Patent Process Officially Broken

Google awarded a patent for changing the Google logo on particular days with date-relevent doodles.  Really.  From the patent award

A system provides a periodically changing story line and/or a special event company logo to entice users to access a web page. For the story line, the system may receive objects that tell a story according to the story line and successively provide the objects on the web page for predetermined or random amounts of time. For the special event company logo, the system may modify a standard company logo for a special event to create a special event logo, associate one or more search terms with the special event logo, and upload the special event logo to the web page. The system may then receive a user selection of the special event logo and provide search results relating to the special event.

Put a turkey on Thanksgiving in your website banner, and just wait for the Google lawyers to call.  Outstanding.


  1. jsalvatier:

    Despite the fact that this is a super common practice among websites. Google merely does it more then other websites.

  2. DrTorch:

    Patently absurd.

    How could any clerk say that this was unique?

  3. NL:

    It also doesn't "entice" me to use Google. At best it creates a little goodwill or improved public image ("Google is a fun website") but I never visit Google to see what special logo they may have.

    George Romero once sued a game company for a zombie video game. Lawyers had to argue whether George Romero owned things like the story concept of a rooftop helicopter rescue from a shopping center full of zombies. Fortunately for us all, he lost.

    The worst example is tax strategy patents. Since the PTO will patent business processes, they will grant accountants patents for various strategies to deal with the tax system. Of course, the tax code is a government creation, and the most productive and effective routes to compliance shouldn't be monopolized by a single firm. Last I heard, it seemed like the consensus was gathering against tax patents.

  4. anon:

    Without reading the patent's claims, you really can't say what the patent covers.

    Here's one patent lawyer's take:

    (not my site, and no comment on the merits of his analysis).

  5. Don:

    "Don't be evil." Yeah, right.

  6. anon:

    Don, I think they're big enough for Hanlon's Razor. Stupid explains it better.

    The patent has very little real value and cost them a small fortune.

  7. T J Sawyer:

    Can you say "prior art?"

    My local hardware store has been changing the banner over their door to reflect holidays "systematically" for the past 40 or so years!

  8. John Moore:

    Those of us in the software industry have been aware of the Patent Office's insanity for years. The Supreme Court didn't help when they said that one could patent the simple idea of putting a common business practice into software.

    If the patents were actually enforced, ALL progress in software would come to a grinding halt, except at a few huge corporations which traded patent portfolios.

    This is an enormous danger to progress, and has been globalized through the WTO patent process.

    It is time for reform. Make the life of a software patent 30 minutes, and it might make sense.

  9. anon:

    TJ Sawyer wrote:

    "My local hardware store has been changing the banner over their door to reflect holidays “systematically” for the past 40 or so years!"

    That's not the subject matter of the claims in this patent. RTFC.

  10. anon:

    John Moore wrote:

    "If the patents were actually enforced . . . ."

    So...if the patents aren't enforced, what's your problem?

  11. Smock Puppet:

    >>> How could any clerk say that this was unique?

    Very simple:
    "Gee, that's unique! Here's your patent. Now excuse me while I get back to my regular area of patent activity, the examination of buggy whip patent applications..."

    >>> “Don’t be evil.” Yeah, right.

    Now, now -- they didn't say:
    "Don't be ridiculous."

  12. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    For those of you who are interested, I STRONGLY recommend the now 15yo, but still very appropos:

    .......The Economy of Ideas.......
    A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age.
    by John Perry Barlow.

    Barlow was a member of The Grateful Dead, who managed to make themselves rich while doing exactly what he says. The article is more copyright oriented than patent oriented, but the principles are much the same: the system is broken, does not even vaguely reflect actual practice, much less reasonable sense, and is doomed on almost every level.

    But when you can't get Congress to actually visit and enact rational debt correction, how the hell are you going to get these incompetent and/or lazy and/or self-serving bastards to actually do ANYTHING right with regards to something so unobviously important as IP law?

    I found it (almost) hilarious (ha-ha-only-serious) back in the late 1990s when these idiots are making these mindless protests against the WTO when the real rip-off was happening a few miles away at the WIPO conference, where they attempted (and failed) to get the DMCA enacted worldwide. They failed utterly (the smaller nations, with equal vote, smelled something fishy in a set of laws that gave them nothing for their older memes but denied them everything recently created).

    So, of course, Congress enacted it virtually unilaterally for the USA almost unchanged and unexamined, since Disney wanted it. Along with The Bono Bill, that was a particularly bogus time for IP law.

  13. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > John Moore wrote:
    “If the patents were actually enforced . . . .”
    So…if the patents aren’t enforced, what’s your problem?

    Enforced in the general sense.

    The problem is that by being on the books, they give bureaucrats an inappropriate degree of "discretionary punitive action" to lever against others to get what they want:
    "Do as I tell you to on this matter, or I'll take you to court over this totally unrelated thing"§.

    As usual, the real problem isn't the vagueness or unenforceability of law itself, it's the potential for abuse of it by charlatans and thugs.

    §As a prime example, consider the next thread --
    Auto Bailouts and the Rule of Law
    Now consider how the government almost certainly misused TARP to pressure creditors with regards to GM and Chrysler.

    Money in the hands of government is a BAD THING on the whole. All too often someone will pervert it away from whatever task it was assigned towards one which benefits them or a crony. In this case, TARP funds were misused to get a much better deal for autoworkers union members at the expense of legitimate GM/Chrysler creditors who SHOULD have had first rights over the funds dispersed in the various chicaneries going on.

  14. epobirs:

    This would never stand up to challenge. Litigants could easily point to numerous video and computer games that did the same thing based on the clock/calendar settings of the host platform. For example, Sega-CD games that displayed special graphics on major holidays.

    I suspect this is a defensive patent. There is no intent to ever leverage the patent but only to avoid someone else doing so at greater expense than obtaining the patent. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said this was the rationale for many of the patents Amazon has obtained. It is the natural progression from the emergence of patent trolls.

  15. T J Sawyer:

    Anon says:

    That’s not the subject matter of the claims in this patent. RTFC.

    Read the first line quoted by Coyote, "A system provides a periodically changing story line and/or a special event company logo to entice users..."

    Perhaps you need a snark detector or sense of humor?