Lawsuit filed against Apple over vague user interface patent

The patent holding company IP Innovation LLC has filed a lawsuit against Apple Incorporated, blaming the Cupertino-based company for "directly infringing at least claim 21 of the '412 Patent through, among other activities, the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale and/or importation into the United States of its Mac OS X v10.4 'Tiger' operating system." US Patent #5,072,412 describes a computer operating system interface with "workspaces provided by an object-based user interface appear to share windows and other display objects." IP Innovation is asking for $20 million in damages from Apple, to add to the list of at least 32 other patent infringement cases over the past several years against companies as varied as Daewoo, Samsung, Dell, Thomson, Brother, Sony, and RealNetworks.

The patent in question was originally filed by Xerox back in 1991, referencing patents that dealt with graphical user interfaces dating back to 1984. This specific patent describes a "workplace" that consists of multiple windows and "other display objects" on the screen, and if a user clicks on one of the links in each window, it can cause the contents of said window to change, reflecting a different "workplace." The language of the patent is very vague and could apply to any user interface found in all modern operating systems, but seems to be most closely related to the idea of "tabbed" dialog boxes, like the ones seen in both Windows and Mac OS X. It remains to be seen whether or not IP Innovations plan to continue their lawsuit rampage by going after Microsoft and other system vendors.

News source: Ars Technica

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21 Comments

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What!!! No way...!!!

Everything is created by Apple is their new innovation!!!
How could someone design this first!!!

:nuts:

You clearly need to read up a bit - everyone (well, lots of people) know that Apple 'borrowed' quite a lot of the original Mac/Lisa GUI concepts from Xerox, and Microsoft 'borrowed' it from Apple (or Xerox, or both, depending who you ask).

I believe the point is that this hasn't been enforced by the patent holder for 16 years, so I believe it becomes invalid.

by the way, they had over 20 years to file suit... and they just do now? this patent has been violated since Windows 1.0, Mac 1.0, etc

There's no way they can do this. Neglecting the fact that this patent is far too vague and should be thrown out, this patent has been infringed by every operating system since it was filed back in 1991. There's no way they can sit on this for 16 years and then decide to sue. IIRC, you lose the rights to the patent when you don't defend it for a certain period of time.

Do we need any MORE proof we need to scrap the current patent system and come up with a working patent system.


I bet I could get a paten for walking and sue everyone in the world for infringement.

Man! This irritates me so much I'm going to start suing patent holding companies for emotional distress!

I've said before and I'll say again, I think that when you try to patent something, you should have at least a basic working product of said patent. All they are doing is thinking of an idea and patenting it with no intention of every producing it.

I've personally never gotten software patents. It's one thing to directly steal source code from someone, but a vague idea they call a patent...oh well. I guess it's just something you come to expect after playin the game.

lawsuits are like an everyday thing in life in the U.S. its unfortunate...money drives it.

I hope this gets tossed out of court. it's just sounds like a lame argument and stupid.

I can understand wanting to protect your IP, and that's fine, but I think patents should be required to be far more specific than this.

-Spenser

Justin- said,
Software patents = bad. They hurt everyone from the companies right down to the consumer.

so, if you come up with a good idea, don't you want to protect it and at the same time earn money from said idea?

I do agree though that vague patents, those that cover more then one concept, should not be allowed, because its such patents that slow down innovation.

Patents should cover the "way" you implement something. Not the something itself. Let's see, if you have a system with an input and an output, I think that you should be entitled to patent the "internal mechanisms" of the system, not the system itself. Those systems are there solve a problem, or a situation. And you can't "invent" such problem, hence that you shouldn't be able to prevent any other people from providing their own solutions to the problems.
A lot of patents describe the "problem" rather than the solution...

Plus, sometimes you can mathematically prove how many solutions something can have (if it can have any), and sometimes come up with those solutions. Since we tend to develop mathematical models of everything, there can be such cases. And I don't think the discovery of a solution of a problem that is known to have a unique solution entitles to you "patent" its use. I guess "discovering" and "inventing" are different things. And when it comes to electronics, I think I've seen things that enter the maths and physics territory patented.


I remember reading that someone wanted to patent "DRM" to prevent microsoft or any other company to implement it on their operating systems. But not the whole "a specific solution to the people swapping files freely, hurting record companies", but something more like "THE" solutions. Meaning that, if any other company developed a different way of reaching that goal, it would still fit the patent description and therefore be illegal.

Secondly, if Xerox first patented this in 1991, and afterwards they let every friggin' OS vendor to mimic that interface, then it's xerox fault.