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IBM Patents Checking a Box 186

theodp writes "What do you call it when you drag a pointer over a checkbox to select or deselect it depending on its original state? Answer: US Patent 7,278,116. On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded IBM a patent for Mode Switching for Ad Hoc Checkbox Selection, aka Making an 'X'. Isn't this essentially the same concept as the older Lotus Notes selection model that IBM was recently asked to reintroduce?"
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IBM Patents Checking a Box

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  • Wow... (Score:2, Informative)

    by apdyck ( 1010443 ) <> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:28PM (#20827375) Homepage Journal
    If IBM can patent the checkbox, what's next? The radio button? The text box? Maybe even the address bar?!?
  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Informative)

    by darthflo ( 1095225 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:38PM (#20827539)
    TFS is a bit unclear on this, but the patent is about moving your cursor over checkbox #1 in a given list, holding down a given mouse button and dragging the cursor over a number of other checkboxes in the same list, changing their state to whatever state #1 assumed after you pressed the button. It's still very but not that stupid.
  • Unfortunately not (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rix ( 54095 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:01PM (#20827959)
    There are various tricks to subvert patent expiration, and this is one of them. Instead of patenting a large system, they patent as many small parts of it as possible, spreading the applications over years.

    This way, the system as a whole doesn't lose protection until the last patent expires. The mp3 patents are an example of this, as they would have entered the public domain years ago if not for these shenanigans.

    The only real solution is to require one patent per system. Make them pick the best and disallow any associated patents.
  • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:08PM (#20828041) Homepage Journal
    Almost every other piece of software follows the old click-first-item, shift-click-last-item model. (Or ctrl-click individual items.) It's been in use since... Well, as long as I can remember using a GUI, and I'm really hard-pressed to think of any other way that selections work.

    I believe, like many other standards in GUIs, this was first introduced as a standard by Apple and documented in the Macintosh User Interface Guidelines in the 80's (although I'm sure someone did it somewhere before that). Later Microsoft began using a similar standard, while XWindows was still using a "select copies, and right-click pastes" into the 90's, at least in twm and many of the common window managers (not sure what Motif did here).
  • This is just so bad (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous EPA ( 1127109 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:18PM (#20828187)

    I am a patent attorney who tries to get his clients good, valid patents for any technology, including those that are implemented in software.

    I really hate to see patents like this being granted, because they are so obviously stupid, and bring the whole system into disrepute.

    If this were a granted European patent, it would have any number of oppositions filed against it. (An opposition is a cheap and effective challenges to a granted patent). IMO, no proper patent system should be without a workable system of opposition!

    This is a horrible mess, and I wish that there were a way of extracting it from the US patent system in a way that will save IBM the ignominy of having such an obviously bad patent granted in its name.


  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:51PM (#20829719) Homepage Journal
    While independent claims 1, 6, and 11 do cover multiple checkboxes, they not require dragging do toggle the state of multiple checkboxes. That is covered in later dependent claims. Effectively IBM has just been granted a patent on the basic GUI checkbox which was implemented by Apple in the Lisa Office System in January 1983. Xerox probably used checkboxes before that, but I'm not certain. It seems likely that Claims 1, 6, and 11 can be invalidated by prior art, should someone be willing to invest the time and effort to do so. The dependent claims might have a better chance of being upheld.
  • by blckbllr ( 242654 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:11PM (#20830023)
    I'm biased. I really hate patent stories on Slashdot. They're oversimplified and do not substantively address the patent at issue.

    That being said, let's see what IBM really patented. First, for the time being, discount everything before the "claims." Claims protect what the patentee considers his/her invention. There are 15 claims of the '116 patent ("We" usually refer to patents by their last three digits). Claims 1, 6, and 11 appear to be the independent claims. These are, arguably, the broadest claims in that the claimed subject matter is much broader than claims 2-5, 7-10, and 12-15.

    Claim 1 recites:
    A method for control of checkbox status, the method comprising:
    • selecting and deselecting checkboxes in a GUI according to a mode of operation the GUI having displayed upon it a set of checkboxes comprising a multiplicity of checkboxes, wherein each checkbox comprises a selection status indicating whether each checkbox is selected;
    • detecting a mode selection event;
    • changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event.

    Now, we come to the crux of the matter. What do these three limitations mean? Honestly, I have no idea. This is when we have to go back and read everything before the claims. Do these three limitations mean merely "checking a box"? Somehow, I don't think so. There seems to be a lot more going on here. For example, what does it mean to "detect[] a mode selection event"? That doesn't sound like merely "checking a box." That sounds like a bit more.

    The other independent claims recite a similar limitations. For example, claim 6 recites "means for detecting a mode selection event." What does this mean? I don't know, I haven't read the rest of the patent's specification. Again, however, this seems to be a bit more than "checking a box." I live it up to another reader to figure out what this limitation means.

    The lesson to take away here is that the patent stories on Slashdot are sensationalism at its finest. I read Slashdot, and often, I find the stories very interesting. However, the patent summaries are atrocious and are nothing short of informative, if not misleading.

    If you think you have prior art that would invalidate this patent, then please, submit it. I invite you to read about the reexamination procedures at the USPTO. You can find them here [].

    The views expressed herein are in no way associated with any private entity or government organization
  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:26PM (#20830219)
    Photoshop does the same thing. Click the eye to toggle vis of a layer and you can drag to do more than one.
  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:20PM (#20830847) Homepage

    If you think you have prior art that would invalidate this patent, then please, submit it.

    This has nothing to do with prior art or not. I read through about 10% of this, skipping what mostly looked like fillers to make it more technical. This is seriously basic things. You know back in the 80ies when you used the 'pen' in MacPaint, and if you clicked a white square it would 'remember' that it was going to paint everything black, and if you started on a black square it would 'remember' it was going to paint every square white. That this thing goes through shows what sad state the sytem is in. This is what those points means, in practice:

    detecting a mode selection event

    This is when you click the first checkbox.

    changing the mode of operation in dependence upon the detected mode selection event

    There are two modes of operation: If the first checkbox is set, you enter the "clear" mode. If it's cleared, you enter the "set" mode.

    Now you can drag the mouse, all checkboxes you hit will enter the state you chose with the first click.

    I could show prior art; this is how the menus in DirWork 1.62 on my Amiga works, from 1992 (I just checked, to be sure I didn't imagine things). I have no wish to submit this, since doing that would just make people believe that "Hey, the system works! People can submit prior art if they aren't happy, so let's just keep giving out patents like santa on christmas day!". Something else has to be done.

  • by Dr. Mu ( 603661 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:41PM (#20831063)
    The M.Y.O.B Accounting software I use in my business has had this feature for years. When reconciling your checking account, for example, just click on a cleared check and drag across all the others in sequence that have also cleared, and they all get checked.

    Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie