Wednesday, April 25, 2007

US 5,072,412 asserted against Apple

US 5,072,412, entitled User interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects, was issued December 10, 1991, based on application 07/030,766 filed in 1987. There are three inventors, apparently all working (at the time) at Xerox PARC. To date, it has been cited by 251 U.S. patents, most recently in US 7,197,515 (Declarative solution definition).

A lawsuit was filed on 18 April in ED Texas District Court (Marshall, TX) by intellectual property holding company IP Innovation and its parent company, Technology Licensing.

AppleInsider writes: The disputed section refers to the technique of creating a window on a computer's screen with controls that switch between views of multiple associated display objects within the window, erasing one view as the user selects another while still giving a spatial frame of reference and the same general interface during the switch.

Is this another example of innovative work by Xerox, that did not benefit Xerox? A third party targeting Tiger and Leopard?



Techliberation has a post Tabbed Windows: Patented!; of the patent filed by Xerox:

It’s got all the elements that make software patents so pernicious: it’s extremely vague, making it impossible for other software companies to be sure whether their products infringe on it. It’s extremely broad, apparently covering a variety of general characteristics of windowing systems. As the Ars article indicates, there’s likely to be prior art. Finally, it’s extremely wordy, with 62 loquacious claims and dozens of pages describing this “technology” in excruciating detail.

The post has aspects of "plagiarize with pride" from the Harvard Business Review:

Apple and Microsoft copied each other promiscuously (well, OK, Microsoft mostly copied Apple) and consumers benefitted from it. Apple certainly would have liked to prevent Microsoft from copying their innovations (and in fact, they tried very hard to do so) but they ultimately were not able to do so. Does anyone think that consumers would be better off today if the courts had prohibited Microsoft from imitating Apple’s UI innovations?

One commenter wrote the following:

Tim, please tell us your understanding of how patents are associated with innovation. Hopefully, your explanation will account for the half dozen or so theories developed by economists in the past few decades, or even hundred years. Also, detail how you interpret "to promote the progress," and how that has been associated with patents and innovation by policy makers and courts. It seems that you have a certain conception of your own, but I don't want to put words into your mouth.

As for who would argue that the above patent should have been granted? Well, I'm guessing that a certain scholar that supports relatively obvious patents for inventions without unclear commercial value, may support it. However, he would probably argue that the patent's scope should be interpreted narrowly, and its scope further limited by technical disclosure in the claim. Of course, I could tell you who it is, or simply do a write-up on IPcentral about him:)

***Separately on Apple -->

Robert Mullins of IDG reported: Legal and business experts will have a lot to learn from how the case against former Apple Inc. lawyer Nancy Heinen grinds its way through the courts.

Because most cases of stock options backdating by U.S. public companies have been settled out of court, and because Heinen is planning to fight her charges, the case could be one of few played out in open court, legal analysts say.


Heinen is alleged to have falsified board meeting minutes to make it look as though the board approved stock options grants in 2000 and 2001 on dates that the board hadn't met.

Ehrlich says Heinen didn't deceive anyone inside or outside of the company. "Every action Nancy took was fully understood and authorized by Apple's board," Ehrlich stated.

[An SEC] investigation concluded that while Jobs knew of backdating and approved specific dates, he was not aware of the accounting implications of those moves. The board committee implicated two unidentified former employees in the fraud. Eventually, those two were identified as Heinen and Fred Anderson.


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