Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Patents Your Rights Online

Microsoft's Virtual Skywriting Patent App Features the Real Thing 66

theodp writes "GeekWire reports that Microsoft this week was awarded a patent on something it calls 'virtual skywriting', an augmented reality service that adds fake skywriting to scenes captured on a cell phone screen. Odd enough in its own right, but Microsoft also included an unattributed photo in the patent application which it described as 'an example of virtual skywriting in use,' although it certainly appears to be identical to a famous image of actual skywriting from a 2001 public art project. If that turns out to be the case, could the self-described opponent of half-baked patents and IP misuse find itself in hot water with the USPTO for using the 'prior art' to fake its fake skywriting?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft's Virtual Skywriting Patent App Features the Real Thing

Comments Filter:
  • Hell yeah, (Score:4, Funny)

    by Brummund ( 447393 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @04:57PM (#36546890)

    let's award a patent for adding text to an image. Sometimes I wish Mr Franklin had been given a perpetual patent on electricity, which he chose to not license out.

    • Re:Hell yeah, (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:04PM (#36546992)

      The patent is for the system of how to add fake images that appear to look like skywriting to an existing images - both text and graphics. The idea is to take an existing photo or text and automatically modify it to look like skywriting. If there is no current application that does this then based on current standards that is a legit patent.

      Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity - he discovered it. You can't patent electricity anymore than you can patent water.

      Either way, it looks to me like they were giving an example of how it would work. You don't have to have the system working in order to patent it. Their choice was just a poor one.

      • Superimposed images are only the visual representation - the end product, so to speak.
        I guess writer of the article was too busy being all "OMG! Evil M$ empire steals photo, spreads lies!" to pay any attention to the actual idea behind the patent.

        What they are actually patenting is a service that lets its users take photos of the sky and superimpose text and/or images over that image to appear like skywriting.
        Said service then STORES THE LOCATION OF THE USER, and then allows other users to see those (and ot

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          The mind boggles as to why people would voluntarily take pictures of the sky so that M$ could insert fake sky writing in them.

          Unless, of course, you mean the US patent office, oh my god, has patented purposeful and with intent to profit copyright infringement, the illegal alteration of someone's copyrighted photograph and the insertion of advertising in that image that will destroy the original intent of that private image. So an invasion of privacy in accessing the private data of a phones stored images

          • ...or do you dye your hair?

            Who's now copyrighted what now?
            You mean that when YOU take a photo of THE SKY, you think that YOU are breaking copyright? Whose copyright? God's?

            Also, when YOU upload YOUR photo to an online service for the purpose of adding various clip-art drawings and or text, you actually think that you are breaking more copyright? Whose copyright would that be?
            You from 5 minutes ago? Are you really THAT big of a prick, that you would sue your future self for copyright infringement?
            AND invasio

      • Franklin didn't discover electricity either. It is thought that the Greeks(or was it the Minoans?) created the first electro-chemical battery. They just didn't know what the hell to do with it.

        Franklin, on the other hand, proved that electricity and lightning are one in the same.
        • Well before the Greeks not sure about the Minoan bit, but earliest "battery" found near Baghdad from 250-225 BCE. However, evidence of electroplating exist from ancient Sumer dating back to at least 2,500 BCE.
      • Or than you can patent genetic sequences you discover, right?

      • At the risk of going metaphysical on you, I assume the algorithm to do this existed before Microsoft 'discovered' it. Therefore the analogy is indeed valid.

      • Unfortunately, under today's patent system he could quite likely have received a patent as broad as "a system which generates electricity and/or sends it to devices powered by it" without even giving complete technical details (as is supposed to be required for a patent).

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Mr. Franklin didn't invent electricity.

      But if you wan to electrocute yourself by flying a kite with a wet, silk string and a key dangling from it, you will have to pay him a royalty first. If this was 1789...

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Thursday June 23, 2011 @04:58PM (#36546906)

    How is this "prior art"? Surely if anything it would be misrepresentation and copyright infringement, but real skywriting doesn't constitute prior art for a computer app which fakes it...

    • True enough. There are so many other ways that this is an absurd patent.

      • Why is it any more absurd than any other software patent? I actually think it would be a cool feature. I'm surprised there isn't something like it already in Photoshop. I'd imagine that those with a romantic view might take it to turn a photo of their gf's face and turn it into skywriting over a photo of himself.

  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:03PM (#36546972)
    That it looks so much like a real photo may be the point in proving how well it works, although I would imiagine it's very difficult to recreate that entire scene.
  • Are you fucking retarded? It's an example image.
  • Slow news day, huh?

    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Yeah, I enjoy MS and Apple -bashing as much as the next guy, but digging at the authenticity of some poor schlob's lame explanatory graphic that was probably pulled from a PPT slide is the argument a moron would make ;-) A desperate moron at that :P

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:24PM (#36547280)

    Of cloud computing.

  • In Soviet Russia, Reality Augments you! (sigh...)
  • I my experience patents are written by lawyers. In particular they're written by law firms that specialize in writing patents. Because of this they're disconnected from the original inventors of the technology. They might not even be particularly familiar with the technology involved. In addition to this they might have the paralegal getting the pictures for the patent.

    This doesn't excuse this problem, but it might explain how it came about. Microsoft is supposed to have reviewed the patents before submissi

    • Don't know how it is handled in the US in particular, but here in Europe, patent attorneys have a scientific/engineering background and are not pure lawyers. I am working in a patent law firm at the moment. I, personally, am a biochemist. The guy in the office to my right is a physicist, office to my left EE, across the hallway, we got a ME, a geologist and wine chemist (don't ask)... So we generally do have a clue about the technology involved.
  • [Update, Thursday June 23: Microsoft's statement in response to our inquiry: "âoeThe use of the skywriting image in the patent was an error and Microsoft will immediately submit the patent for re-issue proceedings to correct the drawings. Microsoft regrets any confusion caused by this error.â]

    • Is using a copyrighted image in a patent application considered infringement? Any lawyers up in hurr?
  • What will be next?

    Adding fake Graffiti to walls?

    Adding people in picture that aren't there when the picture is taken?

    Adding thinks like cigarettes or beer bottles to people's hands ?

    Come on people, this is just silly.

  • Seriously. If you're point is to get the picture to ask some geek hag to marry you because you've grown beyond virtual girl and want a real one then hire the stinking sky writing pilot to spell out "@SkankyGurl, will you marry me?" - so the whole bay area can see it, take a picture of it and post it to the internets.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll