US patent application 2004/0249303 appears to patent everything… including everything that is 3D and has 'subregions'. How is this patentable? What problem is it solving?

Claim 1 is:

  1. A method of displaying 3D data, comprising:

    • subdividing a 3D display region into two or more display subregions;
    • assigning a set of display rules to each display subregion;
    • displaying part or all of a 3D data set in each display subregion according to the rules assigned to that display subregion.
  • Please note that you are citing the claim from the application. The independent claim as granted - while still too broad in my opinion (see below) - has a narrower scope. At least the granted claim specifies a "boundary" which is movable by user interaction. On the Google Patents page, look for the link "Issued patent" at the bottom of the left hand column to access the claims as granted. Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 21:36

2 Answers 2


Well, "everything" is maybe a little exaggerated. The independent claim clearly specifies a method for display 3D data which gets interactively divided into subregions.

That said, the claim is certainly much too broad and relies on vague terminology such as "display rules" and "subregions" separated by a "boundary". Virtually any interactive 3D rendering system in which different portions are rendered differently could be read onto this.

Even when taking into account the description, i.e., when looking beyond the limitations of the independent claims, the patent merely appears to relate to a movable intersection plane in volume rendering. I would be extremely surprised if this hadn't been done before 2003 in commercial intraoperative navigation systems or at least in medical visualization research.

In any case, the independent claim is way too broad and generic. Somebody here has obviously been of the "Interpreting It In the Sense of the Description" school of thought, or as I like to call it the Death of the Patent System.

  • OK, thank you. This is much clearer. I obviously have much to learn when it comes to speaking legalese. I didn't event pick up on the movable intersection plane as part of the claim.
    – MonkeyD
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 18:58
  • I am not a fan of vague terminology either; typically it means having to rely much more than necessary on the spec to ascertain the definition of certain terms. However, the "assigning" and application of different "sets of display rules" to different "subregions" is another narrowing limitation to consider. Looks to me like "displaying according to different rules" is analogous to applying various filters, transformations etc. to each 3D subregion. So relevant prior art may include methods for user-movable boundaries dividing 3D images, and rendering sub-regions of a 3D graphic differently.
    – kinkfisher
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 0:51

You are citing a published application. Was it granted? Were claims rejected or restricted on examination? It was granted as US 7408546 and appears to be currently valid with fees paid, and the claims still seem to be general. it looks as if the Examiners were not being sufficiently strict. Your only recourse seems to be to take professional advice and possibly challenge it - an expensive and time consuming process.

  • I really hope I don't end up having to challenge this, I have a great startup idea that I'm working on that may be kyboshed - even though it is different than this, filing the generic-ness of it makes me worried.
    – MonkeyD
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 19:05
  • @MonkeyD If you feel comfortable doing so, you could describe your idea at a broad level and solicit feedback (NOT to be taken as legal advice!) about whether this patent actually applies to it. Of course, for a multitude of reasons, you may not want to disclose your idea on a public forum either, so keep that in mind too.
    – kinkfisher
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 0:59
  • interesting patent. it may conflict with my patent 5848425
    – scottlowry
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 20:54

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