theodp writes "A newly-granted Microsoft patent for Variable Formatting of Cells covers the use of 'variable formatting for cells in computer spreadsheets, tables, and other documents', such as using the spectrum from a first color to a second color to represent the values in or associated with each cell. Which is really not a heck of a lot different from how Baron Pierre Charles Dupin created what's believed to be the first choropleth map way back in 1826, when he used shadings from black to white to illustrate the distribution and intensity of illiteracy in France. By the way, beginning in March, the U.S. will switch from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system of granting patents. Hey, what could go wrong?"
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