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Friday, 22 August 2008 15:13

Microsoft granted Page Up Page Down patent

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If patenting the obvious is considered something of an art form in the world of IT, then Microsoft is undoubtedly an old master. The Page Up Page Down patent it has been granted would seem to confirm this...

US Patent 7,415,666 goes under the snappy title of: "Method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments" and is the latest to be granted to that serial patent application junkie better known as Microsoft.

Anyone who has ever looked at technology patents will know that there is a trick to quickly scanning these application titles in order to weed out the genuine ones from those that are, to be fair, just attempting to patent something that already exists.

So what could a method of navigating paginated content, or stuff on the page, using page-based increments possibly refer to? Ding! Of course, the PgUp and PgDn keys.

Look at the abstract description on that patent and you will see that what Microsoft has cleverly managed to grab ownership of is:

"A method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed."

Which sounds remarkably like using the Page Up and Page Down keys. Let's read on:

"In one implementation, pressing a Page Down or Page Up keyboard key/button allows a user to begin at any starting vertical location within a page, and navigate to that same location on the next or previous page."

OK, that pretty much seals the deal does it not? Microsoft chanced its arm and got lucky. Another patent official without the first hint of understanding about technology gets busy with the big 'approved' rubber stamp and says OK.

Surely Microsoft has not really just patented the act of using Page Up and Page Down keys to navigate through content? What does this mean in the long term for technology innovators? What other ideas and concepts has Microsoft tried to patent? The answers follow on page 2...

CONTINUES


Like all patents there is a lot of legal stuff thrown into the mix, and the full application goes into a lot of specific detail. No doubt the patent attorneys will be hovering around soon enough to defend Microsoft on this one.

However, it really does look like the Seattle giants have managed to patent the Page Up and Page Down process. Just look at the example quoted in the conclusion of the application abstract:

"For example, if a user is viewing a page starting in a viewing area from the middle of that page and ending at the bottom, a Page Down command will cause the next page to be shown in the viewing area starting at the middle of the next page and ending at the bottom of the next page. Similar behavior occurs when there is more than one column of pages being displayed in a row."

So there we have it, the latest in a long line of patent applications to get approval which have nothing to do with true innovation or even true ownership of a technology.

All this patent 'protects' is an idea, and even then one that Microsoft can hardly claim to have invented. Well, not while keeping a straight face anyway.

Patents should not be about something as trivial as using the Page Up and Page Down keys, and Microsoft should most certainly not be granted exclusive ownership of the concept.

Of course, as with every successful application concerning an obvious and existing idea such as this, all that happens long term is that innovation gets squashed by the big boot of corporate power.

Some of the other ideas that Microsoft has gone down the patent route with include:

"A method, comprising: selecting pixels to be used as an emoticon" or smileys in other words. Or how about the one that covers "time based hardware button for application launch" or double-clicking icons on mobile devices.

Then there was the infamous content syndication platform application which apparently had Microsoft looking for patent protection for what was, as many observers pointed out at the time, actually RSS...

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