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Microsoft Patents Timed Button Presses 552

Posted by timothy
from the lieutenant-obvious dept.
ScooterB writes "According to TechDirt, Microsoft has patented having the action of a button determined by how long the button was pressed. From the patent listing, it seems to be targeted towards PDA's and other handhelds." Whether patents like this are the chicken or the egg, this relates to an MSNBC article submitted by prostoalex which says "United States Patent and Trademark Office is overwhelmed with incoming requests," and that "Unless the budgeting increases, the review process for a patent could double to 5 years."
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Microsoft Patents Timed Button Presses

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  • by Mr. Darl McBride (704524) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:12PM (#9000229)
    Could the slash editors post these stories in a larger font on the lynx & mobile devices page format? I'm reading these on a ten year old Palm Pilot, and it's hard to read the tiny fonts when it's dark. I had to hold down the power button for three seconds to turn on the backlight so I could read this.

    Oh, wait...

  • by pr0ntab (632466) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `batn0rp'> on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:13PM (#9000245) Journal
    has played a handheld and/or console game.

    Ever.

    Whatever, ignore, continue. Who are they going to call on it?
  • by datastalker (775227) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:14PM (#9000248) Homepage
    Patents for:

    Shirt Pressed By Iron
    Iron Pressed By Muscleman
    Muscleman Pressed By Time
    Time Pressed By Space
    Space Pressed By Gravity ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:14PM (#9000253)
    On the Tungsten series, pushing the navigator button quickly does an app-defined action. Holding it for a second or two switches to the launcher. How is this not prior art?
  • by Malor (3658) * on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:14PM (#9000256) Journal
    1. Do such an inept job at screening patents that it quietly expands their scope.
    2. Watch as a whole industry is created out of filing for these new patents.
    3. Watch incoming volume of new patent requests increase astronomically.
    4. Whine to Congress about insufficient resources.
    5. Swill at public trough.
    6. Hire more workers.
    7. Get big raise because you now manage many more workers.
    8. Profit!!

  • Where (Score:5, Funny)

    by thpdg (519053) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:14PM (#9000258) Journal
    Wow, that's actually a cool idea. Does anyone have any prior art they could show me? I'm not sure I've seen it before.
    • It's the same damn thing; changing the controls a bit does not make for a legitimate patent, as there is no technical barrier to prevent such a thing. Any programmer could re-implement this in a few minutes given a few words of explanation.

      IIRC, a patent can be overturned if it is later shown that the invention was obvious or that prior art existed. This patent would surely never hold up in court, so it's only useful for intimidation tactics.
    • Re:Where (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      ..like a phone where you turn it off by pressing the power button for a long period of time, or switch profiles by tapping.

      I know the modern nokias have this(at least the s60 models) and the older models have at least part functionality of this as well. also on text typing if you press a button for a long period of time the number on the button is entered to the text that was typed.

      siemens has used for years a keylock that is activated with long press of # for example as well.

      -
  • uh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Therlin (126989) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:15PM (#9000259)
    Like when on a Mac, if you hold the one mouse buttom for a longer amount of time, you get a menu? Or when I press and hold a button on my radio to set the memory?
    • Re:uh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by hak1du (761835) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:21PM (#9000373) Journal
      This patent is on long button presses on "limited power computing devices". Are you saying your Mac qualifies? :-)
  • by Thinkit4 (745166) * on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:15PM (#9000262)
    Like a severly beaten slave showing the evils of slavery, and extreme example like this shows the evils of patents. It's an illogical system and will not last. If it gets backed up--well that can only be a good thing.
  • obvious is right.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:15PM (#9000267)

    Damn, another stupid patent. Yes I looked at the application and saw that the scope was narrow, but come on, just in front of me right now I have:

    Sharp Zaurus: The "Cancel" button sends an ESC char to the OS, but if you press and hold it, it turns the unit off. Also if you press the button while it's off, nothing happens, but if you press and hold, it turns on again. I believe the various application buttons can also be programmed with different apps for press vs. press-and-hold.

    VIA Mini-ITX motherboard: I have it set in the BIOS to sleep when the power button is pushed. But if you hold the power button for several seconds, the power light flashes and it powers down.

    CRT iMac: power button does sleep, unless you hold it down, then it blinks and powers off.

    APC SmartUPS: holding down the power-off button turns the unit off, but if you press-and-hold down for several more seconds, it turns off the battery charger too (you can hear the relay click off inside).

    And of course SOFTWARE buttons have been doing this for years (click vs. double-click vs. click and hold). My KDE konsole application has a button that you click for a new session or click and hold for a menu.

    The patent office needs to get a clue. PLEASE!!

    • On an iPod, while browsing songs, clicking the center button selects a song and starts playing it. Holding the center button instead adds it to your "On The Go" playlist.
      • this sounds exactly like the kind of functionality the patent tries to cover as it applies to an application on the "limited resource computing device yada yada". Patent says it was filed July 12, 2002. When did iPod start using this functionality?

    • by bergeron76 (176351) * on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @06:23PM (#9001866)
      I think that the goal buying up these patents is to bring the open-source movement to its' knees.
      Patent Lawsuits are PARTICULARLY EXPENSIVE ones to Litigate. They're going to get a massive array of patents and then in a blitzkrieg, they'll fire out an overwhelming number of cease and desist letters to all the key open-source projects that even remotely resemble one of their patents. The end result is going to be a lot of "settlements" because the cost of litigating will be prohibitively expensive (especially for open-source projects). The settlements will basically read, "take down your website / remove the project and we won't sue you out of house and home".

      The average open-source programmer would most likely rather close up shop than try to defend himself from a long-drawn out legal battle with MSFT's attack dogs.

  • by FZer0 (585622) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:15PM (#9000272) Homepage
    Press the button once = soft off
    Press the button for 4 seconds = hard off
  • I wrote a program years ago that started a timer when the button was pressed and stopped it when it was released, and would display the time the button depressed.

    *smells lawsuit forthcoming*

    I think around $200 million would convince me to license my technology to Microsoft. :-)
  • by The_Rippa (181699) * on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:16PM (#9000283)
    REDMOND, WA--In what CEO Bill Gates called "an unfortunate but necessary step to protect our intellectual property from theft and exploitation by competitors," the Microsoft Corporation patented the numbers one and zero Monday.

    With the patent, Microsoft's rivals are prohibited from manufacturing or selling products containing zeroes and ones--the mathematical building blocks of all computer languages and programs--unless a royalty fee of 10 cents per digit used is paid to the software giant.

    "Microsoft has been using the binary system of ones and zeroes ever since its inception in 1975," Gates told reporters. "For years, in the interest of the overall health of the computer industry, we permitted the free and unfettered use of our proprietary numeric systems. However, changing marketplace conditions and the increasingly predatory practices of certain competitors now leave us with no choice but to seek compensation for the use of our numerals."

    A number of major Silicon Valley players, including Apple Computer, Netscape and Sun Microsystems, said they will challenge the Microsoft patent as monopolistic and anti-competitive, claiming that the 10-cent-per-digit licensing fee would bankrupt them instantly.

    "While, technically, Java is a complex system of algorithms used to create a platform-independent programming environment, it is, at its core, just a string of trillions of ones and zeroes," said Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, whose company created the Java programming environment used in many Internet applications. "The licensing fees we'd have to pay Microsoft every day would be approximately 327,000 times the total net worth of this company."

    "If this patent holds up in federal court, Apple will have no choice but to convert to analog," said Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs, "and I have serious doubts whether this company would be able to remain competitive selling pedal-operated computers running software off vinyl LPs."

    As a result of the Microsoft patent, many other companies have begun radically revising their product lines: Database manufacturer Oracle has embarked on a crash program to develop "an abacus for the next millennium." Novell, whose communications and networking systems are also subject to Microsoft licensing fees, is working with top animal trainers on a chimpanzee-based message-transmission system. Hewlett-Packard is developing a revolutionary new steam-powered printer.

    Despite the swarm of protest, Gates is standing his ground, maintaining that ones and zeroes are the undisputed property of Microsoft.

    Above: Gates explains the new patent to Apple Computer's board of directors.
    "We will vigorously enforce our patents of these numbers, as they are legally ours," Gates said. "Among Microsoft's vast historical archives are Sanskrit cuneiform tablets from 1800 B.C. clearly showing ones and a symbol known as 'sunya,' or nothing. We also own: papyrus scrolls written by Pythagoras himself in which he explains the idea of singular notation, or 'one'; early tracts by Mohammed ibn Musa al Kwarizimi explaining the concept of al-sifr, or 'the cipher'; original mathematical manuscripts by Heisenberg, Einstein and Planck; and a signed first-edition copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being And Nothingness. Should the need arise, Microsoft will have no difficulty proving to the Justice Department or anyone else that we own the rights to these numbers."

    Added Gates: "My salary also has lots of zeroes. I'm the richest man in the world."

    According to experts, the full ramifications of Microsoft's patenting of one and zero have yet to be realized.

    "Because all integers and natural numbers derive from one and zero, Microsoft may, by extension, lay claim to ownership of all mathematics and logic systems, including Euclidean geometry, pulleys and levers, gravity, and the basic Newtonian principles of motion, as well as the concepts of existence and nonexistence,"
  • by naoursla (99850)
    Doesn't just about every game on the gameboy represent prior art in handhelds?

    The longer I press the button, the higher Mario jumps.
  • Unless the budgeting increases, the review process for a patent could double to 5 years

    Congress just needs to quit siphoning off the money that the USPTO makes from application fees.
  • by gabe (6734) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:17PM (#9000292) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else besides me think that this could be a GOOD IDEA on their part? Maybe if they actually took their time to process the patents and run exhaustive prior art checks most of these silly patents they're awarding would be preemptively tossed in the trash.
  • by Aquitaine (102097) <sam AT iamsam DOT org> on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:17PM (#9000306) Homepage
    ...hope they don't discover that infringing gas pedal it has!
  • What will they get away with patenting next!? This is one of the more obscure patents but come on.. patenting a timer to indicate how long a button's pressed? That's sorta like patenting a keyboard's whole design, variable button repeat and all (typically, the resolution of the button presses on a keyboard is tweakable in the operating system, even if marginably). I'm sure there are better, more clear ways of expressing this patent, but it's just horrible that someone could get away with patenting somethi
  • My cell phone has done this for years. Press the "talk" button and it shows the last number dialed. Continue to hold it down and it dials it too.

    My keyboard is similar. Press a key and it prints a character, hodl it down and it prints many of the same character. (See below)

    a
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
  • by heytherefancypants (773300) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:18PM (#9000324)
    Does anyone else see the need for a distributed prior art review. The idea is fairly simple, when a patent is applied for, it is placed into a queue where anyone who wants to sign up for the job can spend a small amount of time looking for any prior art. If any is found, the user is allowed to upload the data as well as some simple references that can be attached to the patent that would be flagged for review. This should at the very least provide some time savings for the patent officers, and allow all of us (myself included) to quit bitching and help out.
    • I think that they should replace the review process with a challenge process. Instead of having patent officers review patent applications, wait until the patent is in question. Then the patent officers can take the time to fully investigate the patent claim. Further, since it is triggered by a challenge, there are now two knowledgeable sides (the one who applied and the challenger) which have the technical knowledge and interest to properly consider the patent claim.

      I would also suggest that these chal
  • by Chmarr (18662) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:19PM (#9000328)
    ... my digital wristwatch of EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO was doing something like this... you needed to hold down one of the buttons for 2 seconds to get it into 'set' mode.
  • In every Sonic or Mario game, you jump higher if you hold the button down longer. How can MS have a patent on this?
  • I only wish Microsoft cared about how long I've held down Control-Alt-Delete.
  • Prior Art (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ichijo (607641) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:20PM (#9000344) Homepage Journal
    It's like your ignition key. If you keep it turned for about a second, it starts the car. If you keep it turned for 10 minutes, it burns out the starter.

    And there's also auto-repeat.
  • "United States Patent and Trademark Office is overwhelmed with incoming requests"

    Are you saying the US Patent office is the victim of a DOS?

  • If setup on some BIOSes, press and release the power button on the case and the system goes into suspend/sleep. Press and hold for 4 seconds, system powers down.
  • I am assuming (this is /., why would I actually READ the patent) the patent will be for "software" buttons on screens, and not the physical buttons. After all, how long has Palm used the power button to work as a light switch? And, I forget when the first cell-phones started using the End key as a power button. Not to mention the power button on modern PCs, push and hold for 4 seconds to turn off. The closest software only implementation I can think of are some of the palette options in graphic arts program
  • Just keep your shift key pressed for five seconds in Win2K and you'll find out. Stickey keys!
  • prostoalex? (Score:3, Funny)

    by FortKnox (169099) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:21PM (#9000374) Homepage Journal
    What's up with prostoalex [slashdot.org]? I noticed his name like twice today, so I looked...
    211 total articles submitted and accepted [slashdot.org]?

    At this rate, by next year, he'll have more accepted articles than Hemos posted!

    And michael said I had no life for simply having over 800 comments.....
  • They should fine companies millions of dollars for each ridiculous half-assed unresearched patent filed. That should either slow things down or bring in enough money to deal with crap like this.

  • by Casca (4032)
    I wonder if the M$ guy that filed this patent got the idea from having to hold the power button down on his desktop for more than 5 seconds all the time?
  • Maybe if they didn't grant so many patents for obvious and existing things, there wouldn't be so many people jumping on the bandwagon!
  • by updog (608318) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:24PM (#9000422) Homepage
    The EFF Patent Busting Project: http://eff.org/Patent/20040419_eff_pr_patent.php
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:25PM (#9000438)
    I filed several patents - the last of which was filed in the spring of 2001. 3 years later NONE of them have issued (including one that is passing 4 years now). I don't see a doubling to 5 years, just an increase to 5 years.
  • They also patented the double-click with this. The article does not mentioned it, but look at the details at the patent office site. They stole the whole GUI from Apple--and Apple stole it from Xerox.

    Among other annoyances, this patent dilutes my bragging rights for my own patent [uspto.gov].

    Me: Yeah, well, I've got a patent.

    Person I'm trying unsuccessfully to impress: Yeah, well, so does Microsoft--for double-clicking. Can't be that hard.

  • RTFPA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v_1matst (166486) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:32PM (#9000522) Homepage
    Read The F&#@ing Patent Application

    please go and read the actual patent app. before posting ignorant comments. You might find that your digital watch, cell phone, mouse, pda or whatever has nothing to do with what they are trying to patent.

    I dislike MS business practices as much as the next guy, but please be informed....
  • by saikou (211301) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:34PM (#9000552) Homepage
    Closer to PDAs are mobile phones. Look for the tapereel/voice mail icon on button '1'. Hold it, and you're calling your voicemail. Not hold it, and... well... you pressed '1' :)
  • Yeah, yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xentax (201517) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:34PM (#9000560)
    ...this is another bad patent. At least some people paused to notice that it's not THAT rediculous (compared to, say, patenting reverse auctions on the internet, or Amazon's one-click checkout patent, etc.), just another classic case of why just because it's being done on a computer or on the internet does NOT make it new and non-obvious.

    However, I wonder what else a company like MS, or IBM, or Intel can do in a situation like this -- namely, one where they're doing things that haven't been done before that, while NOT patentable in "our" sense of the term, are nevertheless things that DO get patents from the USPTO.

    I mean, if you want to do something, and *someone* will patent it because our broken system lets them, shouldn't you try to patent it first? That's what most corporate patents seem to be these day -- defensive patents.

    It's the nobody's out there that are really abusing the system -- SCO, Eolas, etc. I'm not really saying they're forcing Microsoft's hand (or IBM's, or Intel's, or AMD's, or NVidia's, etc.) -- but I *am* saying that I think these large research-driven companies are exercising good business sense by trying to defend themselves against the more flagrant abusers of the patent system.

    Sooner or Later (I'm guessing Later), even the cost of doing business with defensive patents and cross-licensing will reach that point that the big guys will push for Patent/Trademark reform, and these sorts of problems will finally go away. But, IMHO that day is years away, and the targets for patent abuse have to defend themselves in the meantime.

    I just wish one of the big patent powerhouses like MS or IBM would step up and drive a challenge against the existing patent status quo -- either via a Constitutionality argument, or lobbying Congress to get REAL patent reforms going, *something*. It's a gamble right now, sure, but business is all about risk and reward, and the payoffs for being able to get out of the patent litigation minefields that any technology company finds itself in these days would be worth it.

    Xentax
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#9000565)
    Primary Examiner: Wong; Albert K.
    Time based hardware button for application launch

    Abstract

    A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time. An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click.

    What about the whole apple macintosh computer system? A computer with one mouse button. There were so many things that were done by holding the mouse down instead of clicking. And double clicking? That's older then Windows.

    I wonder how many of the junk patents that have been approved lately were done by the same people. It would be nice to have a better feedback system for Patent Examiners then expensive lawsuits.

    Mod this one -1 obvious.

  • by jparp (316662) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:37PM (#9000587)
    here's how:
    We need to set up some kind of open source org for generating and funding silly patent applications. With some sympathetic venture capital, we may be able to clog the patent system for the next 50 years!

    Not that im gonna do it. Just think it would be neet if someone tried. Of course, the org would have to have protections from not actually inforcing the patents.

    The goal here isn't to make good patents. Just to clog the system, so we need not think to hard about them.

    just an idea,.
  • by NaugaHunter (639364) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:37PM (#9000598)
    Would a digital watch count? I'm pretty sure my first one would do different things from how long the button was pushed. Granted, it was only generally how it knew you wanted to set the time and switched modes, but it was a pretty limited computer.
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#9000628) Homepage
    An example of prior art:

    bash$ xset r rate 250 40

    Hmm: Let's see - hold down a key for a brief while:

    X

    Or hold it down for a long while:

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  • by copper (32270) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:47PM (#9000747)

    If you take the time to actually read what's claimed in this patent (on /.? yeah right...) this isn't as broad a patent as a lot of readers seem to think it is.

    Basically, they've patented the following (all being done on a "limited resource computing device"):

    Time how long an application launch button has been held down before it's released. If it's less than some threshold, launch the application associated with that button normally; if it's greater, then launch the application and automatically restore it to it's last known state.

    Not ingenious, and of doubtful usefulness in my opinion, but certainly not as bad as patenting the very general "having the action of a button determined by how long the button was pressed" where that action could be anything.

  • by daveatwork (655626) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:54PM (#9000819)
    We are missing the point a bit here. Of course, you are all totally correct, this isnt anywhere near a new thing, but we are missing the whole patent issue. I know you all understand this as well as cookies, but ill say it anyway. Patents protect an IDEA. They dont protect the end result. Hell, imagine if Hoover could patent clean carpets, no one else is allowed to invent a sucky upy thing, since it's patented!

    This is exactly the problem with a load of software patents. They dont patent HOW something is done, that patent WHAT is done. It's like trying to patent staying dry and warm, and therefore preventing anyone else building houses! I do believe there are some valid software patents, but that should NOT stop someone else getting to the same result by doing it differently. Just because some guy invented RSA security, does not stop some other guy inventing a totally differnt way to use the same algorithm.

    Microsoft can patent the source they used to time this button, if it uses some cool new timing algorithm that works without needing the internal clock, but no way should they be allowed to patent the actual result, a timed button.

    And honestly, i dont blame microsoft, i blame the fucking stupid patent clerks and judges who let things like this through. Microsoft are just using the system, we all would given half a chance. You patent people should wake the fuck up and engage brain!

    However, you will owe me money, since i own Thought(TM). oh, and i also own "Correct Answer(TM)" and "Common Sense(TM)", all registered trademarks and patents, thank you...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:34PM (#9001308)
      Patents don't protect jack shit. They are created to give a person a temporary monopoly over a object and the right to sue others who try to use that idea.

      That's it.

      The idea is that it's better to sacrifice the public's ability to utilize a new idea inorder to make it profitable to create new ideas.

      Like patented drugs.

      A company creates a new drug that is usefull, it can save lives. So they restrict access to the drug to create a profit, then they turn around and take those profits and create new usefull drugs.

      The sucky part is that it makes the drug expensive for people that may need it. The good part is that the drug exists in the first place. The company took a risk and created a usefull item from nothingness. Thus it exists.

      And because of this then they are free to take the funds created by this patent and create new drugs to patent. If it wasn't for the patent then they wouldn't make money and we wouldn't get new and better drugs as a result.

      People who do the innovating are the ones to get money from the innovation and are able then to innovate more.

      In fact they HAVE to innovate MORE, otherwise when the patent runs out THEY ARE Shit Out Of Luck.

      No more money no more profits.

      In a communist country that doesn't have intellectual property laws/rules, then progress is stiffled because the productive members of sociaty have no way to profit, unproductive members benifit equaly to productive ones. Thus productive members have no way to promote new ideas and take risks on their own. Thus over time EVERYBODY suffers.

      Just remember the PURPOSE of patents is to promote innovation and progress. NOT to protect ideas. Protecting ideas is what they do, not their purpose. Like when I drive to work, I drive to get to work. I don't drive just to drive, I'd rather just take a nap.

      Thus when the patent system is used as a tool to stifle innovation or is simply useless to the majority of sociaty and a drain on it's funds, then it's time to re-examine the patent system and modify it's behavior.

      Like for example shorten the life of software patents down to 1 year, instead of the 7 years or whatever. Which is much to long for the fast paced software industry.

      Take for example the Jpeg's compression patent. It was valid and usefull for a year or so after it was created, but the creators of the patent all of a sudden suing people years and years later after it becomes a industry standard is obviously counter productive.
  • by cwg_at_opc (762602) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:57PM (#9000853) Journal
    (I read the patent)
    even if this is meant to apply to virtual buttons, prior art exists in many places: a friend of mine
    used to work for Symbol Technology, the bar code scanner folks. he told me about how you determine
    if a button is pressed at all; there's an effect he described as "button bounce" where as the button is
    depressed, the electrical contact is intermittent for a while until it becomes constant - i.e. don't do anything
    until the button has been "on" for 1200milliseconds. he's had to write customized timing code for a variety of
    vendors' buttons, since they are all have a bit different 'action'; and since there's generally only one button(trigger)
    on a hand-held scanner, they'd have done the same as described in the patent. the extensions
    they've applied for seem completely "obvious" to anyone who's had to use/work/design a product with
    "limited resources", i.e. buttons.

    anyway, deciding what what to do depending on how long a button(real or virtual) has been done for
    many, many years:
    elevators, digital watches/clocks, PDAs, Apple Newtons and many others previously mentioned.

    maybe the patent office should 'open source' the research of prior art(like groklaw?) since they seem to be
    incapable of handling any more than a couple of applications per day.

    c
  • by apl73 (306355) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:34PM (#9001304)
    In 1973 I worked for HP's Medical Electronics Division on the 78221 Arrythmia Monitor. It had a hardware box (about 16"x 4" x 12") with 9 buttons on it, a minicomputer and a bit-mapped graphics display (256 x 256 pixels).

    8 of the buttons selected individual patients (it handled up to 8 CCU patients). Pushing and holding the button for several seconds would switch between a graphical display of EKG abnormalities and displaying a summary of ALL 8 patients (showing HR, recent abnormalities, etc.).

    In fact, we didn't even have hardware debouncing on the button; we used the minicomputer to sample the signal line and detect when it stayed stable for several milliseconds and treated that as a transition....

    This would appear to be VERY similar to the claims in the patent.....
  • Some day... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmooc AT zmooc DOT net> on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:41PM (#9001370) Homepage
    Some day people will hopefully understand that even though it may be pretty hard to read computer programs, they're just something written in a certain language. Microsoft won't sell you a button at all - it sells you a library with instructions especially sorted out by them to instruct your computer to do something. They differ from a book (ok an eBook) in absolutely nothing except for the language they were written in.

    Think of it. Theoretically it is possible to write a compiler that compiles the text of a patent to software that implements it. That shouldn't even have to be so very theoretical if version 0.1 only has to be able to compile one certain patent text. Now all of the sudden the patent itself has become a patented piece of software! If we don't stop patenting software now and one day someone comes up with a fucking smart compiler that can do such things, we'll all be uttering patented programs all day.

    The lack of a compiler from natural language to software (and vice versa) doesn't make software any less language. Software patents exist thanks to the utter stupidness of people that cannot see the difference between "an apparatus" and "some text I don't understand and I don't have a translator(compiler) for".
  • OMFG... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Master Control P (655590) <`ejkeever' `at' `nerdshack.com'> on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @08:28PM (#9003003)
    The final, unquestionable proof that the USPTO is truly fucked up beyond all recognition. I mean, what do those PTO idiots think it means when their computer repeats keys when the key is held down? I have a laptop from 1982 that does this! Consider God-only-knows what other stupid patents they grant, and this is a true SNAFU: Situation normal, all fucked up.

    If you're going to grant every single idiotic patent that comes your way, you might as well just replace it with a motion-activated tape player that says "Patent Granted!"

    On a more serious note, I want to know how on earth they could possibly review a patent for *five years* and not see glaringly obvious prior art from at least 20 years ago. They can't all be this stupid, can they? *whispers in my ear* I'm going to go cry now...

    Y'Know, I think I'll apply for a patent on "A means to generate an electromotive force by motion of a conducting material through a magnetic field" and for "A means to drive said conductor through magnetic field by union of carbon and oxygen atoms." Not only is it glaringly obvious, but the level of scientific knowledge required to understand it is far beyond anything these morons are capable of. Then you'll all have to pay me for the alternator in your car :)
  • prior art (Score:4, Informative)

    by waterbear (190559) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:35AM (#9005530)
    Microsoft's USP 6,727,830 is for using the length of time an application button is pressed, in various broadly-specified ways. It was issued April 27, 2004, and filed July 12, 2002, as a continuation of an earlier application filed Jan 5, 1999. So the timeframe for unconditional prior art status of printed publications and uses in USA appears to be the timeframe ending on Jan 4 1998.

    My HP41 programmable calculator, in use since 1981, was and is a "limited-resource computing device" with (physical) buttons associated with applications (functions). For every button and application there was a period during which the application's name would be displayed for a predetermined period if the button is pressed and held down, and activated if the button was released during that period, but if the button was held down longer, the display would go to 'null' and the application would not be activated on release. (It was a valuable HP41 feature to enable the user to check and get a reminder of what a button would do, without committing to the operation.)

    It seems to be only on the last point -- what happens after delayed release -- that the Microsoft patent claims appear to differ
    in detail from the HP41.

    But the actions specified vaguely in the MS claims do not appear to be matters of principle, let alone invention, they are just choices about which alternative action should happen after delayed release.

    I hope this patent would be found invalid at least for obviousness if challenged. But like so many others, MS may calculate on benefiting from the doubt in the meantime, and from the effort and expense of mounting a challenge.

    -wb-

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