Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Handhelds Hardware

Palm/3Com Graffiti A Patent Infringement on Xerox 220

Olmy's Jart writes "According to this article on money.cnn.com, a judge has ruled that graffiti, the one stroke shorthand used on Palm Pilots, infringes a Xerox patent for "unistrokes". Really light on details and no links to betters sites, unfortunately." MSNBC also has the story.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Palm/3Com Graffiti A Patent Infringement on Xerox

Comments Filter:
  • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:40AM (#2735981) Homepage
    Bic has just sued Paper Mate over "the pen."
  • quick question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by windchill2001 ( 254017 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:44AM (#2735996)
    How does this affect handspring? Is Xerox's claim towards the implementation in the OS or the general input method?
  • by Hallow ( 2706 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:44AM (#2735997) Homepage
    for Palm or it's licensees, Handspring, Sony, and HandEra (and perhaps others). Xerox wants damages for infringement, plus they intend to force Palm to cease selling PDA's or to license the patent. If Palm can't afford it... all PalmOS based devices may be in trouble.

    Anyone know if BeOS had any non-infringing handwriting recognition? This might force Palm to move ahead with a switch to ARM and a new OS.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:15AM (#2736081)
      This might force Palm to move ahead with a switch to ARM and a new OS.

      Er, it's not the OS that's infringing, it's the interface. It's the quick and easy way of inserting text that doesn't occupy the space of a keyboard or have the hassles of true handwriting recognition which is causing the fuss.

      What Xerox patented was an interface concept that remains a highly effective compromise between computer and human. PalmOS, no matter how they change the kernel, will have to license the patent from Xerox or go under.

      As for damages, I doubt they'll be hurt too badly. If Xerox has any clue in management, they just want a little piece of Palm's pie.

      If a parasite kills the host without first spreading, it kills itself as well. Xerox will almost certainly pursue an Influenza pattern instead of an Ebola pattern.

      Regards, Ross

    • A great loud beeping sound could be heard all over the world today, eminating from Redmond, Washington, USA, as Windows CE backed into another victory. When asked what this means for consumers, Ralph Nader had this to say, "Why this just plain sucks farts from a dead pigeon's ass!"

      Meanwhile, Bill Gates of Microsoft had this to say on the subject. "Ehhx-cellent..."

    • If you selfishly use patents laws to prevent other people from earning a living, don't complain when others use the same patent laws to put a monkey wrench in your works. In the meantime, the legal buzzards are laughing all the way to the bank.
  • hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 4n0nym0u53 C0w4rd ( 463592 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:45AM (#2736000) Homepage
    Man, Palm is really having a hard time these days. Could this, coupled with their recent downturn help microsoft innovate them out of business a la netscape?

    Sure, Palm was the original, and the only one (along with OS licencees) that offers PDAs that aren't overloaded with pricey color screens, 64mb of memory, and desktop applications. (Well they offer those too, but they still have some good straightforward PDAs). But, with the market crowding, and lots of new Wince apps being written, are we seeing the beginning of the end?

    I'd hate to have to buy an overloaded PDA because MS becomes the only game in town...
    • There are a couple of monochrome wince pads out there.
    • Re:hmmm... (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )
      MS becomes the only game in town...
      Yeah, it's all Microsoft... There's no wonderful alternatives to Palm and WinCE. Nothing it out there for those of us who want a handheld that is legitimately a useful tool for getting work done, is incredibly stable, and fully featured. [psionusa.com] Wouldn't it be nice if some wonderful company (**Cough, Cough, Psion, Cough***) made a product like that.

      • Re:hmmm... (Score:2, Informative)

        Yeah, except that Psion has announced that they will no longer be developing their PDAs.

        Intrigued by your link, I went to their site--and lo and behold, due to weak demand, Psion will continue to sell but will stop development on their PDA line.

        If this suit by Xerox succeeds, and Palm either goes out of business or becomes more expensive due to licensing costs, perhaps Psion will re-evaluate their position. But, as it is now, it looks like the Psion PDA is dead.
        • Try again.

          You're right that they've announced they will not work on developing future PDAs, but that only applies to building their own hardware.

          Specifically, check out symbian.com. Symbian is the next release of the Psion Operating system, which is being included in several different manufacturer's hardware. In other words, you won't be buying Psion hardware in the future, you'll be buying a Nokia/Erricson/etc. cell-phone that unfolds into a handheld. Of course, those cell phones will run the same applications that I'm using now on my Psion 5mx.

          If you ask me, the fact that Psion will not be competing with other companies that have licensed the software (as Palm is) ensures the future of the OS. They have no conflicting interests. They make the OS as good as they can for every manufacturer, and do everything they possibly can to ensure that everyone adopts the OS.

          With the hi-powered linup of companies involved with Symbian: Ericsson, Nokia, Matsushita (Panasonic), Motorola and Psion, I'd say Microsoft will be out of the picture LONG before us Psion users run out of options.
    • Newton anyone ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wudbaer ( 48473 )
      > Sure, Palm was the original, and the only one ...

      Nope. The TRUE original and only one was the Newton (I had a 120 and a 130 back then). Ok, they were quite bulky, especially compared with a Palm, and somewhat slow (at least the 1xx ones, never got to use a 2xxx), but they were great machines and they were the first and original PDAs. I considered Palms as cheap and ugly rip-offs of the Newton back then. Finally I was forced to switch by Apple abandoning the Newton and am now owning two Palms. It would be a shame to have to move on again because of Palm going down, but honestly Palm and PalmOS hasn't improved much over the last 12-18 months. They are hopelessly behind and if they don't get their act together soon, they will vanish. This would be a sad day.
      • Define PDA... the first Psion Organiser dates back to at least October 1984 (got an ad for one). The extremely usuable Psion series 3 dates back to at least 1991.
    • but you dont.
      you can buy a LINUX based pda. there are several to choose from on the market and one from sharp that is going to be the pinnacle of Linux PDA's. (Mmmm mp3 player built in! and cince it's linux based, Ogg/Vorbis support is only milliseconds away)

      Again people have believed Microsoft lies... there are always alternatives to a microsoft product, many of them better, it's just they're smaller (as in company size)
  • Patents (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oily Tuna ( 542581 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:46AM (#2736002) Homepage Journal
    Relevent patent is 5596656 [uspto.gov]

    It looks pretty broad and clear
    • It looks pretty broad and clear

      Yes, I'm afraid so.

      The $64 question is: does anyone feel like this result makes the world a better place? I sure don't.

      If you think software patents should be eliminated, sign the Petition Against Software Patents [petitiononline.com].
      • Xerox shareholders do.

        Both Xerox and Palm are troubled companies right now. How delightful, to watch the desparate tear in to each other like starving animals. I'm beginning to believe that intellectual property law and subsequent litigation are going to be the pallbearers of innovation. Elsewhere, someone noted that China has one of the few untroubled economies in the world - one wonders if their relative disinterest in enforcing intellectual property is going to benefit them in the future.

    • Re:Patents (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dackroyd ( 468778 )
      Er, reading the patent, it appears that Xerox have patented the idea of simple alphabet whose letters can easily be recognised by machine and can be easily written.

      Shurely there is some prior art [hierogeometry.com] in this area.

      In fact the use of simple alphabets [aol.com] possible even predates PDAs.

      Also some important books [onlinebible.org] have been written using simple alphabets [geocities.com]

      Seriously though, is it the idea of a simple alphabet that Xerox have patented or the exact 'letters' ?

      If it's the first then this is just friqin rediculous, if it's just the exact letters then surely Palm can just change a few characters to make it not be covered by the patent.
      • Re:Patents (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Oily Tuna ( 542581 )
        I don't know what was discussed during the court case, but to me the core of the patent seems to be the method of taking a set of points making up a stroke and (after cleaning up the data) finding the salient features (length and direction of straight lines and curves) and finding the match to the characters in their alphabet.

        Read the claims (they're the important bit legally, I believe) - they don't really say anything about the alphabet itself.
        • Re:Patents (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Relax, nobody takes those comments seriously. If Slashdot was around when Bell patented the telephone, they'd whinge about the "prior art" of two cups and a length of string.
        • by GossG ( 108241 )
          I had a Casio wristwatch that would do the same thing with digits. You draw the digits on the face of the display and the salient features are converted into characters for digital input.

          Unless this is a licensee of the same patent that was very much later granted to Xerox, then this is clearly prior art

          I am not sure when I bought it. I had it long before I moved in 1987, perhaps as early as 85.

      • When I was 11 years old, I constructed a reduced stroke alphabet. My primary criteria were less strokes, fast to write, and immediatly recognizable. At the time, PDA's were a fantasy device and the computer I was most likely to get my hands on was a TRS 80 (I didn't have on, but a friend's father did).

        At the time, it seemed cool (in a pre-geek sort of way), but hardly the sort of big deal that should get the government involved.

        Apparently, this is yet another innovation that Xerox decided to bury in the woods somewhere and hope some poor sap stumbled into it. Xerox seems to be a perfect example of how to throw a bunch of money away and hinder the advancement of science and the useful arts at the same time.

        I wonder how Xerox would feel if they were forced to cough up many dollars just because I wave a piece of paper about and claim that I had and failed to use a good idea before they had and failed to use a good idea. I suppose if I had the sort of excess money that they do, I might also have had an army of lawyers to attempt to secure a patent for my every insignificant utterance in the hopes of cashing in later.

        If the pilot's designers hadn't come up with and implemented this, it would still be collecting dust in some forgotten filing cabinet at Xerox (like most of the innovations that PARC came up with). Xerox is a perfect argument for inserting the concept of abandonment into patent law.

  • by krackbebe ( 545104 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:46AM (#2736007) Homepage
    Intellectual Property is being slowly strangled by overrestrective trademarks, copyrights, patents, corrupt companies, and bought politicians.

    When are we going to wake up and realize that these artificial constructs originally created to help innovation is actually starting to stifle it? Perhaps people will start to wake up after the recession really starts to hurt. There is going to be a lot of pointing fingers soon.
    • by Ether Trogg ( 17457 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:34AM (#2736134) Homepage
      Sorry, but the strangling of innovation by the overuse of patents is patented.

      Oh, and recessions have been patented. By the New York Stock Exchange, I think.

      Artificial constructs are patented.

      There's a copyright on stifling.

      Finger-pointing's patented.

      Corrupt companies? Bought politicians? Yep, both patented. (Patent #666 by "Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Baal, LLC.")

      And I think hurting is covered by the DMCA.

      Face it, we're screwed.

      Aww, dammit! Screwing's been patented!
    • I see, so your view is that XEROX PARC is about strangling innovation. They are likely the most ripped-off institution on the planet. Why shouldn't they get a fair royalty? I just guess it burns you whenever a dollar goes into someone else's pocket.
      • I have to agree here. PARC is responsible for more innovative ideas, for the tech industry. than almost any other entity; they have been BLATANTLY ripped off.

        I don't blame them for trying to defend their patent; now if they'll only accept a reasonable license fee that wont bankrupt the licensee then all should be well.
  • by "Zow" ( 6449 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:47AM (#2736008) Homepage

    I wonder when Xerox filed that patent, as Palm (or whatever they were called originally - before 3Com bought them) was selling the software to use graffiti as input on the Apple Newton back in 1994 or so? I think we still have one of the original packages at work.


    • 5,596,656 was filed on October 26, 1995
    • The application was a continuation of an application filed in October, 1993. That's likely a significantly harder date to beat than the 1995 date.
  • More info (Score:5, Informative)

    by diabloii ( 33174 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:47AM (#2736012) Homepage
    "Palm Inc. and 3Com have lost a patent lawsuit with Xerox. A judge ruled today that Graffiti does infringe on a patent Xerox holds on a handwriting recognition method, called Unistrokes.

    The lawsuit will now move on the the penalty phase. The court will decide if Palm has to pay damages and if it is allowed to continue to use the technology. Xerox will urge the court to either require Palm to stop using Graffiti entirely or pay royalties.

    Xerox sued U.S. Robotics, which was later bought by 3Com, back in 1997, claiming that Graffiti infringed a patent Xerox received in 1997. Palm was later spun off from 3Com.

    Xerox originally filed for its patent in October of 1993. The first handhelds running the Palm OS, the Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000, were released in April of 1996 by U.S. Robotics. These included Graffiti. A question not yet answered is why Jeff Hawkins didn't file for a patent on Graffiti earlier when he had been developing the idea since the 80s.

    In June of last year, a judge dismissed the suit on the grounds that Graffiti wasn't similar enough to Unistrokes. In October, the suit was reinstated and moved to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

    Judge Michael Telesca declared today that Xerox's patent is "valid and enforceable", and that Graffiti does infringe on it.

    It is not yet known whether Xerox plans to sue other makers of handheld operating systems, like Microsoft, who also include some form of handwriting recognition.

    "Xerox always aggressively defends its patent portfolio -- a valuable corporate asset. Today's ruling vindicates our position that our handwriting-recognition patent was infringed. Either Palm will have to cease production of its hand-held organizer or license the technology from Xerox," said Christina Clayton, Xerox general counsel.

    Thanks to montyburns for the tip. -Ed"

    Blatanly ripped from Palminfocenter.com [palminfocenter.com]

    Unistrokes picture - Unistroke.gif [geek.com]

    • Patent link, from Oily's post [uspto.gov]

      Not to be too picky, but according to the link posted above, the Patent was *filed* Oct 1995 (not 1993 as you/palminfocenter state), and the first palm to hit the streets was March 1996.

      There is probably a fair chance that the prototypes were about before Oct 1995. Prior art?

      Although, the court has already decided.... anyways.

      Further, the Patent *specifically* states 'a "unistroke" is a single, unbroken stroke', whereas graffiti has a number of multiple-stroke characters.

      not sure this means a thing though.... IANAL.


      • Re:More info (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Malcontent ( 40834 )
        In a court of law common sense gets thrown out the door as a first step. The next step is to evaluate how much money each party has. Whoever has the most money wins. If both parties are equally (or almost equally) wealthy then the judge considers their political affiliations. Only in the event of a tie will the so called facts come into play. Mostly though fact get twisted up pretty good.

        It was clear in this case that xerox had more money then palm and that palm was actually selling a product and trying to make money from it. They were bound to lose. A company which does nothing but sit on a patent waiting for other people to infringe on it is clearly more deserving then a company which actually produces a product. In order to better serve the public the courts decided that the price of palms should go up or that they should go out of business. Cool huh?
      • Further, the Patent *specifically* states 'a "unistroke" is a single, unbroken stroke', whereas graffiti has a number of multiple-stroke characters.

        Which Grafitti characters are multiple-stroke, exactly? Every single one I can think of (including the funky characters) are all single stroke -- you lift the pen off the screen and the PDA attempts to recognize the stroke you just made. (I do not count charset shifts as multiple strokes...)

        The LinuxDA PDA, OTOH, does have multiple-stroke characters, and many of them. Pisses me off, actually, because I'm so used to the Palm Grafitti.

        • The letter 'x' is a multiple stroke letter in grafitti (if you look at the grafiti manual), other than that is just punctuation. (I had a palm for 3 years, so I am going from my own knowledge).

          • The letter 'x' is a multiple stroke letter in grafitti (if you look at the grafiti manual)

            Hmm, I've never done an X like that. Backwards K for me. :-) But even punctuation and others are still one-stroke.

  • More info- (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Can be found at http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/54/23481.html

    Oh, quick question. Does it usually happen that you submit a story, it gets rejected, and then someone else publishes it?
  • Xerox said it will push for Palm to either to stop making its handheld electronic organizers, which use the handwriting recognition software, or license the technology from Xerox.

    Another one of those cases of making money by suing the successful


    Why can't someone do this to Microsoft?

    • There was a slashdot article a couple years ago about a guy suing M$ over multithreading witch he patented in the 80s. I don't know what happened, but I suspect the guy lost. It's also possible that M$ just paid him off.

      This probably won't hurt palm to much. The most likely outcome actually is for Graffiti to be ported to winCE machines for the same price, witch use a somewhat inferior glyph recognition system (they didn't change the way any of the letters were shaped or draw with a regular pen).

      I tried to lookup the actual story, but slashdot seems to post a story with the strings: "microsoft", and "lawsuit" just about every day...
    • Why can't someone do this to Microsoft?

      microsoft have got a big pile of their own patents [uspto.gov] covering all sorts of things. You would have to be very sure you're not infringing one of them before going after MS.

      E.g. how many products don't do something like Method for creating and maintaining user data [uspto.gov]
      • Oh you mean like "symbollic links" which MS claims to have invented [uspto.gov]?

        I sense a prior art here: ln -s anyone?

    • As far as I can tell Palm has not been very sucessful of late.
      Though I don't doubt the validity of the claim, I also think it execs at Xerox trying to make up for it's own poor books.
      . Now if polaroid could just sue Kodak.....
  • I suppose with the economy in its current state, struggling companies are forced to sue on possible infringement cases to earn some kind of revenue. And to believe I just got a Visor Deluxe two weeks ago, now its going to be a paperweight.
    • > I suppose with the economy in its current state, struggling companies are forced to sue on possible infringement cases to earn some kind of revenue.

      If you'd stop the knee-jerk "patents are BAD" reaction and think about the facts before spouting off, you'd realize that this case has been going on since long before the previous ecconomic boom! This isn't about the Tech Slump. Yea, sure -- Xerox is tight for cash, and would love to generate a few $$ off every sale of Palm, Handspring or other devices, but they aren't trying to stiffle competition or put Palm out of business.

      Xerox gave us plenty of innovations (e.g., the mouse). This is just one invention they are trying to get credit for.

  • by gayrod ( 545101 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:48AM (#2736020) Homepage
    When I was in Law School, we were presented with an age-old issue similar to this. Way back when, a printing company accused another of stealing their "shorthand" language that they used in technical manuals. (Basically it was a simple method of printing manuals for machines. If you were a worker who repaired these machines, you would be familiar with the shorthand).

    Anyways, the company that originated the shorthand sued another because they began printing manuals with a similar technology. The judge decided (I believe he was right) that it did constitute an infringement and the defendant company was required to pay royalities.

    Sure is neat to see how things can change, but the same lawsuits pop up again ;)

    - Dave Brennins
    • Riddle me this. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @02:44AM (#2736267)
      Xerox sued palm and won. Xerox did not sue MS. Why is this legal? At this point MS is most likely infringing on a Xerox Patent but Palm is the only organization being punished for it.

      Man out justice system is fucked up. If I ran the world Xerox would have to sue everybody who infringed or nobody. It's unfair to let some people off the hook.
      • Re:Riddle me this. (Score:2, Informative)

        by ssheth ( 92678 )
        Normally, a company goes after the patent infringer that they are most likely to win a case against first. Then, with that decision in their pocket, they come back and start suing all the other infringers. Having won the original patent case, the rest are fairly simple to win as well. Since the other companies also know that, the usual result is a quick settlement out of court for previous infringements and a nice little lucrative royalty fee going forward as well.

        I imagine that Xerox will go chase MS and all the other PDA mfr's next (i.e. like the Linux PDA guys as well).
      • Re:Riddle me this. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DivideByZero ( 80449 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @06:12AM (#2736656)
        Simple - Microsoft is paying Licencing fees to Xerox on their new Block Recognizer. Which, when I first heard it, sent warning bells off in my mind. Since when does Microsoft licence ANYTHING?

        Haven't they made their entire empire out of copying the work of others, then using their lawyers to beat the lawsuits off?

        But in light of this, it makes /perfect/ sense.

        Xerox beats the living daylights out of Palm, and points at Microsoft's licence as proof they own the technology.

        Microsoft pays next to nothing for the graffiti patents, and has their butts covered when Palm tries to sue them for using it.

        Palm can't sue M$, and they probably can't countersue Xerox. If Xerox manages to kill Palm completely, then M$ just drops Character Recognizer support, and leaves Xerox hanging.

        It's brilliant from a stratigic viewpoint. Kind of like giving a little bit of money to a bunch of ignorant Arab terrorists to keep the Russians from taking over a certain country.
        • It's brilliant from a stratigic viewpoint. Kind of like giving a little bit of money to a bunch of ignorant Arab terrorists to keep the Russians from taking over a certain country.

          +10 User doesn't have his head up his arse!

        • Mod this guy up.
        • Based on NCSA Mosaic. NCSA Mosaic(TM); was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
          Distributed under a licensing agreement with Spyglass, Inc.
          Contains security software licensed from RSA Data Security Inc.
          Portions of this software are based in part on the work of the Independent JPEG Group.
          Contains SOCKS client software licensed from Hummingbird Communications Ltd.
          Contains ASN.1 software licensed from Open Systems Solutions, Inc.
          Multimedia software components, including Indeo(R); video, Indeo(R) audio, and Web Design Effects are provided by Intel Corp.
          Unix version contains software licensed from Mainsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1998-1999 Mainsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Mainsoft is a trademark of Mainsoft Corporation.

          Open mouth, insert foot =)

  • Xerox announces an industry wide lawsuit...

    For infringement on... well, on everything...:-P

    Really guys.. the xerox palo alto labs invented/pioneered
    pretty much most computer technologies, and many other technologies we have just started to see...

    So if they are starting to sue now.. all companies should start calling their lawyers right about now.. hehe

    Xerox.. where bad and short sighted management is a way of operation.. ;)

  • by Cirvam ( 216911 )
    Wow, so Xerox might actually make some money off their Palo Alto Research Center. Its too bad that they sold if off or closed it. Have they made any money off of anything else invented there? I know laser printers but that's the only money making idea that I've heard of.
  • What a fucking joke. I think I'll patent typing drunk while I'm at it.
  • UniStrokes Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mano1KAges ( 71161 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:53AM (#2736028) Homepage
    For anyone interested, here is a paper [xerox.com] (in Postscript format, on the parc FTP server) from 1993 by David Goldberg and Cate Richardson of PARC discussing unistrokes. It looks like the foundation for the strokes is there. I wonder how Palm's version measures up to their tests.
    • For anyone interested, here is a paper [xerox.com] (in Postscript format, on the parc FTP server) from 1993 by David Goldberg and Cate Richardson of PARC discussing unistrokes.

      If Xerox published that paper more than one year before the company applied for the patent, then the paper counts as prior art to invalidate the patent.

  • Here are the details on Xerox's patent on Unistrokes for computerized interpretation of handwriting [uspto.gov] which was granted in 1997.
    • if it was granted in 1997 then Palm has a great chance of throwing this lawsuit out.

      I have here a Palm 1 that pre-dates 1997. and the apple newton pre-dates that.

      Xerox is just desperate for money. Hell they cant even make good color laser printers so they bought Tektronix's line of Color laser printers and re-brand them as Xerox.

      (Note a phaser 850 is the best color laser printer on the planet, it's just expensive to fix if the users are idiots and damage it.)
  • So Xerox has finally decided to play a little bit of hard ball. Took them long enough, they should have filed after they had their GUI stolen
  • by GNU Zealot ( 442308 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:05AM (#2736057) Homepage
    In Palm's patent on "Method and apparatus for handwriting input on a pen based palmtop computing device" [uspto.gov] check out a couple of the references that are cited:

    Article: "touch-Typing with a Stylus", by David Goldberg and Cate Richardson, (9) pages total/
    Xerox patents relating to handwriting recognition, (5) pages total.

    Goldberg is the inventor listed on Xerox's patent [uspto.gov]. I'm sure someone at Palm (perhaps Hawkins and Haitani) saw this one coming a mile away.
    • Well as an examiner working for the Eurpoean Patent Office, I can tell you you'd be amazed how often we have to tell applicants their application is pants because of something they cited. The idiots.

      Applicants try to get the broadest possible protection every time they apply for a patent - so all it takes is one [lazy, overworked, unskilled, american - pick one] examiner to fail to read properly and crap gets granted!

      Not an easy job to do well but a very easy one to screw up in.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:05AM (#2736060)
    I took to grafitti like a fish to water when I bought my first 128k palm around 1997. Why? Believe it or not, my ham radio background.

    I learned Morse code in 1978 from a fine old geezer in Sweden, who amongst other things taught me to write all characters as a single stroke: backwards 3 for "E", a sort of a triangle for "A", and so on - just like graffiti. It was all just to make copying Morse code easier, but it seemed such an easy way to write that I took to it in everyday life.

    Now, I'm not saying that the Xerox or Palm dudes ripped off this idea from Ham Radio geeks. All I mean is that if you're pressed into having to print the standard Latin letters quickly, you are naturally going to end up with something that looks awfully much like the Ham/Morse chicken scratch, or Graffiti, or whatever you want to call it.

  • Do I have to send Xerox money when I initial documents, now?

    I wonder if I can still get a patent on signatures, both legible and scribbled...


  • It seems to me the patent relates to any interface that changes stylus strokes into text. So wouldn't all PDAs be open to lawsuits since any PDA that does not use a keyboard uses a method of interpreting stylus strokes into text.

    I wonder why the actual language was not taken into account since unistrokes seem to have only a couple of characters that match Graffiti strokes.

    It seems that this patent, based on the ruling, would cover any interface that uses a motion (it did mention the fingers of the writer) that is recognized and translated to text. Even if another type of program was used what is to stop them from claiming the same case of infringement?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Microsoft paid Xerox for unistroke and the current version of the Pocket PC operating system has Grafitti. So there may be a time where the only legal version of grafitti in on a Pocket PC, and I say good. Microsoft did the proper thing, not that the knuckleheads here care.
  • Really an invention? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:53AM (#2736181)
    The HCI community has been investigating on gesture recognition problems long time ago. "One stroke" hand writing recognition algorithm has been released by Dean Rubine at CMU in a GNU license. Take a look on the paper by him at 1991 SIGGRAPH.

    Specifying gestures by example, Dean Rubine, ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics , Proceedings of the 18th international conference on Computer graphics July 1991, Volume 25 Issue 4

    It is a part of the Andrew Toolkit, historical source is at here. [cmu.edu]

    It is a part of OpenAmulet [openip.org] now.

    Perhaps a mouse is NOT a stylus.

    • by markj02 ( 544487 )
      The Squeak people talk about another recognizer [gatech.edu] called "GRAIL" that seems to be quite similar in spirit and was done in the 1960's. You can find Alan Kay's [yahoo.com] analysis of the patent on Yahoo (Alan Kay is the inventor of the Dynabook and one of the original inventors of Smalltalk).

      Palm's input method is actually somewhat different from Xerox's: it is considerably slower, it has some multi-stroke characters, and it requires you to look at the device. The specific Unistroke design in Xerox's input method is actually considerably nicer. Palm knew about the patent and thought that even if it was valid, it wouldn't apply to their input method. The other irony is that writing a simple, trainable multistroke character recognizer isn't hard at all, so Palm could have avoided this issue altogether.

      Personally, I think a broad patent shouldn't have been granted, although a narrow patent on the particular Unistrokes alphabet might have been sensible. And I just don't see why Palm's method, which lacks just about all the nice features that Unistrokes have, would infringe. But people who get paid much more than you and me have been working long and hard on this, and that's the outcome.

  • Isn't it funny... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by catseye_95051 ( 102231 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @02:05AM (#2736196)
    How MSNBC has a big story on how one of MS's cheif comeptitors lost a lawsuit whiel everyoen else is running the story that XP lets pirates take over your entoire computer?


    MSNBC == MS PR + NBC's journalistic integrity bought and paid for.
    • How Slashdot has a big story on how one of MS's chief competitors lost a lawsuit, while places like MSNBC [msnbc.com] are running the story that XP lets pirates take over your entire computer?

      Oh wait a minute.
  • I hate ot say this, but look at it form Xerox's perspective. They've invented so many cool technologies (Two obvious ones are the mouse and GUI), and they never made much money one them. Now they have something that's worth money, and considering what's happened to them in the past I don't think you can blame them for trying to make some money.
  • Hey, we need two strokes to write an 'x' in Palm, so its input method is not really 'unistroke'...

  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @05:21AM (#2736537) Homepage Journal
    There are some interesting alternatives to Graffiti and Unistrokes, which are much more "Fitts' Law Friendly [vt.edu]" and therefor faster and easier to use, and also more reliable.

    One alternative is Ken Perlin's [nyu.edu] QuikWriting [nyu.edu], which has been discussed on slashdot [slashdot.org] and covered by Wired [wired.com].

    "Quikwriting is significantly faster and less stressful to use than Graffiti, and lets you write very quickly without ever picking your stylus up off the surface, although it has the disadvantage that you need to learn a special alphabet. For further info, you can preview a Technote in either PDF [nyu.edu] or PostScript [nyu.edu], which was published at the ACM UIST'98 [acm.org] conference."

    Another alternative that builds on Perlin's QuikWriting work, is Francois Guimbretiere's [stanford.edu] and Terry Winograd's [stanford.edu] FlowMenus [stanford.edu], published at UIST'00 [acm.org].

    "We present a new kind of marking menu that was developed for use with a pen device on display surfaces such as large, high resolution, wall-mounted displays. It integrates capabilities of previously separate mechanisms such as marking menus and Quikwriting, and facilitates the entry of multiple commands. While using this menu, the pen never has to leave the active surface so that consecutive menu selections, data entry (text and parameters) and direct manipulation tasks can be integrated fluidly."

    I'm currently designing and programming a user interface on the Palm for a remote control application. So I've implemented "Finger Pies [fingerpie.com]", which are simply pie menus [piemenu.com] that you can use with your finger!

    To paraphrase Ben Shneiderman [umd.edu]: Finger Pies work well for implementing direct manipulation [useit.com] user interfaces on handheld personal touch screen [nec.com] devices, in which the application provides meaningful, engaging [washington.edu], tightly coupled [umd.edu] feedback on the screen, in response to your gesture. By integrating immediate gratification over time, the user enjoys the satisfaction of direct engagement [freeform.org] in an immersive experience [jtap.ac.uk], and achieves the cognitive resonance of continuous gratification. [My apologies to Ben for the tongue in cheek impression.]

    Finger Pies are not meant to replace character input systems like Graffiti, but they are extremely useful and reliable for many applications of handheld input devices, because they're easy enough to use with your finger instead of a pen.

    Finger pies are good for reliably selecting between two, four or eight options at a time (which can be nested as pop up submenus), and they're much more robust and resistant to noise than gesture recognition.

    One problem with gesture recognition in general, is that it doesn't allow for "reselection" or in-flight refinement and error correction. That is, once you've made a mistake in a gesture, there's no way to change or cancel it, so you will often get characters that you don't mean, and you have to stop what you're doing and erase the mistake.

    Pie menus allow you to cancel or change the selection at any time before you commit to the selection, so you can easily browse the menus. So pie menus are most appropriate when there aren't too many items, the items don't change dynamically over time, and when you need to minimize the error rate and selection time.

    Most gesture recognition systems are not "self revealing" like pie menus, which can pop up a "map" showing the directions. So pie menus are much easier to learn than gesture recognition, and more appropriate for novice users. Best of all, they naturally train users to "mouse ahead" and select without looking, so they have a smooth, gentle learning curve.

    Another advantage of pie menus is that they're not patented or restricted, and there are several freely available open source implementations.


    Penny Lane: "This song was written about the roundabout in liverpool where John and Paul grew up. Half of the song is fact, half is fiction, but most of it is nostalgia. John was starting to write about personal places, and Paul really took this one and ran. "I wrote that the barber had photographs of every head he'd had the pleasure of knowing. Actually, he just had photos of different hair styles. But all the people do stop and say hello." say Paul. Also, "finger pie" is actually an old obscenity in Liverpool. The girls would never thnk of saying the word. It was used in the song as a fun joke for the lads back home. Months after, waitresses in Liverpool had to put up with lads asking for "fish and finger pie." There is also a phallic reference to the "fireman who keeps his fire engine clean." Penny Lane has become a Beatles landmark, and like Blue Jay Way, has it's problems with stolen signs, which are now nicely bolted down. Penny Lane was recorded on December 29, 1966 and released as a single with Strawberry Fields.The song also has a promotional video." -http://members.aol.com/Sumacca/songs.html [aol.com]

  • Unistrokes, a technology that allows users to put information into a computer by printing in a special shorthand, was developed in the early 1990s at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a well-known institution in the technology industry. Xerox obtained the patent for Unistrokes in January of 1997, but currently has no plans to commercialize the technology, according to a company spokesman. ITworld.com 10/9/01
  • From the Bogon News Service:

    Coyote Hill, Palo Alto: Today Xerox was awarded a patent on their Proprietary Xerox User Interface Copier Technology. As a result, Xerox immediately filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple for copying Xerox's user interface, Microsoft for copying Apple's user interface, and Sun for copying Microsoft's user interface.

    Industry insiders predict that this new round of lawsuits could have an even more chilling effect on the economy than Xerox's previous lawsuits over their Proprietary Xerox Business Model Copier Technology. Bootleg copies of Xerox's unreleased Business Model Copier System were widely pirated and secretly used by many "dot com" start-ups, which fueled the inflation of the Internet Bubble. But when Xerox tried to enforce their Business Model Copier patent, it caused the failure to so many "dot com" companies, that the bubble popped.


  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @06:34AM (#2736705) Homepage Journal
    Here's an old message about handwriting and pen user interfaces, that I sent to the late Mark Weiser [ubiq.com] back in 1992. At the time, Mark was the director of the Computer Science Lab at Xerox PARC, and before that was my undergraduate research advisor at the University of Maryland. The email addresses are backwards because I was in the UK at the time, where they also drive on the wrong side of the road.

    From: Don Hopkins <hopkins@uk.ac.turing>
    Date: Sun, 19 Apr 92 22:33:08 BST
    To: Mark Weiser <weiser.PARC@com.xerox>
    Cc: hopkins@uk.ac.turing
    Subject: cmu

    Thanks! I sent email to Myers and phoned him up, and after a while he remembered that I was the guy who sent him the pie menu video tapes [...] I'm quite interested in his work, which involves programming by example and demonstration, visual languages, and constructing GUIs with graphical editors using inferencing and constraints, instead of doing so much boiler plate programming.

    I am quite interested in pen based stuff, but I don't want to work for any of the companies currently making pen based products because they are so short sighted and limited by perceived market demands and low end technology. (IBM-PC based technology, MS-DOS, bad languages, etc.) Go is using C with crude object oriented scaffolding, but their ideas are sound, and they're at least using their own OS, however the programming environment sucks, they just can't get away from MS-DOS. Momemta is using smalltalk, which, as one of their engineers told me, allowed them to catch up with Go in a very short time. But they definitly have a set of problems of their own, like running on top of MS-DOS and Windows. It's nice that they use smalltalk, but it's rather slow, and more glitzy than well designed. There was a big battle at Momemta between the programmer who's responsible for how nice it is, and the engineering manager in charge or the project, where the manager refused to use smalltalk because it was a "homosexual programming language". Guess he never heard of Lisp! But the programmer certainly proved his point, and the manager took all the credit for making the decision to go with smalltalk. (That's what the manager claimed at their product announcement, and I shook his hand for using smalltalk, and when I told the programmer about that later, boy was he pissed!) But you still can't program the damn thing in smalltalk, *using the pen*! I guess that's one reason they also have a keyboard. There were some other stupid user interface decisions made as well -- my impression from talking to the programmer was that the manager read some books on user interface design principles, and enforced them to the letter without really understanding them and knowing when they should not apply, and when to just use common sense instead.

    So far nobody I've heard of has a programming language you can use with a pen, let alone a pen based user interface *written* in and around such a language. What good is a pen computer with a scripting language if you have to use a keyboard to program it? And if it's not programmable, you might as well be using recipe cards. The pen has so much potential, but everybody's trying to use these computers to simulate a piece of paper running MS-DOS. I think it's all well and fine to take advantage of metaphores people are used to (i.e. writing on paper, or beating their head against MS-DOS) but if you limit yourself to simulating paper then you've severly crippled the system, especially when at the same time you severly break the metaphore you're limiting yourself with by trying to be MS-DOS compatible. No piece of paper ever locked up and asked me if I wanted to Abort, Retry, or Ignore. As an example of how you could make a pen computer easier to use by transcending the paper metaphore: when you write on a piece of paper, the information that it stores is two-dimensional. The time componant is completely collapsed and lost. This is not the case with a pen computer, which can remember ink as a three dimensional entity. Why should I be required to write in a fucking comb, if the computer can tell where one letter ends and the next letter begins by the *temporal* separation between letters instead of the visually obvious and traditional spatial separation? Why hasn't anybody written a handwriting recognizer that lets me keep my hand in one place and just write overlapping letters or words without moving my hand back and forth, looking at the page to see when I reach the right margin, moving my hand back to the left margin and no further and down exactly one line, and then writing another line making sure it's parallel with the first? Why can't I just relax, and keep my hand in one place while writing? (I discovered this handwriting technique when I would fall asleep in class while still taking notes. I would wake up and there would be a big ink blob where I kept writing but stopped moving my hand back and forth.) Of course my hand is used to spacing letters out when writing a word, but I think it would be pretty natural to have an input field in a convenient location that I write a word into, which is recognized, then zaps over to where the text input caret is in my document, in a nice font, and the caret moves on, but the place I'm writing stays in the same place. Just like how a keyboard works. Imagine of you had to move the keyboard to the right a bit every time you typed a character, and then move it down and all the way to to the left whenever the cursor reached the right edge of the screen? Nobody would put up with that. Why put up with such a horrible interface using a pen computer? It's only *paper* that forces you to do that.

    Well I doubt it would be possible to develop such a non-conformist interface for a company that was rushing to market as fast as they could. Let alone develop a pen based programming language and then write a user interface around it. Did you read the article in Dr. Dobbs Journal (the December UI issue, the same one with my pie menu article) about the pen extension to X-Windows? What an total abortion! I'm sure the next big market demand made on a company like Go or Momenta will be to implement X-Windows for their machine. During the time that every company with a pen computer is trying to do that very same thing and failing miserably, but thinking it's OK because everybody else is failing just as bad, and the users asked for it anyway, so that's what they get, I would like to be doing something completely different, not wasting my time with the latest fads, stampeeds, and lemming dunks.


    • Here are some more messages from 1991, from a discussion with Mark Weiser [ubiq.com] about handwriting input and pie menus.


      Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1991 22:48:01 PST
      From: Mark_Weiser.PARC@xerox.com
      Subject: Re: a rumor?
      To: Don Hopkins <hopkins@Eng.sun.com>

      Xerox has stopped testing summer student interns in the research labs only. The rest of Xerox still labors under its yoke. Its a win, for sure, but there's still more to win. Thanks for your help. [catalog.com]

      The information visualizer guys are into gestures, but not pies. They use a rubout motion to delete, and stuff like that. I think the gesturing left and right to close and open trees was more like that.

      We ahve been playing with ways to use a stylus to get input without a keyboard and without handwritng recognition. I hacked up a sort of 26 quadrant pie menu, so that each word is a shape (letter-letter-letter, all connected together, and drop ink as you move among the letters: you get a shape. Xerox is a kind of lopsided "X"), and each letter is selected as you move through it, and when you lift up and click down the stylus again you get a space. It has some potential, but 26 quadrants is just to many.

      Another possiblity is to put 13 inside 13, and use a state machine so you get the inner circle letter unless you travel all the way through to the outside circle, in which case you get that letter instead, etc. I haven't hack this together yet, maybe tonight.


      Date: Wed, 6 Mar 91 06:43:09 PST
      From: hopkins@Eng.sun.com (Don Hopkins)
      To: Mark_Weiser.PARC@xerox.com
      Cc: hopkins
      Subject: alphabetic pies

      Have you tried two level 6x6 item pie menu tree for inputting the alphabet (and then some)?

      abc ghi mno
      def jkl pqr


      stu yz_ ___
      vwx ___ ___

      You could hang more submenus off of the _'s for numerics, less common glyphs, etc. The SouthEast menu that's all _ could have any number of items, and the South menu might have some special glyphs or submenus in it. The important thing is that the glyphs are chunked in groups of 6, which fits comfortably in your head.

      You might also try a two level 6x8 item pies menu tree:

      abc ijk qrs
      d e l m t u
      fgh nop vwx


      _ _ 9 3 . .
      ___ 8 4 etc

      I was thinking about how to do a decimal pie menu tree. The obvious thing is a 10 item pie. But what direction should 0 be, and should the numbers go CW or CCW? But a 10 item menu is only really good for inputting a single digit, or a fixed number of digits, not an arbitrary string of digits (you need a way to terminate the string, and using another mouse button is cheating). Well, most people are familiar with a phone dial, so maybe that's one way to line it up. If you lined the 10 digits up in the same direction as the numbers on the phone dial, you would have a few extra directions to put extra menu items, where there are not holes in the dial. (Hey, how many is that? All the phones in my life have buttons! I guess I'm not as familiar with the phone dial as I thought, but maybe my fingers would remember. Let's say 13.) You could use the extra 3 directions for a decimal point, and/or input editing commands, or commands that consume the number you gestured as input. Or you could just keep selecting digits deeper and deeper, and the system could be smart about only popping up menus that would only allow you to select a number in range (e.g. 0-9999). Much better to disable menu items by dimming them than removing them from the menu, because that would change the numbers items in the menu, and ruin everything.

      In a phone dial context, when you needed to input letters, it might be nice to arrange an alphabetic pie like the letters on a phone dial, with submenus of 3 menus items. But it probably wouldn't be as easy to use or remember as the 6x6 alphabetic menu.


  • by markj02 ( 544487 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @08:16AM (#2736845)
    Take a look at this patent [uspto.gov]. It seems like Palm has been trying to patent any kind of handheld that uses a separate, dedicated input area for handwriting or tapping on a preprinted keyboard. Here is another one [uspto.gov] that claims methods involving separate input areas for different character types.
  • Silly (Score:3, Funny)

    by SkewlD00d ( 314017 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @10:27AM (#2737163)
    Someone should sue Xerox for patenting prior art known as "short-hand."
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Friday December 21, 2001 @10:34AM (#2737189) Homepage
    Considering Xerox made a lot of money on machines designed to copy things...

    I thought Xerox liked copying...
  • by OverCode@work ( 196386 ) <overcode@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:46PM (#2737758) Homepage
    Recognizing arbitrary handwriting is difficult. So to make the task easier, Graffiti uses a less ambiguous alphabet.

    How is that patentable? Computer science's *usual* approach to difficult problems is to make them less general, and this seems like a completely obvious way to do it. Ok, maybe I can understand a patent on a particularly innovative *method* for recognizing Graffiti characters (for instance, some new way of feeding the data into a neural network). But this appears to be a patent on any recognition system that uses a unistroke alphabet even remotely like Xerox's.

    Out of morbid curiosity, I developed my own Graffiti-like input system a while back. It used a completely different mathematical trick than any other recognizer I know of (email me if you're interested, I'd be happy to share), and it could be trained to recognize almost any unistroke alphabet. I wonder if it would be covered by this patent, even though it's not limited strictly to the Graffiti alphabet and it uses a completely different algorithm.

    As an interesting data point, I showed my system to an AI guy at Georgia Tech, and he was not impressed at my system's capabilities. He said I was sidestepping the problem by requiring unistroke characters.

    That said, I am not surprised that Xerox got a patent on this, nor that it was held to be enforceable. I just think it is absurd.

  • Here's the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story [rochesternews.com]. I didn't bother reading the others, but this one has a few details in it. 'course we would have it in the paper, since Xerox is a huge employer in Rochester.
  • Years ago in the early '90s I worked at a company called GRiD Systems where Jeff Hawkins got started with handwriting recognition. I believe he originally developed the technology as a graduate student and then licensed or sold it to GRiD, who made hand-held computers using his algorithms.

    Handwriting recognition is extremely difficult for computers (hell, I often can't read my own handwriting). While his algorithm was good, it was not perfect. Trying to recognize the difference, for example between an "a" or a "d", or an "r" or an "n" is very difficult. The only reason humans can read most handwriting is that we can understand the context of what is written.

    Jeff realized that there was no way to easily reduce the error rate (which was very high for some letters). Instead of trying to develop a better algorithm (which I believe would be next to impossible given the computing resources at the time) he figured it would be better to change how people write letters to make it easier for the recognition engine.

    Jeff tried to sell the idea of Graffiti to GRiD, but they decided they were not interested (by this time GRiD was part of Tandy corporation, hence its later downfall).

    So rather than give up, Jeff left and founded Palm computing.

    The beauty of his algorithm was that it worked fine, even on an 8088, whereas the competing algorithms from companies like Microsoft needed far more powerful processors.

    Also, while at GRiD we worked with a Casio device called a "Zoomer" that had many similarities to the Palm. It had a PCMCIA slot, used a V20 CPU and ran DOS. On top of DOS it ran Geoworks with Jeff's handwriting recognition algorithm. While it was a really cool device (it had digital audio, IR, a serial port, and lasted 40 hours on a set of batteries) it was a bit too thick to fit into a shirt pocket. Also, the user interface was more mouse oriented than pen oriented (although Geoworks was quite cool).

    Now all of this happened in the early 90's. I imagine that this was well before Xerox filed for a patent. I also know that Jeff was the originator of the algorithm and Graffiti and not Xerox.


Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.