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If I understand the wording of patent US7889927 correctly, a patent was granted for a Chinese input method that uses the components of the characters themselves. The "Background of the Invention" section claims that "No search method exists for a situation where a user does not already know the pronunciation or radical of a Chinese character." Clearly the submitter of the patent application and the Patent Office reviewers were not aware of the then state-of-the-art of Chinese input methods in Asian countries or conveniently chose to ignore it. The patent was applied for in 2005. However, Chinese input methods based solely on the components of the characters predated input methods based on pronunciation and are still widely used in Asia today. Two of the more popular methods are the Cangjie input method invented in 1976 and the Wubi input method invented in 1981. Both of these input methods are based on the components of their character and their location within it.

Claim 1 is:

  1. A Chinese Character search method for selecting a desired Chinese character from a plurality of pre-stored Chinese characters based upon incomplete identification of the desired Chinese character, comprising:

    (a) inputting a notation corresponding to a known reference Chinese character containing at least a first component part in common with said desired Chinese character;

    (b) searching the pre-stored Chinese characters based on the notation to find said known reference Chinese character;

    (c) breaking said known reference Chinese character into a plurality of component parts that comprise said first component part and displaying said component parts; and

    d) selecting at least said first component part and then searching again the pre-stored Chinese characters based on at least said first component part to find at least one candidate for selecting the desired Chinese character from the plurality of pre-stored Chinese characters based upon the incomplete identification of the desired Chinese character.

Am I missing something? Does prior art have to be widely known within the US itself?

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1 Answer 1

An applicant's statement that no one has ever done something before is not given any weight by the examiner. It is also not recommended in application drafting. I would imagine it can have the opposite effect and spur an examiner to prove the applicant wrong. The claims frequently get narrowed as the patent is examined but the wording of the specifications is not generally amended in a corresponding way, so a patent can easily end up with broad statements in the background section that are out of line with the claims that get allowed.

As I read claim 1, the user first enters a code of a reference character that has a component in common with the character to be ultimately input. The initial reference character is displayed with its components separately selectable. The user selects the component they had in mind as the common component and then a choice of characters with that component are displayed.

The user is not entering codes signifying each of the components of a desired character.

On the last part of the question - anything in a "printed publication" on a world-wide basis is fair game. For information not published or patented but just "known", it was restricted to "known in this country" until the AIA changes to the U.S. patent law. Now, known anywhere is the standard. In this case I imagine there were user manuals for the methods you mentioned so they would be considered published.

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