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Yahoo Patents 'Smart' Drag and Drop 128

Posted by Zonk
from the will-wonders-never-cease dept.
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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Yahoo Patents 'Smart' Drag and Drop

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  • Prior art (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Have Blue (616) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @09:31AM (#22137396) Homepage
    How is this different from spring-loaded folders which have been in MacOS since before it was X?
  • "trivial" changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pbhj (607776) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:58AM (#22138450) Homepage Journal
    >>> 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.]

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