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Annals of the Patently Absurd

Microsoft has received a patent on a “new and improved” Page-Up and Page-Down system. Timothy D. Sellers et al. was awarded the patent on August 19, 2008 for a “Method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments.”

Abstract for United States Patent 7,415,666

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. 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. 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.

Full text of 7,415,666

Perhaps patent examiners are unable to tell what’s obvious or not because the very language in which patents are written is so obscure. Try parsing this sentence:

A document viewing component, such as in the form of a control hosted in a program, controls the scrolling operation, such as by containing a scroll control.

Most likely this twisted language is the work product of Workman Nydeggar, the patent attorneys on this one. No doubt they are responsible for this closing flourish:

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof are shown in the drawings and have been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.

Patent 7,415,666 was submitted in March 2005 so it took three years for the patent office to take in all this mumbo-jumbo and decide to give its approval. So if the USPTO is going to approve nearly every patent — and I’d love to see a list of rejected ones — why does it take three years to do so?

Also, 7,415,666 was not the only good news for Timothy D. Sellers of Bellevue WA. This week, he had three patents approved, upping his own total to nine. He re-invented the toolbar, among other things.

Thanks to Richard Forno’s of InfoWarrior for his posting to Dave Farber’s IP list.

  • http://halfabee.com/ Eran Hammer-Lahav

    After first reading about this I scratched my head trying to figure out what the hell was Microsoft thinking. I mean, they paid money for this. They paid the employees (it took the combined brain power of three Microsoft engineers), they paid the lawyers, and they paid the patent office.

    And then I figured it out. With all the smart users switching over to Mac, Microsoft is forced to focus on the only market segment they still control. The idiots.

    Look for this amazing technology in the upcoming Windows Vista Feature Pack which will retail for $24.95.

  • http://urbanmapping.com/blog ian

    this is awesome. it trumps the crustless pb&j.

  • Ken Williams

    There is a delicious piece of irony here. Click on the link for patent number 7,415,666 above, then click on the button for “Images”.

    The images (TIFFs) are completely unviewable, because of badly-designed scrolling controls. So there is a need for this advanced technology after all. ;-)

  • patentClerk

    What matters principally is what is CLAIMED which is:
    ” 1. In a computing environment, a method comprising: displaying at least one page of a document that has multiple pages, at least one of the multiple pages, and the displayed at least one page including a first page displayed beginning at a starting point offset from a top of the document and from a top of the first page; calculating a height of at least the first page; calculating a row offset of the starting point of the first page; calculating a vertical offset at the starting point of the first page, wherein the vertical offset is calculated according to a formula of the form {[(p-1)/c]h}+r, where p is equal to the number of pages in the document, c is equal to the number of columns of the document which are simultaneously displayed, h is equal to the height of at least the first page, and r is equal to the row offset of the starting point of the first page; receiving a command indicative of a whole page-based incremental scroll request related to changing first content currently being displayed in the at least one page; determining a whole-page increment for scrolling from first content to second content, wherein determining the whole-page increment includes calculating a vertical offset at a second starting point in the document, the vertical offset being calculated according to the formula V.sub.1.+-.(cr), where V.sub.1 is the vertical offset at the starting point of the first page; and changing the display to display second content, by replacing the at least one page of the document with at least one other page, the display of the at least one other page beginning at the second starting point. “

    In order for the owner to bring an infringer to court and win, the owner would have to show that the infringer’s method does ALL of the above.

    This being said, the examiner’s job is to find prior patent applications and granted patents that disclose the above method (and usually within approximately a day of searching). If the examiner can’t find adequate reasons to reject, the examiner must allow the application as a matter of law.

    The last sentence “While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions,”is a standard boilerplate paragraph merely reminding the uninformed that alternate methods devised to circumvent infringement generally still infringe.

  • MSDN

    When can I expect the article condemning the company that tried to trademark “Web 2.0″?

  • spispopd


    No, the examiner’s job is to find prior art. In computing, searching only patents and patent applications for something as freaking obvious as the usual way to page through (potentially multicolumn) text is doomed to failure.

    And seriously, when “ALL” [sic] that is claimed is just an incredibly verbose and long LOOKING description of a trivial technique, it doesn’t matter if “ALL” the claim needs to be infringed.

  • plh

    “searching only patents and patent applications for something as freaking obvious as the usual way … is doomed to failure.”

    A deficiency in the patent databases the Patent Offices are clearly working hard to fix ;-)

    I was considering putting in a feature request for the GNU gv maintainer(s) to add a continuous view mode like other document viewers. But since it already does the holding position when you page up or down thing described in this patent, adding a continuous view mode would surely force it to infringe the patent (if, by the doctrine of equivalents or whatever, it doesn’t already).

    Anyway, broad, trivial, obvious or non-novel software patents (aka frauds and licences to extort and thieve) are hardly unusual or unique to Microsoft but it is amusing how many Microsoft engineers it sometimes takes to ‘invent’ them (there are eight listed on the notorious RSS feed subscription application).

  • tuomoks

    So funny and so sad! Perfectly describes what our 3270 screens did (without graphics, of course) depending of the model, other crap on the screen and even how the the user wanted. And don’t even start with the system running Tektronix intelligent graphics terminals, actually controlling it up and down but also sideways. I did some of those, you can make interesting control displays, shows, traveling trees of information, checking / showing manufacturing control systems, jump the display planes, whatever.. Actually much easier than writing scripts, pages, AJAX, Flash, etc today.

    I honestly believe that MS are is trying these just to show how stupid the system is – they have the money but they also have the money to lose if someone else gets the patent and they have to pay. It’s cheaper for them to play the game!

  • frank

    “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.”

    I have found it very annoying that Acrobat Reader does not do it. Now I know why.

    However, XDVI has had this forever, clearly prior art.

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  • Dov

    So that’s why I can’t do continuous sideways scrolling when viewing my family tree in Acrobat Reader!?