Google, Apple, Microsoft Sued Over Patent For Thumbnail Icons

from the what-counts-as-a-patent-these-days dept

As a bit of a non-Christmas gift, it appears that a patent holder, using the infamous Niro Scavone law firm (to whom the name "Patent Troll" was first applied) has sued Google, Apple and Microsoft over a patent that the patent holder appears to believe covers any sort of thumbnail image that shows some of the actual file. You can read the full patent for a system and method for iconic software environment management and then ponder what is allowed to pass as a legitimate patent these days. The patent was first filed in 2001, but the priority date appears to be 1998. Either way, you'd be hard pressed to find anything in the patent that wouldn't have been considered a natural progression in 1998 (or well before that). Nothing like ending the year with yet another ridiculous patent lawsuit.


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  1.  
    identicon
    David T, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 7:26am

    Idea vs implementation

    It's unfortunate that there isn't some mechanism to allow use of an "idea" that is implemented in a way unforeseen by the original patent holder. It would reduce the value of patents, to be sure, but would prevent rather silly claims like this to become an issue.

     

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  2.  
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    ehrichweiss, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 7:46am

    prior art..

    There's tons of prior art for thumbnails. Like the fact that thumbnails existed long before 1998 on other operating systems. I believe Commodore's Amiga had them sometime around the release of the 3.1 rev of their OS. The SGI that I bought after selling my Amiga had them as well, that version of IRIX was produced in 1993 I think.

     

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  3.  
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    Patent hater, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    Crazy

    Small picture icons have been around for a very long time. This should have been easy to see as a future development. A picture of itself (file) in miniature and representing itself should NOT BE PATENTABLE.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward #42, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    Keep in mind that icons and thumbnails are two different things. An icon is typically just a generic image designated to represent a particular program or type of file. A thumbnail, on the other hand, is actually an image that shows part of the unique content in a given file.

    That said, I think such a patent is ridiculous, and has no ground to stand on. As it's been said, I'm sure plenty of prior art exists, and I don't think it's fair to patent a basic idea about something. A patent is meant to protect a specific method of doing something. For example, the "idea" of a book, an object that holds information in written form, is not patentable (is that even a word?), but a unique process for printing and binding a book could be patented.

    I think that unless the patent defines a specific method of how a system reads the contents of a file to generate thumbnail images, it should be invalidated and thrown away. And before anybody gets hot under the collar, I'll say right now that I don't know all the specific details of what is or is not legally allowed in our current patent system. All I'm saying is that this is how I think it should work, as opposed to how it may work right now.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Виртулис, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:59am

    Word of the day

    http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19971211

    "The computer use, 'a small graphical representation, as of a larger graphic, a page layout, etc.' is a specific application of the general sense. It is first found in the 1980s. " -- written in 1997

    that should be enough to drop the lawsuit immediately, imho ;)

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Виртулис, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: Word of the day

    ...i mean, in 1997 there was a *term* for a thing patented in 2001. that's just ridiculous.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:24am

    Nothing like ending the year with yet another ridiculous patent lawsuit.

    Nothing like ending the year with yet another article about a "ridiculous patent lawsuit" without any evidentiary basis for so stating.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Droslovinia, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:26am

    Copyright?

    This whole thing is a ridiculous filing that ought to be tossed immediately. If not, I couldn't help but notice that the patent filing used an unauthorized depiction of a Mac II as one of its figures. Should they not be liable for suit in using this depiction? It seems like patent fraud to me. At the very least, the fact that they had such a graphic before the patent was even filed indicates that it is something that Apple may have already been doing before they got around to trying to steal it.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    Nothing like ending the year with yet another troll comment.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    tubes, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:51am

    Re:

    What do you think this site is about. Quit reading if you don't like this site!

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re:

    Techdirt prides itself on researching topics in advance of publishing articles. While it may have research experience in the area of patent law in general, this specific article is fact dependent, and as yet those facts are completely unknown.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re:

    This site is about presenting informed articles, but it seems that at times it strays and makes forays into speculation. This site also seems to attract a large number of commenters who blindly accept its articles as fact without any attempt to employ critical thinking.

    I guess it is easier for commenters to decry the big, bad RIAA's, MPAA's, content industries, content providers, etc. of the world without a firm grasp on the underlying facts.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    completely unknown? Did you bother to actually READ the patent? let me save you the laborious task of actually clcking the embedded link and just quote the whole patent right here for you:

    " A method of accessing one or more computer files via a graphical icon, comprising the steps of:


    capturing automatically one or more graphical representations of one or more portions of information content of one or more computer files while an application is manipulating the one or more computer files;

    creating automatically an icon including selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content of the one or more computer files wherein the icon graphically depicts at least a portion of the information content from the one or more computer files and wherein the icon is created while the application was manipulating the icon's corresponding one or more computer files and includes selected portions of the captured one or more graphical representations of the information content;

    linking the icon to the application and to the one or more computer files based on the ability of the application to manipulate the information content of the one or more computer files corresponding to the icon;

    storing the icon in a memory;
    displaying the icon in a window on a display screen;
    invoking the application for manipulating the information content of the one or more computer files upon selection of the icon by accessing the more or more computer files by reference to an underlying file system corresponding to the icon and opening the one or more computer files within the application.
    "

    See the 1997 dictionary definition above. Case closed. Not just a stupid patient, but one so breathtaking, epically stupid it boggles the mind. The only plausible explanation for this patent being approved is that on one on the patent office had ever seen or used a computer, or known anyone who had - in 2001. Six years after Win95, which has this feature - you could then and still can today choose 'thumbnail' view in explorer and get *Exactly* what this patent claims to have 'invented!'

    What part of this is 'unknown' to you?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "What part of this is 'unknown' to you?"

    1. The contents of the file wrapper.
    2. The contents of the prior art that was cited during prosecution of the application.
    3. The date of "conception" coupled with "diligence".
    4. The specific features in the Microsoft, Apple and Google products that are deemed to infringe and why they are deemed to infringe.
    5. Etc.

    Absent a grasp of at least the above it is well nigh impossible to determine if this matter is ridiculous or not. Just because a techdirt article speculates that "ridiculous" pertains does not a priori make it so.

     

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  15.  
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    Zaphod, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 3:58pm

    Thumbnails before 1998

    For those of you with short memories, as I am sure all attorneys would hope you have...

    Alchemy Mindworks used an automatic thumbnail generation system back in the days of Windows 3.11 (predating 95) for their Graphics Workshop. There were also several programs for DOS that did the same.

    This lawsuit is frivolous, and I hope the judge moves to have the firm bringing it, and all attorneys currently working for it (12/29/08) disbarred for legal malpractice and wasting of taxpayer dollars.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    dinnerbell, Jan 2nd, 2009 @ 8:57am

    stop the shilling!!!

    what constitutes “legitimate” patents? How would you know? Are you a patent attorney? Have you ever filed or prosecuted a patent application? When you learn something then tell us what you’ve learned. When you’ve had an experience then tell us what you’ve experienced. Short of that, spare us the web payola.

    Stick with something you know...like taking out the trash. Beyond that you appear unqualified.

     

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