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Google Microsoft Patents Your Rights Online

Google Patents Browser Highlight All Button 150

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wish-i-thought-of-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has picked up another patent on a technology that you might think basic to the web: the highlight all button for searches in browsers. The patent will backdate to 1999 and presents an interesting problem for such software as the Firefox browser and FeedDemon RSS reader. And, in an interesting twist, Microsoft uses a similar mechanism in Windows Explorer. But Microsoft itself said that browser technology can't be separated from the operating system. Does that mean the company owes a royalty to Google for all those copies of Windows?"
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Google Patents Browser Highlight All Button

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    No, it means software patents are shitty.

    • by Garridan (597129) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:39PM (#34549604)
      No, it means y'all need to read the fucking patent. It doesn't patent anything going on in the browser. It patents the feature in Google search where it alters the document to highlight certain words, and then pass that modified document back to the client.
      • Which still seems pretty obvious, even circa 1999. However since MS has been shaking down Android manufacturers with similarly questionable patents lately, I have a hard time getting upset about this. If Google were to go on some kind of suing spree an actually went after Mozilla, then that would be pretty upsetting. Being granted the patent does seems very dumb and it puts the problems of patenting software in stark relief (some may say it highlights them ;) ). But if it's some kind of defense versus M

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @03:26PM (#34550428) Homepage

        Claim 1:

        ...provide a tool bar within a web browser application window, the tool bar including a button, for activating a highlighting operation...

        Yep, they're patenting a browser feature. Three slight variations (claims 1, 7, 12), but all browser features.

        It appears they're patenting a browser button that will highlight the things you searched for, in any page. I don't use Google Toolbar, but it appears [ehow.com] to be already implemented.

        With no browser additions, the user has to search for something with Google, go to a page, then open find and search for the exact same terms to find where the relevant information is on the page. With this patented idea implemented, one only has to search for pages, go to one, then click a single button to go to the information on the page.

        The summary is, as usual, misleading. To my knowledge, Windows itself has no such feature, nor any other program I've seen for that matter.

        • by makomk (752139)

          With no browser additions, the user has to search for something with Google, go to a page, then open find and search for the exact same terms to find where the relevant information is on the page. With this patented idea implemented, one only has to search for pages, go to one, then click a single button to go to the information on the page.

          That might be in some of the dependent claims, though they're unclear. The independent claims are all quite specific - the browser displays a document, then you type some search terms into a text entry field and press a button, then the browser visually highlights those terms in that document. No cleverness involving search results pages is required to infringe the patent.

        • by cob666 (656740)
          Hasn't forum software had this for years? I'm not sure how well this would hold up against a REAL defense.
          • by Sarten-X (1102295)
            Forum software before 1999, perhaps... but not browsers. Patents are very specific. "Like X, but on a browser!" is a valid claim, if X only claims the feature for forum software.
            • so yes, it is shitty.
              The concept that a feature in another piece of software is somehow novel and doesn't constitute prior art is absurd.

              • by Sarten-X (1102295)

                It makes perfect sense. Patents grant a monopoly on a particular technology for a length of time ideally long enough for a competent inventor-turned-businessman to recoup their investment and be rewarded for their idea.

                It does take a significant amount of thought to take an existing idea and adapt it to another use. A forum is composed mainly of flat threads and very clearly-defined and well-regulated content. Webpages are far more complex, with some elements hidden, and no clean determination of what's mea

        • by bonch (38532)

          To my knowledge, Windows itself has no such feature, nor any other program I've seen for that matter.

          Safari's search field already darkens the page and highlights all search results in yellow. I'm certain other applications on various platforms have done this as well.

      • Computer Library did this circa 1993, and I seriously doubt they were the first.

      • by The Moof (859402)
        And you need to remember how Windows help did exactly what you're describing since (at least) Windows 98. A 12 year old features getting patented now seems to support the 'software patents are shitty' theory.
      • Curious as to how this affects plugins like FireFox's SearchWP that has been around since Feb 2004

        https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/376/versions/ [mozilla.org]

        And how did Google get it back dated to 1999? That was before Chrome even existed and we were in the Internet Explorer 4.0 days and Netscape.

      • by bonch (38532)

        You actually typed "y'all." Ugh.

  • Seriously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheL0ser (1955440) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:15PM (#34549126)
    Can we just find every single patent that mentions "on a computer" or "in a browser" and have a bonfire?
    • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:36PM (#34549554)
      That should be easy. They are all 'Hightlighted'.
    • Or patent this one as "browser highlight all button - in one's pants", so when the USPTO eventually has to go looking for their own asses, with two hands and a flashlight, they'll owe *me* money.
    • by Albanach (527650)

      Can we just find every single patent that mentions "on a computer" or "in a browser" and have a bonfire?

      I agree. It's obvious they were simply copying all the paper books that have a 'highlight all' function.

    • by Picass0 (147474)

      I'd like to join that bonfire and bring along the phases "software", "Operation System", and "User Interface"

    • by definate (876684)

      Sorry, no can do. There's a software patent on building computer / browser related bonfires, it's owned by IBM though SCO says they actually own it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But then Hitler stole it and broke my spelchecker.

  • ...would be for Google to litigate via this patent to force dissociation of IE from the rest of Windows.

    We all win, with that one; the IE/OS intermingling has caused entirely too many security problems for the Windows OS over the years. ...though, ironically enough, that's sort of the same thing that ChromeOS is supposed to accomplish, isn't it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...would be for Google to litigate via this patent to force dissociation of IE from the rest of Windows.

      We all win, with that one; the IE/OS intermingling has caused entirely too many security problems for the Windows OS over the years. ...though, ironically enough, that's sort of the same thing that ChromeOS is supposed to accomplish, isn't it?

      Umm, no. I wish people would STFU and wake up to 2010. IE7 started to get good, and IE8 was pretty nice. IE9 is on the horizon, and sounding better every day. I remember IE 5.5, and I remember IE6. That's when I started looking at other browsers.

      ChromeOS is supposed to accomplish stealing all your data. What better way to steal all your data than to never let you actually have possession of it? How is relinquishing control of your data a solution to IE6's security problems? Seriously, I want to know.

      Irony

      • by Bucky24 (1943328)

        Irony would be Microsoft suing Google to disassociate the cloud from the OS

        I don't think Microsoft has managed to patent the cloud...

        • by Happler (895924)

          Irony would be Microsoft suing Google to disassociate the cloud from the OS

          I don't think Microsoft has managed to patent the cloud...

          But they may believe that if they use it enough in adverts, people may think that they patented it....

      • I think this is more an opportunity than anything else. Mandatory strong encryption of cloud contents, together with strongly encrypted connections, would go a long way towards assuaging people's fears of their data being 'stolen'.

        I think that that would also go a long way towards getting proper encryption and data access controls to become available in other places as well. ...and I'm sorry, but I think that IE's a piece of crap. I'd rather use lynx than IE.
    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Uh... are you just behind the times? IE is optional in Windows 7, and has been that way since well before its release.

  • What a Mess.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:17PM (#34549172)
    Wasn't there ever a clause in patents SOMEWHERE, which said you couldn't patent something which an 'average expert in the field' could come up with?

    Because there are quite a few 5 year olds who could have thought this up.
    • Re:What a Mess.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:21PM (#34549242) Journal

      That'd be the "Person of Ordinary Skill in the Art" standard for obviousness. Of course, that standard is applied to a POSITA at the time of invention (i.e. 1999) rather than a POSITA today.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        That'd be the "Person of Ordinary Skill in the Art" standard for obviousness. Of course, that standard is applied to a POSITA at the time of invention (i.e. 1999) rather than a POSITA today.

        So, in 1995 I had a shell script which ran grep recursively over a file structure and listed the matching files and highlighted the term.

        I'm pretty sure you don't need to look very far for other things that could "search and highlight" a term across multiple documents.

        Am I missing something?

      • by sjames (1099)

        Kinda like less does when you search for a word using the / command?

    • Patents usually cover the implementation. that is the method for doing something. But the question is what is the something. For example, perhaps google is patenting a method for highlighting words (e.g. applying colors via html tags). That would probably not be an amazingly troublesome patent as it would be easy to evade, and would be patentable if no one had thought of the method they used. But maybe the something is more basic. Perhaps it's the very idea of allowing a user to find the words he sear

    • by Lumbre (1822486)
      The irony behind this is, the Patent website does the same thing in its patent searches (try it), except it bolds instead of highlight and it's on a web page and not on a "tool bar". Can the PTO hire competent employees to determine 'prior art'?
      • by goombah99 (560566)

        Note that Bolding is covered too. the patent just says a "characteristic" of the searched item is changed. Presumably it applies to even images.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Then why didn't someone come up with it before? It seems like most patents are patently obvious after the fact.
  • it is high-lighting all terms in all documents received from an internet search. How is that the same as a "highlight all button?" Whatever the case, highlighted searches have existed for a while, so why should this be patentable just because they batch the highlighting to all search results in a "network search"?
    • Re:In particular, (Score:4, Informative)

      by Meshach (578918) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:40PM (#34549636)

      it is high-lighting all terms in all documents received from an internet search. How is that the same as a "highlight all button?" Whatever the case, highlighted searches have existed for a while, so why should this be patentable just because they batch the highlighting to all search results in a "network search"?

      What this patent actually is for (from my reading) is a system that highlights the search terms in every page that a user loads. So if I am on the NYT and I do a page search (ctrl-f) for "Julian Assange" it will highlight all the occurrences. The patent is for the notion that when I transfer to the Washington Post all the instances of "Julian Assange" will be highlighted in the new page.

      Still pretty weak but not the head slapping obvious it initially looks like.

      • by tgd (2822)

        This is Slashdot, where the mindless masses comment on patents without spending a couple hours learning how to read patents.

        Are you surprised?

        For everyone else: if you don't know the difference between an independant and dependant claim or the difference between the claims and the supporting text ...

        Don't reply to patent stories.

        You just look like a moron. (BTW, in a quick skim, I can see why this passed muster with the examiner.)

        • by bonch (38532)

          You also look like a moron when you double-space every single sentence for no reason. I can't believe you're actually defending a patent for auto-highlighting search results on a page, but I guess since "this is Slashdot," Google must be defended at every opportunity.

  • How can existing ideas be legally patented? They can't, right? So unless you're a patent troll, then why bother?

    It appears one can, seeing as this seems pretty common. So what am I missing?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      > How can existing ideas be legally patented? They can't, right? So unless you're a patent troll, then why bother?

      try debating that 75 years from now when the actual details are sketchy, no one is around to remember and the patent details become 'fact'.

    • Actually, ideas aren't patentable, though methods or processes can be.

      "Existing" inventions may still be patentable if they only exist in secret, for example; and the question of *when* the invention exists is relevant, too. For example, the summary suggests the relevant date here is 1999. So the question would be whether it existed, or was obvious, in 1999. (It gets more complicated, but that's the basic idea.) Merely because other people have developed the same invention since the patent application w

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Both Lynx terminal sofware(1992), and Skylink custom terminal software(AKA skyterm) for BBS's had a 'highlight all' button. This has literally no legs to stand on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Google Patents Browser Hightlight All Button

    Is that what you do when your LCD's backlight is flickering or something, hit the thing? I'm confused.

  • I'm seeing more and more dumb patents being filed in the past few weeks. It seems like this is only a beginning to an IP war.
    • I'm seeing more and more dumb patents being filed in the past few weeks.

      FTFPatent: "Filed: October 18, 2004"

      That would only fit a rather expansive definition of "the past few weeks."

      • by TheL0ser (1955440)

        That would only fit a rather expansive definition of "the past few weeks."

        It's ok, we're measuring in Valve time.

  • What I want to know is, how is this different than highlighting searched words in word processors and other types of editors? This is something that has been around since computers were the size of deep freezers.

  • Not only is this Patent patently insane, but that it is retroactive is completely unacceptable.

    Anyone building software in 1999, who assumed that there was no patent on this particular piece of 'Intellectual Property' was acting in good faith, now the State says that they are liable to pay, or be put out of business, fined or put into gaol. Give me a break.

    Absolutely disgusting, and of course, the whole Patent debacle is an excrescence of the predatory and mafia like state; the sooner we are rid of it the b

    • Wouldn't a retroactive patent be, by its very nature, either pointless or irrelevant? I mean, if there's anything in the past that could infringe on the backdated patent, then it should invalidate that very patent. And if there's nothing historical, then what's the point of backdating? Just say "your term is ten years shorter" and call it a day.

    • by Albanach (527650)

      Anyone building software in 1999, who assumed that there was no patent on this particular piece of 'Intellectual Property' was acting in good faith, now the State says that they are liable to pay, or be put out of business, fined or put into gaol. Give me a break.

      Much as I dislike the patent, they did apply for the patent in Dec 1999, and it would have been available on the patent office database since then. I don't think you can claim good faith by ignoring an existing, published, patent claim.

      • by Beautyon (214567)

        I don't think you can claim good faith by ignoring an existing, published, patent claim.

        That only makes the crime of Patents even worse.

        It means that every imbecile that is applying for a Patent is suppressing the free flow of ideas, without even having been awarded a Patent and its protection.

        Theoretically, this means that you might not have rolled out some software because someone has applied for a Patent, the applicant fails to be granted the monopoly protection of the State, and then all the years that the software has been less than what it could have been are lost forever, including all

      • So you have sit on the product that includes a similar feature for 11 years?!?

        For 11 years, you have no way of knowing if it's valid and the fact that it wasn't granted "quickly" would normally be a dead giveaway that it's crap. It's a completely unworkable system.

      • Actually, in this case, the earliest publication was the issuance of the patent on the parent application in January 2005, and the claims in that patent are different from the ones in the most recent one. Automatic publication of applications at 18 months after the effective filing date didn't start until late 2001.

    • the whole Patent debacle is an excrescence of the predatory and mafia like state; the sooner we are rid of it the better.

      In a single moment, when the State is removed, the Software Patent regime will cease to exist

      Death to the State and its evil Patents!

      So...

      I should overthrow my government because a broken patent system?

      • by treeves (963993)

        I should overthrow my government because a broken patent system?

        Yes. And your sentence missing a verb.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      In a single moment, when the State is removed, the Software Patent regime will cease to exist, and all the benefits we can expect (as detailed in 'Against Intelectual Monopoly') will begin to emerge, starting with the new software that will start to flow freely, unencumbered by the monopolies granted by criminal and inherently violent governments. Medicine will be cheaper, engines more efficient; everything will improve and the pace of innovation will increase by orders of magnitude.

      In a single moment, wh

  • Please fix the title of this article, typos are annoying. Thank you.

    • This is a patent for a lightbulb appearing over your head indicating how tall you are.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Please fix the title of this article, typos are annoying. Thank you.

      Actually, please fix the whole article. Blatantly misleading information is even more annoying.

      (For reference: this is not a patent on any button in a browser. It's a patent on a server-side function for highlighting search terms in documents based on proxying the request for the user. Totally different.)

  • Whatever happened to "don't be evil?"
    • Whatever happened to "don't be evil?"

      it turns out we have been reading that slogan wrong. it should read "don't beevil" but no one is quite sure what the word "beevil" means. But they definitely try not to beevil at google.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        Whatever happened to "don't be evil?"

        it turns out we have been reading that slogan wrong. it should read "don't beevil" but no one is quite sure what the word "beevil" means. But they definitely try not to beevil at google.

        Perhaps it's bee toxin [urbandictionary.com] or maybe the power ranger's foe Beevil [wikia.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's only evil if they start suing. Otherwise, the more defensive patents they have, the better (for them).

      It'd be nice if Google made an Open Source patent pledge like IBM (kind of) did.

    • Securing a patent is not evil.

      The use of the protection afforded by the patent may or may not be evil.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Am I the only one who when they first found out that google's motto was "Don't be evil" they immediately suspected them of actually being evil?
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:40PM (#34549632) Homepage

    The term "technology" nowadays means "a few trivial lines of code."

  • The authors of vim know they copied Google's highlight all idea. I hope they do the honorable thing.

    • by Java Pimp (98454)

      This is the first thing I thought of. How long has VIM been doing this?

    • and VIM should pay interest retroactive to when they incorporated the feature, which will be a lot since that goes back even further than the patent.

  • All I want for [holiday of your choice] is for you to not be evil.

    In fishing (yes with an f) there is movement called catch and release. The idea is to go out and fish, take pictures of what you catch, and then release them back into the environment.

    I would love for some of these software companies to start practicing catch and release with some of these obvious patents. Fine, get them issued so no one else can troll with them, but then release them to the general public.

    Don't get me wrong, software paten

  • Wait, hasn't emacs and unix's "man" pages been doing this forever? In emacs I can type ctrl-s and then a search term and all instances are highlighted. In man I can type /searchterm and all instances are highlighted.

    And both of these existed LONG before 1999. How the hell did this get a patent?

    • by drb226 (1938360)

      And both of these existed LONG before 1999. How the hell did this get a patent?

      The highlight all feature has existed nearly as long as (if not longer than?) the founders of Google have been alive.

    • Wait, hasn't emacs and unix's "man" pages been doing this forever?

      No, emacs and unix's man pages have not been doing what is claimed in this patent forever, which relates to browser based tools that coordinate with a remote search engine to both execute a search and highlight the terms from that search in results documents. (The function is somewhat similar to what a variety of simple local tools have done for quite some time, but the invention claimed is essentially a specific method for implementing that

  • I wish they would stop this stupid shit. Seriously. It's getting beyond ridiculous.... sigh
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They need to go away, or be changed.
    About 50 years ago they made sense.
    But in this day and age, we're progressing to fast, and these patents do nothing but line pockets, stifle progress, and cause tons of BS lawsuits.

  • it's not like the browser making the occurrences of a word a different color when you search for something. it sounds more like it modifies actual documents (like those on a network share) and modifies those documents before sending them back to to the user.

    In accordance with the purpose of the invention as embodied and broadly described herein, a system highlights search terms in documents distributed over a network. The system generates a search query that includes a search term and, in response to the se

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Thank you. I still think this patent is BS, but you're right that it's not the trivial thing people are assuming.

      Ever done a search on Google and had the terms you searched for highlighted in the returned (Google Cache) pages? That's a personal modification of the original document to assist you in finding the terms you searched for, without needing to do a find-on-page operation.

  • I read the patent and WebSeeker [bluesquirrel.com] from Blue Squirrel [bluesquirrel.com] appears to me to be prior art.

    It was developed in 1994 and released in 1995. It is a meta search tool that pre-dates the patent and pre-dates Google. It is web and browser based. It has a toolbar that allows you to enter a search term. The pages are modified to highlight the search terms in the browser. While it was never patented, it is prior and appears to be the same thing as the patent claims.

    It was developed at a time when every search engin
  • The US is the only country in the world where you can patent software or business methods. In the rest of the world, only original inventions solving a technical problem are patentable, software, mathematical algorithms, numbers, letters, etc. are not patentable. It would be possible for a foreign company to ignore US software patents if they didn't do any business in the US. I personally think the US patent system is all about protectionism, not about protecting intellectual property. Having software paten

  • The patent will backdate to 1999

    And so be valid for only 5 more years? What happens when it starts taking >=17 years to review and grant a patent?

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