt, but I'll lay dollars to donuts that these major feature enhancements haven't been added in after October of 2003 when MS filed the patent in question.
    • RTFP, indeed! (Score:4, Informative)

      by linoleo (718385) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:51AM (#8386533) Journal
      They're not actually trying to patent virtual desktops, they're trying to patent a pager with a preview of each desktop. You know, kind of like Gnome has (and probably KDE as well; can't remember).

      No, they're not - they're actually showing the Gnome pager as prior art (Figure 1c). You have to go up to Figure 5 to see what they're actually claiming: a method to preview your virtual desktops on the entire display. So you'd click a button on your pager to get, say, all your 2x2 desktops displayed simultaneously at half size. The undeniable advantage is that at half-size you'll see a lot more detail than at pager (say, 1/16) size.

      If anyone knows of prior art specifically relating to this kind of preview, please *do* contact the patent office. This isn't going to be so easy to defeat as some here are spouting off without bothering to look at the blasted thing. Give the MS-lawyers some credit - they may be evil, but stupid they're not.
  • by lscoughlin (71054) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:48AM (#8385661) Homepage
    I actually registered a copy of enable Virtual Desktop, one of the best vdm's and pagers out there for any operating system as far as i'm concerned.

    Wtf, is there a way for us to comment on the patent by sending all this prior art somewhere?

    -T

  • Prior Art (Score:5, Informative)

    by RailGunner (554645) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:48AM (#8385662) Journal
    FvwmPager would definately be considered Prior Art - but - this is the United States Government, and let's face it.. government employees are often behind the curve, and many of them have probably never heard of Linux, or X, or Fvwm, or are even aware of the existence of Window Managers in general. So why don't we tell them?

    (Gets out Soapbox) So why don't we give the USPTO and Congress a good old fashioned snail mail slashdotting and try to convince them that while software copyrights on source code is fine, that software patents are patently stupid.

    C'mon - who's with me? Anyone want to step up and coordinate this effort?

    Let's write letters and Slashdot the USPTO! And the US Senate! And The House! Here's the USPTO Mailing address -

    U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
    USPTO Contact Center (UCC)
    Crystal Plaza 3, Room 2C02
    P.O. Box 1450
    Alexandria, VA 22313-1450

    http://www.senate.gov for finding your state's senator. http://www.house.gov for finding your district's representative.

    • Re:Prior Art (Score:5, Informative)

      by ip_vjl (410654) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:14AM (#8386001) Homepage
      many of them have probably never heard of Linux, or X, or Fvwm, or are even aware of the existence of Window Managers in general


      Maybe if you actually look at the patent application you'll see that they (Microsoft) INCLUDE a representation of both KDE and Gnome implementations in their drawings.
      See page 2 (tiff) [uspto.gov] of their application. They're not trying to pretend that virtual desktops don't exist. They're trying to describe a slightly different way of doing it that is related (but not the same) as existing methods.

      This application doesn't look like their trying to patent the concept of virtual desktop pagers, but a specific implementation of one. This patent app would fall under the broad cateogory of being an incremental improvement of an existing invention.

      The question the patent office will need to face is whether the claims are unique enough that this specific implementation warrants a patent. This patent wouldn't cover all virtual desktop pagers, just ones that use the method they describe in their claims.

    • This is NOT a patent (Score:3, Informative)

      by ProfBooty (172603)
      This is a patent application. The story poster says that in his own comment.

      OSS is mentioned in the specification, perhaps you should be less paranoid.
  • GNOME/KDE Ripoff? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Leoric (540150) <`on.enilno' `ta' `ciroel'> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:51AM (#8385700)
    I was looking through the patent application pdf at (http://www.dagsavisen.no/innenriks/apor/2003/06/7 39300.shtml)
    On page2. Isnt that a gnome and KDE screendump? You can clearly see the foot and the KDE logo in the right bottom corner.
    How is it possible to file a patent on someone elses technology, and use a picture of their product to describe it?
    • Here's staright link to the pdf: http://www.pat2pdf.com/20030189597.pdf [pat2pdf.com]

      And this is what it says about these figures in patent application:

      [0013] FIG. 1A is a pictorial diagram illustrating a desktop of a graphical user interface according to the prior art.

      [0014] FIG. 1B is a pictorial diagram illustrating one implementation of a panel containing a desk guide used to switch among multiple virtual desktops according to the prior art.

      [0015] FIG. 1C is a pictorial diagram illustrating another implementa

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:51AM (#8385703)
    From the USPTO abstract:
    A method for a user to preview multiple virtual desktops in a graphical user interface is described. The method comprises receiving an indication from a user to preview the multiple virtual desktops and displaying multiple panes on the display. Each pane contains a scaled virtual desktop having dimensions that are proportionally less than the dimensions of a corresponding full-size virtual desktop. Each scaled virtual desktop displays with one or more scaled application windows as shadows if the corresponding full-size virtual desktop has one or more corresponding application windows that are active.

    This really sounds similar to Apple's Expose with its ability to display multiple windows. And it is Expose if you are running a bunch of emulators on a Mac and each "window" is an emulated desktop.
    • No, this is not quite expose. The big difference is that you don't see the actual virtual desktop and the scaled version at the same time... you toggle between them. Also, expose shrinks windows and places them where it can. Multiple full screen windows will not end up in the same place (which would be pointless).

      This is more like a feature of several linux WMs where you have a section of the "toolbar" that displays a grid representing your virtual desktops. On each section of the grid are smaller rect
  • Pager? (Score:4, Informative)

    by zero_offset (200586) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:51AM (#8385709) Homepage
    Another poorly-chosen article title. To most people, this [motorola.com] is a "pager". And here is a link to the actual patent application [uspto.gov], rather than a generic link to the patent office.
  • by cheide (731641) <cnh_pub@shaw.ca> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:52AM (#8385716)
    The way it's described in the patent, the 'preview' of all of the desktops is hidden until the user specifically triggers it, whereas all the other virtual desktops I'm familiar with have an omnipresent preview on your current desktop.

    Of course, this is exactly the kind of trivial difference that disqualifies it from being 'new and non-obvious', so it still deserves to get laughed out of the Patent Office...
  • by yeremein (678037) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:00AM (#8385822)
    Here [xmission.com].

    I wrote it sometime during the fall of 2001; I don't remember exactly when, but it was last updated Jan 23 2002.

    Of course, X pagers had been around long before this one... can the public submit prior art to the USPTO and get MS's patent denied?

  • Protesting Patents (Score:5, Informative)

    by what!!!smd (756407) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:01AM (#8385836)
    I was just looking around on the USPTO website and came accross the methods which can be used to protest a pending patent. I am not quite sure where to find evidence that it is prior art, beyond just stating that it has been on my linux box as long as I have used linux. This definatley makes it before XP.

    Here is the link to the Patent Protest Document. [uspto.gov]

  • I actually use MSVDM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Farmboy (21213) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:11AM (#8385961) Homepage
    I was browsing around Microsofts site awhile ago, and came accross this application.

    It does have some nice features, though I don't think it is nearly as robust as the OSS version.

    One of the biggest problems that I have using it is if I have any office application open and switch desktops, I lose all of my buttons/toolbars in the apps.

    The other annoying thing is that you can't cycle through the desktops, it lets you cycle through applications on all desktops, but not the actual desktops. Strange and annoying, yet I still use it from time to time.

    Anyone else actually use this product? I think it was grouped into the WindowsXP powertoys section.

    Later,
    Just another Farmer
  • by originalhack (142366) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:11AM (#8385969)
    Using pat2pdf, I got a PDF of the whole document including the images. If anyone has a place to host this, I'll email it to them.

    Some of the illustrations show a gnome display right down to the foot. What Microsoft seems to be trying to claim is...
    1) When you preview, then entire screen is filed with tiled preview images large enough so you can really see what is in each window.
    2) The mini-images on the toolbar have the same background properties as the full-scale window.

    Not the most innovative patent in the world, but not a slimy attempt to patent the work of others either.
  • Oddly Enough (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mandrake (3939) <mandrake@mandrake.net> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:14AM (#8386000) Homepage Journal
    Oddly enough, we implemented pagers with virtual previews of the windows on multiple desktops in enlightenment in about 1997. And the thing that I find HIGHLY ironic is that it was CmdrTaco (yes, of /.) that submitted the patches to do it. I'll search for an exact date shortly, but I believe it was in late 1997.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Borland C (Score:4, Informative)

    by rel48 (756414) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:18AM (#8386041)
    The Borland C compiler for Windows 3.1 shipped with a pager in the early 1990's. It was called "amish desktop" if memory serves. That was over 10 years ago. Talk about prior art!
  • by shatfield (199969) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:28AM (#8386162)
    When some tech company applies for a software patent, the USPTO should post the application to a specially created website, along with all relevant details. They should then post a reward -- $50 or whatever -- to each person who submits a unique instance of valid prior art, maybe up to 3 instances to keep it cheap. Then if after a certain number of days, like 30 or 60 or whatever, the patent review processor takes the information that has been submitted about the patent and uses that to *help* determine if the patent should even be awarded.

    I think this could help avoid 99% of blatant patent abuse problems.
  • by Godeke (32895) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:31AM (#8386199)
    [0014] FIG. 1B is a pictorial diagram illustrating one implementation of a panel containing a desk guide used to switch among multiple virtual desktops according to the prior art.


    [0015] FIG. 1C is a pictorial diagram illustrating another implementation of a panel containing a desk guide used to switch among multiple virtual desktops according to the prior art.

    Those who are talking about the old x-windows multiple desktop switch tools are correct: and Microsoft is well aware of them. They are claiming a particular version where there is a tray icon (without preview) that summons a dialog which shows all the desktops in scaled format for selection. I use the alt-tab powertoy that I'm pretty sure this is based on: as I alt-tab I see a reduced picture of the app I'm selecting to (except my X-Window client, which it can't read).

    Personally, I don't see this as a patentable advance, but they are claiming that showing a full rendition of the desktop in reduced form is different from showing shaded areas where the windows are.
  • by fatwreckfan (322865) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:35AM (#8386266)
    The abstract doesn't say that they are trying to patent a virtual desktop switcher. They are trying to patent a way of displaying all virtual desktops to the user, as scaled down versions.

    For example, if you are running 4 virtual desktops, and you indicate you want to see all your desktops, your screen would be seperated into 4 sections, each displaying a smaller version of each desktop complete with the apps that are running on them.

    This is NOT the same thing as the Gnome/KDE applets that let you click to change desktops...
  • by SquarePants (580774) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:33PM (#8387157)
    I often see the posts on /. generally stating that there ought to be a procedure for the public to raise issues of prior art before the USPTO grants a patent. Well, guess what? there is such a procedure. And it is very very simple.

    37 C.F.R. 1.291 [gpo.gov] gives members of the public the right to protest a pending application by simply advising the patent office of any reason why a patent should not issue, including prior art. The essential aspects of this are that you must (a)correctly identify the application; (b)provide a concise explanation of the reason for the protest; and (c)provide a copy of the prior art your protest relies on.

    So, rather that the usual pablovian reflex of ranting about this stuff on /. why not do something to help the USPTO do a better job?

    Ready ... set ... go!
  • by AstroDrabb (534369) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:44PM (#8387315)
    Think about it. MS can grab all these bogus patents knowing there is plenty of prior art. (In this case, this has been a feature of Unix desktops before Linux or MS Windows). Now we all know that MS will get these patents. So, small time Linux distributions will not have the money to fight this in court. Would Red Hat or even SuSE/Novell want to fight something like this? Patent away the features of Linux or make it very hard for Linux to add new features. I guess MS feels they cannot just beat Linux on technical merits, so why not beat them on Legal merits?

    Did Mac OS have a feature like this? If so, for how long? Apple is the only company I see spending the money to fight MS on these silly patents.

    It doesn't take much to get a patent now adays`. The Patent office doesn't verify crap. I guess they figure to let the companies fight it out in court.

    Maybe a bunch of /. users should just start picking random features and applying for a patent? Could be an easy way to make some cash?

    American business and the American government is going down the drain fast.
  • DVWM (Score:5, Informative)

    by nivenh_ (756478) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:19PM (#8388774)
    Patent Application [uspto.gov]

    The link above points to a patent submission by Bret Anderson (aka MrJukes) on behalf of Microsoft for a Virtual Desktop Manager. Here's a relevent blurb from the patent application itself...

    "...each pane containing a scaled virtual desktop having dimensions that are proportionally less than the dimensions of a corresponding full-size virtual desktop, each scaled virtual desktop being displayed with one or more scaled application windows if the corresponding full-size virtual desktop has one or more corresponding application windows that are active."

    The patent application was file on April 5, 2002. MrJukes and I have both been writing and writing applications for replacement shells for many years. In 1997/1998, i wrote a shell called Dimension. One of its components that eventually was released by itself (in 1998) was DVWM. It was downloadable from my website between 1998-2002. Below is a link to lokai.net's download page from 2001 (the best i could get via archive.org). Bret Anderson had clear knowledge that this patent application contains prior art. I was definately not the first person to do something like this either.

    VWM's and VDM's have been around for a very long time. Enlightement's Pager/VWM/VDM did this at the time as well, however at that point in time, while giving mini-views of the windows on a given desktop, it did not provide a 1-to-1 mini-view like DVWM did to my knowledge (please correct me if i'm wrong).

    I believe this to be a pretty low point. A former shell developer lands a job at Microsoft and patents ideas obtained from the shell community and/or elsewhere in free software. I don't know if idea theft is illegal since i didn't patent it myself, but i'm just disgusted that this has happened.

    Here's the archive.org view of lokai.net's downloads. You can download the version of DVWM that was hosted at the time which does all the things i describe.
    Archive.org view of Lokai.net in 2002 [archive.org]

    Here is a screenshot of DVWM from 2001.
    DVWM Gif [redf.net]

    Here is the source to DVWM from 2001.
    DVWM Source [redf.net]

    Here is DVWM 1.02 in case archive.org fails to work for you.
    DVWM Zip [redf.net]

    Here is the skinnables.org orphanware page showing DVWM.
    Skinnables Orphanware [skinnables.org]

    I'm currently exploring my options to see what if anything i can do about this. I find it to be just flat out wrong. It should be noted that not all things that are wrong are necessarily illegal, but i'll see what i can do.
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:51PM (#8389197) Journal
    After all we all know SCO wrote it.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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