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I was wondering whether there was sufficient prior art for some of the patents that Microsoft is using in (what I consider) strong-arming Android manufacturers? Most of those seem to have been resolved under NDA, but here's some information from the Barnes & Noble case and the just-completed Motorola case in Germany.

  • #US7,411,582: "Soft input panel system and method", Issued Aug 12, 2008
  • #US6,891,551: “Selection handles in editing electronic documents.” Issued May 10, 2005
  • #US5,778,372: “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images.” Issued July 7, 1998.
  • #US6,957,233: “Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content.” Issued Oct. 18, 2005.
  • #US7,411,582: "Soft input panel system and method." Issue date: Aug 12, 2008
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4 Answers 4

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It would appear that any virtual keyboard would qualify under #7,411,582: "Soft input panel system and method.", and as the wikipedia article shows, even the general idea of intelligent work surfaces has been around since at least 1993, although if Microsoft's version is an improvement on that, it will not be relevant.

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It looks to me like the open-source xvkbd was performing precisely this function in 2000 - four years before the Microsoft #7,411,582 was submitted. However, it would only serve as prior art if it was usable on a touch surface? Does a touch-screen based X windows display running some UNIXy operating system count for this? I'm sure someone can show this existed before, and I would not be surprised if the touch-screen display was paired with precisely this sort of keyboard.

If you look at the xvkbd project's Changelog, you will see version 2.5, which was released October 12, 2002, added a feature they call "Quick Modifier". In the description of the feature in the main part of the site the author describes this as a feature that "... may be useful especially for machines with touch panels such as PDAs."

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I don't see anything in the description that defines “actuatable” to imply a touchscreen: it looks to me like a mouse-activated icon would fit the claim. So any on-screen keyboard would fit the bill. –  Gilles Sep 21 '12 at 21:18
    
If you want a touch-screen soft keyboard, Itaú bank from Brazil had ATMs with touch-screen keypad during the 90s (sometime between 1992 and 1999). I couldn't find any pictures of it on the web, but I have used it in the past. –  Denilson Sá Jul 23 '13 at 23:49
    
Macintosh System 7.0.1 (and possibly earlier versions) included a "Key Caps" applet which permitted typing using the mouse. If you had a malfunctioning keyboard, you could get by with it, by copying from it's text box and pasting into the application you really wanted. System 7.0.1 carries a copy right date of 1991. –  Chromatix Jul 24 '13 at 21:58
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If the term "selection handles" covers what is sometimes called a "bounding box", then there is a lot of prior art for #6,891,551. Software has had resizable selection mechanisms for ages. Image and audio editors frequently have resizable selection boxes. I specifically remember an audio player for BeOS (this was back in the mid/late 90's) that used multiple adjustable selection handles to select a portion of an audio track to play.

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It does seem to read on the likes of MacPaint, except not MacPaint itself. The essential features seem to include handles on the selection boundary, which can be dragged to change the selection - and there are subordinate claims which restrict this to either text or graphics. Most vector graphics packages have such handles, but they are used to manipulate the object (resize, rotate...) rather than to change the set of selected objects/pixels/characters. –  Chromatix Jul 24 '13 at 21:26
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It seems to me that US5778372 could be simply described as a web browser loading a web page with a background element on the body tag.

The background tag was introduced in the HTML3.0 spec. The following is a quote from a draft dated 28th March 1995

BACKGROUND This can be used to specify a URI for an image tile to cover the document background.

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This is insufficient, I think - the claims include specifically the technique of drawing the page content before the images (background or otherwise) have loaded. Nevertheless, NCSA Mosaic - first released in 1993 - did precisely that, even if it didn't initially support background images. –  Chromatix Jul 24 '13 at 22:07
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