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Apple wins portable device UI 'scroll bar' patent

post #1 of 73
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Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for the implementation of the transparent disappearing vertical and horizontal scroll bars seen in lists on mobile operating systems like the company's iOS.

In a surprisingly fast turnaround for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple won U.S. Patent No. 8,223,134 for "Portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents " a little over four months after the property was initially filed for in March.

The '134 patent covers both vertical and horizontal scroll bars seen when moving through a digitally represented list like a music playlist or message thread. Also covered is any type of "digital document" or image that cannot be fully displayed on a portable device's small screen.

In its filing summary, Apple notes that the patent was created in response to the limited screen real estate users have to work with on today's mobile devices. To save precious pixels the patent's inventors, including iOS chief Scott Forstall, envisioned a disappearing contextual scroll bar on the right and bottom edges of a display that allows mobile users to keep track of where they are in a given list or image.

From the background:

As portable electronic devices become more compact, and the number of functions performed by a given device increase, it has become a significant challenge to design a user interface that allows users to easily interact with a multifunction device. This challenge is particular significant for handheld portable devices, which have much smaller screens than desktop or laptop computers.



Scroll Bar Patent
Apple's disappearing scroll bar patent illustration. | Source: USPTO


According to the patent the scroll bars will appear when an object like a finger comes in contact with a multitouch screen, when a list is first displayed as well as other instances where navigation is needed. The bars slowly fade when they are no longer needed based on time set by the mobile OS leaving the screen free of distracting UI elements.

Adding to the functionality is dynamic contextual resizing based on how long a list or how large an image is being displayed. For example, if a list contained only three items, the vertical scroll bar would likely fill the entire right edge of the display while a list with 100 items would prompt the bar to shrink.

Scroll Bar Size
Illustration of dynamic UI asset resizing. Note the smaller vertical scroll bar.


Apple has recently adopted the iOS-style scroll bar in its most recent desktop applications with mixed results, though the real issue could be the Android mobile OS which uses an identical UI element. Just as the iPhone maker has successfully leveraged previous graphics patents against Google's OS it may do the same with Tuesday's granted property.
post #2 of 73

This could really put the hammer down on Android (not to mention Windows Phone and Surface).

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post #3 of 73

Umm I'm an Apple fan and all but really???

 

You mean there's absolutely no prior art to this?  I had J2ME apps that I built that did this.

post #4 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bain Kennedy View Post

Umm I'm an Apple fan and all but really???

 

You mean there's absolutely no prior art to this?  I had J2ME apps that I built that did this.

 

Patents never lie.

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post #5 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bain Kennedy View Post

Umm I'm an Apple fan and all but really???

 

You mean there's absolutely no prior art to this?  I had J2ME apps that I built that did this.

These were my thoughts initially. But then I remembered that it really doesn't matter if they hold the patent, it's if they go after anyone over it. And if Apple didn't get it, someone else would have.

I guess we just have to wait and see what they do with it.

post #6 of 73

I believe the patent rule is now first to file, not first to use. Perhaps an ip expert can clarify.

post #7 of 73

You know, I think this just might be the patent to break the US Software Patent System's back. This is absurd.

post #8 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shidell View Post

You know, I think this just might be the patent to break the US Software Patent System's back. This is absurd.

 

Please illuminate us as to why this is absurd.  It is a unique idea, even if it isn't their unique idea someone deserves to patent it.

post #9 of 73
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Originally Posted by GregInPrague View Post

 

Please illuminate us as to why this is absurd.  It is a unique idea, even if it isn't their unique idea someone deserves to patent it.

 

I just patented breathing. Hold it.

post #10 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by currentinterest View Post

I believe the patent rule is now first to file, not first to use. Perhaps an ip expert can clarify.

 

You shouldn't be able to patent software ideas to begin with. You can copyright code but to patent software ideas is similar to patenting the idea of a window to let air in.

post #11 of 73

You should do a little light reading regarding patents then you will understand.

post #12 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregInPrague View Post

 

Please illuminate us as to why this is absurd.  It is a unique idea, even if it isn't their unique idea someone deserves to patent it.

In other news, Apple also filed a patent for the color black.

post #13 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregInPrague View Post

 

Please illuminate us as to why this is absurd.  It is a unique idea, even if it isn't their unique idea someone deserves to patent it.

 

I'm advising you now to block that person instead of replying. You can thank me later.

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post #14 of 73
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Originally Posted by Freshmaker View Post

In other news, Apple also filed a patent for the color black.

 

Strange there are so many anti-Apple trolls on a site called "AppleInsider". Guess the Android users are feeling heat.

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post #15 of 73
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Originally Posted by GregInPrague View Post

 

Please illuminate us as to why this is absurd.  It is a unique idea, even if it isn't their unique idea someone deserves to patent it.

 

Because it's software development and software development ideas doesn't deserve the right to be patented. When you're building a house and the basic fundamental tools are patented so only "XYZ" company has the rights to use it that creates a monopoly. Last I knew promoting monopolies are illegal. Software development is similar to building a house. You shouldn't be able to patent check boxes and scroll bars because they are fundamental to software development. If you design an engine to create video games or create a application to perform a task that I can see patenting. You should not be able to patent basic fundamental tools required to develop software such as the slide to unlock or checkboxes. Patents were never designed to stifle innovation and promote monopolies.

post #16 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabe1k View Post

These were my thoughts initially. But then I remembered that it really doesn't matter if they hold the patent, it's if they go after anyone over it. And if Apple didn't get it, someone else would have.

I guess we just have to wait and see what they do with it.

 

I don't think you understand the patent system.  You don't get a patent unless it's a unique and/or new implementation or process.  The patent office doesn't just hand them out to anyone who applies.  

post #17 of 73

Sometimes, the level of ignorance of some people astonish me.

 

I wonder if people know what "software" is.

 

A pharmaceutical company spends billions of dollars in research every year. They have drugs patented to them so they can make back what they spent to develop it and then some more for profit.

 

A skin care company spends billions research a new moisturizer, patent it and then sell it.

 

A portable devices company spends billions with programmers, engineers, artists and creative ideas to put that on a device. On this case everybody should be able to copy that and it is ok?

 

The iPhone is not a revolutionary "hardware". It is a revolutionary "device". A device is composed by both software AND hardware. Other manufacturers made several portable hardware that were much better than the iPhone, however, the software sucked and they didn't "stick" as the iPhone did.

 

Last but not least, lets say there is a problem in your company and you come up with a great idea to fix that. Everybody is impressed, but your boss actually says the idea was his and steals that nice fat "bonus" for the "effort" or "creativity". Would you like that? If you think software patents shouldn't exist, you should be happy if that happened to you.

post #18 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I don't think you understand the patent system.  You don't get a patent unless it's a unique and/or new implementation or process.  The patent office doesn't just hand them out to anyone who applies.  

 

Actually, the patent system tends to hand out patents now and worry about their validity later. That's why all of these patent cases that go to court are so time-consuming and costly.

post #19 of 73

Not true. The USPTO is legally bound to only issue patents that it believes meet the constitutional criteria. That entities would later challenge their decisions in court is not surprising.

post #20 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post

 

Because it's software development and software development ideas doesn't deserve the right to be patented. When you're building a house and the basic fundamental tools are patented so only "XYZ" company has the rights to use it that creates a monopoly. Last I knew promoting monopolies are illegal. Software development is similar to building a house. You shouldn't be able to patent check boxes and scroll bars because they are fundamental to software development. If you design an engine to create video games or create a application to perform a task that I can see patenting. You should not be able to patent basic fundamental tools required to develop software such as the slide to unlock or checkboxes. Patents were never designed to stifle innovation and promote monopolies.

As long as there are alternate ways to do things, there is no monopoly. If there is no other way, then we have FRAND.

 

Apple is busy innovating an easy and uncluttered UI. Other companies are not focused on the user experience. Because Apple develops these and they are part of the user experience, they are patentable. 

 

Rather than pissing and moaning and spouting lies, develop your own fresh ideas and put it out to bid to Apple and the rest.

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #21 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I don't think you understand the patent system.  You don't get a patent unless it's a unique and/or new implementation or process.  The patent office doesn't just hand them out to anyone who applies.  

 

You are correct in that I don't understand the patent system as well as some people. However, a patent for scroll bars on a mobile device seems to me like something other companies could also apply for. 

 

That being said, I really haven't used any other mobile OS's so it's entirely possible that no other mobile device uses this ui element and that it's unique to Apple.

post #22 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

 

Actually, the patent system tends to hand out patents now and worry about their validity later. That's why all of these patent cases that go to court are so time-consuming and costly.

 

That is just not accurate. The patent application and review process is lengthy and very detailed.

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post #23 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabe1k View Post

 

You are correct in that I don't understand the patent system as well as some people. However, a patent for scroll bars on a mobile device seems to me like something other companies could also apply for. 

 

That being said, I really haven't used any other mobile OS's so it's entirely possible that no other mobile device uses this ui element and that it's unique to Apple.

 

You must keep in mind that the summary of the patent found here is not completely accurate. If you want the real details, read the patent. It is very specific.

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post #24 of 73
See below.
post #25 of 73
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Originally Posted by MattBookAir View Post

Indeed. I find it difficult to imagine Apple users would bother to cruise the Android forums. Then again, while AppleInsider often shows up in the main Google News pages, for example, I've never seen an Android site there, so I guess nobody but the Android devotees knows about them.

 

It speaks to the level of interest in all things Apple... still.

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post #26 of 73
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Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Strange there are so many anti-Apple trolls on a site called "AppleInsider". Guess the Android users are feeling heat.

Indeed. I find it difficult to imagine Apple users would bother to cruise the Android forums. Then again, while AppleInsider often shows up in the main Google News pages, for example, I've never seen an Android site there, so I guess nobody but the Android devotees knows about them.
post #27 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabe1k View Post

 

You are correct in that I don't understand the patent system as well as some people. However, a patent for scroll bars on a mobile device seems to me like something other companies could also apply for. 

 

That being said, I really haven't used any other mobile OS's so it's entirely possible that no other mobile device uses this ui element and that it's unique to Apple.

It doesn't matter if anyone else uses the element or not. Apple filed for and was granted a patent for it.

 

Everyone acts like the design doesn't matter. That, "well it is software", and oh sooooooo obvious that dissapearing scroll bars are like the wheel. That, if i write the code just a little different to achieve the same affect then no problem. It isn't stealing. "The look and feel is the same for the element but the 'code' is different so no problem"

 

Well, if GM redesigns the Corvette to look nearly identical to a Ferrari but the engine is still the Vettes would Ferrari not sue? Would GM get away with saying, "well it is still a Corvette engine, The comparisons to design are mearly in response to aerodynamics and of obvious and purposeful design elements."

post #28 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bain Kennedy View Post

Umm I'm an Apple fan and all but really???

 

You mean there's absolutely no prior art to this?  I had J2ME apps that I built that did this.

The patent under discussion contains a list of prior patents considered relevant to this one. The earliest listed is dated 1989.

- that patent contains a list of relevant/associated patents, the earliest of which is dated 1977.

- that patent, in turn has it own list of relevant patents, the earliest of which is dated 1966.

 

i think it probable that 'prior art' is being involved in some esoteric fashion, somehow.

 

Cheers

post #29 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post

 

Because it's software development and software development ideas doesn't deserve the right to be patented. When you're building a house and the basic fundamental tools are patented so only "XYZ" company has the rights to use it that creates a monopoly. Last I knew promoting monopolies are illegal. Software development is similar to building a house. You shouldn't be able to patent check boxes and scroll bars because they are fundamental to software development. If you design an engine to create video games or create a application to perform a task that I can see patenting. You should not be able to patent basic fundamental tools required to develop software such as the slide to unlock or checkboxes. Patents were never designed to stifle innovation and promote monopolies.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!  Really!!!!!!!! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO DECIDE WHICH CREATIVE DESIGNS DESERVE TO BE PROTECTED?!!!!!  If you took the time to read TROLL  you would know that there is more to the patent that just being a scroll bar.  There are certain behaviors that Apple designed to happen when other events are present.  It is what makes the OS feel the way it does.  Its not about the scroll bar.  Its the fact that it is invisible unless certain conditions are present.  This is what they are protecting.  They designed their customer experience and that effort that deserves protection, and that by the way no-one cared enough about to focus on even after Apple had been doing so for years.  Some tried to out do them but and was supported by the likes of you.  Web OS, Surface and the like.  A monopoly is when consumers don't have a choice.  They have lots of them, but if they want Apple's elegance they have to buy an Apple product.  If those you support want to provide an elegant experience, they should recognize problems and come up with solutions on their own that fit them.  Keep in mind. Apple provides lots of support to open source, including the browser engine being used on most mobiles.  Android is suppose to be completely open source so whatever they do is available to use or not use. All of those open source code writers should be able to create their own elegant design solutions.  

post #30 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post

 

Because it's software development and software development ideas doesn't deserve the right to be patented. When you're building a house and the basic fundamental tools are patented so only "XYZ" company has the rights to use it that creates a monopoly. Last I knew promoting monopolies are illegal. Software development is similar to building a house. You shouldn't be able to patent check boxes and scroll bars because they are fundamental to software development. If you design an engine to create video games or create a application to perform a task that I can see patenting. You should not be able to patent basic fundamental tools required to develop software such as the slide to unlock or checkboxes. Patents were never designed to stifle innovation and promote monopolies.

 

The whole point of patents is to grant a monopoly. I agree that this patent is ridiculous, but I don't agree that software patents should never enjoy patent protection. Similar to if you develop a new type of pump that is 20% more efficient at pumping water (which is patentable), if you develop a clever new technique for video compression that is 20% more efficient, I think that should be equally patentable.

post #31 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by genovelle View Post
(RANT, RANT, RANT)

 

No offense, but on the surface, this patent sounds absolutely absurd. A disappearing scroll bar? Really? Maybe there's something unique in it's implementation that warrants protection, but it sounds pretty stupid. Call me a fandroid if you want (I own an iPhone 4S BTW), but I'm going to call it like I see it. It really doesn't seem very different to hiding the OS X Dock or the Windows Taskbar. And, no I'm not technologically stupid enough to think that taking it to a mobile OS makes it particularly different. Hiding a GUI element to free up screen real estate isn't some new invention.

post #32 of 73

Hiding interface items until some event occurs, for whatever reason, is not even close to an original concept. So Apple applied it to scrollbars, big deal.

post #33 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabe1k View Post

These were my thoughts initially. But then I remembered that it really doesn't matter if they hold the patent, it's if they go after anyone over it. And if Apple didn't get it, someone else would have.

I guess we just have to wait and see what they do with it.

And THAT is what's wrong with the current patent system.

post #34 of 73

Great news! Even more bad news for those photocopiers in Mountain View and Korea!

 

Time for Samsung and Google to start crapping their pants even more.

post #35 of 73

Ridiculous if not pathetic, soon to be invalidated software patent on the ubiquitous 'scroll bars'. The US office patent is digging its own hole.


Edited by Sensi - 7/17/12 at 5:52pm
post #36 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

 

Patents never lie.

Patents are constantly invalidated and ridiculed in courts.


Edited by Sensi - 7/17/12 at 5:53pm
post #37 of 73
And more lawsuits to follow.
post #38 of 73
I swear. It's like people think there's only one way to design software. Innovation is OFFICIALLY over if people are seriously thinking this cannot be patented. Android and the judicial system have proven that patents are almost useless because, as said before, you can implement the same idea but they ask for the "code", which of course will be different, but the patent isn't on the code. It's on what WE AS CUSTOMERS see. So therefore, this is legit, and android is crap. And stolen. Fair and square.
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post #39 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sensi View Post

Ridiculous if not pathetic, soon to be invalidated software patent on the ubiquitous 'scroll bars'. The US office patent is digging its own hole.

You're obviously an Android troll. There's so many ways to have scroll bars on a window (go look at your favorite desktop OS) and none of these are patented or the patents have long expired. When Apple unveiled their phone in 2007, it had a unique way to display them and Google copied that particular, Apple created, way. Had they spent the time & energy on INVENTING NEW STUFF instead of RIPPING OTHERS OFF, they wouldn't be in such sad shape today.

 

You can cry all you want about patents but RIPPING OFF innovative companies SHOULD have a price. Google and Samsung don't invent much and just blatantly copy Apple and save money on R&D and design. It's time they paid the price.

 

Cheaters are always caught. Stealing NEVER pays off.

post #40 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by bighype View Post

You can cry all you want about patents but RIPPING OFF innovative companies SHOULD have a price. Google and Samsung don't invent much and just blatantly copy Apple and save money on R&D and design. It's time they paid the price.

Cheaters are always caught. Stealing NEVER pays off.

Agreed. This is theft at it's finest.
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