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Microsoft Frowned at for Smiley Patent 369

theodp writes "ZDNet UK reports on criticism of Microsoft's attempt to patent the creation of custom emoticons. 'I would have expected to see something like this suggested by one of our more immature community members as a joke on Slashdot,' quipped Mark Taylor of the Open Source Consortium. 'We now appear to be living in a world where even the most laughable paranoid fantasies about commercially controlling simple social concepts are being outdone in the real world by well-funded armies of lawyers on behalf of some of the most powerful companies on the planet.'"
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Microsoft Frowned at for Smiley Patent

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  • Re:Oops :( (Score:4, Informative)

    by ggvaidya ( 747058 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:29AM (#13143582) Homepage Journal
    But the frowny is already a trademark! []

    (p.s. that is one awesome website. the posters are bloody hilarious [] :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:36AM (#13143612)
    That patent is actually very specific. It covers exactly the way MSN Messenger (both the protocol and the client) work, and nothing more. It doesn't try to patent the concept, but a specific implementation of it. For example, if you use a 20x20 pixel image instead of 19x19 pixels, or transmit the image as something other than a PNG, or store them somewhere other than a web browser's disk cache, it doesn't apply.

    It's still quite dangerous though. I don't think that any other IM client that implements MSN's custom emoticons would infringe it, because none of them use a web browser cache to store images. Every other claim is pretty much required to interoperate with Microsoft's client. So if you implemented a full MSN client as an extension to Firefox, for example, it almost certainly would infringe on this patent. Or if your operating system had some unified cache for storing any downloaded content that is used by both the web browser and IM client.

    I certainly wouldn't consider it patentable. It's hardly complex, innovative, or non-obvious.

    A good indicator is that the patent application probably took them far longer to write than it took to design and implement the thing in software.
  • by ExtraT ( 704420 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:41AM (#13143630)
    Have you people read the actual patent description? It doesn't talk about patenting smileys, but only the method of creating custom smileys and addigning bitmaps to them. Basically, they are trying to patent a universal bitmap smiley distribution protocol.
  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:41AM (#13143631) Homepage Journal
    All the other posters in the thread seem not to have read the application []:

    "Methods and devices for creating and transferring custom emoticons allow a user to adopt an arbitrary image as an emoticon, which can then be represented by a character sequence in real-time communication. In one implementation, custom emoticons can be included in a message and transmitted to a receiver in the message. In another implementation, character sequences representing the custom emoticons can be transmitted in the message instead of the custom emoticons in order to preserve performance of text messaging. At the receiving end, the character sequences are replaced by their corresponding custom emoticons, which can be retrieved locally if they have been previously received, or can be retrieved from the sender in a separate communication from the text message if they have not been previously received."

    The patent is not for smilies.

    It is for having both ends having pre-set images displayed for certain character sequences in text mesages, be they :-) or pwn3df46607

  • Prior Art: ligatures (Score:5, Informative)

    by cait56 ( 677299 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:55AM (#13143682) Homepage

    Typesetting already has well established prior art of having a special optimized representation for a sequence of characters.

    It's called a ligature. "To" is an example of a sequence that is frequently optimized with an alternate image (that moves the 'o' closer to the 'T').

  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:58AM (#13143696)
    No, there are boobs.. (.)(.) for knee knockers
    then you have (*)(*) for pert, firm pointers
    or you have (o)(o) and if you like them bigger, (O)(O)
    and of course there's (0)(0) or if you frequent tiddy bars these might look familiar ($)($)
    ( O )( O ) and if you like them extra large..
  • by mrRay720 ( 874710 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:08AM (#13143734)
    Learn to read, people!

    "OMG M$ have patented teh smilies!!!!1" - wrong

    The patent APPLICATION is for encoding and transfer of CUSTOM smilies. ie an arbiary image or animation on one computer being transferred to another one automatically in a seamless manner via encoing, transmisson, reconstruction.

    Not to say that this application is good - it's not. Just that 99% of people here have it so wrong that it's laughable.

    From TFA:
    ""Thursday, covers selecting pixels to create an emoticon image, assigning a character sequence to these pixels and reconstructing the emoticon after transmission.""

    *Note the key words such as CREATE and RECONSTRUCTING.

    *Note the lack of the words "changing :) into a picture"
  • Re:Uhoh (Score:5, Informative)

    by some guy I know ( 229718 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @10:32AM (#13143825) Homepage
    The patent in question isn't quite as general as you may believe.
    Claim 1:
    A method, comprising: selecting pixels to be used as an emoticon; assigning a character sequence to the pixels; and transmitting the character sequence to a destination to allow for reconstruction of the pixels at the destination.
    This could cover the following sequence:
    1. An app displays the emoticon on the source CRT.
      This requires the source app/OS to "select pixels" from a font in order to display the emoticon.
    2. The app copies the emoticon to the output buffer, which is "assigning a character sequence to the pixels".
      (It happens that this is the same sequence that the user originally entered, but the patent does not disclaim this).
    3. The app/OS sends the emoticon to the destination machine.
    "The app" in this case can be any email client, a browser with a text box, etc.

    Another example is an email client that sends a picture of an emoticon using uuencode or base64.

    I think that this patent covers more than I think that you think that it does.
  • by techwolf ( 26278 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @11:23AM (#13144026)
    The First Smiley :-) 6 []
  • Re:Uhoh (Score:3, Informative)

    by dourk ( 60585 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @11:55AM (#13144182) Homepage
    I think Despair, Inc. [] got there first [].
  • by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @12:10PM (#13144257)
    And shopkeepers pay the mafia protection money "so that no trouble should happen to come upon their store". But that's fine, because at no point was the shopkeeper ever directly threatened.

    In the real world, people do connect the dots and interpret an indirect threat.
  • by thue ( 121682 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @04:23PM (#13145495) Homepage
    MS, on the other hand, has not (to my knowledge) used a single patent offensively.

    Here you go: Microsoft patents ASF media file format, stops reverse engineering [].

    Microsoft is also demanding that people buy licenses to use their FAT file system: Wikipedia article []
  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @09:48PM (#13147008)
    The horrible thing is, MS has to do this so *company name* won't come along in 6 months and do it to them.

    Wrong. You evidently don't know what a "defensive patent" actually is. To prevent another company from doing the same thing, they need merely to post the patent text in some public place- there's no need to actually officially file it. Once a concept has been published, it is unpatentable by others.

    So-called "defensive patents" are actually retaliatory patents, which can be used to threaten someone who threatens you with an unrelated patent, creating a standoff.
  • Re:Uhoh answer (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @12:30AM (#13147592) Homepage
    If you infringe claim 1 then you infringe the patent. Claims 2, 3, etc... are effectively additional and separate patents.

    The reason patents are often written this way with insanely broad initial claims and then later more restricted claims is (1) they want the patent to cover as much as possible, and (2) the additional claims are there as fall back positions incase the first claim is later struck down for prior art or as nonobvious.

    So Microsoft was in fact granted a patent on:
    A method, comprising: selecting pixels to be used as an emoticon; assigning a character sequence to the pixels; and transmitting the character sequence to a destination to allow for reconstruction of the pixels at the destination.


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