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  1. #1
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    paul_wilkins's Avatar
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    Patent worries over rollover images

    Are rollover images really covered under patent law?

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/n...be-stopped.ars

    "Dear website owner, congratulations on your excellent site, which includes features covered by our registered patent, #5,251,294. As the description indicates, many of the components on your pages, particularly your menus, rollover images, and shortcuts, are detailed in our claim. We would be delighted to lease these to you at a reasonable royalty rate of $80,000. Please call our offices at your convenience to arrange a payment schedule."
    The firm's site claims that it has made licensing deals with Apple, Google, Nokia, Sears, Sony and Orbitz.
    Even if their patent does cover rollover images which we use for menus and other means, can they really enforce it?

    What do you think?
    Last edited by paul_wilkins; Oct 15, 2010 at 08:50.
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard rguy84's Avatar
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    I think this is in the wrong forum Paul, but that is besides the point. I get why we have patents on drugs, and stuff like that. When it comes to stuff like this, it gets gray, and down right stupid. This goes aloing with the Microsoft owning a patent on white space...
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  3. #3
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    paul_wilkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rguy84 View Post
    I think this is in the wrong forum Paul, but that is besides the point. I get why we have patents on drugs, and stuff like that. When it comes to stuff like this, it gets gray, and down right stupid. This goes aloing with the Microsoft owning a patent on white space...
    Good point - they used to be done with javascript, but are now performed more regularly with css.

    I'll shift this along to the web design forum.
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  4. #4
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    I think many people break patent and it's pretty common. Probably the people who benefit from patent is from the big company who can hire lawyers full time. For small fries, even w/ patent..it will be very hard and long to get any financial reward.

  5. #5
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    It's pretty much poppycock with regards to the web in the sense it pre-dates the world wide web let alone being unworkable.

  6. #6
    I solve practical problems. bronze trophy
    Michael Morris's Avatar
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    If a stop to this nonsense isn't put in place soon no one will be able to safely program because of litigation.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    As I remember BT (British Telecommunications) hold a patent for hyperlinking documents together, and that claim fell down.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard spence_noodle's Avatar
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    I've found the article and it's true, Webvention's has patented the rollover image. And is trying to sue a number of companies for the $80k. Companies like Dell, Gamestop, Bed Bath & Beyond...are in the firing line.

    But what bluedreamer has said, this kind of thing is too wide spread and I cannot see it being inforced. I'm not worried.

  9. #9
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spence_noodle View Post
    I've found the article and it's true, Webvention's has patented the rollover image. And is trying to sue a number of companies for the $80k. Companies like Dell, Gamestop, Bed Bath & Beyond...are in the firing line.

    But what bluedreamer has said, this kind of thing is too wide spread and I cannot see it being inforced. I'm not worried.
    If it is being done using JavaScript then it is using functionality that has been available since Netscape first introduced JavaScript in 1996. If the patent had been issued after 1996 then using JavaScript to do it would have pre-dated the patent and so the patent wouldn't apply.

    If you are doing it using CSS then the hover functionality first became part of the standard in 1998 and so if the patent had been dated after that then again using that method would pre-date the patent and so the patent wouldn't apply.

    Of course since this patent was filed in 1990 it does pre-date those methods of implementing rollovers and so they may very well have a case against Netscape for breaching their patent in what JavaScript can do and against the W3C for incorporating it into CSS 2.0 and against web browser creators for implementing the functionality in their browsers. I doubt that they would have a case against individual web sites since the code in the web pages only breaches their patent if the browsers breach the patent in implementing the functionality covered by the patent.

    Of course the amount of time since these alleged breaches occurred may also have an effect on the success or otherwise of any case since they ought to have taken action over ten years ago.
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  10. #10
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    The big thing needed to overturn such nonsense would be prior art; since GUI's have had rollover effects on things like dropdown menus dating back to the original Xerox GUI, you could use it, Windows, MacOs, NextStep, GeOS, and every other major computer UI as prior art examples.

    Hell, the wording is so vague you could probably use how Visicalc handled highlighting selected cells as an example of prior art.

    See what happened when some dipshits went after Red Hat/Novell and an Amiga 1000 came to the rescue.

    http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic....00513121121635

  11. #11
    SitePoint Guru Jason__C's Avatar
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    Q: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
    A: His lips are moving.

    Nothing worse then a lawyer.

  12. #12
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USPatriot View Post
    Q: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
    A: His lips are moving.

    Nothing worse then a lawyer.

    Be careful. There are several lawyers who answer questions on the SitePoint forums some of whom are sure to object to your implying that they are male..
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  13. #13
    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    or are the honest ones female

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by deathshadow60 View Post
    The big thing needed to overturn such nonsense would be prior art; since GUI's have had rollover effects on things like dropdown menus dating back to the original Xerox GUI, you could use it, Windows, MacOs, NextStep, GeOS, and every other major computer UI as prior art examples.

    Hell, the wording is so vague you could probably use how Visicalc handled highlighting selected cells as an example of prior art.

    See what happened when some dipshits went after Red Hat/Novell and an Amiga 1000 came to the rescue.

    http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic....00513121121635
    Absolutely.... It was common practice to use image rollovers when doing any UI development long before this patent saw the light of day. I can't imagine anyone taking this seriously. There's too much prior art.
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  15. #15
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    I'm not a lawyer but I find this fascinating (and sometimes maddening)... On reading the first sentence of the patent's abstract, it appears that they have patented the concept of a website or maybe it's any computer application that has a user interface or maybe they have invented the elusive computer "Operating System"

    An interactive information environment for accessing, controlling, and using information.
    It also seems they describe a hierarchical system of navigation or what I like to call the drop down menu. It's a pretty complex read at first but it sounds like a drop down menu to me.

    Using a computer, available sources of information are accessed, and components are extracted, labeled, and formed into discrete units called contexts. A user selects and rearranges context labels and their associated contents. Contexts are selected and combined into new information structures called alternates, which are combinable with contexts into preferred situations. The preferred situations in turn are combinable with the foregoing components into meta-situations. All components have labels; labels and their associated contents are interchangeably movable and copyable at the levels of these information structures, whether they are located locally or remotely, and the information structures are combinable. While a label is invoked and manipulated, its contents or description is simultaneously displayed.
    I hope that someone with deep pockets takes this through the courts and counter sues for costs so they can bury these trolls.
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard spence_noodle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awasson View Post
    I hope that someone with deep pockets takes this through the courts and counter sues for costs so they can bury these trolls.
    I totally agree as it's quite obvious they are just in it for the money. What gets me is why wait till now.

  17. #17
    SitePoint Wizard TheRedDevil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    Even if their patent does cover rollover images which we use for menus and other means, can they really enforce it?
    It is cases like this and others that show how "screwed" up the American Patent system is.

    The fact alone that you can patent a basic idea like this, is hilarious; and as others has mention there is even worse examples of this.

    On the bright side, the only place these "patents" can be enforced is in US, and even there if it hit the court system it is not certain if it would hold up.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Yeah they probably want to avoid court as the courts could and very likely would find their patent invalid.
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  19. #19
    SitePoint Wizard
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    One way to interpret the clause described on the arstechinica web page would be to say "you mean using an index" and indexes have been around for a rather long time. To then add the words "via a computer" and "via an electronic pointing device" and claim that gives you the right to issue an invoice for a licence quite simply means no-one can do anything with a computer to access information without "breaking" their patent.
    But computers were used to access information before their patent was granted.
    Even clicking on a file name in windows explorer from Win 3.1 would be covered by their patent which came out a while after Win 3.1.

    Let's try ignoring the word index as they do keep refering to computers and electronic pointing devices...

    Unfortunately the mother of all demos shows an electronic pointing device being used to access information about 25 years before their "patent" was issued.
    Give up now, Webvention, you're on a loser.

  20. #20
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr John View Post
    Unfortunately the mother of all demos shows an electronic pointing device being used to access information about 25 years before their "patent" was issued.
    Makes you wonder about the intelligence of whoever was responsible for issuing that patent - perhaps they'll next be issuing a patent for round things that make it easier to move objects across flat surfaces.
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  21. #21
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    Makes you wonder about the intelligence of whoever was responsible for issuing that patent - perhaps they'll next be issuing a patent for round things that make it easier to move objects across flat surfaces.
    Actually that's a very good point.... If patents are going to be granted, the people reviewing patents should at least read the abstract to determine if this is indeed something new and unique.

    Great so you've invented an operating system. Good for you
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    Makes you wonder about the intelligence of whoever was responsible for issuing that patent.
    Look at the wording of this one -- it's sufficiently vague it could mean anything, so you can't check prior art on it until they use the patent against someone -- therein defining it...

    One 'cute' detail of patents, if you keep it completely vague you can interpret it however you like and many companies will give you $$$ to go away instead. For many smaller companies they don't have the deep pockets to drag it through the courts. It's the cornerstone of how patent trolls operate... especially companies who never actually developed anything and just buy up the rights to things TO sue companies for revenue. See "The SCO Group" post-Caldera... sad fate for a company that started out inheriting a legitimate anti-trust suit from... Novell (who inherited it from Digital).

    Part of why I always liked Novell -- they've been around the bend a dozen times with patent trolls and will drag it the whole way through the legal system to squash them.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by deathshadow60 View Post
    See "The SCO Group" post-Caldera... sad fate for a company that started out inheriting a legitimate anti-trust suit from... Novell (who inherited it from Digital).
    I watched that whole thing unfold (via GrokLaw) from the beginning up until some time in 2008 when it became apparent that SCO was legally neutered and financial ruined. I wonder how their investors feel.

    It was a pretty disgusting display of greed and power mongering. They really wanted to anyone ransom for using an operating system that they claimed used their copyrighted code but it was based on a hunch and they wouldn't provide any proof of infringement. Disgusting yet some of the victims actually paid.

    I sure would have like to have been there when the courts declared that SCO didn't own the actual rights to the Unix codebase and that Novell still held them. That would have been a great day
    Andrew Wasson | www.lunadesign.org
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  24. #24
    SitePoint Addict NetNerd85's Avatar
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    Anyone know why Patents even exist? I can find no good reason.
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  25. #25
    Unobtrusively zen silver trophybronze trophy
    paul_wilkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NetNerd85 View Post
    Anyone know why Patents even exist? I can find no good reason.
    Initially it was to declare that you were the one who owns the idea for what you invented, to protect you from others who may try to rip you off.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_patent_law

    Then things got messy.
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