In the arse and about time too.
This guy, on the face of it, actually seems to have a claim!
A Pennsylvania professor is gunning for a slice of all of Apple's touch-based product revenues, after claiming they infringe a patent for a museum screen technology he developed 15 years ago. Slavoljub Milekic, a professor in cognitive sciences and digital design at the Univeristy of Arts in Pennsylvania, said he developed a …
but why wait until now? I'm using an 8 year old Draenetz power analyser with a touch screen. Did he sue them 8 years ago? or the Estate Agents who 15 years ago had touch sensitive overlays on shop windows with a 'puter screen indoors to let you browse the houses available?
If I was to award him damages I would want him to show he has taken every step to protect his patent ever since it was granted, not wait for a fine crop of cherries to pick.
But they aren't because there's prior art - at least for the click/drag part of the claim. Back in the late 80's I joined a company called Comshare. By the beginning of the 90's one of the applications created and sold to top 1000 companies around the world was an executive information system (EIS) based on a touch screen. In it the mouse was replaced by a finger. Now you may be going to say Windows didn't exist back then. No, but OS/2 did. Nor was Comshare without competition and at least some of the people working at now Apple then worked for Comshare or a competitor.
No he doesn't have a strong claim. The most important part of a patent, that defines the "umbrella" of functionality covered, is the first independent claim. Claims have to be extremely particular in terms of the meaning of the language they use. Here the loss of the image from the screen is coupled to exceeding a threshold value. I can't think of any part of the iOS interface where this is clearly the case. Even when e.g. you are scrolling a table in iOS, and you flick it so the table motion has momentum and images in the table move off screen, though there are "flick" velocity values which would ensure such effect is achieved, the actual velocity needed to achieve the effect will vary due to many tangential factors (such as how close to the edgeof the scrren the image is) and there is no particular predefined threshold value determine the outcome should be achieved. The fact that it is only by some calculation a threshold value is exceeded will be judged to be "external" to the mechanic described by the claims (because there may be many such different calculations which can be seen as applying and none of which are definitively the calculation in all cases). All clauses in the claim should contribute something coherent and internal to the invention.
So unfortunately for the prof, in my opinion, this claim is too specific (and I do have experience with this). Each clause of each sentence of an independent claim is like a logical "and" and on this single point of "exceeding a threshold value" Apple doesn't infringe, when that is judged necessarily internal to any such claimed invention. Yes, claims language is that specific and the standards of how claims are judged are that precise and pedantic!
Q: Do these guys actually check whether they issue almost identical patents multiple times?
A: Apparently not. The USPTO has issued patents for using laser pointers as cat toys at least 5 times:
5443036 Method of exercising a cat
6505576 Pet Toy
6557495 Laser Pet Toy
6651591 Automatic laser pet toy and exerciser
6701872 Method and apparatus for automatically exercising a curious animal
If he was issued this 15 years ago on the basis of a working system he deserves a patent. It is what the system is for - to protect an inventor building stuff. He actually built it - hallelujah.
The more interesting question is "Why nobody managed to find this when looking to invalidate the patents owned by Apple".
But he didnt wait. He notified apple when the iphone was released. He has since been building his case, nothing wrong with that. It didnt say how long he notified and waited for a response from apple.
This guy invented, built, patented and used. This is the sort of thing the patents are there for.
"that the fact that he waited 15 years to enforce the patent"
Did you bother to read the article, or did you just do the fanboi jump to Apple's defence after reading the headline?
The patent is for touchscreen gestures, a concept this guy came up with and built - not just 'a touchscreen device'. After the release of the first iPhone (in 2007), he notified Apple, who failed to respond. He has every right to build a good case and take as long as he needs to pursue them. He didn't wait 15 years to enforce.
You have managed to make two inaccurate claims in a 4 line paragraph. Both of which could have been avoided, had you READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE. <sigh>
No. He waited 2 years. The patent wasn't granted until 2005 - the same year that Apple aquired FingerWorks - whose products had already been on sale for several years. Fingerworks patents were granted in 2006.
It doesn't say in the article when the professor built two systems so he may not have built them until after he saw Fingerworks products.
The article says that he developed his idea in 1997. Fingerworks was founded as a company in 1998 so the work was most likely in progress before that.
With the exception of the 'throwing a file off the screen' bit, (though I have games that allow you to throw items around on the screen using inertia dated from 1992), nearly all the prof's other claims are traditional mouse actions - except that he is using a finger.
Agree 100% with Voland's right hand.
Why is the last sentence in the article making a left-field reference to patent trolls? Is it a subtle way for the article's author to say they believe this guy is a troll?? Seriously?? Not only is the patent applied for in 1997 (when for the vast majority of people, touchscreens were complete science fiction) and granted in 2005 (2 years before the iPhone), but the guy also actually implemented his invention in the museum display, AND he notified Apple of infringement in 2007.
This guy is almost the exact opposite of a patent troll
I know, he actually built something and patented it... Imagine that, actually doing something with the patent you own instead of using it as a blocker.
Why did nobody else find this when trying to invalidate Apple patents? Well just look at the huge volume of patents involved. The US patent office seem to do very little indeed, just cash the cheque and say "Yup". IIRC the process in the UK involves an initial search, during which point invalid applications should be rejected.
"They don't. They find a "bottom dwelling scum sucker" prepared to take it on a "contingency basis" for around 30% of any future payout."
How could they? Apple have all them types as their evil minions/patent trolls. Ah wait.... Apple will counter-sue; as bullying companies as a troll is their game :p
I don't beleive in Karma but Ha fucking ha!
Since business processes are patentable (like almost everything else in the good ol' USA) how about patenting patent trolling?
'The accused in this case has blatantly ripped off my client's technique for extracting money from people who have actually done the marketing and development ...'
...the Flying Spaghetti Monster is suing Apple, HTC, Google, HP, ASUS, this professor, the inventor of the push-button and those hand-graphic arrow signs for infringing on the FSMs patent for a "jointed pointing device, powered by the users own body, and located as an array at the end of directional appendages".
Seriously - patents are getting used way too much by way too many people and this is simply diluting whatever validity justifiable patents may have.
In Apple's "bounceback" patent (when you scroll to the top of a list and keep scrolling, the list initially moves with your finger but bounces back) they came within a gnat's tadger of saying that it was obvious something like this was needed to show the user they were at the top of a list, and that bounceback was the most obvious way of doing it. They still got a patent on it though.
Generally, a patent troll is a non-practising entity, suing people over patents it has bought, and not actually using them. Here the original inventor has a company practising the patented technology.
End users gesturing on a touch-screen are also liable for infringement, of course, so it's not just the manufacturers who are in the firing line here.
...until the university he was working for claims that as his employee they own it - and then the museum that he did the installation for will claim that as they paid him to create the kiosk, they own it.- and then much fighting will ensue and lots of lawyers will be able to afford fancy new cars.
Doesn't it make more sense to describe someone as a patent troll if their only use of their patent is in extracting rents from other inventors? If he was using it then it's reasonable to grant him a temporary monopoly for the work he's done, but if he's not using it and someone else invents something similar with no reference to his designs then it would be reasonable for them to be allowed to continue with their own product.
Yeah, that would be a sweet revenge, if it were not for all the companies Apple is suing (cough, Samsung) being also infringing on those touch screen patents.
Yes, this is not the claasic troll, but patenting this idea is a bit ridiculous. Patenting the implementation, yes, but patenting the idea? I mean, gestures mimic more or less what one does in real life, will humanity end up paying this guy each time we "pinch" something? Or each time we drag, say, a coin over the counter with the finger? Checkers is becoming a very expensive game suddenly.
Ideas and abstract processes (including algorithms, analogous to mathematical formulas) should not be patentable, period. Implementations, yes, by all means should be patentable. Just saying.
It might possibly be to the benefit of all of us if all companies making smartphones in fact were, in principle, in breach. The arguments that Apple (and the rest of them) would have to deploy in court in order to invalidate his claims would be very difficult to row back from when their claims against each other were being dealt with in other judicial instances. Some of Apple's claims against Samsung for example? I cannot see (on the basis of what we read here) that he has any weaker case than the various examples of large scale patent trolling we see all over the industry from some very famous household names. It is possible that the "law of unintended consequences" may serve us all very well.
Hang on, the guy produced a legitimate invention (albeit a software one), filed for a patent around the time of invention and notified Apple it was infringement 5 years ago when they could have licensed the technology for an equitable sum. There may be less to his claim than the article makes out, but troll, he is not.
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I remember having to use touch screens on laserdisk based training back in the early '90s.
The gesture stuff is blindingly obvious to anybody that see a touch screen.
I'm sure there is earlier research on this from the '80s (my memory not so good these days!).
So how did he get a patent for something that was obvious and prior art?
at least it makes a change to the US prat office handing out patents to apple for blindingly obvious and prior art material.
Heck, we were all talking about "wouldn't it be cool if we could ..." multi-touch back in the 1980s, but the hardware tech wasn't there to make it feasible at the time. There was some successful work in (IIRC) the late 80s to allow 'brush strokes' that depended on the area of contact on a tablet. As noted above, this advance wasn't all that big. However, his methodology to make it possible might have been significant.
In the 80's I was developing screens for ABB Simcon process plant simulators which used TDC touchscreens to control pumps and the like - no gestures though which is what this patent is about.
Think I'm going to patent the process of using a wave of a hand to gain the attention of someone who hasn't noticed me yet.
Will someone please tell the arse-holes in the US that you can only patent a new way of doing something, not the idea of doing it in the first place.
.. and all the other infringement cases before it is that the patent process/business itself is "patently" broken. While Flatworld may have a case, for me this comes across as yet another litigious money-grab which, as time progresses, seems to be what patent law is turning around to.
I absolutely hate patent trolls who sit on the sidelines and say nothing until someone successfully markets a product, and then they grab for a piece.
But in this case, since it's Apple he's attacking, I wish him every success and I hope he bites them in the arse for billions. If he were able to bankrupt the bastards that would be joyous, but that's probably hoping for too much.
"I absolutely hate article trolls who sit on the sidelines and say nothing until someone successfully writes an article that makes a valid point, and then they grab for a piece of attention!"
He knocked it up, patented it, notified Apple, they ignored him and so he's in the clear to make a case. If you read the article instead of getting into a lather for your chosen team, then you might not look like such a prat!
Well, some of the patents that he cites contain prior art relating to gestural control. I think he's going to have a hard time claiming credit for inventing it when his own patent citations weaken the case.
Interestingly, one of the cited patents from Konami in 1994, describes something that sounds uncannily like the XBox Kinect. I wonder if they're getting royalties?
>>Well, some of the patents that he cites contain prior art relating to gestural control. I think he's going to have a hard time claiming credit for inventing it when his own patent citations weaken the case.<<
But he's not claiming he invented it, he is merely saying that Apple's implementation of touch gestures infringe on the patent he was granted.
Wouldn't an interesting example of prior art be the Apple Newton? It had gestures for some edit functions as well as the handwriting recognition. The palm Pilot also used gestures I think... although weren't they sued by Xerox over patents for just that? I guess once again the only winners will be the lawyers.
All of the independent claims include this or similar wording:
"when the image is being dragged ... and the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display"
i.e. you can kinda "flick" items off the screen without actually dragging them off the edge.
Do iPhones do that? I'm pretty sure my Android doesn't.
Then again, the patent does seem to be talking about "throwing" individual items off the screen, rather than switching screens. This would be a matter of claim interpretation, which in the USA involves a preliminary hearing. The judge decides what the claims actually mean and the jury is constrained by the judge's interpretation. The judge's interpretation is not always intuitively obvious (ahem...)
Making a screen that can respond to human touch is an invention.
Coming up with suggestions on which way can the said screen be touched, groped and fondled and writing a piece of software to process it is application. This kind of things must never be patented. The fact that they can be means the patent system is a complete farce.
"By including gestures, and using the speed of a finger's response to activate further action, Milekic thinks he was the first to something new and wants paying for it."
Any orchestra conductor can claim prior art on such "invention", as do anyone able to use sign language...
Valdimir, I totally agree with everything you said there.
Trouble is, Apple deserve everything they bloody get here. If it were not for their sterling work in enshrining the legal importance of the use of touchscreens, there would be no case.
It's their petard and they cannot be hoist too far by it in my book.
This guy is aiming at the deepest most litigious pockets to buy his patent off him and then wield it to the ruin of the entire industry. I mean... come on... don't you think, the delay, before filing, is peppered with numerous negotiations for extortionate amounts of money with Apple et al.
Just stating the obvious:- 'money motivates all and more money moreso'
Copyright Stuart pat.pending :)
...could be classed as anti-apple/fandroid/any-tech-control-freak. Hey, just playing devils advocate here. Why should this professor get any pennies from a patent which sounds like it's worthless? Why patent the action? I can swipe my finger across the screen along with my mouse to drop files into the Windows Explorer window. Can I get sued for that as well?
As already said, patents should protect the technology to produce the end result; not the end result itself. For example, if Samsung produced a screen in a certain way; that would be patented to stop people copying it as it may have a special feature that's been developed by the said company. Not the fact that it "displays" content on the screen. If we had a patent for that, no one would be able to make monitors.
Sad times with all this patent crap.
So what happens when there are two different patents numbers on the same type invention? Yep, nothing more than feeding the sharks. AFAICS is useless without the power to mediate between patent holders. I mean, just how close to one another does it have to be to be different?
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