Microsoft Enforcing Slider Patent
Microsoft Enforcing Slider Patent
Written by Mike James   
Tuesday, 29 December 2015

If you want more evidence that software patents are insane, surely you can't, then look no further than the Microsoft slider patent and its lawsuit with Corel for infringing it.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a regular post called Stupid Patent Of The Month and it is often worth a read. But this month's deserves attention for revealing an amazing new level of stupidity. 

Specifically the complaint is that Corel infringed Patent D'140 User Interface for a Portion of a Display Screen" - surely the title should give away that this isn't a patent that is likely to have any content. 

In this case the patent in question is trivial and amounts to the slider shown below:

slider

Notice that as this is a design patent no details are provided of what the slider actually does. As far as the innocent bystander is concerned the slider could be fixed and the two buttons might move. Equally it isn't clear what the two buttons might do, if anything. The whole thing comes down to what it looks like. 

And here is one of the offending uses of the slider in Corel Write:

 

slidericon1

Design patents are clearly a new level of stupid.

If Microsoft wins its case against Corel then the stakes appear to be big with Corel likely to have to forfeit all profits made from Corel Home Office. It seems that if you infringe the design patent of a coffee cup holder as part of you car design, all of the profits from selling the car are forfeit. Currently Samsung is asking the Court of Appeals to reject this interpretation in its design patent case against Apple. 

As the EFF concludes:

"Putting aside whether Microsoft’s design was actually new and not obvious in 2006 (when Microsoft filed its application), whether Microsoft needed the patent incentive in order to come up with this design, and whether it is even desirable to grant a company a government-backed monopoly on a graphical slider (we don't think so, that's why this is a stupid patent), the scope of damages for design patent infringement has the potential to become a powerful tool to shut down legitimate competition based on the mere threat of a lawsuit."

So next time you use a slider that looks a bit like the one shown above you really should stop to consider if it is worth making some changes to it or perhaps to the whole idea of a design patent. 

If you want to know the fine detail than read the EFF's account and if you are generally interested in software patents keep an eye on Stupid Patent Of The Month.

More Information

Stupid Patent of the Month: Microsoft’s Design Patent on a Slider

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 December 2015 )
 
 

   
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