More patent follies: the easiest design element becomes a toll gate

by Andy Oram

The Peer to Patent project (which I've reported on before) just pointed me to a particularly broad patent that could encumber user interfaces on the web and desktops for years to come.

The idea in this patent, submitted by Yahoo!, is a clever little idea: if someone is starting to drag an icon or mail message somewhere, why not bring the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak? If she is dragging a photo, for instance, the browser or operating system can guess that she wants to open it with PhotoShop or the Gimp, and present that choice right next to the icon for the photo.


2007-12-19 09:49:24
The first UI technique it reminds me of is context-specific circular "pie" menus that pop up around the mouse cursor after doing some kind of special-click on an on-screen object. (The Firefox extension for this was called RadialContext, I think). Wherever the mouse is, the set of choices for the chosen object pop up right there. But I guess this is still different from normal DnD.
Anthony Cowley
2007-12-19 15:07:10
What I find vexing about this particular innovation is that it sounds a lot like a standard context menu (e.g. Open With...), except that it is triggered by a click-and-drag rather than a right-click.
2008-01-03 00:56:33
While it may be difficult to find prior art that destroys the novelty of this invention it should be rather easy to argue against an inventive step (context menus seem like a good candidate). Moreover, as you explain, there is much more involved than just bringing the mountain to the prophet. How is this achieved? This means that there is clearly insufficiency of disclosure of essential features. This argument would prevent a patent from being granted. And maybe the invention as described even lacks a technical effect at all.