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Google Patents United States

Google Patents Its Home Page 390

theodp writes "A week after new USPTO Director David Kappos pooh-poohed the idea that a lower patent allowance rate equals higher quality, Google was granted a patent on its Home Page. Subject to how the design patent is enforced, Google now owns the idea of having a giant search box in the middle of the page, with two big buttons underneath and several small links nearby. And you doubted Google's commitment to patent reform, didn't you?"
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Google Patents Its Home Page

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  • Don't be evil? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:53AM (#29298189) Homepage Journal

    The Yahoo Search page, depicted at left, bears a striking resemblance to

    I think Google needs a new motto.

    Google's shareholders will be more pleased, of course, as will staff. Google diva Marissa Mayer, the overachieving VP of search, added another patent to her trophy case with the decision. Powerful executive; athlete; fashionista; and genius inventor of this totally unprecedented rendering of HTML. Is there anything Mayer can't do?

    Apparently she can't refrain from making Google be evil.

    The only two good things I can think of regarding this are

    1. Patents only last 20 years. Copyrights should last no longer, but at least patents are of a reasonable length. TFA says Google owns the design, but that's incorrect; it only has a 20 year lease on the design.
    2. Perhaps this will lead to patent reform, but I sincerely doubt it.
  • Re:Don't be evil? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:59AM (#29298281) Homepage

    What a load of bullsh*t! The patent office is completely incompetent. There is prior art. AltaVista for one []

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:05AM (#29298345) Homepage
    ...note that this a is a design patent []. It is more like a trademark than a utility patent and covers only the "non-functional" elements of the design.
  • Google Reality Check (Score:3, Informative)

    by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:10AM (#29298383) Journal
    In the hipster-doofus lovefest that is for all things Google, it's important to remember one critical, key point

    Google is a publicly traded company and it's only obligation is to make a profit for shareholders

    That means doing things like filing for ridiculous patents (because everyone else does it) and co-operating with bending to the will of Chinese authorities (because if we don't some other search company will and make all the money)

    "Do no evil" is more of a guideline than a rule with Google. Maybe they should file a copyright for "We do less evil than everyone else"
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:15AM (#29298449) Homepage
    Please read up on design patents []. They protect only the decorative, non-functional elements of a design.
  • Re:Evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stile 65 ( 722451 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:18AM (#29298503) Homepage Journal

    RTFS. It's a design patent, not a software (utility) patent.

  • Re:Evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:25AM (#29298597) Homepage

    It is a design patent, not an invention patent. Adidas has a patent on the three stripes design on their clothes. There is nothing technical or inventive about it, it is just how people recognise their product.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:25AM (#29298603)
    That's an aspect of imaginary property laws that is often ignored in discussions: even if you don't care to "protect" your own imaginary property with the laws, you must still play the game, otherwise someone else may use the laws to attack your real property (i.e. money).
  • Re:Evil. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:28AM (#29298647)
    Aren't you talking about Trademark? How could you patent three stripes?
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#29298765) Journal

    With Google, I know they do it to protect the idea from the patent trolls themselves. Google is NOT in the business of collecting money by patent-trolling, we all know that.

    And besides, as many have mentioned, this is a design patent, anyway. It would be impossible to patent a web page with a search box, because there is, demonstrably, prior art.

  • Re:Evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:39AM (#29298789) Homepage

    They have a trademark as well, but if Nike were to take the design of one of the items of clothing, and replace the Adidas logo with their own, that wouldn't infringe the trademark, but it would infringe the design patent.

  • Re:Evil. (Score:4, Informative)

    by denominateur ( 194939 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:39AM (#29298791) Homepage []

    Should have included this in the post.

  • Re:Don't be evil? (Score:5, Informative)

    by reebmmm ( 939463 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:42AM (#29298827)

    Design patent law is an area of great frustration for people. Design patents are relatively easy to obtain because of what they cover: essentially the identical design or any colorable imitation. As recently stated by the Fed. Cir., the test for design patent infringement is stated: "infringement will not be found unless the accused article âoeembod[ies] the patented design or any colorable imitation thereof.â" Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc. Therefore, to invalidate, the design must either embody the prior art or merely be a colorable imitation. This is a tricky analysis.

    For companies like Apple and Google, design patents are helpful in preventing knock-offs. In this respect, the line is blurred between trademark and design patent law. However, they are not useful for much else since many of the elements of a design are functional (and a good lawyer can make that argument) and are not merely composed of distinctive elements.

    And, all is not lost for similar "prior art" designs, though. The very same case made the point that "prior art" designs might also be used by a defendant to highlight the differences between the claimed and accused design. Thus, an accused defendant might escape infringement by pointing out those elements they share with the prior art design and thus those elements cannot be the grounds for infringement.

    A final point, design patents are what a lot of people were duped into filing when going to Invention Help companies. Those companies simply filed a mostly worthless design patent instead of a utility patent. They have practically no commercial value except as a deterrent to would-be second-comers trying to copy verbatim the design. Therefore, those that were duped have virtually no protection against second comers that merely make changes the look & feel of an "invention." Plus, the inventors are then locked out of filing a utility application because they usually don't realize until much too late (more than a year after they start selling, for instance). That sucks.

  • by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#29298863)

    There aren't two buttons underneath the search bar and there's a LOT more text on the page.

    The patent is very specific about the layout. Try again.

  • by Webcommando ( 755831 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:53AM (#29298979) Homepage Journal
    ...or they could have simply published and established prior art without the need for a patent.

    If you have an idea and you want to make sure you can use it, but don't think it is patent worthy, you can publish it to cite later when someone else attempts to patent it.

    When I was designing manufacturing systems, we would often do this. Since it was internal technology, it would be difficult to identify infringers using it in their factories. However, we didn't want some machine vendor or someone visiting claiming our designs are an infringement.

    I'll admit I don't trust Google as far as I can throw one of their private jets. I'll also admit that I believe patents are important to protect real innovations.
  • by Laxori666 ( 748529 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:12AM (#29299243) Homepage
    "It might not have been centered (but that's just formatting)" - the whole patent is "just formatting." It's a design patent!
  • Re:Evil. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ElSupreme ( 1217088 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:15AM (#29299297)
    Except the three stripes were origionally a technical part of football boots. The helped stiffen the sides around the arch of the football. Because all of his shoes had this feature, it was then addopted as the Trademark and logo of the brand. Copa Mundials still have this feature.
  • E.g., does that mean other people are free to design a similar interface? Of course not.

    Yes, they are. The rest of your post is moot since it relies on this statement.

  • Re:Evil. (Score:2, Informative)

    by beric ( 819876 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:47AM (#29299739)

    This is a design patent, not an utility one.
    It's normal for software companies to patent the design of user interfaces.
    Example: Yahoo [], Apple [], Microsoft [].

  • Re:Evil. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:49AM (#29299757)

    Oh for FUCK'S sake. If this was MS there'd be a crowd of frothing at the mount foebois (opposite of fanbois) decrying the latest evil action of the overwhelming dominating monopolistic overlord that is the Microsoft hegemonic behemoth.

    Instead we have fanbois making excuses for the other overwhelming dominating monopolistic overlord that they blindly worship, fabricating alternative explanations, anything that will cast Google The Source of All That Is Good in a non-evil light.

    Stop being so fucking naive everyone.

  • by Quantumstate ( 1295210 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:54AM (#29299833)

    In case you hadn't noticed they did publish it. They even went to the lengths of making it the main feature of their website just to make it obvious that they really were publishing it.

  • by siloko ( 1133863 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:01AM (#29299943)

    you can publish it to cite later when someone else attempts to patent it.

    In the UK to establish copyright you used to be able to send yourself a stamp addressed envelope containing the relevant work. So long as it remained unopened the postmark served as both a mark of authenticity and also as a timestamp.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Informative)

    by KeithJM ( 1024071 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:19AM (#29300175) Homepage

    I'm all for invalidating software patents, but this one seems logical to me. The Google home page is iconic

    That makes it a trademark, not a patent. The difference is important. It's the difference between telling Disney they can keep their mouse silhouette as a symbol of the company and telling them they can sue anyone who creates animated animals.

    Seriously, I don't know if I blame Google because someone else would probably patent the "HTML form with one text field" and sue them if they didn't. I'm hoping to patent getting frustrated with politics and politicians. Once that comes through I should be able to quit my day job.

  • Re:Evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:47PM (#29301213)

    As a patent attorney, I can tell you it makes a big difference--the coverage of a design patent is very thin--it covers basically what and only what you see in solid lines in the image of the patent that was included in the article (the dotted lines are not part of the patent). This means this patent covers a big search box, with the links above and below, and notably a big box that says "search" right next to one that says "I'm feeling lucky". Design patents are pretty narrow anyway, but including the boxes and wording keeps this pretty tight.

    All-in-all, this is probably just fine. It will keep anyone from creating dead knock-offs, but not much more.

  • by Bent Mind ( 853241 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:07PM (#29301449)
    Looking between the two pages, and also considering Google's current page, I see a few differences. The most noticeable is the lack of advertising on the Google page. The AltaVista page contains eight images, all links, two of which are links. The Google page contains a single image. It is not a link. The AltaVista page uses drop-downs. Google uses text links. Google also used standard input buttons, compared to AltaVista's image buttons. AltaVista used a yellow box to distinguish the search function of the page from the other garbage. The old Google used grey. The current version of Google doesn't use colour at all, outside of the logo. Digging into the code, AltaVista used image spacers. Google's code is a lot cleaner.

    Summing up the differences, Google didn't make heavy use of images or advertising. That distinguished it from competitors.
  • Re:Evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:50PM (#29301985) Homepage Journal


    Microsoft sued first. TomTom's suit was the response. []

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings