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Microsoft Patents "Fonts With Feelings" 150

theodp writes "Seems like those old IBM flaming logo commercials (video) should count as prior art, but the USPTO granted Microsoft a patent Tuesday for inventing Fonts With Feelings. Giving font characters sound, motion, and altered appearance, Microsoft asserts, gives a user 'the impression the fonts have personalities,' thereby enhancing the user's understanding and/or fluency of words. From the patent: 'As a few non-limiting examples, the word 'giant' can get very large; the word 'lion' can morph into a line drawing of a lion; the word 'toss' can morph into a hand that animates a ball toss; the word 'bees' could show bees flying around with or without a 'buzz' sound effect'. If you're curious, Microsoft Research offers some explanations and examples of 'fontlings' in action — don't miss 'f' kicks 'a'!"
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Microsoft Patents "Fonts With Feelings"

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  • The world Microsoft can morph into a Monopoly game board.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) *
      And if you type 'Ballmer' the B morphs into a miniature Carl Brutananadilewski from Aqua Teen Hunger Force [] and starts sweating profusely while throwing the other letters at you while shouting 'DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS!"
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)



        tag gone WILD!

        • HEY!


          tag gone WILD!

          Yea, verily. And this is an abomination in the eyes of the LORD!

          Okay, maybe not, but it's sure a hell an abomination in the eyes of Gyrogeerloose. If I needed anything to stoke the furnace of my dislike of Microsoft, this would be it.

          • Does the USPTO know the difference between a font and a word? Evidently not. We have a problem with technical expertise at the USPTO. They have frequently misunderstood technology and allowed all manner of patents on obvious, trivial, and over-broad ideas. Reform needed here.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously, sometime it seems to me that microsoft is the best at trolling microsoft, I could never have imagined something absurd like that patent, but they DID it...

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:13AM (#32432010) [] Then again, the actual claims of the patent may be something entirely different than the summary.
  • epic fail

    • epic fail?

      I suppose I'd animate that as a bunch of letters aimlessly milling about while discordant music plays in the background. Then the letters eventually align themselves into the two words, but it's limp and dangles downward at the end, like it can't muster the energy to be a solid, rigid phrase.

      • Careful now, MS might sue you!

        • by ZosX ( 517789 )

          Would they? If you made a program that animated type, would it infringe on this patent? Seems like there is plenty of prior art for doing text transformations in say video or in real time. What makes this patent different? Emotional text? This is akin to patenting digital animation and saying that it is something innovative. When is the USPTO going to finally say "ok, no more patents on software?" I mean it seems like you can cobble together the most vague ideas and throw in the magical pc device (the real

          • I agree completely, just need to address one point.

            What about a social network that is decentralized? I'm sure that will become popular one day. What about connecting to your friends based upon your own personal directory of people you have some sort of relationship with


  • Prior art exists (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:14AM (#32432026)

    There are kids shows already doing this "Word world" among them. Gratz to MS for patenting something that is probably 10 years old and in common usage.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art. Noone watches seasame street with their kids? They do that stuff all the time.

    • Didn't the electric company as well as school house rock also do that? And well probably just about every other children's educational show?
    • by tater86 ( 628389 )
      Here's the invention:

      1. A computer-readable storage medium having computer-executable instructions for causing a computer to perform steps comprising: reading a file comprising text representing a sentence comprising a plurality of words, wherein one or more words in the sentence represented by the text are targeted in the file with a defined tag for applying a customizable instructional font included in the file to the text of the one or more words targeted with the defined tag, the file including a tag d

      • by ZosX ( 517789 )

        It seems like the patent lies in the use of metadata that is attached to the words the fonts display. They took tagging and added the concept to font animation. Not a terribly innovative solution if you ask me, but I guess it would be patentable. You could easily code around this if you came up with a different mechanism to control the animation. Maybe instead of tags, just use a database. I mean you could correlate this a lot of different ways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Psst... This is with a computer. That makes it TOTALLY new.

    • That's where their "researchers" got the idea in the first place.
  • Bembo's Zoo: []


  • Because no one can express feelings with words.

  • Prior fuzzy art! (Score:3, Informative)

    by djkitsch ( 576853 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:18AM (#32432082)
    I'm pretty sure Sesame Street's been doing this for quite some years!
  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:19AM (#32432098)

    Apparently no one at Microsoft watches Sesame Street.

  • by krou ( 1027572 )

    "the word 'toss' can morph into a hand that animates a ball toss"

    Ummm ... not quite the intended image I had in my mind when I read this.

  • What a stupid concept. Just patent my ass already.
  • Hi there ! (Score:5, Funny)

    by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:24AM (#32432182) Journal
    I am seeing that you feel sad today ! Would you like me to comfort you by becoming a bit italic ?
    -> No
    You are very stubborn today, that fits just perfectly with a bold face type ! Would you like me to change to bold ?
    -> No
    Ah, you probably misunderstood me and want to get a clear sans-serif font ! Yes ?
    Clippy's offspring ? :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      So what would you like to write about?


      (Turns red.) Oh, my.

      ->I hear they've banned Microsoft Windows.

      (Turns blue.) Oh, dear.

      ->Something about security, I think.

      (Turns invisible.)

      ->Bye now.

  • What do words like "orgy" morph into?

  • by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:26AM (#32432218) Homepage

    The very first thing I thought of when I read the summary was those annoying cursors, graphical emotes, and the ton of Smiley Central-like websites that did the rounds a few years ago.

    If Microsoft having a patent on this idea stops us having to put up with:

    lol!! i just got an email with all the letters dancing and singing, and doing a poo on each other!! lol!! i'm going to forward on to everyone i know who won't give a fuck!!1 hahahaha!! lol!!!!

    then they can keep it. It'll likely be about as successful and world changing as the Zune was [], anyway.

    • Ha. Yeah right... you’ve just explained why the patent is completely stupid and unenforceable (both because of prior art, which you just described, and because there is no way in hell that MS can keep everyone from forwarding those e-mails).

    • by Haeleth ( 414428 )

      You use an email program that displays animations? It's like you want to be forced to claw your eyes out.

  • For god's sake nobody type "developers" 3 times!!!

  • As a few non-limiting examples, the word 'giant' can get very large; the word 'lion' can morph into a line drawing of a lion; the word 'toss' can morph into a hand that animates a ball toss; the word 'bees' could show bees flying around with or without a 'buzz' sound effect

    Who’s the fucking genius who thought up those examples? I bet an average four-year-old could have come up with something like that, and if your average four-year-old can think of something it’s way to obvious to be patentable.

    It makes me want to go out and find those exact examples to prove how obvious they are (I’m sure they’ve been done a time or two), but I don’t have the time.

    • > It makes me want to go out and find those exact examples to prove how
      > obvious they are (I'm sure they've been done a time or two), but I don't
      > have the time.

      They are trying to patent a method of doing this, not the idea of doing it. Read the claims.

      • Well, obviously (you can’t patent an idea), but how many methods exist for “the word 'giant' [to] get very large”? Their patent basically says “but have a computer do it automatically”. That does not meet the non-obviousness criterion.

        • > Well, obviously (you can't patent an idea), but how many methods exist for
          > "the word 'giant' [to] get very large"?

          Many, all incompatible with the patented method. That's the point. When someone sends you an MSWord document containing animated fonts you won't be able to "experience" them when you open the document on Linux. This will be yet another reason to use Linux.

          > Their patent basically says "but have a computer do it automatically".

          It describes a specific method of doing so. They'll tr

          • Many, all incompatible with the patented method. That's the point. When someone sends you an MSWord document containing animated fonts you won't be able to "experience" them when you open the document on Linux. This will be yet another reason to use Linux.

            Don’t play coy; we both know how this works. They patent their method and then all the other methods that you think are incompatible with the patented method are somehow covered and anyone using them gets sued later.

  • Douglas Adams descibed people doing this sort of thing with elevators as I recall. I think it worked out less well than the designers anticipated...

  • <blink>Just think of the new generation of people we'll have to wean off of stupid design decisions.</blink>
  • ...from TFS it sounds like MS wants to patent the ability to build this functionality into fonts, rather than the animating functionality itself.
    • which is actually quite a lofty goal, since to do that every font file will now have to bloat itself up to include either a full dictionary with animations or an AI with full language comprehension (My CPU is a neural net processor; a learning computer).

  • Software patents are stupid, but I'm happy to give MS a monopoly on fontlings, if only so that I can spend the next 17 years never being subjected to a fontling. (I hope.)
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:35AM (#32432360) Homepage Journal
    We've seen this before....
  • It sounds like a crap idea, so please - implement this, and I hope you lose a lot of money.

    Clippy 2.0.

  • Coming soon, to a website near you!
  • by theNAM666 ( 179776 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:39AM (#32432434)

    Redmond, Wash: Today MicroSoft announced that it had obtained a patent on the process necessary to obtain a patent, said Steve Ballmer, simultaneously announcing his position as MicroSoft's new Chief Extortionist. "This is a testament to MicroSoft's continuing innovation in the area of innovation," said Ballmer, "and the debt that all corporations owe to MicroSoft for innovating and, er, innovating the patent process."
    MicroSoft then announced a patent license application process, wherein all new patent license applicants will need to apply to MicroSoft and pay a licensing fee before applying to the USPTO. Rumours on the street also indicated that MicroSoft was preparing its legal division to send Cease and Desist notices to anyone filing patent application who had not applied for and received a license to apply for a patent from MicroSoft, and a concurrent series of suits claiming that patents granted to applicants who had not received licenses from MicroSoft were the property of MicroSoft.
    "Innovatively protecting our innovation and all our innovative property rights is the core of innovation," said Ballsymer.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:39AM (#32432436)

    I'm actually OK with granting MS this patent, because this is a terrible idea. These "animated fonts" are going to be worse than Comic Sans. Most people have difficulty reading text moving in any way besides scrolling, and even that can cause problems.

    If MS gets essentially a monopoly on this, then once they realize how retarded it is, nobody will be using them.

    • by oztiks ( 921504 )

      As a web developer i don't care. The definition of a font would _have_ to be unrastered, in the web world we are limited to like what ... 5 different fonts? and they are all fairly "emotionless" at best.

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      can we give MS a patent on the marquee tag as well?
  • So does this mean that whenever I read a Microsoft press release I cannot chant "bullshit, bullshit, bullshit" any more since they have patented sounds associated with fonts.

    Now if we can only get them to use their very own patented font for anything they write like this turkey of an idea.

    Gobble Gobble Microsoft

  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:41AM (#32432484) Homepage Journal
    It's a shame, really. MS spends a lot of money on R&D, but they seem to get so few groundbreaking shipping products from it.
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Yeah, but it saves everyone else a ton of R&D money, by clearly demonstrating what won't work!

    • by McNihil ( 612243 )

      Its not always about shipping... sometimes it is cheaper to hire someone that is very good at what they do and make sure that they are not associated with their expertise know-how because it would hurt the company bottom line. Yes it stifles innovation but that is good because how else would the corporation be able to milk consumers ad infinitum. Granted I am a bit cynical here but in this case I strongly see that the "inventor" having been done in in this way (having had my own mountain dew moment with a

  • You need total concentration
    Type it again. This time with Feeling!
  • Summary reminds me of the 'breathing', stubbled MTV logo that was kinda creepy back in the day. Or heck, almost any MTV logo adaptation from that particular time period.

  • WordWorld is not prior art. There is a difference between showing words composed of letterforms that have characteristics associated with the word, and creating words with a computer system that allows for manipulation of typography on the basis of the words. Yes, the patent system is broken. Yes, the concept of fonts with feelings is absurd. But believe it or not, any time you see something that looks remotely related to a patent you dislike doesn't mean you can scream "prior art!" and make it mean anythi
  • This is another attempt by Microsoft (and soon to be followed by Apple) to control your fonts. And we all know that only a free and open font base, that can be used and scaled and anti-aliased by anyone, will give us the font freedom we desire. I don't want to have to jailbreak my fonts and run the risk of a font being bricked because I had to hack the font to be able to use it in the document I want. And how do I know what fonts will be allowed into Apple's walled garden. Will I have to develop fonts u

    • by rinoid ( 451982 )

      Your post is another attempt at coherence?

      I'll wager that both MSFT and AAPL mobile platforms will not allow extra system fonts to be installed. One can however present content in a web page with a custom font to mobile safari.
      But because of this I don't fly off the rail and consider them both wicked and run crying.

      I wonder if app developers for iPhone OS can include custom fonts ... hmmm, wait for it ... yes, iSSH [] has included your choice

  • This is, again, stupid.

    These tricks, are just artistic tricks. Are we patenting rimes? sarcasm? pfff... idiotic.

    Good thing Europe don't accept software patents. I hope you USA guys grown a pair, and remove these laws from your country.

    • > Good thing Europe don't accept software patents.

      It isn't that simple. Google "German Supreme Court software patent", for example. Or read up on the FAT patent in Europe.

  • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32432760),2391/ []

    Just another tool in the annoyance arsenal. If Splice was about software it'd probably be about a product like this.

  • What's really cool is that he developed a 68040 ISA board (read: apple mac quadra/centris) that would go into a windows 95 machine and boot some OS nobody's ever heard of. Wonder how close he was to running OS 7.5(ish) or even NeXT.

    The funny thing is, I had a powermac around that time that had a pci card in it with a pentium-100 on it that would run win'95.


    • The funny thing is, I had a powermac around that time that had a pci card in it with a pentium-100 on it that would run win'95.

      That IS hilarious, given that the PCI card probably cost more than buying a whole PC with a P54c@100MHz in it.

  • Alright Comic Sans, do you see this knife?
  • wouldn't this allow people to change the meaning of sentences?

    well.. maybe a word's meaning is always subject to the ways we see them used, but this makes words a lot more flexible in meaning..

    it also gives marketers a very sweet way to impress their bosses (and the audience) with this fonts..

    intellectual discussions about the true content of the fonts will start all around the globe. Poets will commit mass suicide.

    No, really. is this a good or a bad thing?

  • by nimbius ( 983462 )
    very very good for 4chan, or very very bad...i cant tell.
  • What about Video Toaster in the Amiga era? Weren't there animated font plugins available?

    Perhaps examples from the IBM commercials or kid shows (like Sesame Street) aren't prior art, due to the animations being created for single use use in their finished videos.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by keeboo ( 724305 )
      What about this []?
      Amiga had a tradition of animation and color fonts since the 1980s.
  • What's that file format for? Does anyone know?....Anyone?

  • The inspiration for this patent were Steve's very own "Toxic Pit Stains" (TM). He wanted to see them in action in a document, web site, etc. outside of the YouTube an other videos where he proudly displays them.

  • Kawaii? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VickiM ( 920888 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:26PM (#32433292)
    For some reason, this makes me think of the kawaii movement that happened in Japan. School girls started adding drawings to their letters, making them very cute and difficult to read. []
  • This maybe copyright,but its nothing more then an comic animation that has been done by Sesame Street for years. Someone at the patent office needs to be fired on this one.
  • Seeing if anybody had parodied this, I came across something from a few months ago that's related (NSFW!): Fonts got feelings too [].

  • by Rational ( 1990 )

    Christ, this is stupid, even by Microsoft standards.

  • Any parents out there whose kids watch the TV show WordWorld? This "word lion looks like a lion" sounds exactly like the premise of the show. The basic idea is that the world has all of these letters and when they are combined they form the object that they spell. So the Dog character is made up of the letters d, o and g. The Pig character is made up of p, i and g. And so on. Towards the end of every episode, they decide to resolve the main problem of the episode by building a word. So if they need a

  • I am opposed to software patents, but this is a great idea -- by patenting it, (hopefully) nobody else who may have a temporary lapse of judgement will actually do this... and since I don't currently use any MS products, hopefully I will avoid having to see it myself! :-)
  • I think many of the books I read my 4 year old, and many that were read to me 2 decades are more had BIG words for BIG things and small words for small things. Dr. Seuss?
  • Software patents are already ruining everything, and then its just like the USPTO throws these sorts of things out as a big 'fuck you' to everyone who cares about this issue.

    This shit seriously makes my head hurt. Fuck patents, and fuck Microsoft for even applying for such a shitty redundant patent. I hate everybody.
  • > From the patent: 'As a few non-limiting examples, the word 'giant' can get very large; the word 'lion' can morph into a line drawing of a lion; the word 'toss' can morph into a hand that animates a ball toss; the word 'bees' could show bees flying around with or without a 'buzz' sound effect'.

    Yeah, like that isn't going to be frakking annoying.

  • I hated it when I first knew that whenever I wrote good ol' ":-)" on my IM program, some clients displayed a yellow, stupid happy face.

    I was a bit relieved (although I still don't like it) when I first saw what my contacts now see when I write to them at Gmail's Jabber - A nice :-) that stays as it was written for some seconds and then rotates to become a clearly recognizable happy face.

    Anyway, this is not just an anecdote. Google's smiley reinterpretation feels very much like prior art.

  • In an effort to explain open source software, I sometimes used the analogy of "what if the alphabet had been patented, and over the centuries anyone reading or writing had to pay a royalty to the patent holders? We'd still be living in the Dark Ages." Seems like Microsoft heard and thought it'd be a good idea.

  • I dunno about the patent, but it brought these [] in to my mind, which are kind of neat.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.