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In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:07 AM EDT

I wanted to share with you a conversation I've been having with a retired EU patent attorney with hands-on experience with the US patent system as well. He was in the pharmaceutical field, where patents are All, of course, and so he presented me with a wonderful opportunity to learn. I asked him if I could please share what I'm learning with you, and he said I could.

I don't know about you, but I find it very hard to compute when the date is that marks the precise year before which we need to find prior art to knock these patents out. And when do the patents expire? So when he sent me an email, expressing some disappointment that a patent infringement lawsuit had been filed against Red Hat and Novell, I saw a chance to learn.

So I asked him those two questions, and according to him, all three expire in December next year, which makes it rather puzzling why they are using them in litigation. He also notes some fine points to add to our knowledge of how this crazy US patent regime works, like what a "terminal disclaimer" is. And I finally know what the probable date is for searching for prior art:

The short answer is that anything technically relevant and effectively dated before March 25, 1987 (Xerox's first application date which is a prima-facie invention date) is probably going to end up citable unless the inventors can antedate it, and anything before 25 March 1986 (the 'statutory bar' date) is definitely going to be citable.

There is, however, a long answer, and there are some fine points that you will find, I hope, as interesting as I did. The most important thing I learned was that prior art that is later than the starting date can in certain circumstances also be useful. Let me show you. It's complex, but hang in there until the end and it's worth it.

[ Update: News just in that the USPTO has rejected Amazon's 1-Click patent almost in its entirety. Amazon has a chance to respond, but it's an amazing story. Prior art was submitted by a guy in New Zealand with a request for reexamination, and it has knocked out most of the claims. 8 claims were knocked out by one article in Newsweek. So tally ho! Don't forget you can view all the patents by going here and looking for Exhibits A-C. ]

Here's the first email I got, in which he expressed sadness about the IP Innovations filing and then shared with me some things he thought would be helpful:

All three involved patents should expire December 10, 2008. This means that it's a bit of a puzzle why such a suit has been brought. Normal patentees would be on the whole unlikely to bring expensive patent infringement lawsuits on the basis of patents which are just about to expire.

That's mainly because the litigation can be expected to last until well after the expiry date. After patent expiry, the patentee can no longer get any injunction to stop further infringing trade, because that has by then become free to the public. The possibility of getting an injunction is normally one of the main incentives, often the biggest incentive, that motivates bringing suit for patent infringement. Once the patent has become history, the patentee is normally better advised to concentrate on other means of maintaining its competitive position.

After expiry, the only real issue left is usually compensation for infringements that took place before expiry. The expected back royalties or damages have to be very large before it can normally make business sense to sue over the historical usage.

I suppose that raises a question here whether this action is really being brought mainly for some ulterior reason, to try and make an example out of the defendants, or to cause them heavy legal expenses, or as some other kind of a demonstration, maybe an attempted softening-up to convince the defendants and the public that they are going to have continuing vulnerability to patent infringement problems for various parts of the GNU/Linux operating system.

I haven't looked at the claims or specifications here at all, nor which specific parts of the system have been targeted with the infringement claims, let alone any prior art. Novell and Red Hat are going to have to spend a lot of money having people do that.

You may possibly find the following informational items of some small use.

US 5072412 was issued December 10 1991. It is an old-law patent so it gets the possibility of a 17-year term counted from issue date, and should be due to expire December 10 2008.

The other two patents seem to be old-law patents too, because of their early (pre-June 1995) filing dates. (In principle they might possibly have lost old-law status due to certain possible events in the examination process, but the time between their filing and issue dates is short enough that such events did not likely happen. It would take inspection of the pre-issue prosecution history record at the USPTO to give the definitive answer.)

It's probably not worth checking the prosecution history just for the issue of old/new-law status, but it will become important for other issues of the scope of claim, and Novell-RedHat will certainly be looking at these details.

I think that the USPTO has not scanned the correspondence of patents as old as 5072412 and the others in this case, to put them on line, although this is happening with newer patent applications now.

The most of the pre-issue record that I can find now on-line for 5072412 and its friends is just a bare list of the dates of the correspondence items, which can be reached by first going to this page and then selecting 'public PAIR' and then the other suitable buttons and the patent number. What opens up is probably the limit of the information currently online, but it does include a semi-automated way of ordering hard copies from the USPTO.

About the expiry dates of the patents: December 10, 2008. The two additional patents depend on the continued existence of 5072412 because there are terminal disclaimers.

5533183 was granted 1996, but it has a terminal disclaimer that makes it expire on the same date as 5072412, i.e. December 10, 2008. 5394521 was granted 1995, and there is a terminal disclaimer there too, this time linked specifically to the date of Dec 10 2008 -- which comes to the same thing as in the other case.

Naturally, I found it encouraging that an injunction is unlikely in this case. That was the only part I was worrying about. I asked when is the killer date, the date we use as a marker to know what qualified as *prior* art, and how do you know when a patent expires? I had the answer on these patents and their expiry dates now because he'd told me, but I'd never be able to figure out how he reached that date or calculate any future patents, unless he explained more fully. So he did:

About patent dates, I'd better concentrate first on the expiry date question immediately relevant to the infringement suit against Novell and Red Hat. There are so many different kinds of dates in connection with patents -- with many of them subject to obscure qualifications and provisos -- that it would take several installments to cover even half of them. (By the way, I listened to the mp3 file on patent dates, referenced on Groklaw. I didn't get to see who the speaker was. While I would agree that the core of what he was saying is correct for the most common case, the format of his talk did mean that he left out provisos and qualifications which can be of dominating importance when -- maybe in the uncommon case -- they do apply. In searching for grounds of patent invalidity, one would certainly be interested in becoming aware of all of the detailed requirements, and searching astutely to see if any are not met!)

Patent expiry dates:

There's an old saying that computer people love standards -- that's why they have so many of them (and keep changing them!). In the same vein, you'd have to say that patent people (mostly the officials that run patent offices) just love date-systems; that's why they have so many of them (and they change, too). This little look is limited to date questions that determine patent expiry.

The law that governs the term of the patents that are in issue in the suit filed against Novell and Red Hat is a transitional provision contained in 35 USC 154(c)(1) (references are to sections of United States Code, Title 35, Patents, abbreviated 35 USC):

"The term of a patent that is in force on or that results from an application filed before the date that is 6 months after the date of the enactment of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act shall be the greater of the 20-year term as provided in subsection (a), or 17 years from grant, subject to any terminal disclaimers."

The effective date of the change referred to so indirectly in that subsection was in fact from and including 8 June 1995: 6 months after the cited act was signed by the President on 8 December 1994. (

In spite of the fact that this is a already a long time ago, there still are plenty of patents around and alive to which the transitional law applies.

The 20-year term provision for patents granted on more recent applications is currently in 35 USC 154(a)(2):

"Subject to the payment of fees under this title, such grant shall be for a term beginning on the date on which the patent issues and ending 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, if the application contains a specific reference to an earlier filed application or applications under section 120, 121, or 365(c) of this title, from the date on which the earliest such application was filed."

So how do these provisions apply to the patents in the suit here?

Let's start with patent number 5,072,412: The best version to look at is really the image of the printed granted patent (especially because, when there are important data about terminal disclaimers -- relevant to the two other patents involved in this suit, the information about them is often missing from the web text version of the patent). (For me, the image was here.)

The date of grant (issue) is given top right as Dec 10, 1991, just under the patent number, and next to index code (45). Following an old-fashioned practice, the label here is "Date of patent". (But this kind of label is perhaps nowadays more confusing than informative, when there are so many different kinds of dates associated with patents.)

The patent was granted on an application with its own number and date: these are found against index codes (21) and (22) further down the left hand column of the front page: No. 30,766, filed Mar 25, 1987.

In this particular patent, no earlier applications are mentioned: they occur in the case of the other patents, mentioned below.

From this information, we can conclude: that both of dates (21) and (45) are before the effective date mentioned in 35 USC 154(c)(1). So this patent gets a term which is the longer of: 20 years from the earliest application date mentioned, or 17 years from grant. Those two alternatives lead to March 25, 2007 and Dec. 10, 2008, so the expiry date will clearly be Dec 10, 2008.

Patent number 5,533,183 presents a more complicated picture: The issue date (45) is July 2, 1996. The application date under code (22) was Feb. 27, 1995. There is also a code (63) on the front page of the patent, containing mention of further patent applications, with dates of 1993, 1991, and 1987. These constitute a chain of patent applications, in which each is a continuation-parent of the next in date. This amounts to a claim of priority (under 35 USC 120), intended to give to the latest application in the chain, i.e. the one filed in February 1995, a benefit of priority, right back to the earliest application mentioned under code (63) -- which happens to be the same as the application on which the first patent in this little series was granted.

(This is not the place to discuss the interesting question of whether these claims of priority actually succeed legally, i.e. are justified by the substantive content of the earlier applications to which references are made. But the effects on the term of the patent are generated by just making the priority claims, irrespective, for this purpose, of whether those priority claims are justified in terms of substantive content or not.)

So, in summary, 5,533,183 was applied for before, but granted after, the effective date for change of patent term in June 1995. 35 USC 154(c)(1) therefore applies to this patent too. The ordinary process of applying that subsection would lead to a conclusion that the patent has the longer of 20 years from the earliest patent application date mentioned (25 March 2007) or 17 years from issue, which would look like July 2, 2013. But there is an extra factor operating here. The issue date is asterisked with reference to a notice that "The term of this patent shall not extend beyond the expiration date of Patent No. 5,072,412."

Terminal Disclaimers

This is called a terminal disclaimer: a disclaimer of every part of the patent right that would otherwise be operative after the date mentioned, and from then to the end of the patent term. The patent effectively expires earlier than the normal statutory date, and instead its life ends on the date specified by the terminal disclaimer. Why did the patent holder make a terminal disclaimer? The pre-grant correspondence will reveal the reason, but normally it is done to overcome a 'double-patenting' rejection. This is not the place to go into the legal basis of double-patenting rejections, or the reasons why the applicant filed claims that were not inventively distinct from each other, in two separate applications. But the effect of the disclaimer is that for practically every purpose (except the charging of official fees!) the two patents operate as if they were one, with a single expiry date and a single owner.

There could have been in principle yet another factor operating to affect the term of this patent. If in the period between June 1995 and the issue of the patent, the pre-grant process had included the filing of a 'continued prosecution (continuation) application' (CPA) or 'request for continued examination' (RCE), then the old-law status would have been lost, and the term would have been determined only by 35 USC 154(a)(2) -- subject, as always, to any terminal disclaimers. In that case, the patent would already have expired, on March 25, 2007.

The only way to find out if any such events happened between June 1995 and the grant of the patent is to look at the patent office record. A bare list of dates is to be found online. Go here, select the button for 'patent' and the patent number, and hit 'search'. Under 'transaction history' you see the dates and brief indication of the nature of the exchanges between examiner and applicant. There is nothing there in the nature of a CPA, RCE, or other kind of continuation application filed subsequently to June 1995. So it looks as if the old-law status was not lost.

The other patent 5394521: shows a history much like that of patent 5,533,183 in respect of its patent expiry position. There is a terminal disclaimer here too, it is drafted differently to refer directly to the date of Dec 10, 2008.

Being a simple soul, I then asked, so what is the killer date for prior art searching? And he elaborated:

'Killer' dates:

The short answer is that anything technically relevant and effectively dated before March 25, 1987 (Xerox's first application date which is a prima-facie invention date) is probably going to end up citable unless the inventors can antedate it, and anything before 25 March 1986 (the 'statutory bar' date) is definitely going to be citable.

See further details below.

The later two patents have continuation claims, for backdating, but one of them appears only to try to backdate to 1991. So the prima-facie and statutory bar dates there would be 9 Dec 1991 and 9 Dec 1990, unless the record proves that this was only a printing error by the patent office. Again, see below.

Also, if it turns out that there is anything wrong with the priority claims for either of the two later patents, then later prior art would become citable for whichever of those cases is affected.

I think you will able to see from the categories mentioned below, that it is possible to overlook really vital opportunities if one restricts one's attention only to events before the 'definitely citable' 'statutory bar' date, which is what is often done.

Normally, only the earlier of the two dates I have mentioned would be quoted, on the basis of making common assumptions. This masks potentially important facts, e.g. the assumptions may or may not be justified in the given case, and if they are not, then it likely opens up a real achilles heel on the validity questions.

Taking them patent by patent:

First patent 5072412: Earliest application date: 25 March 1987.

That means several things as regards potential prior art:

First, any art before 1987/3/25, the prima-facie invention date, which is the application date itself, is potentially a killer, insofar as the inventors fail to prove an earlier date of invention than that. Under the heading 35 USC 102(a), anything "known or used by others in this country (USA), or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent" is citable. Unless and until the inventors prove otherwise, the application date itself is treated as date of invention, so anything before _25 March 1987_ would be citable as prior art under this heading, unless and until the inventors prove that they antedated it.

Also citable as art in the same way (but with more probable difficulty in practice) would be any "invention made in this country (US) by another inventor who had not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed it" i.e. before 25 March 1987 or before the Xerox inventors' earlier date of invention if they can prove one. (Ref.: 35 USC 102(g)).

Some people take the view that inventors can always prove invention a whole year before they filed. Clearly this can't be generally true.

But if we take the pessimistic view, and suppose they can antedate by a whole year in this case: then, under the next heading, we look for anything that has been (35 USC102(b)) "patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country (US), more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States", i.e. anything in those categories before _25 March 1986_ would be citable as art, and then it doesn't matter what date of invention the inventors can or can't prove. That is why patent people often talk of a 'statutory bar', and a 'killer date'.

Note that 'printed publication' is a broader category than it initially looks to be. Its scope has been investigated by a number of appeal decisions, and it is certainly worth trying to bring up under this heading (for example) anything that can definitely be shown to have been distributed over the internet before a relevant date.

Additionally, if it turns out that certain kinds of patent documents contained relevant description, they would still be citable as art too, even if they were published later and/or missed by the patent office in its searches,:

  • somebody else's earlier-filed US application for patent, i.e. something filed in the US before 25 March 1987 (or, if the [Xerox] applicants manage to prove an earlier date of invention than that, filed before whatever their invention date proves to be). As long as that other person's application gets as far as being officially published in the US under section 122(b) (USPTO online publications) or granted as a (possibly later) patent, even if it's not actually published until later, it is citable. (Reference 35 USC 102(e)).

  • (but somebody else's US patent granted on an earlier- filed international application is excepted if it didn't reach the USPTO under 35 USC 371 before 25 March 1987 or earlier Xerox invention date if proved). (Reference 35 USC 102(e) as it used to be in force at the time relevant to these particular patents).

Second patent: 5,394,521: This was filed on May 6, 1993 (application 58,360) with a continuation claim to an application filed on Dec. 9, 1991 (application 805,343) and no other priority claim noted. That makes it look as if the prima-facie invention date was 9 Dec. 1991 and the statutory bar date 9 Dec. 1990. All that has been said above applies, but with relation to these two dates instead.

But, it does look as if we may possibly have here a printing error by the patent office, because the details on patent number 5,533,183 tell us that 805,343 was actually a continuation (division) of the 25 March 1987 application.

The details of the pre-grant correspondence on file under 5394521 at the patent office will show the true answer. If there has been a printing error and the priority claims should have been recorded as going further back, the same prima-facie invention date of March 25 1987 and statutory bar date of March 25, 1986 would apply as in the other cases.

If it turns out that any of the priority claims are not justified (because a relevant claim granted in the patent was inadequately described in one or more of the intremediate priority application documents), then the claim would only be awarded a later effective date, and later prior art would become citable against it.

Third patent 5,533,183: This was filed Feb. 27, 1995 (application 395,858) with a chain of priority claims with dates (58360) May 6, 1993, (805343) Dec. 9, 1991, and (30766) March 25, 1987.

So it looks as if the prima-facie invention date and the statutory bar date are the same as above, March 25, 1987 and March 25, 1986.

Again, if it turns out that any of the priority claims are not justified (because a relevant claim granted in the patent was inadequately described in one or more of the priority application documents) then the claim would only be awarded a later effective date, and later prior art would become citable against it.

As you see, it is way more complex than you and I thought. And even he sent a follow up message:

One reason for being fussy about not overlooking possible additional vulnerabilities of the later-granted patents in a series to later prior art than their nominal priority claims would indicate is the pattern of tactics that can lead to such later-granted patents arising in the first place.

If the applicant has had a fight with the examiner, then he will often take the grant of some claims, possibly narrow ones, as soon as the examiner offers - just so he ends up with at least something. But he develops worries that these claims may be so narrow that they can be easily designed around. So what he persists with, in his continuation applications, are likely to be claims that cover the ground that he is really worried about and which he fears was not effectively covered by the first patent to be granted. He does not worry overmuch that the examiner demands a terminal disclaimer, because his claims last the normal patent lifetime anyway (and for cases filed since 1995 terminal disclaimers often don't affect the lifetime at all).

But the claims in the later-granted patents can be affected by slightly more subtle causes of invalidity which might not have applied if the claims had been included in the first patent to issue. For example, the wording of the claim may have been 'developed' in a way that arguably is not supported by the initial application. In that case, it can possibly be proved to end up with a comparatively late date, in spite of the attempted priority claim, and be invalidated by late-dating prior art that can't touch the original application.

If the defendant's activities may be more vulnerable to the later-granted patents than to the earlier, it is specially important not to overlook art that is only arguably citable against the later-granted patents.

So, I am relying on you brainiacs to extrapolate from all this. And we have now a point in time to use for prior art searching in this case, subject to some further research on the second patent. But as he points out, if any of the priority claims are not justified, later prior art is useful too, so just provide anything at all that you know about. And if you have follow up questions, post them and I'll try to get answers for us. And if you want to review the prior art possibilities others have posted already, you'll find them here and here.


In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates? | 483 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections thread
Authored by: lannet on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:15 AM EDT
Please include summary in heading

When you want a computer system that works, just choose Linux.
When you want a computer system that works, just, choose Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT thread
Authored by: lannet on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:16 AM EDT
Please include clickable links if relevant

When you want a computer system that works, just choose Linux.
When you want a computer system that works, just, choose Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspick thread
Authored by: lannet on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:17 AM EDT
Please keep them on topic to the off topic

When you want a computer system that works, just choose Linux.
When you want a computer system that works, just, choose Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

a lesson in patents
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:44 AM EDT
This was very valuable information.

It helps me sort of understand the patent system and the priority of claims.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 02:19 AM EDT
Sorry. It's a 'shell game'.

The idea should be to make Acacia pay all the money for research; and then give
them the code from SuSE and RedHat Linux so they can remove (in the USA
distribution) that which they object to. The rest of the world can have it.

Novell and RedHat shouldn't need to spend anything more than 'passive
observation' on this piece of pointless commercial harrassment.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 02:26 AM EDT
Perhaps I should explain a bit more.

Suppose Coke start handing out '2-for-the-price-of-1' vouchers. It will benefit
Pepsi if Pepsi can get Coke stopped from doing it.

This is Microsoft using the patent system to try to stop RedHat and Novell from
distributing their marketing material.

A system which allows that to happen is corrupt.

[ Reply to This | # ]

no need to worry...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:22 AM EDT
Naturally, I found it encouraging that
an injunction is unlikely in this case.
That was the only part I was worrying

No need to worry. The effect would be to
remove workspaces from KDE and GNOME
for about one year. After which, they may
even realize that it is better to have
workspaces not by default but as an option.
As they are in Windows and OSX.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Probably no conspiracy, just a patent troll
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:23 AM EDT

Normal patentees would be on the whole unlikely to bring expensive patent infringement lawsuits on the basis of patents which are just about to expire.

The suggestion is that the lawsuit is not being brought for legitimate business reasons, but to smear GNU/Linux. Of course, that might be true.

But the company filing it is a patent troll; it doesn't produce anything, its business is collecting money on patents. So it wouldn't be interested in injunctions, only in damages and fees. Under current law, patent trolling is a legitimate business, unfortunately.

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ... please, an article covering the UK Court of Appeal rulings against SW Patents! Copyright!
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:41 AM EDT

J- Do you cover international law? The prime example that would be interesting in the form of an article is the value of the two rulings of the UK court of appeal with one looking at software and protection of it in patent form, the other looking at copyright protection for software programs.



The three judges of the UK Court of Appeal have ruled decisively that patents on pure computer programs may not be granted in the UK.


General ideas and structures behind computer games and programs can be copied as long as the source code and graphics are not, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Note that...

Sandra Day O'Connor, said in a retirement tour talk in front of a meeting, that was up on C-SPAN for a while, that the US Supreme Court must, due to many international treaties that the US has become involved in, ... that the court must look outside the US law at the laws of other countries, in some cases, as trade treaties and such might have overlapping affect. How would the UK rulings affect those outside of the UK, over the long term?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Inventors' own publication
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:50 AM EDT
I posted some comments about the inventors' 1986 ACM publication in this thread.

The 1986 ACM article wasn't cited by the examiner, so I was speculating whether maybe the inventors' had failed to disclose the document as part of their duty of disclosure. If so, then I'm assuming this might affect the validity of the earlier patent, and possibly allow the ACM article to be used as prior art against it. I'm aware of the grace period, but I was also wondering whether the duty of disclosure is a totally separate consideration.

The ACM article itself referred to a number of other earlier examples of virtual workspaces - it seems to me that they would be useful as prior art and they would certainly pre-date the patent. (Unfortunately, the ACM article seems to require a password now.)

I also referred to another 1986 publication which expressly refers to Card and Henderson's 1986 ACM publication. This document has 4 authors, of which only one, Card, is an inventor on the 1987 patent. Can anyone comment on whether this publication would be excluded as part of the grace period, or whether, because it has authors other than the inventor, it could be used as prior art? If it can be used as prior art, is the content of the inventors' ACM article incorporated by reference into this publication by virtue of the fact that it explicitly refers to it?


[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: LionKuntz on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:01 AM EDT
One year earlier than mar 25, 1987, just like I said in previous postings.

I've started a process of examination of these patent claims and invention(s).
The work-in-progress is on a wiki I own, which is not open for public editing,
but is open for public reading. That's a subdomain
name for brevity, or the full URL is:

The reason I am using the wiki I own is because I can make notes and add links
as I see fit. The wiki already has been in use tracking nearly 2,000 patents on
prior art already, so a few more is hardly any strain on the system resources.

Putting the USPTO data up I immediately found some interesting facts.

Initially the number of prior art citations were few. There wasn't much prior
art in the patent archives to cite.

The '412 patent had 19 prior art citations.
The '163 patent had 8 prior art citations.
The '521 patent had 6 prior art citations.

5233687 This is a division of application Ser. No. 07/030,766 filed Mar. 25,
1987 now U.S. Pat. No. 5072412.

The '687 patent had 6 prior art citations.

I haven't sifted these yet to determine overlaps, citations cited by more than
one patent.

That's the sparcity of the prior art patents in 1987. Since then these patents
are cited (referenced by as prior art) in newer patents.

Results of Search in US Patent Collection db for:
REF/5072412: 259 patents.

Results of Search in US Patent Collection db for: REF/5533183: 25 patents.

Results of Search in US Patent Collection db for: REF/5394521: 84 patents.

Results of Search in US Patent Collection db for: REF/5233687: 62 patents.

Again I haven't sifted for duplicates in the lists. 259 citations is generally
an extra-ordinary number. To the extent that this '412 patent falls due to prior
art it can have an impact downstream on a large number of later patents, as the
prior art found may well include some of the variations of the theme developed
over time.

[The state of affairs today is represented by the wiki. I am in the process of
doing a prior art search on the 100-mpg-car with V2G capability. There's 1984
pages on the wiki so far and no end in sight.]

I've had time to give some thought to this lawsuit.

In the mid 1980s there was a great divide between the "real computer"
guys on mainframes and networks, and the microcomputer crowd looked down on as
game machines. The Xerox workstations sold upwards to $100,000 with all the
peripherals. The people writing up this patent might genuinely not even thought
of microcomputers as computers, or the stuff that ran on micros as

However, reading the patents I see that the concepts and techniques
"patented" here were on sale, in use, in commerce, on microcomputers
which I used in the mid 1980s.

Game machines often were not real computers, in the sense that they had ROM code
hard burned and immutable, and were not programmable once they left the factory.
Arcade games, in the original sense of Atari machines that stood in their own
kiosk box in arcades and taverns had software however, even if it was burned
into chips.

In the 1980s the Vic-20 came with 16 kilobytes of RAM, of which the OS used 8
and the user had 8 left over. The Apple I came with 16 kbytes, the C-64 with 64K
and the infamous IBM-PC with Microsoft Cassette-Basic came equipped with 48K.

It was far more necessary to use multiple workspaces in small machines. Perhaps
that's where Xerox got the idea, although they don't cite it in their
disclosures lists. Game machines that had limited RAM and used plug-in ROM
cartridges, or serial tape-recorders for program code and data storage needed
every trick in the book. The pressure was greater at the bottom of the market
than at the top. Xerox subsidized their computer division, but for the micros it
was dog-eat-dog, sink or swim. The market was also bigger at the bottom -- in
it's peak year Commodore made a billion dollars of sales, something which Xerox
computers never came close to. The number of very agile and creative programmers
serving the market bottom was much larger than serving the top of the market. By
necessity, if you wanted programs on your micro you typed them in from
magazines, and uncountable hordes learned BASIC programming and more than a few
learned assembly language doing that.

It can be shown from old programs and old code and old books and magazines that
Xerox was far behind the state of the art by 1987, and everything in their
patent was implement in Dan Silva's Deluxe Paint by 1985 and Aegis Animator also
in 1985.

The more the merrier, as there is more than a whiff of taint about this Texan
nest of rattlesnakes that gives the highway robbers everything they want. It's
said that "you don't use a cannon to swat a fly", but when you do use
a cannon that fly never gets up again. Since it's so easy to find prior art in
great volumes, I'd prefer that from the get-go.

I'd like the highway robbers and their tame sheriff to get the message that
there's a steep price to pay for shaking down this stagecoach.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Patent online at
Authored by: thorpie on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:21 AM EDT

need to register but it is free

The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime - Floyd, Pink

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:40 AM EDT
Could the Commodore Amiga possibly have something that is prior art? It was
around in 1996, and had multiple screens that could be pulled down and were
viewable at the same time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Citing UNAVAILABLE prior art?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 05:35 AM EDT
I remember using "Rooms", and talked about it a little above in the
"Rooms?" "Doors?" OT thread.

After googling around, the very interesting Chan reference with a 1984 date
popped up. It uses the term "Room", and might easily have directly
motivated the Xerox invention. In fact, once the metaphor was known, the
invention might have been obvious.

I can't find this Chan paper online, so I can't guess.

Did the patent examiner have access to this document?

Is it routine (or required) for a patent application to include copies of all
disclosed references?

If a reference is not included, and is not immediately available to the
examiner, how can the Patent Office claim that the patent is of high quality?

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Screen manager for data processing system" filed 1984-09-27
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 06:39 AM EDT
This patent seems to have a much broader scope than the one from IP Innovation, and it clearly deals with multiple virtual displays controlled by a screen manager: "In a multi-tasking data processing system, each task may request that the operating system set up descriptor blocks which identify virtual screens for display of data on the video display. Under keyboard control, only one virtual screen is selected for display at a given time. The operating system reserves a portion of the video display for displaying identifiers of the virtual screens which have been established but which are held in background." Well, I am no expert on this field, of course, but imho this makes that other patent look like a mere subset. And I guess much more precendents could be found. For instance, hasn't there been at least one intelligent terminal in the late 70s/beginning of the 80s that supported switching between virtual screens? I'm sure something will turn up...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Early windowing systems - may prompt memories
Authored by: atheist on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 06:51 AM EDT

TECO was capable of split screen. It's nice to see that both EMACS and VI had a common ancestor.

Grotwin allowed two or more sessions, though terminal apps like chat destroyed it's windows.

I once had a PC where the default date on POST from the BIOS was 01/01/1975

And also used the PC3270 as both PC and terminal. There were no serious attempts at windowing on block mode terminals.

With the early PCs it was possible to hook up two monitors, as the memory ranges used by the monochrome and colour monitors did not overlap, nor did "half page" hercules conflict. This was popular with Autocad, FlightSimulator and Windows debugging.

Why I mention this here is that I am trying to remember a sidekick like organiser that knew how to keep it's calendar on both screens. Despite using it for a year, I'm only stabbing in the dark that it had a name like Celisium and came from a shareware compilation CD.

When it comes to text mode windows that could be moved around, Foxpro is what I used most frequently.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Investigate XEROX Star Systems
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 07:19 AM EDT
The XEROX Star systems ran a desk to GUI interface prior to either of those
dates. We used Ventura publisher on that platform in 1983 for documenting our
work at Burroughs ASG in Rancho Bernardo Ca. The OS was a custom OS from XEROX.
I also recall our having an Apple Lisa around the 1984 time frame which also had
the elements described in this patent. Both platforms ran multiple applications
in a multitasking environment.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Btw - "US Patent Office decimates Amazon's 1-Click Patent" :D
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:08 AM EDT
"Most of the claims in Amazon's controversial patent for shopping with a single mouse click have been rejected by the US Patent Office. It follows a campaign by a New Zealander who filed evidence of prior art with funding from readers of his blog." Hehehe, good news! :D

[ Reply to This | # ]

In the early 80's
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:13 AM EDT
I was working in Germany, and we received our first pcs. We were using GEMOS. It
seemed to me to have some of these features.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Let's Ditch Patents and Actually Innovate!
Authored by: Simon G Best on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:22 AM EDT

Let's ditch patents and actually innovate.

Patents are an old, increasingly out-dated system. What we need are new, innovative ways of fostering innovation. But, it would seem, the patent establishment is somewhat opposed to such innovation. Rather than develop new, improved ways of fostering innovation, they'd rather stick with the old, increasingly failing patent system.

Not only that, but they often give innovation as the excuse for keeping that old patent system! It's just so hypocritical. They tout innovation as the reason for keeping the patent system, when what they're doing is opposing innovation in how innovation itself is fostered. They want innovation - which they then profit from by selling their various patent services - but not when it comes to the patent system itself.

We need real innovation in how we foster innovation itself. As is well known, the patent system is increasingly failing, and an increasingly poor fit for modern technology and the like. How we develop, produce and distribute innovations has moved on from how it was when modern patenting was first developed. We're now using an old, industrial age system in an increasingly post-industrial world. It's like having road traffic laws based on everyone travelling by foot, on horse-back, or in horse-drawn carriages of various kinds, in an age when most people travel around in automobiles and the like.

Let's make a start by freeing society from the patent system. Let's do away with patents, and let people freely invent and develop their own ways of fostering innovation. Let's do away with the old, statist, one-size-fits-all approach that the patent system represents, and allow people to develop their own solutions instead.

Let's actually innovate!

"Public relations" is a public relations term for propaganda.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Now that we have a timeframe - the rest is history ;)
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:22 AM EDT

GEM with careful note that GEM first shipped as GEM/1 on 28 February 1985.

The Amiga Story: Conceived at Atari, Born at Commodore

Commodore was apparently unfazed by the Atari ST and released the Amiga in Lincoln Center on July 11, 1985.

hope it helps


[ Reply to This | # ]

So what's infringing?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:27 AM EDT
So I've read the patents. What exactly in RH Linux is alleged to be infringing?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Some more prior art
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:27 AM EDT
I remember working on several products with windowing capabilty. Quarterdeck had a product called Desqview that ran on DOS.
GEOS for the comodore 64 was released in 1986 had gui windows. GEOS
GEN was another in the 80's GEM

[ Reply to This | # ]

On a Z-80 based computer sold by Radio Shack a Model 4 running TRSDOS used windows
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:35 AM EDT
A magazine called 80 MICRO published the source code to a window-ing interface.
You had to have the 128 Kilo-byte memory upgrade, and a assembly compiler.
I did compile the program and enjoyed the novelty.
80 Micro was closed when Windows sales moved the industry to a IBM compatible
Tandy suspended sales of a Z-80 based computer.

The windows name was not a microsoft innovation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hertzfeld's Switcher from 1985
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 10:13 AM EDT
The user can organize a collection of tools such as windows or other display
objects into groups, with the tools of each group being linked to a respective
workspace so that they are displayed when it is. A display system object can be
linked to more than one workspace, to provide a respective tool in each of those
workspaces. If the user provides signals causing a switch from one of those
workspaces to another, the respective tools share features so that the user
perceives them as the same tool, and the state of the display system object
maintains continuity.

Andy Hertzfeld's Switcher was doing something quite similar in 1985. When it
switched between workspaces, each of which ran one main application, it
maintained the Apple (leftmost) menu so that "the user perceives them as
the same ...". Desk accessories (which are obviously "tools" even
if the apple menu isn't) could be opened in each workspace. But I don't recall
offhand if each workspace would open its desk accessories independently or
whether a desk accessory opened in one workspace would also be open at the same
location on the screen in the other workspaces. Does anyone recall?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Time to campaign - The I agree No IP campaign
Authored by: thorpie on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 10:36 AM EDT

I agree No IP

A T-Shirt/Logo at

If you can do better or improve please please do

It is coming up to elections, time to start letting people know it is an issue

The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime - Floyd, Pink

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is This THE FINAL Solution ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 10:44 AM EDT
Since software patents do not have standing in the the UK and the E.U.; here's
the FINAL SOLUTION, that the FOSS/FLOSS "community" could (will?)
carry out. Let's call it "FREE OPEN WEB"!

a) Develop a package of FOSS/FLOSS software that sits on servers in the UK or
the EU or some little island somewhere outside the USA. Yup... I am talking
about Free Open Source software (similar in style to Google Docs, so-called Web
2 or Web 3 or whatever.)

b) At the same time, all the servers in the UK, E.U. small little island would
be running GNU/Linux. And at the same time provide storage for all the documents
being created.

c) Essentially, all the USERS around the world, would just need a terminal to
work on - just like the "good old" days.

If I remember correctly, some spies working in a corner of my office in Toronto
(it's a long story), just had a key board hooked up via a telephone line to a
mainframe in Montreal! So any old junky computer could be running some marginal
set of instructions in order to hook up to the"FREE OPEN WEB" via the

Bye bye patent trolls .... bye bye M$.

Imagine, at the same time, saving millions of tons of toxic computer hardware
waste from being dumped in Africa.

[ Reply to This | # ]

screen - screen manager with VT100/ANSI terminal emulation
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 10:57 AM EDT
The ubiquitous *nix program "screen" seems to implement the same
functionality as the patents in question. It has a long history (more than 20
years!) as the snippet from the "man" page, reproduced below, shows:

Originally created by Oliver Laumann, this latest version was produced by
Wayne Davison, Juergen Weigert and Michael

Copyright (C) 1993-2003
Juergen Weigert (
Michael Schroeder (
Copyright (C) 1987 Oliver Laumann

[ Reply to This | # ]

PC Tools Virtual Desktop?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:01 AM EDT
How far back does PC Tools by Central Point Software go? IIRC they had virtual
desktops on Windows by the early 90's at least.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Motives, Conspiracies and Microsoft Strategies
Authored by: ox on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:02 AM EDT
Microsoft has an enormous litigation overhead. They spend large sums buying out
and also submitting patents as a part of their business model. I think it is one
of the reasons they insist on closed source software. Truth be known they are
probably infringing all over the place.

What better than to foist this humongous litigation burden on the FOSS community
by having it go through the fire and trial of effort and expense of testing the
patents that they would like to use or are already infringing?

Is my tin foil hat on correctly?

Linux Reg.#199890

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why to use old patents that will expire soon?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:04 AM EDT
"all three expire in December next year, which makes it rather puzzling why
they are using them in litigation"

But that is a great reason to use them, when they use them, they lose them to
prior art, due to many open source eyes and their own knowledge of a
"bad" patent that should not have been granted. It remains to be seen
what effect this will have on RH and Novell.

I think the gloves should come off against MS for this, and injunctions against
MS for Vista infringment started by anyone holding an open source
"friendly" patent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prior art on Qunix
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:29 AM EDT
Yes back in 1984 network operating system QNX was called QUNIX ( Quantum
Software Systems, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) . If I remember correctly their
operating system supported multiple terminal sessions (7 I think)on the PC. So
running a networked application like SOFTPLAN(Softpak Inc. Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada) spreadsheet (July 1985) that could communicate with any number of
processes on the network you were able to get multiple views of any data on any
number of screens at the same. In addition I think that in later versions,
1986, of the spreadsheet you could specify how much of the terminal realastate
via a curses like approch it used.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:31 AM EDT
So, can someone dumb this down for non-geeks? Is the issue the virtual desktop,
multitasking for something else? What exactly are the patents actually

Re: Multiple desktop display-

"Virtual desktop managers are available for most graphical user interface
operating systems and offer various features, such as placing different
wallpapers for each virtual desktop and use of hotkeys or other convenient
methods to allow the user to switch amongst the different screens."

"The first platform to implement multiple desktop display as a hardware
feature was Amiga 1000 in 1985."

"DESQview was released in July 1985, four months before Microsoft
introduced the first version of Windows. It was widely thought to be the first
program to bring multitasking and windowing capabilities to DOS, but in fact
there was a predecessor, IBM's failed TopView, released in 1984"


[ Reply to This | # ]

And lets not forget the SCREEN command....
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:36 AM EDT
Way back when on my first computer back in 1980-81... a Tandy TRS-80 Color
Computer.. with Tandy's Extended Color Basic, where you could show one screen
while drawing on another, then switch back and forth between them to perform
That would pretty much be the definition of multiple workspaces wouldn't it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bit of a Puzzle - tin hat time - In which I get a lesson in patents -- how...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:53 AM EDT
If an experience patent attorney is puzzled why a suit is bought so soon before
a patent expires, when litigation is expensive, brings into clearer focus the
possiblity there may be a Microsoft connection, dispite their disclaimer they
are not party to the suit. Of course they are not directly party, but I have to
give PJ's suspicions regarding this suit and the connection to Microsoft much
greater weight.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why they are using these patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 12:31 PM EDT
Probably because, with only a year to go, it's "use them or lose
them". Indeed one sees little benefit if one looks at the patents as
commercial assets. It makes a lot more sense if you look at them as strategic
weapons, to make an example of someone so that others will believe they should
stay away from FOSS because the patents gonna get ya if you

I think we need some new, less savage rules of engagement for IP firefights.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: OutRiders on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 01:18 PM EDT
For those of you not familiar with it, there is a museum that contains (often
working models) of the computers being discussed. <a
href="">Link to Digibarn</a>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Possible prior art
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 02:30 PM EDT

As I follow this discussion about prior art, I am persuaded that the the discussion of graphics is not the point. It seems like the whole idea of the Patents is to display something on the screen with multiple views. To me graphics is not the critical element.

Given that, the idea of displaying the same information on multiple screens, virtual or physical, could also be text. This has been around since (at least) the 1960s! It was around in mainframes and minis.

To me the seminal event describing such a capability was the presentation of Douglas Engelbart's December 9, 1968 demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference Convention Center in San Francisco. This is available on line to anyone:

Google streaming video of 1968 Demo

In this presentation, he demonstrates a display where a co-worker 20 miles away sees the same screen. In other words, two people are sharing the same visual object. Now this doesn't show that different views are being used, but it does not take a great stretch of innovation to render the same object using different views. Indeed, as others have pointed out, the Xerox Star had that capability. See Wikipedia's Xerox Star entry.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Borrow a page from SCO's playbook
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 02:42 PM EDT
Delay, delay, delay?

[ Reply to This | # ]

From whom did Acacia acquire these patents?
Authored by: jjock on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:10 PM EDT
Knowing that Acacia is just a patent troll, and being suspicious
of who the previous owners of these patents might be, would it
be possible to trace how Acacia was able to acquire these
patents. It would also be interesting to find out who
was "astute" enough to show them how these processes in
question infringed on their patents.
My reasoning here, is that there has to be some kind of paper
trail leading up to this lawsuit, and that Red Hat would or should
be very interested in learning how Acacia dug this needle out of
the hay stack.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Concurrent CPM
Authored by: Amstel8 on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:14 PM EDT
I know that Concurrent CP/M had multiple windows. You could move between the
windows by use of the keyboard.
The code for this stuff is at Looking at the
first source (file bobs.asm) then the date in the files is 1981. There are
plenty of dates in the files all about 1981. Later versions of CCPM are 1983.
This was a product that was commercially available.
For the time it was not a bad product either!

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 03:58 PM EDT
It seems as if there is some real question as to what Acacia (IP Whatever Limited) is suing over. It may be something absolutely trivial and not even in the standard supported distribution of Red Hat or Novell. Unless Acacia becomes a lot more specific, I can see Red Hat's and Novell's first defense as being "failure to state a claim".

As to why Acacia would sue over something that would expire long before the case would end up in court is likely because they don't actually intend to pursue it to that point. The fact that the patent will expire soon anyway means that there is no real risk to them if the patent is invalidated (since it worth very little at this point anyway).

You should have noticed that Red Hat and Novell have been telling everyone who will listen that unlike MS-Windows there have been no patent lawsuits against Linux. These statements have been used to counter the Microsoft "235 patents" FUD. Now there *is* an ongoing lawsuit, so Red Hat and Novell can't use this argument anymore. It's perfect counter-counter-FUD material for Microsoft.

Microsoft and Acacia may have a secret agreement to pursue this case just for the PR benefits to Microsoft (rather like the deal between Microsoft and SCO). At this early stage, the cost to Acacia can be minimal. If they drag out the proceedings and then drop the law suit once the patent expires, then they can pursue another SCO type action at little cost. Since they are pure patent trolls, they run no risk of destroying their own business by driving away customers in the process.

I think this also shows that Red Hat was right to refuse a Novell style patent deal with Microsoft. Novell did the deal and they are under attack anyway, with no protection to their customers either.

We can expect these sorts of things to continue in future. What I think would be a useful idea would be to keep track of the "players" in these games. The names and histories of any and all patent trolls who launch attacks on free software, together with their investors, managers, consultants, and lawyers should be tracked so we can see if the same names show up again in future. These people shouldn't be allowed to pop out of nowhere and think they can just disappear and be forgotten again afterwards. People who do this sort of thing once are likely to be repeat offenders and need watching.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Solaris Openwindows
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:18 PM EDT

OpenWindows 1.0 was released in 1989 as a separately licensed addition to SunOS
4.0,[1] replacing the older SunView (originally "SunTools") windowing
system. Its core was the "xnews server", a hybrid window server that
as its name implies supported both X11 and NeWS-based applications. The server
could also display legacy SunView applications, although this functionality was
not well-supported. (A standalone NeWS windowing system was also available for a
time, but was never the primary SunOS windowing environment.) Starting with
SunOS 4.1.1, OpenWindows 2.0 was bundled with the operating system.

Virtual Desktop showing multiple panes is in the top left:

Drag and drop and cut and paste where all supported.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another possible prior art source...
Authored by: Marc Mengel on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:26 PM EDT
Would appear to be the Xerox workstation 4404... From this old usenet article from July of 1985:

"They've done some nice things to the Smalltalk system. Little things like being able to get at the contents of a Workspace from another workspace..."

Does anybody out Silicon Valley way know the folks at the DigiBarn to see if they have the docs or even a running system to see if it meets the terms of the patent?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Desktop Patents ?
Authored by: pgmer6809 on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 04:34 PM EDT
It seems to me that the Open Desktop had multi workspaces way back when. The
Open Desktop may have been supported by Xerox or one of their successors in
Even if there is no prior art, could the patent be invalidated on the grounds
that it is a 'submarine' patent designed to sabotage a standards effort? I am
thinking of the RAMBUS case here.
Or perhaps given that it is part of a 'standard' certain RAND (Reasonable And
Non Discriminatory) terms could apply. Again thinking of the RAMBUS case.
IANAL etc.

[ Reply to This | # ]

VT sessions -> logical leap to multi window GUI?
Authored by: Wardo on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 05:38 PM EDT
I recall working on a Zenix system when I was in the Army in the early 90s. We
had 8 virtual terminals to work with on those systems. They were text based,
but could be configured to be multiple workspaces on the same video screen, by
designating which screen and how many lines were allocated to that terminal

Not sure the actual software package that provided this service, and I'm not
sure where to look for the details. I would be surprised if it wasn't
technology from long before I enlisted, since my home (barracks) PC was probably
3x as fast and had more RAM...

Regardless of the textual nature, would that be a logical leap to do once GUIs
were introduced? We had text consoles that became GUIs. We had multiple text
consoles that became multiple GUIs... I think the term is "someone
possessed of the normal knowledge in the field" or something to that

As to the reuse of graphical resources or other specific parts of the patent, I
don't think they are anything new in programming. Reuse of other data
structures happens all the time, or happened more back when memory was costlier.
What's so original about the patent from the start?

I'm definately in the camp of "oh, you're doing on a computer what you do
with real things, that's nothing new...". Your desk is organized for desk
related things, it has your calendar, address book and a notepad. The cooking
stuff is in the kitchen, unless you are eating at your desk of course. Normal
logical separation of things is something most humans do.

At an extreme, while remaining in computer science, prior art would be separate
volumes or directories for separate tasks. Adapting this organization method to
a GUI sounds like a logical conclusion (in hindsight unfortuantely).


caveat lector...
Wardo = new user(lawyer = FALSE,badTypist = TRUE,badSpeller = TRUE);

[ Reply to This | # ]

In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: lyttlec on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:09 PM EDT
INAL, but here are a couple of ideas for prior art searching :

* A.C. Clark was refused a patent on geostationary satellites because he
published an SF story using the idea more that a year before the application. A
Newsweek article was prior art in the Amazon case. Look everywhere. which means
we probably need to rent "Wargames."

*Look in old publications. Most computer science was developed in the 40's
through 70's. Just because it may have used tty instead of LCD displays doesn't

*Another poster mentioned an Army system that might have used technology that
qualifies. I'm sure I've seen something very similar in old Air Traffic Control
systems, civilian and military radar systems, and in NASA tracking stations. If
anyone can dig up info on them, it may help.

* I would also like to suggest not limiting searches to modern timeINAL, but
here are a couple of ideas for prior art searching :

* A.C. Clark was refused a patent on geostationary satellites because he
published an SF story using the idea more that a year before the application. A
Newsweek article was prior art in the Amazon case. Look everywhere. which means
we probably need to rent "Wargames."

*Look in old publications. Most computer science was developed in the 40's
through 70's. Just because it may have used tty instead of LCD displays doesn't

*Another poster mentioned an Army system that might have used technology that
qualifies. I'm sure I've seen something very similar in old Air Traffic Control
systems, civilian and military radar systems, and in NASA tracking stations. If
anyone can dig up info on them, it may help.

* I would also suggest not limiting searches to modern times. The felt tipped
pen was invented, for example, about 3000 years ago in China, but it got a
patent.. Someone might have done something similar using smoke-signals and

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not limited to "Computers" per se
Authored by: LionKuntz on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 08:43 PM EDT
Not limited to "Computers" per se

In 1972 I used my first hands-on computer, a Compuwriter Junior, considerably
upscale from the IBM Selectric typesetters of the era. You could upgrade the RAM
to two kilobytes at $100 per kbyte, and get a 5 kbyte mag card storage device
for several grand.

I never used ot saw the top of the line models sold by compugraphic corporation,
but I devoured their literature for the page composition station which preceded
"desktop publishing by more than a decade. An editor's station and several
remote terminals wired together, where writers could data entry keyboard text
and the central unit could do page layouts. What kinds of multiple pages
(multiple workspaces) and switching functions it had are unknown to me, but
obviously there were people who knew, people who built it, people who bought

How many other upscale publishing workstations were there in the 1970s?

Xerox themselves was competing for this business by entering the computer
market. That's what their stuff was all about, selling to the documents creation
and in-house publishing branches of corporations.

Steve Jobs was impressed after visiting Xerox PARC and went on to pattern the
Lisa and Macintosh after things he saw there. However, who impressed PARC in the
first place? Likely they visited the showrooms of companies selling in the line
they were targeting. I know there were far more expensive equipment mfgrs in the
field, serving rich book and magazine publishers on tight deadlines.

The equipment they bought would have been feature-rich with ergonomics to appeal
to people sitting at consoles 40 hours per week meeting deadlines, with ads and
pages to make up.

I'd say it may be worth a look into that branch of things as well. After all,
COMPUgraphic was in COMPUters before the first homebrew was ever built. The
Compugraphics were almost two decades before the earliest patent in this

I still want to point out that the patent office has to consider games as prior
art if it had an overview and multiple places where users interacted with a GUI
to pick up, manipulate, and move objects and carry them to another screen view.
Just because the user measured their activity by "points" instead of
by wages is not important: what was the function of the machine doing in
relation to the human user is the only important question.

There's more game prior art than any other category of softwares. There have
been 20 games for every piece of non-game software created. Games often had
their own OS, and plugged in as cartridges to take over the hardware, ignoring
the system software entirely, so it constitutes thousands of prior art operating

Often, after spending a few hundred hours on playing a game one has internalized
the operating details to the point so that one can easily reverse engineer what
must be going on inside without ever seeing the code. This very invisible form
of disclosure is certainly real despite the fact that the code is proprietary.

If you used a map to navigate a castle, room to room, some years later you may
think yourself clever patenting an "overview" of "rooms" for
business software without ever thinking of the hundreds of hours you spend
playing Zoom as prior art.

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Other old programs
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:43 PM EDT

DoubleDOS - multitasking DOS, could run with very little ram. A friend of mine
ran his BBS in one instance, while simultaniously programming in the other
instance on 512K.

Someone mentioned Concurrent CPM - Digital also had Concurrent DOS. Never saw it
run, but new a guy who had a copy (unfortuneately his wife threw out most of his
computer stuff after he died).

Wang Word Processors - believe that they had a dual screen option.


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Another Proposed Prior Art -- Commodore Magic Desk I
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 18 2007 @ 01:44 AM EDT
Looking at Claim 1 of the '412 patent, they claim a display with first and
second workspaces that can be represented on the display, with each of these
containing a display object and the display objects in the two workspaces are
perceptible as the same tool.

All of these aspects seem to be present in Magic Desk I, by Commodore, 1983.
This program gives a typewriter workspace and a filing system workspace, each of
which have a set of display objects in the form of a set of icons at the bottom
of the screen. On each of these workspace screens is an icon representing the
"desk", which is perceptible as the same tool in each workspace.

This is a somewhat different direction than people have been discussing, since
this isn't a windowed GUI system. But the patent itself seems to be explicit
that it isn't restricted to windowed GUI's. The definition of a
"workspace" is "the display system entity that includes a
collection of display objects together with spatial display relations between
them." Icons are very specifically considered display objects. A display
system is defined as "a system for managing and controlling a display"
-- very general.

(For anyone curious to look, you can download a free commodore 64 emulator like
VICE and with a bit of googling find a .d64 disk image for the magic desk
software; you're on your own about copyright law to download the program,

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In which I get a lesson in patents -- how do you figure out the dates?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 18 2007 @ 02:46 PM EDT
I used to use a Omega 58000 in India back in late 80s. It had a large portrait
screen with a windowing system, wherein you could open a text/graphics window
and start a new task in it.The "switching" of windows was just

Here is an email where the 58000 was quoted aand is relevant to the current

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Multiple views before "PC" software
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 22 2007 @ 07:01 AM EDT
I was under the impression that there were systems where one could get multiple views to data objects prior to the "PC".
Then I went on a little "think outside the box" campaign and thought: the multiple displays of objects need not be at OS nor windowing system level; they can be at application level to be relevant prior art.
So Desktop Publishing, Computer Aided Design, Project Management Software, Word Processors, Library filing systems could be eligible?

Must see: ideshow/0,1206,pg=0&s=26705&a=196169,00.asp

1) Computer Aided Design - Autocad (December 1982) & others
Data structure: whatever
Data views: 2D (all axes), 3D, element tree, etc.
See: chpad (Must see around 4m30s ! Summer 1962 ! Multiple objects and several views of them - the rivets).
http://e .htm

2) Desktop Publishing - Aldus Pagemaker (July 1985)
Underlying data structure: postscript (another development of Xerox); data views as raw format, edit view, print preview,...

3) Project Management
Data structure: project data
Data views: Gantt view, PERT view, taks list view, resource list view, etc.
Various views of the data of projects have existed for a long time, before modern computing.
See: management_tools

4) Library System (?)
Data structure: book description
Data views: by author, genre, abstracts, cover, etc.
htt p://

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  • More - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 23 2007 @ 10:06 AM EDT
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