Microsoft Sued Over User Editable Toolbar Patent

from the don't-bother-creating-software,-you'll-just-get-sued dept

If you follow the patent world, you know of Gary Odom, who is known as The Patent Hawk. To say he's a big supporter of the patent system would be something of an understatement. He's been known to comment here on occasion, employing the style seen all-too-often among patent system apologists commenting on Techdirt posts: insult repeatedly and broadly, offer no actual points, refuse to actually counter anything we say, provide absolutely no evidence and (for good measure) insult again. However, as reader Jon has pointed out to us, Odom recently received a new patent (he's got a bunch) on tool group manipulations and he's now suing Microsoft for the way its toolbars work in Office 2007.

I won't comment on the patent itself and whether or not its obvious -- read the claims and judge for yourself. However, I will question just what sort of patent system we've created when simply putting a toolbar in your software that can be changed and manipulated by the end user can get you sued for patent infringement. With patents and lawsuits like this flying by every day, it almost seems as if software companies are better off not doing any actual innovation, because it's only likely to get them sued. Have an idea on how to make a toolbar function better? Don't bother unless you're willing to pay a tax. At some point you have just sit back and look at the system as a whole and wonder how we got from the vision of Thomas Jefferson to here.

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  1. icon
    Stephan Kinsella (profile), 20 Aug 2008 @ 10:10pm

    PDF Files of the Patent

    Several places -- e.g. www.Pat2PDF.org. But you can find the PDF of it at PatentFizz.com too. And the cool thing is PatentFizz lets you leave comments, prior art, etc. Note one of the derisive comments on Hawk's blog, which concerns this patent's parent patent:
    How about the PARENT patent? #7,036,087 that issued on 04/25/2006.

    Why didn't you try to assert this one against micro$oft or others? Or did you? Or was it already invalidated? :)

    For the record, here are the issued claims from the parent patent #7,036,087.

    1. Software from at least one computer-readable medium automatically rearranging at least one tool based upon relative usage frequency of tools within a toolbar group.

    2. Software according to claim 1 preventing at least one tool from being rearranged.

    3. Software from at least one computer-readable medium automatically rearranging at least one group of a tools on a toolbar based upon aggregate usage frequency of tools within a tool group compared to another group.

    4. Software according to claim 3 preventing at least one group from being rearranged.


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