Microsoft Seeks Patent On Virtual Graffiti Years After The Idea Is In Use

from the a-little-late-to-the-party dept

theodp points us to a new patent application from Microsoft for the concept of "virtual graffiti" that someone could leave for mobile devices connected to a real geographic area. As theodp notes: "Here's what passes for inventive these days in Redmond: 'Mary, while at Tom's house, may create graffiti on her cell FVG-enabled phone that says, 'Party Here Friday Night!' and make the graffiti available to all her friends. Then any of Mary's friends (with their FVG-enabled devices) passing by Tom's house would become aware of the graffiti associated with the house and be able to view it, thus becoming aware of the planned party.' Microsoft proudly boasts that the technology can also be used to shout 'Subscriber!' to newspaper boys as they pass customers' houses and exclaim 'Great lunch joint!' to those passing by a restaurant."

If that doesn't sound particularly new or non-obvious that's because it's not. We wrote about nearly an identical system that was already in use at Cornell University in August of 2003, more than three years before this Microsoft patent application was filed. Even in writing about that story, we noted that there were a few similar systems already out there and that "people have been talking about such things for ages"). How this could possibly be considered new or non-obvious seems like a reasonable question. Hopefully the patent examiner agrees and rejects this application.

Filed Under: patents, prior art, virtual graffiti
Companies: microsoft


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  1. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 13 Jun 2008 @ 1:23pm

    Had This Invention In 2000 and 2001

    I was the Director of Wireless at that major media firm that owns all the theme parks in the year 2000. I worked on some brainstorming projects for the parks in which a personalized guide (at the time a Compaq iPaq) would sense your location, and offer guiding, games, information, and media content based on your location at the park. There were other innovative ideas, too, but since they are slightly less obvious, I'll leave them in confidence.

    At the time, I'd say the ideas were novel, slightly innovative, but hardly "inventions" worthy of patents.

    A year later, as I launched into independent consulting in the wireless industry, my first client was a Vegas Casino that was being built by a wealthy upstart Vegas impresario. The idea was that a mobile Guide could be offered to high rollers when they arrived. The guide (an iPaq) would be able to book shows, dining, offer schedules, request services, and offer location-specific information based on where the guest was in the facility.

    At the time, this was fairly innovative for the hotel industry, but not really too inspired.

    So, 8 years later, we're considering patents on basically the same ideas? This is annoying.

    It's like wireless email. Wireless data was an obvious progression. Email is a massively horizontal application, thus it was inevitable that we get wireless email, and yet dozens of patents were issued, and the lawsuits still rain down.

    LBS are now inevitable, and blogs, forums, and community sites are very horizontal, and it seems inevitable that we will have LBS-enabled forums. Why our patent examiners can't see the obvious is non-obvious to me.

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