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Microsoft GUI Patents

Surfcast Sues Microsoft Over Tile Patent 255

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the smells-like-windows-1.0 dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news of a company suing Microsoft for infringing upon a patent for tiles with live content. From the article: "SurfCast, in a complaint filed yesterday in a U.S. District Court in Maine, said Microsoft infringes one of its four patents — No. 6,724,403 — by 'making, using, selling, and offering to sell devices and software products' covered by SurfCast's patent. That includes mobile devices using the Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 operating systems as well as PCs using Windows 8/RT."
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Surfcast Sues Microsoft Over Tile Patent

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  • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:36AM (#41831493)
    Apple did it in the 90s
  • by mhsobhani (2688177) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:36AM (#41831495)
    so both simple rectangle and rounded rectangle are now patented!
  • by Shadyman (939863) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:38AM (#41831515) Homepage
    How long as Windows Phone 7 had tiles? (honest curiosity)

    IANAL, but if it's been a while, one might assume that SurfCast has been sitting on the lawsuit, waiting for Microsoft to roll tiles out into more and more products so that they could reach a bigger settlement, though that might have to be weighed against the notion of "not defending one's patents".

    Thoughts?
    • That's the way I see this, WP7 has been out for quite a bit and only now they are filing the suit?

      If MS violated the patent than SurfCast should certainly get some money out of them, but if I was the judge I'd have some questions as to why they filed now and not when the tile interface was first released in WP7.

      I know next to nothing about court procedures or trials so I'm not even sure if that's within the judge's purview though.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        WP7's release is still well within the statute of limitations on patent notification.

    • WP7 was released Feb 2010, and probably previewed in the months leading to that point.
    • Also not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure defend it or lose it just applies to trademarks.

  • by jader3rd (2222716) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:39AM (#41831527)
    I can see why SurfCasts tiles didn't take off. That's beyond ugly. Since Microsoft referenced SurfCasts patent in their patent, I suspect Microsoft determined that they were different enough to not require a licensing deal.
    The Microsoft Live Tiles use data that's been curated for the purpose of a tile. SurfCasts is making little windows onto programs that have no idea their being ran in a little window.
    • by Microlith (54737)

      Since Microsoft referenced SurfCasts patent in their patent, I suspect Microsoft determined that they were different enough to not require a licensing deal.

      Precisely why software patents are a huge hazard. Even if you do a patent search and your lawyers say that you don't infringe on a patent, you can still be sued by the patent holder and be dragged through court to defend it.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Since Microsoft referenced SurfCasts patent in their patent, I suspect Microsoft determined that they were different enough to not require a licensing deal.

        Precisely why software patents are a huge hazard. Even if you do a patent search and your lawyers say that you don't infringe on a patent, you can still be sued by the patent holder and be dragged through court to defend it.

        I agree with this statement. Usually, though it is Microsoft going after the little guy. Maybe the best thing to come out of this case, assuming it is upheld and Microsoft has to pay big bucks, is that it will force a review of the current patent situation as it relates to software.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      But the Surfcast Patent shows a screenshot of Slashdot in one of it's tiles... at least I think that's Slashdot.

  • Seriously?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oPless (63249) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:43AM (#41831587) Journal

    A computerized method of presenting information from a variety of sources on a display device. Specifically the present invention describes a graphical user interface for organizing the simultaneous display of information from a multitude of information sources. In particular, the present invention comprises a graphical user interface which organizes content from a variety of information sources into a grid of tiles, each of which can refresh its content independently of the others. The grid functionality manages the refresh rates of the multiple information sources. The present invention is intended to operate in a platform independent manner.

    Seriously?

    A) How was this even granted a patent in 2000? It's really obvious, to anyone with a computing degree.

    B) How it wasn't picked up on a patent search.

    C) Why didn't they sue two years ago when WP7 was released?

    Software patents are fundamentally wrong :(

    • by jeti (105266)

      B) How it wasn't picked up on a patent search.

      Microsoft has been aware of the patent. It's even referenced in Microsofts own patent on displaying tiles on mobile devices [uspto.gov].

      Software patents are fundamentally wrong :(

      No kidding.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      Once I ran Winamp and Firefox in these things we call windows.

    • Total TROLLL (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PortHaven (242123) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @01:52PM (#41833319) Homepage

      Seriously, go look at these "screenshots" of product. And tell me how their product was anything different than all the horrible 1990's websites built with frames, that continually refreshed.

      Seriously, this shouldn't even go to court....

      http://web.archive.org/web/20070420033547/http://www.surfcast.com/images/bloom.jpg [archive.org]

      http://web.archive.org/web/20070101195114/http://surfcast.com/images/trading.jpg [archive.org]

      http://web.archive.org/web/20070101163517/http://surfcast.com/images/weather.jpg [archive.org]

      http://web.archive.org/web/20070126130038/http://www.surfcast.com/images/word_doc.jpg [archive.org]

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      A computerized method of presenting information from a variety of sources on a display device. Specifically the present invention describes a graphical user interface for organizing the simultaneous display of information from a multitude of information sources. In particular, the present invention comprises a graphical user interface which organizes content from a variety of information sources into a grid of tiles, each of which can refresh its content independently of the others. The grid functionality manages the refresh rates of the multiple information sources. The present invention is intended to operate in a platform independent manner.

      Seriously?

      A) How was this even granted a patent in 2000? It's really obvious, to anyone with a computing degree.

      B) How it wasn't picked up on a patent search.

      C) Why didn't they sue two years ago when WP7 was released?

      Software patents are fundamentally wrong :(

      A) Back in 2000 when the patent was applied for, this was a pretty novel idea. You can't use today's understanding to judge 12 years ago, particularly in software.
      B) It was picked up in a patent search. Microsoft even referenced it in their own patent filing.
      C) That is a straw man. Are you saying because they didn't first file for infringement in 2010 when WP7 was first released, they cannot enforce their patent now, less than three years later? Maybe they did contact Microsoft and try and settle it. May

  • How is this functionally any different then many Android Widgets? They often display partial information and are clickable to launch a full app?

    Or iOS notification numbers, which display partial information about the app while also allowing you to use the icon as a selector?

    Or Photoshop file icons, which show an icon version of the current state of the file while also allowing you to use the icon as a selector?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Actually I think the basic prior art here is "windowing." And I don't even mean Microsoft Windows; the basic idea of having multiple programs on the screen, all running concurrently but each using only part of the screen, was novel in the late 1960s. "Overlapping" windows, like MS Windows and everything since then, is actually a refinement of that concept. Emacs, for example, just partitions the screen into nested rectangles. Just like "tiles."
    • by Githaron (2462596)
      Android widgets don't have to be tiles?
  • I'm just waiting on someone to violate the patent I filed to put "images that represent programs or their activities" on "computing devices."
  • Active Desktop (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:57AM (#41831773)

    So the patent is for blocks of active information in boxes? Filed in 2000? Microsoft was doing this with Active Desktop back in 1997 and I'm sure they weren't the first.

  • Software patents are BOGUS.

  • Wow they actually forgot to include the XBox 360's tile system which does the same thing...Still, I can't believe this kind of obvious stuff is still getting getting patented! "Box Ads" have been around for years, I'm shocked they're targeting Microsoft. Google would have made a much bigger target with Google IG, and Google has a lot more $$ than Microsoft at the moment. Also, this Patent was granted in 2004 and Google IG came along shortly there after (2006 or so?)...wow this is ridiculous.
  • The ICCCM (from 1985) specifies the icon_window field of the WM_HINTS property. This tells the windowmanager that an application won't display a static pixmap when iconified, it will instead be given a small window which it can animate.

    xterm can do this.

    Honeslty I haven't read the patent. I've read through about 3 or 4 software patents which have appeared on /. before. The language is dense, nearly impenetrable and horrible repetitive. Neverltheless, every patent I've read through which has appeared has tur

    • The language is dense, nearly impenetrable and horrible repetitive.

      This is on purpose. Patent lawyers are like any other lawyer in that they want their little priesthood to remain protected. If anyone can draft and interpret a patent application, what need for their expensive services?

      OT but along the same vein: when people complained about certain bits in the new EU "constitution", those bits were rewritten in horribly obfuscated language that boils down to more or less the same meaning. Another reason for using legalese.

  • When Microsoft was the one doing the suing? Oy, the irony of being flogged with your own club.

  • MS employees are forbidden from researching other technologies and patents by other parties when "inventing" something. They build it straight-up, and if their invention collides with another invention that's patented, they have to sort it out through legal.

    Likely the folks in MS who designed the Live Tiles didn't know StreamCast had a patent on this tech.

  • To me, Tiles are more close to Wii Channels than Android Widgets, etc.
  • Just reading the prior patents cited by this patent, I can't understand why this isn't prior art or so obvious from prior art that it doesn't warrant patenting. It seems like the patent examiners aren't will to reject stuff like this instead of letting it get fought in the courts. If our leaders truly want to help small business then they need to end crap like this and make patent examiners do their job.

    • 1996, the iframe tag was introduced by Internet Explorer to load content asynchronously. In 1998, Microsoft Outlook Web Access team implemented the first component XMLHTTP by client script. In 1999, Microsoft utilized its iframe technology to dynamically update the news stories and stock quotes on the default page for Internet Explorer

      Taken from AJAX wikipedia article.

  • What about the MotoBlur interface? Especially on the pre-Android phones (I have a Moto Android phone and have disabled all the main-screen tiles, but it sure seems like that is what they were).

  • With the name Metro, they were very eager to comply instantly. So maybe this is the end of the metro crap (and not only the end of the name).

    Or maybe they wanted to get rid of the name metro with all the negative google hits anyway ... without getting rid of their little experiment, of course.

  • Seriously, if I go visit friends in Portland, ME...I am so egging the hell out that place.

    First off, their website is a POS with next to no content other than "We're a patent troll!"

    Second, 2000???

    Sorry, frankly, I feel there was prior art for Microsoft Surface tiles. Don't people remember those late 90's websites with all the square tables boxes that kept refreshing and showing updates for stocks and what not.

    So the idea was done...it's not novel. Lame...

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @03:17PM (#41834567) Homepage Journal

    And they spent a lot of money through SCO to try and sue Linux and IBM. And got their asses handed to them.

    What MS *should* have done with that time and money was to find every patent troll that was going to harm them, and take them out with extreme prejudice.

    Now they've been harmed by Eolas, which has opened the door to trolls like this one. MS has been hoisted by their own petard, so to speak. They were *for* software patents, and now they have discovered that you can't swing a dead cat in the tech sector without being sued by someone claiming to own a software method.

    Software patents harm innovation and business. They do more harm than good and need to be repealed, for the sake of the economy.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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