bit-tech.net

Company claims icon patent

Company claims icon patent

Cygnus' patent covers icons that change in real-time according to the status of the program or file they represent.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it seems that some companies just can't wait to get a head-start on patent trolling in 2009 with the news that one outfit thinks it has a chance to enforce rights on icons.

According to Ars Technica, little-known Michigan-based network firm Cygnus Systems Incorporated is looking to get a financial leg-up in the new year with a lawsuit against Microsoft, Apple, and Google – hey, at least no-one can accuse it of setting its sights low – regarding a recently-awarded patent on a “system and method for iconic software environment management.

That's right: we have a company which truly believes it is in with a chance of winning a lawsuit based on a relatively recent patent – granted in March this year after being applied for in June 2001 as a continuation of an original application in June 1998 – regarding icons: those little pictographic representations of programs that have been around just about as long as graphical user interfaces – if not before.

To be fair to the company, its patent is – slightly – more specific than mere static images: the abstract refers to “a method and system for storing, navigating, and accessing files within an operating system through the use of a graphical thumbnail representing the video display of the active document within the active application.

Translated from the legalese, the company is claiming rights to a system whereby a running application or open document is represented by a shrunken graphical display that updates in real time according to changes made to the file or within the program: a system such as is used by Microsoft's Windows Explorer, the Finder in Apple's MacOS X, and even by the open-source GNOME desktop project – but no-one ever got rich suing open source. Cygnus is also looking to target the “accompanying iconic file preview and access functionality” built into Apple's massively successful iPhone.

There are some oddities with the lawsuit, however: while it's easy to see why Apple and Microsoft have been targeted – whether or not you agree with the patent – it's a trifle harder to imagine the criteria for selecting Google – besides “has deep pockets,” anyway. The title of the patent clearly refers to the technology being used “within an operating system” and, Android excepting, the company has yet to release such a beast. Cygnus is adamant, however, that Google's Chrome browser is in violation of its intellectual property rights – despite being offered for free, both in the “speech” and “beer” senses.

While the companies targeted by the lawsuit have yet to respond, it's hard to imagine that anyone's legal counsel is losing too much sleep: between the scads of prior art available for this patent and the extremely deep pockets of the defendants, I can't see Cygnus getting its hands on “damages adequate to compensate plaintiff for the infringement that has occurred” – damages the company is hoping to have made retrospective in the unlikely event of a court finding favour with its arguments – any time soon.

Do you believe that Microsoft, Apple and Google will be able to show prior art invalidating Cygnus' patent, or does the company deserve some money for having – allegedly – come up with the idea first? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

18 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
DougEdey 29th December 2008, 09:35 Quote
I have one word that sums this up:

tits
Breach 29th December 2008, 10:58 Quote
I cant beleive this kind of bull is still going on. There should be a point where some things are in common use and no one can just claim it is theirs.

Maybe I should patent something really common and sue everyone for damages, sure beats a real business plan or having real products and services.
Kúsař 29th December 2008, 12:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Breach
I cant beleive this kind of bull is still going on. There should be a point where some things are in common use and no one can just claim it is theirs.

Maybe I should patent something really common and sue everyone for damages, sure beats a real business plan or having real products and services.

100% agree. Patents should be effective for 10 years max, at least to drive technology evolution forward.
I can't believe it's even possible to claim patent for simple UI like this. That's just hilarious.
Pricester 29th December 2008, 14:57 Quote
The really frustrating thing is that even if the Judge is smart, and slaps the plaintiff with huge fees for wasting the court's time, all that will happen is the plaintiff will file for bankruptcy and start up again with the same business model in 6 months' time!
DarkLord7854 29th December 2008, 17:25 Quote
I needed a good early morning laugh, thanks :)
PhenomRed 29th December 2008, 23:53 Quote
Can i patent breathing?
itazura 30th December 2008, 00:39 Quote
wat.

seriously, that's all i have to say. crazy.
zimbloggy 30th December 2008, 02:46 Quote
I think that that is patent abuse. Another example: a mini game while loading a game is patented.
n3mo 30th December 2008, 05:26 Quote
Well, today I'm patenting "relocating one body part to the front of another, similar one for the purpose of locomotion". I am going to be soo rich.
notatoad 30th December 2008, 05:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhenomRed
Can i patent breathing?

don't give them any ideas. the USTPO and patent trolls need to die in a fire.
The_Beast 30th December 2008, 05:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhenomRed
Can i patent breathing?

For something to be patented it need to be something that is "different or new"


which breathing isn't but still don't give anyone ideas
Vittorio 30th December 2008, 10:14 Quote
They will be going after all the relatives of the lost tribes now. They used to worship idols and have graphical representations of them to perform various tasks.
mclintox 30th December 2008, 20:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougEdey
I have one word that sums this up:

tits

No man,they're useful
Yemerich 30th December 2008, 23:46 Quote
I will papent the concept of "bits"! HA!

then i will sue everyone (including Cygnus) for illegal use of MY idea.
BTW, everyone else in this post owes me money!
mauvecloud 31st December 2008, 03:31 Quote
Didn't Xerox invent icons back in the 1970s? If anybody could patent them, it would be Xerox, not Cygnus.
billt9 25th March 2009, 17:42 Quote
Old legal maxim: Anyone can sue anyone at anytime for anything. Winning, now that's something else.

The patent office should be chastized for issuing such patents.
notatoad 25th March 2009, 17:56 Quote
holy wtf‽ where did you drag this old thread up from?
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums