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Google, Apple, Microsoft Sued Over File Preview 250

Posted by Soulskill
from the excellent-work,-patent-office dept.
ClaraBow writes with this excerpt from MacWorld: "A small Indiana company has sued tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google, claiming that it holds the patent on a common file preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened. ... Cygnus's owner and president Gregory Swartz developed the technology laid out in the patent while working on IT consulting projects, McAndrews said. The company is looking for 'a reasonable royalty' as well as a court injunction preventing further infringement, he said. ... Cygnus applied for its patent (#7346850) in 2001. It covers a 'System and method for iconic software environment management' and was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office in March of this year."
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Google, Apple, Microsoft Sued Over File Preview

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  • Wait a minute... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jason Pollock (45537) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:42PM (#26238973) Homepage
    I thought Cygnus was bought by Red Hat? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hat [wikipedia.org] On November 15, 1999, Red Hat acquired Cygnus Solutions. Ah, this is "Cygnus Systems"... I can see where there might be a small bit of confusion there.
  • by mwilliamson (672411) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:46PM (#26239005) Homepage Journal
    talk about prior art...if this survives the challenge I'm leaving.
  • Apple Lisa (Score:3, Informative)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:51PM (#26239043)
    Apple and MS have had file previews since Mac OS 1 and Windows 1 back in the 80's. In fact I think the Apple Lisa OS may have been the first- at least for home users.
  • KDE prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by fishyfool (854019) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:53PM (#26239059) Homepage Journal
    Take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KDE_1.0.jpg [wikipedia.org] see the view of the virtual desktops on the top right? KDE has had this feature since at least 98 and I think the beta's had even more. Gregory Swartz just patented someone elses work likely seen while working as a consultant in the working environments of his clients.
  • Prior Art. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:54PM (#26239065)

    http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/linux/RHL-6.2-Manual/getting-started-guide/index.html [redhat.com]

    Copyright © 2000 by Red Hat, Inc.

    http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/linux/RHL-6.2-Manual/getting-started-guide/s1-managers-kfm.html [redhat.com]

    "Show Thumbnails -- If you have images in a directory, selecting this option will show you tiny representations of them. This view is useful if you keep family photos or artwork."

    --
    BMO

  • I'll testify .... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday December 26, 2008 @11:56PM (#26239073)

    In the late 1980s I wrote the Windows version of Business & Professional Software's Trumpet Presentation program. In it, I showed iconic representations of presentations.

    I'd call that prior art. Just contact me.

  • Claims (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:08AM (#26239137)

    Since people are too lazy to click on the link and read the claims for themselves, I'll post the two independent claims here:

    1. A method of accessing one or more computer files via a graphical icon, comprising the steps of:
    capturing automatically one or more graphical representations of one ormore portions of information content of one or more computer files while an application is manipulating the one or more computer files;
    creating automatically an icon including selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations ofthe information content of the one or more computer files wherein the icon graphically depicts at least a portion of the information content from the one or more computer files and wherein the icon is created while the application was manipulating theicon's corresponding one or more computer files and includes selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content;
    linking the icon to the application and to the one or more computer files based on theability of the application to manipulate the information content of the one or more computer files corresponding to the icon;
    storing the icon in a memory;
    displaying the icon in a window on a display screen;
    invoking the application for manipulatingthe information content of the one or more computer files upon selection of the icon by accessing the more or more computer files by reference to an underlying file system corresponding to the icon and opening the one or more computer files within theapplication.

    16. A method for providing a user interface for accessing a file based on a corresponding icon comprising:
    storing a plurality of icons in a memory along with a corresponding plurality of references to an underlying file system for storageinformation for a plurality of files, each icon having an appearance substantially depicting information content from its corresponding file, wherein the plurality of icons were created by capturing automatically one or more graphical representations ofone or more portions of information content of an icon's corresponding file while an application was manipulating an icon's corresponding file and include selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content;
    linking an application to each icon based utility on the ability of the application to manipulate the information content of the file corresponding to the icon;
    providing a window on a display screen for displaying the plurality of icons;
    invoking theapplication for manipulating the information content of the file corresponding to the selected icon upon selection of an icon from the plurality of icons in the window;
    accessing the file designated by the reference to the underlying file systemcorresponding to the selected icon; and
    opening the accessed file into the corresponding application.

    In order for prior art to cover this, either one reference, showing that this was known before the patentee's invention, has to anticipate every one of the limitations in the claim; or, it must have been obvious for one of ordinary skill in the art to combine multiple references which, when put together, cover every limitation in the claim.

  • Re:Two words: (Score:3, Informative)

    by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:14AM (#26239167)

    What can be easily said, or thought to be intuitively known, may not have been legally codified, and therein lies the rub.

    You can cite the Lexmark patent [patentstorm.us], elements of Apple's HIG [patentstorm.us], peruse the citations in one of Jakob Nielson's papers [useit.com] that would seem to support prior art, or just search Patent Storm for "iconic systems [patentstorm.us]" and seeing results dating back more than a decade figure this is a wash. Right?

    While IANAL, what seems to make this patent different is that it is for a *system* involving multiple icons at one go (select a bunch of icons at one time, peform an operation on them, and automagically they're re-iconified or something like that).

    If other patents dealt with singular icons or methods thereof, and if no one has lined out, in writing, a similar system prior to 2001 (the date of submission), then, well... maybe it's time to pass out the Pepto Bismol©.

  • by carlzum (832868) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:47AM (#26239351)
    Cygnus Systems [cygnus-sys.com] (not to be confused with the Cygwin guys) doesn't appear to produce any commercial software. They look like some kind of software/hardware reseller, providing some business application develop services at best. They applied for this patent in 2001, where's the product they were trying to protect? It's one thing to abuse the system to fight off competition, but registering vague patents with no intention of implementing them is patent trolling at its worst.
  • Re:Claims (Score:5, Informative)

    by dshadowwolf (1132457) <dshadowwolf@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:12AM (#26239525)

    That actually does, quite nicely, compromise "Prior Art" that invalidates both the primary claim (claim 1) and the secondary claim (claim 16) — all other claims rely, either directly or indirectly, on those two.

    In other words, this single piece of "prior art" — if it is validated during a re-examination of this patent — will cause the patent to disappear entirely.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:32AM (#26239617)

    Not if its not distributed by anyone in the US. Sure, they have to follow the law, but whos law is the question.

  • Re:KDE prior art (Score:2, Informative)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:38AM (#26239641) Homepage Journal
    The original application was in 1998. Only the final application was in 2001.
  • Re:Two words: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Score Whore (32328) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @01:55AM (#26239719)

    Reading the patent, what they have patented is a third party application that grabs a screen shot and allows you to select the document you desire to work on via that screen shot. One aspect that doesn't seem to exist anywhere in Windows or Mac OS X:

    The present invention provides an improved method and system for storing, navigating and retrieving files and documents in a computer system. A method by which this is accomplished includes the following: the use of graphical representations of the documents and applications as viewed on the screen at the time of `capture`, a Snapshot Navigator Menu that automatically appears when the mouse pointer is directed to the edge of the screen and disappears when the mouse leaves the visible area of the Snapshot Navigator Menu.

    To me this sounds like they patented a computer program.

    However, if their argument is that any kind of preview for file browsing is covered, then they are a number of years late to the party. In 1994 xv was doing this with it's visual schnauzer, providing thumbnails of all your images, etc.

  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @02:15AM (#26239793) Homepage
    The website for Cygnus System, Inc. states: "ygnus Systems, Inc. focuses on the unique computing, networking and application needs of small to midsized businesses and offices in the southeastern Michigan area. " and the bottom of the website says they are in Taylor, MI http://www.cygnus-sys.com/AboutUs [cygnus-sys.com]

    If the article confuses Indiana with Michigan then maybe it is confused about the lawsuit as well?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @02:34AM (#26239873)
    There's no such thing as fair use for patented subject matter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @03:22AM (#26240053)

    Patents are for preventing others from making money off of your IP.

    Wrong-o. Patents are for preventing others from benefiting from your ideas without acceptable reciprocal benefits determined at the discretion of the patent holder, e.g., royalties.

  • Contact you? How? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mathinker (909784) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @03:40AM (#26240115) Journal

    If you're for real, I suggest that you take the initiative and contact them, considering that

    • Your Slashdot account is not configured to reveal an email address or website
    • It's not clear that the lawyers involved read Slashdot
  • by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @05:02AM (#26240367)
    And yet... patent trolls are still patent trolls. See a program Cygnus is pitching that is being "infringed"? No? PATENT TROLL. Sorry... time to call a spade a spade. Even if you read the "whole" document.
  • Re:KDE prior art (Score:3, Informative)

    by jrumney (197329) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @05:22AM (#26240427) Homepage
    Legally, the earlier application has no significance now. It is abandoned, and the patent office did not think it was substantially enough similar to give the issued patent a priority date from the earlier application.
  • by ImdatS (958642) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @05:35AM (#26240461) Homepage

    I remember that NeXTstep had this in the Workspace Manager. ou could click a file and push CMD+3 to see a preview of the content of the file, if preview was supported. Preview worked for many file types (.tif, .snd, ...) and where it didn't work, you could write a "preview viewer" for the Workspace Manager as a plug-in.

    Obviously, the preview was similar to a screenshot at the last edit stage of the file.

  • Re:Two words: (Score:3, Informative)

    by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:20PM (#26241919)
    It is possible to file a document with prior art you have found to challenge an issued patent for a small filing fee to the US Patent & Trademark office.

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