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Re: 1-Click, Short-Click, Long-Click, More-Clicks (New Microsoft Patent)

From: Tim Jackson
Subject: Re: 1-Click, Short-Click, Long-Click, More-Clicks (New Microsoft Patent)
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 20:44:11 +0100

John W. Eaton wrote on 28 Apr 2004 13:46:00 -0500....
> But shouldn't a patent application that only introduces some minor
> incremental difference from some previous technology (i.e., the broader 
> sense of what action is performed based on the timings of the button
> pushes, or whether the button is physical or simulated on a computer
> screen, etc.) be rejected anyway, based on the idea that they would be
> obvious to competent practitioners in the field? 

If the minor incremental difference is indeed obvious to competent 
practitioners, then yes.  [1]

If it isn't obvious, then a patent can be granted, but it should only 
be a minor incremental patent (commensurate with the inventor's 
minor incremental contribution to the technology).  That way, no-one 
loses out.  The patent will only prevent people doing things which 
they wouldn't have thought of doing anyway, had the inventor not made 
the invention.

The big issues, of course, are what's obvious and what's not, and 
whether the patent is appropriately limited.  That's down to how well 
the Patent Office is able to do its job.  Unfortunately, the US Patent 
Office is seriously under-resourced, because for many years Congress 
has been skimming off the fees paid by applicants and using them for 
unrelated purposes.  This has a detrimental effect on all areas of 
tencnology, not just computer and software-related subjects.

[1] US patent law actually asks whether the invention "would have been 
obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary 
skill in the art...".  So if the invention was made several years ago, 
you have to be careful not to judge it as to whether it's obvious as 
you read about it today.  Most inventions seem obvious in hindsight.

Tim Jackson
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