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Patented Gestures Detailed 87

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the all-hail-the-listicle dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Annalee Newitz wrote a fresh/interesting/informative piece on the io9 site about 10 Gestures that are already patented; unsurprisingly by the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Nintendo. But it's the other patent holders on the list that seem more interesting to me: Xerox, Lucent, Palm and lesser known Gesturetek have very broad patents for this tech."
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Patented Gestures Detailed

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  • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @09:06AM (#36361956)

    There's a gesture I often make to MS products, but it's been done so often by so many people that the prior art makes it unpatentable.

    • by TWX (665546)

      What gesture? Or should I read between the lines?

      • by vlm (69642)

        What gesture? Or should I read between the lines?

        Yeah, the "three finger salute". Sorta read between the lines although no one I know can hit ctrl-alt-delete with ring, index, pointer fingers on one hand.

        • (assuming you mean ring/middle/index, since pointer == index)

          Severe carpal tunnel syndrome? Ring/pointer/pinkie is more comfortable, but even with my moderate CTS, I can do it with ring/middle/index on a desktop KB.

          Laptops and netbooks are right out of the running, though, since none of them can seem to agree where the hell home/end/ins/del should go...

          • by smelch (1988698)
            Why on Earth would you even try to do that? My lord what an uncomfortable position. I can do it, but it feels so very wrong. Just slide your thumb over to alt and the rest is pretty easy no matter which fingers you use.
            • by Talderas (1212466)

              Using the left hand I can hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete with my ring, middle, and index fingers. Ring hits R. Alt. Index hits R. Ctrl. Middle hits Delete.
              Using the right hand I can hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete with my thumb, pinky, and ring fingers. Thumb hits R. Alt. Pinky hits R. Ctrl. Ring hits Delete.

              Neither is particularly comfortable.

              • by Canazza (1428553)

                My keyboard lets me use Right ALT, so with my right hand I can do it. It's not particularly useful as I'm used to doing it with 2 hands. It's not often I have to press CTRL ALT DEL with my wanking hand...

                • I came about it in the old days of buggering up pointers and writing my name into the middle of the kernel stack. :D

                  My left hand was too busy with whatever caffeinated beverage was fueling my obsession at that given point. :)

              • by arth1 (260657)

                I fail to see the problem. Why can't you just press CTRL and ALT with your thumb? Or do you have one of those strange keyboards that has extra META-keys between CTRL and ALT?

          • by Jesse_vd (821123)
            You're all doing it wrong. :)

            Without ever taking your right hand off the mouse, use your left hand to hit CTRL+SHIFT+ESC up the left side of the keyboard. this also bypasses the prompt screen and takes you right to task manager! also works with remote desktop to bring up task manager on the remote machine
        • FYI index finger = pointer.

  • The is inconceivable.

    The patent office is stupid. There is no way activity by a person, even equiped with any sort of tool, should be patentable. Sure the tool can be, but not human activity.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      :rolls eyes, sighs.

      Don't, whatever you do, take 30 seconds to read past the headline and find what the article is actually about, please. It really spoils the arm pumping action following a First Post.

      • So what do you think the article is about? Because when I read the article, I thought to myself that this isn't like patenting, say, a saw. No, it's like patenting moving a saw from side to side in a sawing motion. Sure, if you're a competitor, you can invent and sell another saw, but you can't invent one that works by allowing the user to cut by moving that saw side to side in a sawing motion, because we own that. And unless I'm mistaken, that's pretty much what the GP was referring to.

        • Actually, when I read the article, it seemed to go pretty far beyond that. It's more like patenting every motion one could possibly make [gawkerassets.com] while using a saw, even if you never intend to use such motions. That way, for practical purposes, you can't invent and sell another saw, even one that uses a crappy circular motion, because we own that too.

          All of these patents should be invalidated immediately, but then, most patents applied for these days should never even be granted to begin with.

    • by anegg (1390659)
      I'm not sure the gestures are patented; that seems to be an assumption made by the author of the article (yes, I read the article - but not the patents called out by the article). What I would expect to be covered in the patents are the mechanisms for recognizing/processing those gestures to bring about certain results. This seems to be almost required to be so for something like a patent on manipulating 3D objects in a virtual reality space; how could one patent the very concept which is obviously not or
    • Question... How are some of these gestures being passed off as "more intuitive?" Like the 4-finger swipe? It is not obvious to the casual observer that that's what you need to do to get the intended affect. You have to be trained to know. Reminds me how intuitive "writing" was on some of the Palm PDAs. You had to learn how to write the alphabet all over again. It just makes devices more difficult to learn how to use. Not easier.
    • by RichMan (8097) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @09:24AM (#36362136)

      I read it. They patented communication. That a particular action is interpreted as a sign of a particular intent.
      Consider the hand signs used by the deaf, or the action in the title I used. An action is a symbol recognition for any intent is communication.

      Patents can apply to a way to recognize an action. Or a way to apply a signaled intent.
      But a symbol, and that is all a gesture of any sort is, is way beyond what should be covered.

    • This doesn't let you off the hook for not reading TFA, but the article was horribly written. It doesn't link to several of the patents they were talking about. It confuses patents with published patent applications. It quotes titles, abstracts, and drawings as indicating what's patented, instead of quoting the claims.

      All in all, none of the patents or applications discussed in TFA actually covers the gesture itself. Instead, they cover the technology used to recognize the gestures (and one design patent

      • All in all, none of the patents or applications discussed in TFA actually covers the gesture itself. Instead, they cover the technology used to recognize the gestures

        You're raining on everyone's parade, you know that? Ssshhh... this is /., and want something we can be angry about

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The is inconceivable.

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      The US Patent Office is, like most of the US government these days, simply a tool of control by the major megacorps. I'd give them a nice big 'up yours' gesture, but I might be violating a patent if I do that.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      The is inconceivable.

      The patent office is stupid. There is no way activity by a person, even equiped with any sort of tool, should be patentable. Sure the tool can be, but not human activity.

      When you have a wiener like Wiener [artnet.de] in politics, anything is possible.

    • Not the gesture itself, but the computer reacting toward it maybe.
      And I agree, the "up yours" gesture, maybe used as a reaction toward getting a blue screen of death and having to reboot?

    • For cases where middle finger is not deemed large enough, I would recommend our American friends to borrow this equivalent European gesture [foot-news.com].

  • FTFA:

    This patent may be one reason why the unlock screens for Android phones don't allow you to pick an unlock gesture that's one, single slide across the screen.

    Now for some reason my Android phone has exactly that gesture for unlocking. OK you first have to activate the screen by pressing one of the buttons (makes sense they do not wake the screen immediately every time it's touched - not sure how this is on iPhones), but after that it's a straight line across the screen.

    Oh well, it's again someone who doesn't know what a "design patent" is. As long as it doesn't look exactly like iPhone's slider, you're OK.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      The unlock gesture on my Android phone used to be a curved slide, but since the update to 2.1, it's always been straight slide. Wouldn't google be on safer ground with the curved slide? I kinda liked it.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        It's a design patent, so as long as it doesn't look exactly like Apple's design they should be OK.

        My phone has Android 2.2, no experience with earlier versions.

  • by Goose In Orbit (199293) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @09:17AM (#36362064)

    TFA, on the other hand...

    "Interestingly, Nintendo did not patent any gestures at all in the creation of the Wii controller, instead focusing entirely on patenting facets of the device. Their patent covers a controller that contains an accelerometer, but not the gestures used to operate it."

    *rolls eyes*

    • >

      *rolls eyes*

      Now if only someone would have patented the disgustingly self satisfied gesture of "eye rolling".

  • Nobody wants to see the guy who invents the better mousetrap lose his ability to make money. At the same time you donâ(TM)t want corporate lawyers to bend patent laws to give their corporations unfair advantages.
    Patent laws are a joke. This is just the weekly posting on some completely ridiculous thing that has passed as a patent. These types of patents only helps companies squash their competitors. Itâ(TM)s a shitty group of laws that people can bend to monopolize a marketplace. Unfortunate
  • Until 20-30 years from now when every single software concept has been patented and those patents have all expired. What a wonderful time it will be.

    Though I'm probably giving the patent trolls too little credit for adequately reworking existing concepts to "qualify" for fresh patents, and the USPTO too much credit for being able to identify these shenanigans.

    • by russotto (537200)

      Until 20-30 years from now when every single software concept has been patented and those patents have all expired. What a wonderful time it will be.

      Though I'm probably giving the patent trolls too little credit for adequately reworking existing concepts to "qualify" for fresh patents, and the USPTO too much credit for being able to identify these shenanigans.

      Both have pretty much already happened; that's why we see patents for ordinary stuff people have been doing on computers for decades, just "on a mobil

    • Perhaps the community needs to think about copyrighting just about every conceivable human joint movement for the control of an electronic interface. Then licence this under the GPL such that if any gesture is incorporated into an interface then every gesture used in the interface must be made available under the GPL.

    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      and those patents have all expired

      Assuming that will happen. Copyrights are already in indefinite extension mode, maybe patents will follow?

  • This is not something that ought to be eligible for patent coverage. Aren't there some ambulances that need chasing?
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      That's probably already patented...

      And this one clearly suffers from prior art:

      7. Shaking your mobile device
      Ever get pissed off at your phone and shake it up and down until it reboots?

      Hmmph. Etch-a-Sketch had that feature decades earlier.

  • and other signed languages might have something to say about this. ASL should fall under prior art.

    Signed languages in the West go back 300 years at the least IIRC.

  • Please tell me that these patents only prohibit them being recognized by other gesture-detecting devices.

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @09:53AM (#36362408)

    I can understand the physical technology that enables touchscreen technology being patentable. How the hell is it that finger gestures can be patented?

    Couldn't prior art be argued given that many of these movements are performed on a regular basis in real life? Just because it's a virtual interpretation of that action shouldn't make it patentable. Apple's slide patent, for example, should automatically be invalided for this reason. Aren't these all things that could be copyrighted instead?

    It just seems absurd to me.

    • I can understand the physical technology that enables touchscreen technology being patentable. How the hell is it that finger gestures can be patented?

      Couldn't prior art be argued given that many of these movements are performed on a regular basis in real life? Just because it's a virtual interpretation of that action shouldn't make it patentable. Apple's slide patent, for example, should automatically be invalided for this reason. Aren't these all things that could be copyrighted instead?

      It just seems absurd to me.

      No, you were right in the first sentence. Contrary to the summary and the article, none of these patents claim the gestures. They all claim a device manipulated using specific gestures to accomplish certain actions. In other words, you can make any gesture you want without infringing... it's only infringement if you have a device configured to respond certain ways to certain input actions. They even mention this in the reference to the Apple patent, but then quietly ignore that for the rest of the article.

  • Microsoft also owns a patent on throwing chairs around.
  • Between Xerox and Palm, they've managed to patent cursive writing. Nice!

  • NONE of these should have been granted a U.S. patent. This is ridiculous!

    U.S. law (Section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C.) defines what is patentable subject matter: "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." Gestures are not processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter, so they are NEVER supposed to be patented.

    Gestures are basically signals, and signals are specifically NOT patentable. The Federal Circuit has ruled that signals are not statutory subject matter, because articles of manufacture (the only plausible category) do not include intangible, incorporeal, transitory entities (in In re Nuitjen, 500 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2007)).

    This is another example of unwarranted interference by the government in the free market. Is there really a need to grant monopolies to companies for specific gestures? No. It's not justified by any law. What's more, it harms society. Just imagine if each car company had to have a radically different interface due to patents - it would harm safety! This just worsens the digital divide, with no legal or societal justification.

    We need the courts to require a re-review of every patent, at no cost to defendants, before any case is tried, and for the courts to assume that the patent office is a registration of claim, not anything meaningful. There are too many bad patents to believe otherwise.

    (Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and speak only for myself. I'm sure not impressed by the work of some lawyers, though.)

    • by warGod3 (198094)
      Except that a gesture used to interface with a touch screen is a process. It's a process to interface with the system.
    • NONE of these should have been granted a U.S. patent. This is ridiculous!

      U.S. law (Section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C.) defines what is patentable subject matter: "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." Gestures are not processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter, so they are NEVER supposed to be patented.

      Contrary to the article and the summary, none of the gestures are patented. Instead, what's claimed is a process of manipulating a device by interacting with the device through certain gestures, or a device - i.e. a "machine" - configured to respond in certain ways in response to a gesture. You performing the gesture in mid-air? Not infringement. A device configured with a certain type of slide-to-unlock screen? Infringement.

      The article even mentions this in number 1, but then quietly ignores it for the r

  • The article actually makes a point of saying that Nintendo is a notable absentee from the list, since the Wii's gestures aren't patented. Rather, the technology behind the Wiimote, such as the way it uses an accelerometer, is patented.

    Also, in a lot of these cases, the gesture itself (e.g. slide, pinch, open hand, shake) isn't patented. Rather, the usage of the gesture to mean a specific action is patented (e.g. slide to unlock, pinch to zoom, open hand to select, shake to reboot). I'm not saying that's muc

  • I'll give you three guesses which one I'm thinking about. ;)
  • So would it be legal to write an iPhone app to recognize gestures and then display who patented that gesture? Then if I create a new gesture I would be able to tell if it's legal? Or how about a synthetic gesture generator that would create and automatically fill out a patent application for all possible gestures, for say n numbers of strokes?
  • While not patented, this game based on hand gestures [boardgamegeek.com] is under copyright. To be fair, the game is copyrighted, not necessarily the gestures. Could the gestures be used in another game? Also, the author is quite liberal in his enforcement of his copyright [mud.co.uk]. I suspect the game is rarely played by gestures in any case, rather is it played online or in a pencil-and-paper version.
  • Sliding is much less of a drag.
  • but you should patent my middle finger already ... just in case
  • You cannot even read any content from io9 without enabling all sorts of scripting. Basically a blank page. So I'll make a gesture: I'll ignore io9 entirely.
  • What is the difference between a waive and a gesture? Nothing! A gesture based interface amounts to a language. Presumably users are supposed to learn a different gesture language for each device. And they wonder why products fail!
  • by blair1q (305137)

    They didn't patent an alphabet, they patented the systems that recognize the alphabet:

    http://www.patents.com/us-6493464.html [patents.com]

    What is claimed is:

    1. An electronic handwriting recognition system[...]
    2. An electronic handwriting recognition system[...]
    3. An automated method[...]
    4. An automated method[...]
    5. A computer program[...]
    6. A computer program[...]
    7. The invention of claims 1 or 2[...]
    8. The invention of claim 2[...]
    9. The invention of claim 4[...]
    10. The invention of claim 6[...]
    11. An electronic handwriting recognition system[...]
    12. An electronic handwriting recognition system[...]
    13. An automated method[...]
    14. An automated method[...]
    15. A computer program[...]
    16. A computer program[...]
    17. A pen based computer[...]
    18. A pen based computer[...]

    All specify "an apparatus" or "a process". There isn't one "an alphabet" in the lot, though the recognizabilty of the alphabet may be a critical component in one of the claims.

    Also, there's no way for anyone to enforce a patent on the way you write with your own hands. Only if you've designed a system to recognize what you're writing in particular by requiring it to be in that design

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am Patenting my POOP.
    The texture, the color, the weight, the feel, the smell, and the taste..
    LOL

  • 1. Slide to unlock
    Of course this is owned by Apple, as any iPhone user can tell you. Apple owns a design patent on the "ornamental" design of the lock screen that asks you to "slide to unlock" by tracing your finger in a straight line across the screen. So they haven't exactly patented the gesture itself, but instead the design that draws you into making the gesture. So you'd better not create any designs that invite people to "slide to unlock" anything. This patent may be one reason why the unlock screens for Android phones don't allow you to pick an unlock gesture that's one, single slide across the screen.

    The summary and article are just misleading. This is a design patent on the specific appearance of the iOS slide-to-unlock screen. The gesture? Not patented, or even patentable. But a specific design of a interface element? Yeah, you can patent the ornamental aspects. Same as Google had a design patent for their home page. That doesn't mean that "all home pages are patented".

  • Since 1997 GNU Emacs has contained a gesture-recording and recognition system called Strokes Mode. I don't know if this is relevant to the case at hand, but perhaps these links will help other Slashdotters investigate what I am talking about. The current source of strokes-mode is here:

    http://bzr.savannah.gnu.org/lh/emacs/trunk/annotate/head:/lisp/strokes.el [gnu.org]

    I once made a fun video demo with GNU Emacs and Strokes-Mode on an HP TouchSmart Tablet PC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw8SQqmHPbI [youtube.com]

    The source co

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