Friday, April 11, 2008

Microsoft's iPhoney patent is phoney

Microsoft's new iPhone patent is probably a piece of pure excrement, once you subtract out all of the nonsense in claim 1 and focus on the last two clauses that might be an invention, except for the fact that the patent ignores tons of prior art. The Microsoft patent is: United States Patent 7,225,409 Graphical user interface for a screen telephone (filed August 1999, based on August 1998 provisional) and the only possible "innovation" (someone can explain that to a company that thinks innovation is putting a touch tablet in a coffee table) are the last two clauses of claim 1: and wherein execution of the one or more methods of the application programming interface is responsive to the input from the application for customizing the customizable visual user interface, wherein the telephony module includes an operator agent for determining a media mode of an incoming call. So Microsoft is proud to have invented a customizable telephony app that switches handlers depending on the type of incoming call. This patent so outraged a discriminating member of the patenting community, that he reviewed the filewrapper, and found out the "innovation" is even less - just the last clause, since the examiner rightfully argued the rest of the claim was anticipated by an earlier patent, U.S. patent 5850433. Pathetically, and as an abuse of the PTO's resources, it took Microsoft 8 (non-final) rejections to get this allowance. Worse, this last clause is invalid in light of yet another patent, 5,493,609, the abstract of which talks about media mode switching for incoming calls: A telecommunication system provides voice and data communications over a conventional telephone line that can be dynamically switched from voice mode to any of a plurality of data modes (e.g., fax, modem, or VoiceView protocols) during a single conversation. Each station includes a telephone for voice communications and switching means for selectively connecting the telephone to the telephone line in voice mode and disconnecting the telephone while operating in one of the data modes. A modem provides data communications over the telephone line in any of a plurality of data modes. Voice is the default mode of operation. Prior to switching into a data mode, the originating station first transmits a start signal over the telephone line that includes a mode signal indicating one of the data modes. If a station detects a start signal transmitted by a remote station, a controller directs the switching means and modem to automatically switch from voice mode to the selected data mode in preparation for receiving data from the originating station. The stations also can also query one another to exchange information on their respective capabilities. Now, the switching goes on outside of the conventional telephone, but it is trivial and KSR-like obvious-to-try move the switching into a computer telephony application (for which there is also prior art). So after 8 (non-final) rejections, Microsoft gets a patent claim that with a little more searching can be invalidated. And Microsoft knows this. So why is Microsoft utilizing limited PTO resources pursuing such crap? It is yet another example of Microsoft's lack of interest in patent quality, and makes a mockery of Microsoft's participation in IBM's scam of a prior art project, scam in that both companies could better support patent quality by doing better searches for their own patent applications, instead of abusing the PTO. Both companies lie about their support for patent quality, one reason they are silent on people who lie about their professional experience to become PTO (Deputy) Directors (as if you thought I could resist the sarcasm!)