back to article Microsoft seeks patent on ebook page flip

As if to dispell all doubt that innovation is alive and well in Redmond, Microsoft has filed a patent application for – wait for it – the "Virtual Page Turn". Yes, with filing number 20100175018 at the US Patent and Trademark Office, Microsoft is seeking to patent the animation of a page-flip when a user makes the appropriate …


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  1. gnufreex


    Does it apply on real books? When I read, I have to pay Microsoft?

    1. John Angelico

      Nah, don't worry...

      MS only filed recently:

      "The patent application, which was originally filed in January 2009 but published only Thursday"

      so there will be a lot of prior art of fingering, flipping and turning to disallow it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF happened to...

    WTF happened to the requirement to be "un-obvious to someone familiar in the art"???!!!! Let alone totally bleedin' obvious, or how about prior art??!!!!

    Patents are a joke these days...

    This is one of my "favorites" !!!


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That link has a remarkable resemblance to the real thing.

      But it can't be, can it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    "To be fair, the filing does include one breakthough we haven't yet seen in an ebook reader: the ability to turn a pile-o-pages with one gesture. Microsoft envisions the ability to flip through multiple pages by dragging your finger down the right margin."

    You mean like ... using a scrollbar, placed on the right-hand side of the document?

    Ooooh, yes. very innovative. Never seen before, indeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Broken Gesture

      Sad to say I was a bit taken in as it did seem like a good idea (single page flipping being sure to increase risks of repetitive strain) so glad of ReaderOfTheRegister's clarifying comment.

      Given the naturalism of the page flip it'd make more sense for flipping to involve placing your finger on a graphic representing the edges of all the page bellow the presented one; a light press causes a slow flip with ever harder depressing represent a faster flipping rate, kind like how it goes with actual books. So not only a patent on existing well established method, but the flipping extension betrays a lack understand that the real life parallel with the single page flip is the reason that method of interaction was a sound design.

      Can only hope the elected EU parliament continues to tell the unelected commission to go for a running feck on the introduction of EU software patenting.

    2. neine10

      flip album had that ability 9 years or so ago

      Multiple pages being able to be turned at the same time was available many years ago - one company that comes to mind was the company that owned flip album - I think they even filed for a patent at the time but not sure if they were successful.

      Our company took a different approach and we seked prior art to be able to squash any legal action which may be taken on a page turn. There is no chance that Microsoft can succeed with legal action if they succeed with the pattent application.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    But this is a good thing!

    Those page-flip animations are slow and annoying as hell, so hopefully MSFT lawsuits would litigate them to death and they'd be gone.

    I don't want any stupid animation, I want the next page as quickly as possible. Maybe this is why e-readers are slower to use than real books?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      No, it's camouflage.

      .. you hav not learnet ze Microzoft lezzon: animations hide performance problems.

      eBook are typically equipped with fairly simple chipsets, because that takes less energy. The flipside (pardon the pun) is that this is thus slow, and a cute animation will trick you into accepting the page delay while the chipset hoists another page into view. It's a bit like TV satellite links where they switch fullscreen to people on either end, it hides the satellite lag (you may notice they never really interact, only ever hand over).

      Microsoft started to do this sometime around W2K when it got complaints that the bootup times were crap. It responded with a fast appearing desktop, which some idiots used as evidence of a faster boot process - until you actually tried to *use* the system and realised that having a desktop is by no means equivalent to having a USABLE system - it still takes a good extra 5 minutes before everything is loaded, updated, patched, booted, linked in (etc).

      So that's what animation is for. Camouflage.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Prior art

    I think a few hundred years of actually flipping pages would count as prior art ... but then again, this is a software patent. We all know how original those have to be ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    It would be nice if...

    ... patents were simply not granted when they fail the "bloody obvious" test.

    Repeat after me:

    Performing completely standard action from real life "on a computer/pda/phone/iPad/random device" is NOT an innovation. How else would you do it in a user-friendly manner?

    This simple filter would avoid an awful lot of innovation-prevention.

    Imagine if a patent had been granted on "looking at text and graphics arranged like a newspaper page" but on a computer screen.

    What am I saying? It probably was, and any minute now some patent whore is about to sue the entire internet...

  7. bojennett

    Next patent...

    Microsoft invents the idea of putting the left foot in front of the right foot, then the right in front of the left, as a means of propulsion. What is really exciting is a second breakthrough, reversing the order of feet, allowing one to walk backwards. This comes on the heels of their amazing patent for expanding one's diaphragm as a means of taking in oxygen, and occasionally blinking to ensure ones eyes stay properly moisturized and free of debris.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But what about...

      ...putting the left foot in front of the right foot, then twice as far in front, then thrice, then the right foot in front of the left, then the left in front of the right etc. I don't think even Monty Python did that, so it transcends sarcasm, bringing us full circle back to square one! Also it could become a new Olympic event.

  8. Efros

    Fucking Nonsense

    I am rarely moved to swear on forums but this really is appropriate!

  9. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Reflections on Erewhon

    Gee, you know, if the page is transparent and you rotate it 90 degrees, you will see that a spreadsheet and an XML file are the same thing. As others have noted, Proteins have been doing this for something over three and a half billion years. The "innovation" here was the invention of the two-sided page, meaning that if you "turned the page" you got something different on the same piece of paper.

    Now I suppose if the MS Software didn't actually work, that would be an innovation. That is, if you are the sort of person that thinks mirrors are the only Windows worthwhile. You know who you are.

    Mine's the one with the most money in the pockets. Thanks, I'll wait.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it's so obvious

    why did no one do it before? The electronic documents that we use every day that are arranged as standard sized "pages" (word documents, PDF files) don't use a page flip animation - we scroll down from page to page.

    That said, some of the flash based inline catalogs do a page turn animation, for example . I'm pretty sure that pre-dates this patent, though whether it would count as prior art, I couldn't say.

    1. David Simpson 1
      Thumb Down

      Ummm you need a look at the setting page......

      You can change the settings in any PDF reader to browse your documents different ways like side by side.

    2. Hayden Clark Silver badge

      It has been done before

      by the various on-line magazine readers we 've been blighted with. Or the Maplin catalogue viewer (sadly deceased)

    3. Charles 9

      Once upon a time...

      Page flipping animations existed on older GUI platforms. I know the old Mac had them, and I think the GEOS GUI for Commodore computers used them at points.

      I WILL give Microsoft a little credit for the idea of turning multiple pages with a single gesture (the dragging page flip gesture noted in the article). I can actually visualize it. Touch the corner, start dragging down as the reader says the current target page. Overshoot? Slide up and backtrack. Done? Slide left to flip. Sorta like sliding a finger along the page edges of a real book, stopping at a point, and turning the whole lot in one sweep. Seems more convenient than the menus I have to jump through on my Sony Reader to jump to a page.

    4. A J Stiles

      Why did no-one do it before?

      No-one ever did it before (well, not often; there is, in fact, substantial prior art out there if you look, some of it old enough that if it had been patented back then, its patent would have expired by now) because in the past, processing power has always been at a premium. Creating an animated image of a page turning requires pissing millions of processor cycles up the wall. Millions of cycles hasn't always meant a fraction of a second like it does today.

      Another obstacle was that until about a quarter of a century ago, displays tended to be character-mapped (i.e. the frame buffer holds just the ASCII code of each visible character and possibly attributes such as colour, bold, flashing, inverse &c), aot bit-mapped (i.e. the frame buffer holds the colours of the individual pixels that make up the display). Windows was what changed all that because it requires a bit-mapped display.

      The way a CRT and frame buffer work mean that vertical scrolling is the most obvious way for a person without many cycles to spare to present more than one screenful of text: you tell the hardware to start displaying at the top of the screen from the point in the frame buffer where the second line starts, and overwrite the first line -- i.e., what just scrolled off the top -- with the new bottom line, which will now be displayed last when the frame buffer's address counter rolls around.

      Put simply, pointless animations on a system that wasn't quite up to the job would have ended up impacting negatively on usability.

    5. neine10
      Jobs Horns

      ave you lived in a cave

      are you insane or just detached with reality !

      page turns have been arround for 20 years or so - first one with in lotus notes - then a japanes patent - flip album, Desktop Author (DNL Format) - look at and epagewiz, zinio and another 100 plus such flash apps.

  11. Connor

    Wow, is it really that easy?

    Well, I am filing a patent for my new invention the premise of which is:

    A process for submitting an invention for official recognition resulting in an official document granting the inventor rights, privileges and sole rights to his invention.

    I shall name this process - patenting. Now I just wait for the royalties to roll in.

  12. David Simpson 1
    Thumb Down


    Heres what you can do if you own a laptop/tablet/phone with a touchscreen.

    Go to Issuu dot com and open a magazine to read and WOW you can turn pages !

    A lot of online magazines like Monkey use Ceros which also lets you turn pages.

    What a joke

  13. Kenny Millar

    Flash flame

    Does anyone have an email address for the idiots at MS who decided to apply for this? We could all flash flame them.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    2004 called...

    ..and want their web based technology back again

  15. Anonymous Coward

    load of rubbish

    this is a ridiculous load of twaddle..... ever since there have been systems capable of animation and ever since books were in electronic form, programmers have seeked to make the visual environment familiar - and hence have animated page turns etc. i've seen this in countless devices and in countless software for years. not just since recent ebooks but even before the previous decade.

    I guess it'll be another case of making the public do the work of checking prior art :-(

  16. Richard Cartledge
    Thumb Down


    I thought a patent had to be novel. Do MS really live in such a secluded bubble?

  17. Tommy Pock

    Just scrap and ban all software patents.

    It's not rocket science. If this affects your possibility of making a living from being first to the patent office on a Monday morning, then get a job emptying bins or something. Maybe work in a shop.

  18. batfastad
    Jobs Horns


    Sounds like it's going to make it difficult for companies who've been doing this for ages...

  19. Dazed and Confused

    Why didn't we do it before?

    Why don't we go from standard page to a standard page?

    Well I've certainly written code that does just that. Animate the turns? WHY would I want to slow it down? But I wrote a demo app for a major computer company back in the early 90s where we displayed text in whole pages and could easily move between them. What are now called gestures we just thought of as mouse movements back then. Press the button and move up or right is obviously move forward, down or left is move back. Patent it, I didn't think you could, I certainly thought it was so mind blowing obvious.

    I'm sure there was an application we used to read HP-UX manuals in back at the start of CD-ROMs which animated the page turns and I'm sure I've seen it in lots of other stuff.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    British Library

    Wasn't this being done somewhat famously with rare books many years ago ? I'm getting bored with pointless lawyers attempting to patent the wheel again. They'll be First against the wall when the revolution comes ! Better lets fore go the revolution and just finish them now. !

  21. Anomalous Cowturd

    Netto's newsletter has done that page flippy Flash stuff for ages.

    <---- The really cheap one.

  22. IR

    If it wasn't them

    it would be some other twonk trying to make a quick buck.

  23. LewFoo

    Please remain calm

    Having had personal experience with this aspect of patent law, rest assured that any invention (and I use the term very loosely in this instance) is not patentable if it has already been available in the public domain for at least 12 months prior to the patent application. It appears that this page turning foolishness has been implemented by more than one company in products that have been sold more than a year ago.

    Let's not get our panties in a twist. It's just M$ doing this money grubbing best to act in their normal rediculous manner.

    Nothing to see here... Move along please.

  24. Brian Miller

    Prior art: game intro

    Years ago there was a fantasy game that had page flipping in its intro. 3D and all that, quite nice.

  25. Mage Silver badge


    We were discussing this in 1988-1989 and Xerox hade looked at it in 1970s.

    Nothing new here.

    Storybook weaver I think on win3.x in 1990s?

    Patent Trolls. :-(

  26. kraiken

    Prior-art for page flipping is available

    I worked for HP Research Labs in Bristol from 2001-2002 on a project for e-book readers. Before I even joined the project they'd worked out that page flipping would be a good idea. We developed a prototype where you used a touch strip on the edge of page, moving towards the centre for normal page turns, then on the same side of the page, moving towards the edge to 'riffle' the pages. So intuitive in fact that we only wrote it up as a white paper (they had one patent already up their sleeves). So, move along, keeping walking, nothing innovative to see here, move along there.

    Of course it could be an inside job (discruntled HP employee fired post Compaq merger), gone native at Microsoft.

    1. charlied

      hp ebook?

      you worked on this hp ebook reader?

      remarkable. it was a nice looking device. i never got to put a hand on it but really wanted to and did see it in person. in the pic i linked to you can see the page flipping being done.

      however i think what this MS patent attempt it trying to patent is actually the finger touch integration with the animation. the edge of the page "sticking" to the finger etc.

      i still think there is too much prior art and too obvious but i don't read it as they are trying to patent the animation.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    Having a patent might seem great but when your software sucks monkey bollox, it's not going to do much good.

    (Most of it exists in what I believe is termed "prior art" anyway)

  28. yossarianuk

    Microsoft still innovating I see ...

    Seeing as their flagship product was a Apple/Amiga/Atari Clone (all these companies beat Microsoft to producing a 'windows' style desktop and produced better products at the time - arguably Microsoft still haven't bettered them...) what actually innovation have they produced in the software world ?

    There are various companies they have bought out and used their innovations, but I can;t think of much they have 'created' - normally they use a pre existing idea and try to patent it.

    I don't mean, for example Fat32, which they did create but that wasn't exactly innovation ...

    I did hear recently about Microsoft creating a new battery design where it doesn't matter which way the batteries are put - that I do consider innovation but it is not software.

    As far as I can tell Microsoft have innovated the computing world by attempting to make it a place where lawyers can make riches beyond their wildest dreams (not including the Lawyer's wet dream that was the SCO case - partly funded by our 'friends' MS)

    1. James Pickett


      "a new battery design where it doesn't matter which way the batteries are put"

      What! MS has invented the bridge diode? I suppose it might be novel to them...

  29. kraiken

    Prior art does exist already for the page flipping

    I worked for HP Research Labs in Bristol from 2001-2002 on a project for e-book readers. Before I even joined the project they'd worked out that page flipping would be a good idea. We developed a prototype where you used a touch strip on the edge of page, moving towards the centre for normal page turns, then on the same side of the page, moving towards the edge to 'riffle' the pages. So intuitive in fact that we only wrote it up as a white paper (they had one patent already up their sleeves). So, move along, keeping walking, nothing innovative to see here, move along there.

    Of course it could be an inside job (discruntled HP employee fired post Compaq merger), gone native at Microsoft.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Deja vu?

      See title.

    2. annodomini2

      Software patents are US

      Software patents are US only and their system is first past the post, not who actually came up with the idea the first place.

      The patent system around the world is a joke, more so in the US.

      It's setup to feed the rich, powerful companies and nothing else.

      The current system stifles true innovation, most of the best ideas come from crazy nerds/mad scientists/ - insert additional appropriate stereotype here - working at home and IMO they should be credited for their hard work.

  30. cordwainer 1

    U.S. Patent publication law...

    I noticed the article says, "The patent application, which was originally filed in January 2009 but published only Thursday..."

    This makes it sound a bit as if Microsoft had attempted to keep the application secret - and though I hate to have to defend Microsoft, the implication (which I presume was unintentional) is unfair.

    Until 2001 ALL U.S. Patent Applications were confidential - nothing was published until the patent issued. However, to eliminate the problem of "secret prior art," to use a phrase I've read elsewhere, the Patent Office decided to begin publishing applications 18 months after filing.

    Patent applications had historically been considered confidential documents, and only issued patents were considered a matter of public record. Those who file patents are still entitled to a measure of confidentiality, but no longer in perpetuity, i.e., even if the patent is not granted.

    And those who are trying to file a patent no longer have to wait years - even decades - only to find there is prior art that prevents them from doing so.

    Again I have no love for Microsoft; however, it is fair to make it clear that they had (and have) no control over when their patent filings are published.



  31. Eden

    Games also

    I've lost count of the number of games I've played or interactive movies I've watched that had animated page flipping based on user input!

    What next, a patent on making a realistic paper rustling noise at the same time?

    Wait...I'm off to the USPO, brb!

  32. TeeCee Gold badge

    A blast from the past?

    "sources other than fingers may be used to execute a page-turning gesture."

    Ah, must be a WANG application..........

  33. James Pickett

    Innovation (not)

    "others The Reg hasn't played with"

    Like the Nintendo DS, which makes a nice little 2-page reader on its side...

  34. John Savard

    Other Appendages?

    Perhaps they will have a commercial in which the high priest of the Great Old Ones informs a doomed humanity that he uses a Microsoft e-book reader to read his handy digital copy of the Necronomicon.

    Or, if Cthulhu is deemed too controversial, how about a heartwarming commercial starring a brave little girl coping with a horrifying disability?

    Of course, Microsoft would need to get permission from Yamaha to feature Tako-Luka in a commercial...

  35. JimmyPage Silver badge

    You have got to be shitting me

    nuff said

  36. neine10

    prior art dating 20 years in a patent for page turning

    there sure will be allot prior art on fingering, but seriouslymy company has been developing [age tunring software for 12 years, there is also a Japanese patent which is in place from some 20 years ago on page turning, it relates only to the Japanses market however you would have thought that Microsoft legal department would have conducted some checks prior to applying for this idiotic patents.

    If this gets approved then to hell with the pattent office and screw the pattent system, I will beging to breach and disrespect all pattents.

  37. Tommy Pock

    Patents expire

    They do.

  38. Simon B

    C64 prior art!!

    some of my commodore 64 games used single page turns like that FFS, any man other games on other machines where it does that as you go through instructions, or parts of a story to a game etc etc. Talk about prior art.

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