The patents Microsoft is using to sue Barnes & Noble

Just how many anti-Android patents does Microsoft have up its sleeve?

In reading through the Redmond company’s lawsuit this afternoon against Barnes & Noble and the manufacturers of the Nook e-reader over its use of Android, it would have made sense to see a lot of crossover with the patents cited in Microsoft’s suit against Motorola last year for its use of Android.

[Follow-up: Google: Microsoft's Android claims 'threaten innovation']

That’s not the case. The new lawsuit against B&N cites a completely different slate of patents. Here’s a rundown, with abstracts and links to the patent documents.

Patent #5,778,372: “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images.” July 7, 1998.

A browser remotely retrieves electronic documents from a remote computer network for viewing by a user. For enhancing responsiveness, the browser initially displays an electronic document without a background image so that the electronic document is initially displayed more quickly. The browser also prioritizes downloading of embedded images of the document by their incorporation in the currently visible portion of the electronic document. Further, the browser dynamically creates additional connections for retrieving resources incorporated into the electronic document from the remote computer network.

Patent #6,339,780: “Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area.” Jan. 15, 2002.

Described herein is a portable computer having a limited display area. An Internet or other hypermedia browser executes on the portable computer to load and display content in a content viewing area. During times when the browser is loading content, the browser displays a temporary, animated graphic element over the content viewing area. The graphic element is removed after the content is loaded, allowing unobstructed viewing of the loaded content.

Patent #5,889,522: “System provided child window controls.” March 30, 1999.

New varieties of child window controls are provided as system resources that application programs may exploit. The preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a dynamic link library (DLL) for implementing the new child window controls as part of an operating system. The new child window controls include a header bar control for providing header bars in application programs. The new controls also include a hot key control that allows a user to view and edit hot key combinations. The new controls further include a tab control for establishing tabs that differentiate amongst pages in user interfaces provided by application programs. An image list data type is defined and functions are provided for manipulating the image list data type. Image lists include multiple like-sized images that are stored efficiently in a single bitmap.

Patent #6,891,551: “Selection handles in editing electronic documents.” May 10, 2005

A computer system and method for highlighting and selecting elements of electronic documents is disclosed. In one embodiment, a selection area identifies an initial selection of data, and one or more selection handles appear on the selection area to allow dynamic resizing of the selection area to select a larger or smaller portion of data or number of items.

Patent #6,957,233: Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content.” Oct. 18, 2005.

A system and method for capturing annotations for a non-modifiable document is disclosed. Once it is determined that an annotation is to be created, the system determines the file position of the selected object. The file position of the selected object is stored along with the created annotation in another file or a non-read only portion of a file storing the document. Using the file position, the annotation may be properly identified with the selected object without modifying the non-modifiable document.

Here’s the full text of the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Seattle: PDF, 9 pages

Previously: Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble over Android in Nook

  • http://jamieei.org JamieEi

    Sad to see my former employer turn into a patent troll.

    • Guest

      Patent trolls tend to sue frequently and not implement the technology they have rights to. Neither applies to MS.

      • http://jamieei.org JamieEi

        Sue frequently used to not apply to MS. In the last few years that has changed.

        I’m not impressed by implementation of the above patents. They are so general that it’s hard to see how any company could be in the software business and not implement some or all of them.

        • Guest

          Oh please. Direct lawsuits by MS are still very infrequent for a company of their size and scope. Compare it to Apple, for example.

          And if you’re not impressed by the patents, then become a patent attorney and help Barnes defend themselves. Just keep in mind that your current employer decided against that and took a license. But hey, what does their legal team know anyway?

          • http://jamieei.org JamieEi

            Don’t be angry anonymous guest! We are just having a pleasant discussion. Neither one of us should need to switch careers before we are entitled to have an opinion and discuss it in a civil way.

            I agree that Apple is far worse. I’m not arguing that MS is among the worst abusers of our broken patent system; just that they are now one of the abusers. When I worked there (for 9 years) I was always proud that MS did not engage in this crap. Maybe you are right and this is an exception. I hope so.

          • http://twitter.com/chentiangemalc Malcolm McCaffery

            There has been about six cases lodged by Microsoft for patent infringement. It is not many for a company of its size, in addition they actually implement stuff. In addition they have been taken court for patent infringement as well, and have had to pay up their share.

            However that being said I wish software based patents were abolished.

          • Mk23

            Microsoft files few lawsuits because they usually can just force companies into licensing; their patent portfolio is so large that almost no other company can stand up to them: Microsoft can just keep suing and get their legal costs to spiral out of control. That doesn’t make Microsoft benign, nor does it make their patents valid.

          • Anonymous

            And in the meanwhile, Gates switched to less obsolete businesses like silver mining. But what does he know anyways?

    • Morgancoxuk

      ‘Turn!!!!’ I think you should have a quick review of Microsoft patent history.

      I would start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween_Documents

      Microsoft’s only innovations to the computing world is how to use patents to stop innovation within the industry. Oh and WGA.

      (in the last decade most innovation seems to occur in Linux)

      • John Stamos

        And asynchronous javascript. (see dhtml and XMLhttpRequest)
        And desktop-based web applications. (see Active Desktop)
        And a lot of stuff pertaining t the browser DOM. (see IE 3, 4, 5, 5.5, 6 vs contemporary iterations of Netscape)
        And drastically lowering the barrier to entry regarding directory services (see Active Directory and the death of Novell Netware).

        I remember the 1990s.

        And an OS written entirely in managed code (see Singularity), a process isolation model which allows for a monolithic kernel to behave like a micro kernel thus having all of the advantages of a self-healing Microkernel, while retaining much of the performance of a Monokernel (since it’s all still in kernel space), also see Singularity. The latter is something even the late, great Jochen Liedke could not achieve.

        And the first mass-deployed hybrid kernel (see NT).

        Although they weren’t the first to bundle applications together in a suite (OTOH, that was either Corel or WordPerfect), they were the first to bundle a web browser with an OS, although they got a lot of flak for it, can you even name one consumer OS that doesn’t in this day and age?

        Bringing Unix to low cost Minicomputers (the x86) was innovative at the time, given this was done in the 1970s (see XENIX)

        Developing an OS decoupled from hardware (as in an OS vendor being purely a software company) was also done in the XENIX days, which was quite novel at the time, which allowed them to shift focus to OEMs as their primary customer, which was also quite innovative in terms of business models at the time.

        Although it did not reappear until Win95, the idea of the taskbar was first introduced in win1.0, two years before Acorn.

        Real-time spell-checking was first introduced in Word 6.0.

        COM was rather innovative at the time of its introduction.

        .NET was in many ways an innovation over what was presented by Java (and I say this as a JEE dev)

        • Mk23

          “And asynchronous javascript. (see dhtml and XMLhttpRequest) And desktop-based web applications. (see Active Desktop) And a lot of stuff pertaining t the browser DOM. (see IE 3, 4, 5, 5.5, 6 vs contemporary iterations of Netscape)”

          That’s tinkering with APIs and languages, not innovation.

          “And drastically lowering the barrier to entry regarding directory services (see Active Directory and the death of Novell Netware).”

          Microsoft took MIT’s free Kerberos system and made a proprietary version of it for Windows. How is that innovation?

          “And an OS written entirely in managed code (see Singularity), a process isolation model which allows for a monolithic kernel to behave like a micro kernel thus having all of the advantages of a self-healing Microkernel, while retaining much of the performance of a Monokernel (since it’s all still in kernel space), also see Singularity. The latter is something even the late, great Jochen Liedke could not achieve.”

          None of those are ideas that originated at Microsoft, and Microsoft wasn’t even the first to implement them either. “Managed code” operating systems go back to the 1970′s.

          One could go on, but pretty much nothing Microsoft has done is innovative or original.

      • Poop

        Linux. As in the (poor) clone of Unix clone?

        • Peterix

          No, the ecosystem around it.

  • http://twitter.com/FOSSpatents FOSS Patents

    One of those five patents was previously asserted against Motorola. The other four are new (but Microsoft could presumably assert them against Motorola as well since they read on Android).

    The fact that Foxconn is named as a defendant is very interesting. Foxconn also builds devices for other Android vendors.

    I blogged about this dispute as well:
    http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/03/microsoft-sues-barnes-noble-foxconn-and.html

  • Dennis Hamilton

    I am curious about something. It seems that the patents that Microsoft pursues tend to be tied to embodiments in devices, such as Kindle, Android phones, and storage devices that implement the FAT long-filename trick.

    Although we know of licensing cases, has there ever been a suit initiated by Microsoft because of claimed infringement by a pure software product ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bell.steven77 Steven Bell

    These all seem to be pure software patents. I’m wondering if these would all be considered non-patentable material by the bilski standard.

  • http://twitter.com/schammy Sean

    It’s interesting how Apple and Microsoft choose to sue Android device manufacturers instead of Google itself. Obviously, it’s because they have a huge wallet-size advantage over these “little guys”, when you know Google would fight to the death to show how ridiculous all of these patents are. I don’t know what Google’s stance on the matter is but I hope they’re providing near unlimited financial and other means of support to the companies being sued by the trolls that are Apple and Microsoft.

    • Dennis Hamilton

      I have not heard that Google provides any indemnification to Android adopters charged with patent infringement.

      Generally, I think the problem is that you actually have to make use of the technology in a manner that infringes on an essential claim of the patent. In the mainframe days, computer leases included indemnification assurances that the mainframe manufacturer would defend their customer in any suit where the infringement was attributable to the mainframe and its bundled software.

      Recall that SCO went after some large Linux adopters in just that way.

      The linked FOSS Patents comment two hours earlier provides more on how this works and why some who do not license are particularly vulnerable to infringement suits when there are other licensees.

      Finally, it could be that it is the Android software in operation in a particular situation that runs afoul of essential claims.

      I am still curious whether Microsoft has ever gone after a software-only infringement (e.g., why not Chrome), since others seem to sue them on that basis. Of course, we would have no idea if their are licensing and cross-licensing agreements that have made it unnecessary.

      Microsoft could be operating cautiously with respect to Bilski as well.

    • Alanlindsaycbp

      My understanding is that you can only sue for patent infringement over specific implementations – and since the way Google licenses Android makes for each implementation being specific derivative of Android, they have to go after each implementation.

      And take a look at the Foss Patent articles – it is very clear that much of Android is flat out stolen from other places. So you can call MSft, Apple, Oracle, whoever patent trolls – or you can look long and hard at what is really going on and call Google thieves,

      • Mk23

        “And take a look at the Foss Patent articles – it is very clear that much of Android is flat out stolen from other places.”

        It’s not “stolen” because it is in the public domain.

        “or you can look long and hard at what is really going on and call Google thieves,”

        What is really going on is that Microsoft is patenting techniques and ideas that are in the public domain; yes, there is theft–massive theft by Microsoft from the public.

        And we need to reform our patent system so that companies like Microsoft can be sued for the billions in damages that their theft is causing.

        • Guest

          “It’s not “stolen” because it is in the public domain.”

          That remains to be seen pending the outcome of the various Android related lawsuits. You have a bad habit of confusing opinion with facts.

  • http://twitter.com/Vroo Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    These patents look pretty bogus to me. The 780 patent describes a method of displaying a “temporary graphic element” over a document while it is loading, just like applications have been doing for years before this patent was filed (e.g., the “wait” cursor).

    The 551 patent describes a method of selecting data where you can move the handles at the edges, just like graphic programs have been doing for years. I continue to be amazed at what the patent office allows.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526326736 Michael Ratcliffe

      Yup, tabbed windows were a major feature of RiscOS which predates Windows. Most of these patents have “Prior art” so I would be amazed if any large company would cave … Microsoft *surely* realize this so I am wondering what their real plan is here?

  • Anonymous

    MSFT steadily marches to irrelevance (by the patent troll highway). Hope they’ll get some fresh antitrust treatment (like MPEG LA) as well as their patents overturned (for being obvious to us skilled in the art).

  • Anonymous

    So many patent lawyers, so few lions.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertMfromLI Robert Damian Mauro

    Let’s take a look, shall we? What you will see is that the patent system is broken for ever approving most of those patents.

    Patent #5,778,372: “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images.” July 7, 1998.

    Prior Art exists… IBM Web Explorer, Netscape Navigator, NetCom and numerous others.

    Patent #6,339,780: “Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area.” Jan. 15, 2002.

    Prior Art exists… various web browsers, OS file browsers (OS/2, AmigaOS, others)

    Patent #5,889,522: “System provided child window controls.” March 30, 1999.

    Prior Art exists… OS/2 and other operating systems

    Patent #6,891,551: “Selection handles in editing electronic documents.” May 10, 2005

    Perhaps they’ve got this one – though it does sound like something I have seen before

    Patent #6,957,233: “Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content.” Oct. 18, 2005.

    Prior Art exists… Adobe Acrobat, Lotus Notes, various others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526326736 Michael Ratcliffe

      Patent #6,891,551: “Selection handles in editing electronic documents.” May 10, 2005

      This does not pass the non-obvious test. There is no other useful to do this with a touch screen so the patent is not valid.

      The thing that confuses me here is that Microsoft surely know that there is Prior Art on each of these patents … why raise this and risk losing them?

      • Peterix

        As patents, they are pretty much worthless. As a FUD war ammunition, they make perfect sense. Just annoy everyone with endless lawyer battles until they cave… leading to more FUD.

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