Imitation And Flattery In Web Design May Get Tricky With Patents
from the patents-are-fun dept
By itself, the debate was simply amusing -- and reminded me of an argument online from many years ago when there was a huge debate over copying someone else's HTML files. Specifically, I remember huge debates over whether or not it was okay for people to swipe some of the creative HTML designs that Derek Powazek did on his site, Fray.com a decade ago. Powazek was one of the first to figure out how to use the very limited HTML of the day to design artistic websites -- but some other sites simply took his HTML source and used it on their own pages. Some felt this was stealing, others felt it was flattery. Personally, I thought it was educational. I used some of Powazek's amazing HTML to teach myself how to do much more with HTML than you could learn in any book.
However, with the small skirmish between Cutts and Zawodny barely a day old, there's a separate story that points out how tricky this debate could become soon, if lawyers get involved. Google Blogoscoped, a blog following all things Google, points out that Google has been awarded a design patent (not a utility patent) on their basic UI (an image of which is available here). Given the points Cutts made about Yahoo's copying of Google's design elements, it would seem like it would be possible for Google to challenge Yahoo using patents. Take that a step further and imagine how much anyone with a new web design could limit others from using similar design elements if they started patenting their web design as well. While it is annoying when someone simply copies a design you may have worked hard for, is it really that big a deal when the alternative is making everyone completely reinvent the wheel every time they design a website?