Microsoft Patents Adding 'www.' And '.com' To Text

from the just-as-Thomas-Jefferson-intended dept

theodp writes "Microsoft was just granted U.S. Patent No. 7,392,326 for Text Entry in an Electronic Device. From the patent: ‘the invention may automatically add a ‘www.’ and a ‘.com’ to the text the user is entering and display this combined text’. To get the point across, Microsoft included an illustration showing the ‘invention’ in action, transforming ‘foo’ into ‘www.foo.com’. Sure it’s not sorcery we’re dealing with?"

The specifics of the patent show it to be for easier data entry on mobile devices, but it’s difficult to see how this qualifies as either new or non-obvious. Basically, the concept is pretty straightforward and has been done on desktop browsers for some time. To simply add “and on mobile devices” doesn’t seem deserving of a patent. Does anyone really believe this functionality wouldn’t have been developed without a patent?

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Comments on “Microsoft Patents Adding 'www.' And '.com' To Text”

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59 Comments
Stephen Adams says:

Complete BS

This is complete BS, and more proof that patent examiners live in caves and are completely disconnected from modern society (who hasn’t seen a browser do this exact same thing, since AT LEAST 1995?). Software developers have been producing code that completes partially typed phrases for years. There is nothing novel about this concept, and there’s certainly nothing here that deserves patent protection. The fact that it’s done on a mobile device is completely irrelevant — it’s no different than doing it on any other device. Extending a well-established activity from one keyboard-entry device to another doesn’t make it new, unique, non-obvious or patentable. The whole purpose of software development is to make it easier for people to do things. Wait — maybe I should patent that!

The way I see it, Microsoft was deceptive by using the term “the invention” when what they really mean is “the software.” Software is not an invention. This actually looks like a method to beat back Firefox and Opera. Since MS has now patented this for mobile devices, they can extend the patent to non-mobile devices, and then sue Firefox and Opera and every other browser maker. The intent may not be to sue, but it can sure be used as a cudgel (“Use our OS on your crappy cell phone, or we’ll sue you for patent infringement, based on a bunch of marginal patents. Win or lose, it’s going to cost you a lot of money.”).

Wolferz (profile) says:

Re: Complete BS

Actually… technically… I haven’t seen any browser do this since the feature was first added to IE and I tried out…

I just type the www. and .com myself each and every time. Assuming patent examiners do the same then it is possible they wouldn’t know this already exists.

Of course… this is even worse than if they had living in caves as an excuse. It cast doubt on the feasibility of the current system to accurately approve patents.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is “patented” is defined and circumscribed by the allowed claims, in this case one very detailed and quite limited independent claim, and three independent claims that incorporate all of the recitals in the independent claim.

MS has not invented a broad concept, and a quick review of the references used during prosecution of the application demonstrates this to be the case. Moreover, it was allowed with the approval of a Primary Examiner, a position within the Patent Office that denotes seniority and experience in the relevant technical arts.

sonofdot says:

Re: Re:

Anyone with true “experience in the relevant technical arts” would have rejected this application immediately, since someone it has been used in commercial and non-commercial products for at least 13 years, and it has been incorporated into every browser ever assembled. However, someone living in a cave, completely removed from anything remotely resembling technology, and with absolutely no knowledge of programming and development practices, would have granted the application. Any software developer, possessing more than 2 weeks experience, would have added such an obvious and brain-dead simple feature. And until the stupid State Street decision, none would have ever thought to patent something so ridiculously simple.

By this same token, maybe we can go down to the patent office, and patent rearranging the letters of the word “the” into the correct order when typed incorrectly. Then we can patent putting a period after a word, if you press the space bar twice. Then we can sue Microsoft, RIM, and anyone else who produces products that do something obvious and simple.

Honestly, this patent “system” is incredibly fucked up, and apologizing doesn’t quite cut it any longer. All that’s happening now is there are companies, Microsoft included, that are simply gaming the system with patents that should never be granted. Perhaps the patent system needs a review panel, to review the rulings of the brain-dead examiners.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of course there is no prior art here, no obviousness and absolutely no one does this on a daily basis already, right?

And who said the Primary Examiner is actually familiar with the topic MS applied on and was approved.

Apparently not.

Want to bring the notion of patents into any more disrepute that it already has become? Show them this one.

Insane and inane.

ttfn

John

kdlucas says:

Patent System is in shambles

The patent system is broken. Many companies now get patents not because they want to reap financial rewards, but because they need to protect themselves against “patent trolls” who survive only to get patents and then sue companies using that technology. This is ugly, unethical, and down right devious.

I think the entire patent system needs to be revamped. I wonder what would happen if patents were no longer used… How would companies go about protecting IP without patents? There are ways to do this, but I’m curious what many of you think would become of IP.

eleete (user link) says:

Re: Patent System is in shambles

It would take the Property away from Intellect. Which is why it almost didn’t make it into the constitution anyway. Ever since then, it’s been a tool used by large industry (and small) as a club to pursue one another. It basically insights pissing contests about who ‘owns’ what. Horrible idea from the beginning and now we’re scratching our heads thinking… How else can people on this welfare system survive if it were to go away…. Poor artists : ( while industry soaks those poor artists even worse to line their pockets.

zcat (profile) says:

Firefox does NOT do this...

Firefox does something quite a lot smarter. When the input in the address bar isn’t a web address it performs a google search and, if one site is clearly more relevant than the rest, goes directly to that site. Or where there are no clear winners, it simply presents Google’s search results for the user to decide.

But have Mozilla applied for a patent on this feature? I don’t think so!

(yes, I know MSIE does something similar, but MSIE’s results are almost never what I was after, while Firefox’s are almost always what I was after.)

zcat (profile) says:

#30

I can assure you, back when the web was relatively new and ‘web pages’ were mostly black text on a grey background, with no advertising and only the occasional GIF for illustration, the browser I was using was _already_ smart enough to try adding www. and .tla either side of whatever had been entered into the address bar and make a valid address from it. And that was so long ago I can’t even remember what browser it was.

Doug Robb (profile) says:

Patent is not the Last Word

Without reading the details I would suggest that this patent would not hold up if MS actually took someone to court for alleged infringement – both on the prior art and obviousness of the application from anyone reasonably skilled in the art I think is the term they use.

ie it’s quite possible to be granted a patent for something that is easily struck out or ruled invalid under the closer examiniation of a court. So MS is likely not to want to pursue this one with too much vigour ….

Felix says:

Now I Get It

After reading everyone’s comments, despite the absurdity of the patent itself, perhaps Microsoft is doing this as a defensive strategy. To protect itself from some lame patent troll obtaining this patent and then suing the entire planet, Microsoft got the patent first. Maybe their intent is benign, maybe not. Time will tell.

Allen (profile) says:

So the patent system is broken?

The patent system is broken. Not really news.

I do find it interesting to contrast the reaction to this particular example of patent dysfunction and the fan boy’s reaction to the applications to add Instant Messaging and Video Conferencing to the iPhone.

The real question is what can we do about it? There are a lot of $ at stake in maintaining the status quo.

Anonymous Coward says:

But have Mozilla applied for a patent on this feature? I don’t think so!

Maybe they did! It took 7 years to get this patent awarded so maybe Mozilla has applied for one! I guess we’ll find out in the next 5 years or so. But let’s not forget that this patent is strictly for mobile devices, so Mozilla could still get one for desktop browsers.

So now does Microsoft have the right to go after anyone who has incorporated this advancement since the patent was first applied for?

angry dude says:

MShit is the biggest patent system abuser, not patent trolls

For years those large multinational corporations were deliberately polluting US patent system with junk patent filings
This is a clever strategy to dilute the value of a few really valuable patents held by small entities, to dissolve worthy patents in a sea of junk patents

Well, the strategy worked

We are all f*****d
Say thanks to Billy Gates and his successor Stevie theFat Ballmer and that little piece of shit they hired called Marshal Phelps
They are the real patent trolls

crg says:

yeah

Nearly every browser EXCEPT IE has done this since the mid-90s (and the ones that didn’t exist in the mid-90s have done this since their inception). I’m guessing the patent people are drones that don’t know any other browsers exist besides IE, so they think this is a newfangled concept.

They probably also think Vista is an amazing OS.

nobody says:

iPhone?

Okay so I’m not really ALL that knowledgeable about this sort of thing, and I’m not staying around to watch people get on my case for not being another crusty old expert so don’t bother, but mightn’t Microsoft’s purpose be to squeeze what it can from the iPhone and other Apple items? Let’s face it, the iPhone is pretty cool, so Microsoft might be trying to be like “Hey well… well… well your users have to TYPE IN THEIR WWW’s AND COM’s so … even though we don’t have anything comparable… we totally owned you riiiiight” … ?

IReadtheClaims says:

Clueless comments

For all of you that say this has been around forever I challenge you to find a single instance of where a browser checks the geographic location before deciding what to add to the typed character string.
The patent only covers instances where there is a geographic location check first and decision based on that location. All the browser people mention as “doing this for years” are outside the limited scope of the claims. Learn to read the claims of a patent before commenting on them! You can’t just ignore parts of the claim.

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