Let's Stop This Patent Trolling - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
12/26/2008
11:27 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
50%
50%

Let's Stop This Patent Trolling

It seems like every few months, some obscure company is awarded a patent for some relatively mundane idea, then turns around and sues the companies that have been using it. This time, the incredible and seemingly patentable innovation is icons that update based on document or window content.

It seems like every few months, some obscure company is awarded a patent for some relatively mundane idea, then turns around and sues the companies that have been using it. This time, the incredible and seemingly patentable innovation is icons that update based on document or window content.You've probably seen thumbnail icons in use in Vista's task switcher or the Google Chrome tab view. Cygnus, the winner in the patent lottery for this feature, is suing Microsoft, Google, and Apple for their infringement on this never-before-imagined innovation.

In five minutes of searching, I found this mention in a book that Windows 98 offered an option to use image thumbnails in Explorer. Cygnus originally filed their patent on June 12, 1998, but Windows 98 was already in beta at that point -- I was testing it at that time -- and by that time Microsoft probably had the feature implemented. And I wonder, where did Microsoft get the idea for the feature? Was it really a totally original idea, or did it have some earlier example it was following?

In the end, it's likely that this patent won't stand up to scrutiny. By deciding to go after three big and well-funded companies, Cygnus has almost guaranteed nothing but legal fees and empty coffers in this go-round. It's a shame that companies can exploit the patent system to prevent advances in software.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
News
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
Slideshows
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll