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IBM Patents Putting Handprints On Laptops

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  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:35PM (#23479828)
    It's in "Your Rights Online", so clearly kdawson wants us to be outraged... Is it because he thinks the idea is dumb, or that the patent is dumb? It's hard to tell in this case, since it seems to be a reasonable idea, and a reasonable patent...
    • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:52PM (#23480132) Homepage Journal

      it seems to be a reasonable idea, and a reasonable patent...
      Well, it depends on what effect patents are supposed to have. If you think they're supposed to encourage people to publish what they'd otherwise try to keep as trade secrets, then patenting something which is very obvious when inspected isn't reasonable. If you think they're supposed to let people hold progress hostage by recording their daydreams, it's very reasonable.
      • by reebmmm (939463) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:52PM (#23481090)
        NOTE*

        publish what they'd otherwise try to keep as trade secrets

        Not everything that is patentable (or ought to be patentable) must also be trade secret. This is a perfect example (actually most any mechanical invention is a good example). Once it's sold, used, displayed, demoed, described, photograph, etc. it would lose any and all protection.

        Now, arguably, one of the purposes of patents is to encourage people to disclose EARLIER rather than later. Here, you probably see this disclosure before you've actually seen it sold, used, displayed, demoed, described, photograph, etc.

        obvious when inspected
        Just about EVERYTHING seems obvious once you see it. That's the whole reason why the patent law painstakingly tries to AVOID doing your above analysis.

        hold progress hostage by recording their daydreams

        I don't know what this means. Patents have been around for 200 years and progress hasn't slowed by anyone's account.

        Moreover, this is hardly a "daydream" which seems to imply fanciful idea. There's probably almost NOTHING stopping them from implementing it right now. There are probably lots of real estate agents, contractors, etc. that would love to have a laptop that they could hold and show when there is not a table nearby.

        Finally, nothing stopped someone from introducing this idea (without patent protection) before this patent. So as far as I can tell, to the extent this moves progress forward and giving other people ideas, the publication of the patent has done it's job.

        * Like a good slashdotter, I have not actually looked at the patent or RTFA.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Not everything that is patentable (or ought to be patentable) must also be trade secret. This is a perfect example (actually most any mechanical invention is a good example). Once it's sold, used, displayed, demoed, described, photograph, etc. it would lose any and all protection.

          The protection isn't (supposed to be) the point. The societal benefit received in exchange for the sacrifice of granting that protection is the point.

          Now, arguably, one of the purposes of patents is to encourage people to disclose EARLIER rather than later. Here, you probably see this disclosure before you've actually seen it sold, used, displayed, demoed, described, photograph, etc.

          But this is a much lesser disclosure, in that there are heavy restrictions on what you can do with it.

          Just about EVERYTHING seems obvious once you see it.

          So patents ONLY provide a benefit when the patented thing would otherwise never be invented (or at least not be invented for another several years).

          • by reebmmm (939463)

            But this is a much lesser disclosure, in that there are heavy restrictions on what you can do with it.

            And, commensurate with that less disclosure is narrower patent scope. I don't see the issue. Large number of claim limitations just means that there's less patent protection and more alternatives.

            So patents ONLY provide a benefit when the patented thing would otherwise never be invented (or at least not be invented for another several years).

            Well, again, how do you know that a priori? How can you possibly

            • And, commensurate with that less disclosure is narrower patent scope. I don't see the issue. Large number of claim limitations just means that there's less patent protection and more alternatives.
              No, it's a lesser disclosure than just showing (selling) an implementation. Because you're not allowed to actually *use* that disclosure without paying up (if they're even willing to sell licenses).
        • by skarphace (812333) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:46PM (#23482122) Homepage

          I don't know what this means. Patents have been around for 200 years and progress hasn't slowed by anyone's account.
          How could you possibly know this? Industrialization is younger then 200 years and normal 'inventionalism'(yeah, I pulled that out of my butt) never really started until then. There were the occasionally blacksmiths but nothing really all that interesting.

          How could you possibly know that progress isn't moving slower because of patent law?

          I may even like to bring up the booming asian bootleg market. Their level of innovation is skyrocketing by leaping off of other people's patentable ideas and improving them. That alone may be a good argument that patents are not helping innovation.
          • by reebmmm (939463)

            How could you possibly know this?

            Fine, I accept your premise that the reality without a patent system is unknowable under modern concepts of industrialization. The grandparent is also wrong by exactly the same argument (if not more wrong as described below) since there's no way to know whether innovation is in fact being held hostage by the patent system.

            But, the evidence we do have basically shows: increases in technologies coinciding with increases in patent filings. The last 100 years have been a boon fo

      • by mea37 (1201159)
        Aaaaand... for those of us who know that neither of those is the purpose of a patent?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Patents are supposed to promote progress, by imposing restrictions for a couple decades. This only makes sense if what's being restricted would have been restricted for longer/forever (trade secrets), or wouldn't have existed at all. Given that people like to invent things just for fun, and that there was plenty of innovation before patents were invented, I suspect that that second category is close to empty.
          • by ivan256 (17499)

            Given that people like to invent things just for fun, and that there was plenty of innovation before patents were invented, I suspect that that second category is close to empty.

            And I suspect that you're wrong.

            Is an invention still an invention if it is never produced? The knowledge that somebody else is going to produce a copy of your invention when they see it, combined with the knowledge that the competition will make your idea unprofitable means that many innovative things have been brought to market, or brought to market sooner (with fairer distribution of the profits) because of patent.

            The fact that many, many bad patents are issued does not mean that patents are bad.

            In this

            • by makomk (752139)

              Is an invention still an invention if it is never produced?

              Good question. The thing is, a lot of the stuff being patented (and in particular, a lot of the things patented by IBM) will never be produced. It's just speculative patenting; they have no real intention of actually producing it at any point in the future, and this patent means no-one else will either.

              If anything, the current state of the patent system acts as a disincentive to do something innovative; if you're successful, a bunch of companies will just sue you for patent infringement. (See for exampl

    • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:53PM (#23480154) Homepage Journal
      I agree. IBM deserves a hand for this. I'm sure it will leave a lasting impression on the laptop market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cerelib (903469)
      I have to agree. This is a pretty straight forward improvement to an invention patent. The patent seems to be specific on many details of implementation. It is also specific enough that it probably can't rule out any possible use of a hand impression on a portable device. While it may not be the most novel and innovative idea, it is a far cry from the software/process patents that usually appear in the "Your Rights Online" section.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by farker haiku (883529)
      But... it's a patent... about computers!! Clearly if you aren't outraged you don't belong here.
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        Most of the outrage around here (and in the world in general) seems to fall into the "Too busy being outraged to pay attention" category.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:35PM (#23479836)
    How is this anything more than just another take on ergonomic grips on other products -- for instance the finger grooves on the grip of a pistol?

    Not that I can say I've had a problem performing this task WITHOUT their little patent, but interesting IBM would want it, seeing as how they've sold their laptop-making division already anyway.
    • by lymond01 (314120)
      You don't need to create a product to license a patent. If anyone decides to make laptops with brushed chrome (or whatever the hell the iPhone is made of), I'd welcome anything that helps me keep a grip on the things. I swear, a cold iPhone is like trying to hold onto jello...

      YRO might be because of the handprint which may, or may not, include fingerprints (to the previous poster).
    • by getto man d (619850) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:39PM (#23479924)
      FTA:
      "A hand impression is disposed on a bottom surface of the chassis base unit.

      Though this begs the question of how many people actually use a laptop in this fashion. I myself cannot see it entirely useful (e.g. typing) or comfortable.
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        feh. It brings up a question which is begging for an answer. It does not beg the question.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          What if I really, really want a question? Pretty please with sugar on top?
        • And that would be why in the world did they go to the trouble of patenting this? The foreseeable answer is that they needn't have taken the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gnick (1211984)

          feh. It brings up a question which is begging for an answer. It does not beg the question.
          This seems like a petty peve. It seems obvious enough that by:

          this begs the question of how many people actually use a laptop in this fashion.
          the esteemed "getto man d" meant:

          This begets the question, "How many people actually use a laptop in this fashion?"
          Double feh.
      • I tend to agree. Leg grooves to make it easier to balance on my lap would be more beneficial for my off-desk use. Mind you I also have an old, heavy, widescreen laptop. Using it while balanced on one hand would be more a feat of strength than dexterity in my case. Even still I can't imagine using a light laptop in that way.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by webrunner (108849)
          They try to downplay actual lap-top use (in case of another burn lawsuit) to the point that they almost say "do not use this on your legs"

          Notice how companies never actually call them "laptops"? They'll call them either "notebook computer" or "labtop" (as in: put on the counter of a research lab).

          Releasing one with leg grooves would be rather strange, given that.
          • Laptop use on legs is perfectly safe if you push it sufficiently away from you (i.e. nearer to your knees, rather than to your belly).

            So, no problem with leg grooves, as long as their is no dick grove between those.

      • by reebmmm (939463)
        It's easy. Try being on a site someplace with a laptop that you're trying to show a virtual representation of the end result. For that matter, any time you're in a place where you cannot sit and there is no table.

        Also, I can think of a number of very small computers, iphones, blackberries or things of slightly larger size which is necessarily held in one hand.
      • by samkass (174571)
        Though this begs the question of how many people actually use a laptop in this fashion. I myself cannot see it entirely useful (e.g. typing) or comfortable.

        I'm not even going to ask what body part YOU would have suggested making an impression of...
    • Exactly (Score:3, Funny)

      by JonTurner (178845)
      Makes me want to patent an impression of my boot in the rear end of the reviewer who approved this patent.
    • How is this anything more than just another take on ergonomic grips on other products -- for instance the finger grooves on the grip of a pistol?

      This is directly from the claimed language in the independent claims of the application:

      "and a sensor disposed in the hand impression, responsive to contact by a user, for enabling or disabling a processing unit in the data processing system"

      I'd say that's very different than ergonomic gripping as it's able to enable and disable the processor itself. I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be patentable, I'm just saying you're way off with your assertion there.

    • I have to agree. I wonder if I could make the case that my seven year old Toshiba laptop shows precedence in that I've used it so much my hand print is literally worn into the plastic shell. Do you think I could claim IP rights?
  • If only they had bought the laptop division from IBM right now they cudve enjoyed this uber cool patent guaranteed to you impress your friends when you are juggling your laptop with a finger!
  • More like... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...you best not do the same on a laptop, [and then produce it for sale to other people] lest you infringe on IBM's new patent for the Portable Computer with a Hand Impression, ...

    Patents don't stop you from doing things, they stop you from making money for doing said things.
  • by Sierran (155611) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:39PM (#23479916)
    The handprint is there, claims the patent, in order to facilitate the 'proper carrying' of the 'computing device.' However, I don't think I've ever carried my laptop balanced like a waiter's tray, or held it to my side while closed without wrapping the carrying hand around the edge underneath it for support. What they do say, buried in the patent, is that the patent also covers the use of 'biometric devices' inside the handprint, presumably for identity verification. If so, I"m not sure how this any better than a fingerprint port, unless they plan to have biometrics cover the entire print or even all five fingers - which will be more expensive for dubious additional security.
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:42PM (#23479978)
      It's not really "buried in the patent". It's mentioned right up front in claim 1, and the headline for this article seems oblivious to that point.

      • If you have to do any work like click through to the article or search for patent summary, it's buried as far as we're concerned.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      "which will be more expensive for dubious additional security."

      No kidding. Does IBM think it is significantly harder to cut off a persons hand than it is to takeoff their finger?
    • without wrapping the carrying hand around the edge underneath it for support
      The patent also covers "grips" on the edges.
    • by skiflyer (716312)
      I wouldn't mind one on my X60 tablet... in fact I currently use the extended life battery just for the sake of getting a better grip. I'd appreciate being able to use my smaller battery and still keep a handle on the thing.
    • I know loads of people who carry the laptop like this. Much to the annoyance of the IT department. However with the new tablet PCs and the hard drive air bag it is much easier to carry a laptop around. Also I find I use the keyboard less and less, for example this slashdot entry was written using the speech recognition system in Vista.
    • by JimDaGeek (983925)
      After reading the patent claim, I noticed they mentioned _five_ fingers many times.

      What if I had a finger or two cut off? Can I put in a new patent claim for this same "idea" for three fingers?

      How about just one finger? Guess which one I am holding up? ;-)
  • by Lostlander (1219708) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:39PM (#23479918)
    I think I'm going to patent a process by which a footprint is left in a SiO2 water suspension and used for tracing the location of an individual.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      It would be a pretty useless patent, as sand prints usually don't last long. However, you could patent filling the footprints with plaster for the purposes of identifying an individual, animal, plant, of fossil if the method hadn't already been used forever.
  • by hyperz69 (1226464) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:41PM (#23479966)
    Sees handprints all over it's exterior.

    Oh crap, I hope IBM will lease the technology to me cheaply ;\
  • ergonomic digit imprints on one's dick? less tiring for the girl, improves quality of life!
  • I call right hands (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Their picture shows an impression of a left hand, I want to claim rights to an impression of a right hand.
  • I thought this was a security thing. Like nobody would steal a laptop with your unique fingerprints and entire handprint. Why hasn't anyone done that before?
    • by randyest (589159)
      Because it's a stupid idea that would stop no one from stealing a laptop and would give the thief a way to make a replica of your hand-print to use to frame you for any number of crimes?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I seem to recall an article on slashdot about IBM saying they were going to try and get as many ridiculous patents as they could and offering them for free?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/11/technology/11ibm.html
  • Not obvious? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bombula (670389) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:51PM (#23480110)
    Unless I'm mistaken, only non-obvious inventions can be protected by patents. Even if something is novel, useful, or a new combination of existing ideas, it must still be non-obvious to be patentable.
  • by imyy4u3 (1290108) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @02:53PM (#23480148)
    ...a biometric laptop that is "ergonomically designed" for being "carried" on your "lap" while looking at porn. It is called the Magnum Laptop for the big boys, and the Tiny Laptop in China.
  • I have the impression that this will be a generic hand impression, not unique to the computer owner so how useful will this be? And if I balance a laptop, it's on my lap, not on my hand...I mean, if you balanced a laptop on your hand, how could you use the touchpad and keyboard?!
  • by KGIII (973947)
    More information. [uspto.gov]

    Seems both obvious and obviously silly to me.
  • Handprint, on cars...
    It would be just the same idea but on different product...
  • What if (Score:1, Redundant)

    by MrNougat (927651)
    What if I make mine in the shape of my penis?
  • by kenp2002 (545495)
    Old Man: IT'S A CULT AND I DON'T CARE WHAT OR WHO THEY THINK THEY ARE!
    Kid: WHO?
    Old Man: I CAN'T SAY OR THEY'LL SUE ME FOR DEFAMATION!
    Kid: AREN'T YOU ENTITLED TO YOUR OPINION?
    Old Man: ONLY WHEN PEOPLE WITH MONEY AGREE WITH IT!
    Kid: WHAT ABOUT FREE SPEECH?
    Old Man: FREEDOM ISN'T FREE. THOSE WITH MONEY HAVE MORE FREEDOM THEN THOSE WITHOUT IT
    Kid: WHAT ABOUT INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY?
    Old Man: ONLY IN CRIMINAL CASES KID. IN CIVIL CASES YOUR ARE POOCHED UNTIL YOU ARE BROKE THEN YOU LOSE.
    Kid: SO WHAT IS FREE?
    Old M
  • Really, unless you were a hand model posing for a notebook computer advertisement, why would you hold a computer like that? It may look pretty, but the slightest sideways impact is going to send the whole thing tumbling to the ground no matter how neatly your fingertips line up with the spots on the case.
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      Actually, I see it occasionally, especially when people are in conference rooms or going to and from same.

      And, I did it last night. I was in my car in a parking lot of Kinkos' and started to download something. Decided to go in when it said it would be 10 min.
  • 1) do I have to order my laptop as right-or-left-handed now?

    2) Is it to late to get a design patent of the position of certain fingers in the hand impression? "...In one manifestation of the invention, all but the central digit are retracted..."
  • I'm wondering how well a laptop with a palm print on its bottom will handle when you put it on a table and try to type/mouse/etc. Seems to me like a very bad idea as the laptop would wobble as you try to type unless they're planning on putting legs on it.
    • by randyest (589159)
      Why would it wobble? The print is indented into the laptop. It creates a hand shaped void, around which is a perfectly level surface in every direction. It's not a protruding handprint.
    • by droopycom (470921)
      Clearly, your comment demonstrate that the idea is not that obvious, hence the patent is valid....

      IBM thanks you....

  • The patent appears be specific (as it should be) and the same idea implemented with a different configuration (place palm in a different location) might be construed not to infringe. Perhaps then they filed it for defensive purposes; they're famous for that.
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:24PM (#23480638) Journal
    I don't have a hand. I have a flipper!
  • I did it already.

    Every time I touch my laptop I put a hand print on it...
  • You could call it Rot180 and get your own patent, and they'd be legally prevented from decrypting it to see if it infringed upon their patent.
  • I'm going to patent the portable lap
  • I can resell it back to any restaurant establishment and prosper. Waiters and waitresses the world over will sing my praises.
    • You wouldn't need a license, since the application is in a different sector for a differnt technology (unless IBM wants to argue that laptops should now also be used as serving trays).
  • by nguy (1207026)
    Obviously, someone at IBM needed to fill their patent quota for the year again.
  • 1) Balance laptop on hands with assistance of IBM's new technology.
    2) Drop laptop.
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

    Wait. Wait, that's it! I've just figured out what the "???" step is. It's "sue"! Of course! It's so obvious now. How could we have been so blind!? The gnomes are to blame for today's flood of frivolous lawsuits. THE GNOMES RUN THE RIAA!
  • Was it sized? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hurfy (735314) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:15PM (#23482628)
    Do i have to order my next laptop as Left or Right, how about Small, Medium, or Large?

    Didn't get far enough to see if it is just a generic hand print or custom ($$$) But my hand print won't work if they use my dad for an impression and vice-versa.

    Despite that the impression seems reasonable if only marginally useful. Putting sensors in it seems dumb tho. I don't want to HAVE to hold it that way. Not to mention, aren't most of these small computers really cheap? Adding a bevy of sensors seems counter-productive to that. ...and now i know why noone wants to RTFA...ugh
  • This idea is only good if they make it an oven mitt shaped indentation. Otherwise you'll be seeing suits for burnt hands.

    One step to better mobile computing that doesn't involve hand prints:

    Divorce the components.

    Text input device
    Pointing device
    Screen/display
    Storage
    Computer

    Basically this means if I'm sitting in a train seat and I want to use the built in screen in the back of my neighbor's seat, I just synchronize to use it and keep my own screen packed away.

    It means only one of the people in a party needs
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:15PM (#23485414)
    First one to the patent office with the laptop with two kneecap impressions on the bottom wins the big bucks!

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