Microsoft Patents "Michelle Is Typing A Message…"

from the prior-art? dept

theodp writes “Instant messaging software has provided features to let you know when one of your friends is typing a response for at least three decades. But that didn’t stop Microsoft from applying for and the USPTO from granting a patent Tuesday for a System and method for activity monitoring and reporting in a computer network, which means “Michelle is typing a message…” will be displayed to let you know when Michelle is typing a message.” All of the major IM clients now offer this feature. Whether or not it’s been around for three decades, it certainly seems pretty obvious. I remember talking about it with people before Yahoo implemented it (the first IM client that I saw it on). Still, now I’m sure Microsoft can go after any such IM system for a licensing fee.

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Comments on “Microsoft Patents "Michelle Is Typing A Message…"”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Just curious...

But does anyone at the USPTO actually look at submissions any more or do they just rubber stamp everything that comes across their desk that has a check attached for the right amount of money?

It would be nice if we implemented a new policy where the USPTO could actually fine people for submitting patents on things that they didn’t invent and for which there is sufficient prior art to invalidate the patent.

Maybe you could make a patent applicant put up a bond or cash retainer to prove the seriousness of their intent to patent and then if the USPTO finds out it’s not an original idea then they get to keep the bond/retainer and can use that money to hire new patent inspectors to reduce their backlog? Maybe even hire some people who know that adding the words “on the internet” to something doesn’t make it a new idea.

D Henkel-Wallace says:

Re: Re: Re: Just curious...

me: they figure the courts can sort out any conflicts.
alternatives: Is this [codified] in any official documents?

Check out

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office faces several other problems. An overflow of applications combined with inadequate manpower causes a rise in the rate of issuances. Examiners are not able to spend enough time on each application and, again, tend to approve many obvious patents. One examiner who worked at the PTO revealed, “I have noted a very marked decrease in the quality of patents issued. When I first started here I was told, ?When in doubt reject.? Now I am told, ?When in doubt allow.?” The PTO management each year has an “allowance rate” that determines the maximum number of patent issuances that an examiner can make. That number is currently a whopping 70-80%! The very existence of such a rate may cause patent examiners to take the “easy” way out. It takes much more work to reject an application because denying an application requires a searching the prior art more thoroughly, in addition to dealing with the added wrath from the patent lawyers.

The PTO?s budget is directly tied to application fees. The greater the number of patent applications the PTO can approve, the more others are encouraged to apply ? and the more money circulating within the PTO. The money is translated into bonuses for examiners who favor allowances over rejects, even if the patent should be invalid. The system is misaligned. Moreover, once a patent is granted, the PTO does not engage in any form of external review or quality control.

Hope this helps. I originally learned of this from an interview with the head of the PTO that was in Herring or Upside, and so is hard to find these days.

Burt (profile) says:


Believe it or not, the primary reason for a business to patent things is to keep yourself from being sued by someone else, NOT to go off suing the world. Of course, there are spectacularly newsworthy cases of companies that do go on suing binges for vendettas, publicity and even sometimes in the usually wrongheaded notion that they’ll get a lot of money. This is not true of individuals who have dollar signs in their eyes as they file. I worked for a company that was an exception and actually had a profitable business for many years selling licenses to its patents. But it’s a yery tricky business and demands that you have a stable of patent savvy lawyers constantly searching for suspected patent abuse. Eventually my company gave up the patent part of the business because the habit of countersuing by the sue-eee led to some startling and wildly costly instances of patent reversal.

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