back to article 'We invented Windows 8 Tiles in the 1990s', says firm suing Microsoft

Microsoft had barely got Windows 8 out the door before it was slapped with a patent lawsuit related to the new OS. Software and OS design tech firm SurfCast has filed a suit in Maine over Live Tiles, which it says it invented. The company has just four patents, but one of them, filed in 2000 and granted in 2004, deals with a " …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems a pretty weak patent. Not obvious, but not massively unique by a long way. Any button which displays a value and can be clicked surely is prior art.

    1. Colin Millar

      It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

      Even then this is pretty weak - you could it with iframes from whenever ago

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

        Even then this is pretty weak - you could it with iframes from whenever ago"

        It sounds more to me like those "trial" WinZip count-down buttons with the disabled continue button and a timer. That's live updating content (the timer value) on a button (tile with a border.) Those were around back in Win 3.1 times.

      2. Gordon 11

        It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

        I remember icons on a X desktop doing that (content updates while still an icon) in the early 90's (and that is when I remember it - I suspect they'd been around for a while before I saw them).

        The only novelty here is writing a patent to cover something obvious that already existed. Oh, wait - that's not novel either....

        1. philbo
          Trollface

          Re: Oh, wait - that's not novel either....

          Maybe you should patent the idea of patenting previously-existing ideas, then sue the patent trolls.

          Sort of a meta-patent-troll

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I remember icons on a X desktop doing that (content updates while still an icon) in the early 90's (and that is when I remember it - I suspect they'd been around for a while before I saw them).

          The same thing occurred to me, and some X apps that did this were available back in the late '80s. I think there was an X11 CPU load applet that was part of the Athena distribution, or maybe the Andrew stuff, that did this - when iconified ("minimized", for the unwashed), it displayed a graph of recent CPU load that was updated every few seconds.

          But then it's very hard to see how "selectable icons with updating content" are significantly different from "selectable windows with updating content". I haven't read the patent, but I may, just to see if there are any even vaguely original claims there.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      > Seems a pretty weak patent. Not obvious, but not massively unique by a long way

      So the case is a slam dunk, then.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      who has the (US) patent for a button? infringed by everyone, presumably. Dumbf*cks

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't stop the fruit flavoured company though...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is where the US patent system has completely screwed the pooch. Originally the idea was that somebody had an idea for something - such as a flying car - and someone thought of a way to do it. It was the way to do it, the invention, that was patentable.

      Now the US seems willing to patent the idea regardless of the method, so if you think of a flying car but have no idea how to do it, and I invent the helicopter, you can stop me making it because you had the idea first.

      As the rest of the world works around this epic IP fail, the US is slowly going to sink into irrelevance, because the idea for a product should not be patentable. If this silly company regurgitates the idea of mini-windows running applications that you can bring to the front by clicking on them, and Microsoft then finds a way to make it work taking into account multitasking, shared resources and all the rest of it, then they are the inventors.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Meh

        Tiled? Updating? Selectable?

        I'm so tiled, I mean tired.

        Oberon Operating System circa 1985, maybe. MAYBE?

        Also the ACME text editor...

        1. hitmouse

          Re: Tiled? Updating? Selectable?

          Going back in time there's Windows Active desktop, and Windows 1.0 itself which wasn't much more than gigantic icons/tiles. And also DesqView task-switching environment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        @ribosome

        +1 nicely put

  2. Chris Gray 1
    FAIL

    Old hat

    There has got to be precedent for that before 2000.

    If the patent holds, then lots of things are in trouble. I'm running an ancient Ubuntu 10.04, and on the bar I've got on the right side are live-updating icons for system load, network activity, disk activity, weather/temperature, CPU clock speed, ... Having that stuff there is why I run Gnome2 instead of something even simpler like TWM. Even under that, or way back under SunOs, the system load things were small tile-looking entities that continuously updated.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old hat

      Wasn't this also done with their previous attempt - Active desktop (not to mention any number of widgets)

      1. SteveK

        Re: Old hat

        Indeed, my thoughts too - Active Desktop (in Windows 98 IIRC) offered rectangular boxes of IE-rendered content obtained by subscribing to content 'channels' and updated live from the Internet.

        It was atrocious, and the first thing I disabled on installing any W98 machine, but it clearly predates the patent, although as I really can't stand to read the patent it probably specified some miniscule difference, such as a shade of blue, or the fact it updates while the user is sitting down.

        1. Bucky 2
          Pint

          Re: Old hat

          Well, here's a solution:

          If the patent office grants a patent that the courts have to strike down, then the patent office pays all court costs.

          Ta da!

          Is it Friday yet? Feels like a Friday....

          1. asdf Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Old hat

            >If the patent office grants a patent that the courts have to strike down, then the patent office pays all court costs.

            So let me get this straight you want politicians who become politicians because the love spending other people's money (gives em a stiffy) to not only risk a cash cow revenue source but also potentially cut down on the billable hours of their lawyer buddies (most who make laws also practice law, the ultimate vested interest). Hahaha good one.

    2. Kwac
      Linux

      Re: Old hat

      "I'm running an ancient Ubuntu 10.04".

      That would be a current, log-term supported version (until April 2013) then?

    3. eldakka Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old hat

      xload FTW.

      I remember using that at least as early as 1992 (perhaps even 1990) on SunOS.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS want to play that game Linux & Android

    With the sole intention of using flimsy patents as a barrier to entry so they get everything they deserve.

  4. Robert E A Harvey

    Really torn

    Between wanting to dislike the patent troll, and wanting Ballmer to have more egg on his face.

    But they hardly "defended" their patent while WP7 was all the rage, so I expect the claim to fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really torn

      "WP7 was all the rage"

      I must have been having a shit during those 2 minutes and missed it

      1. Robert E A Harvey
        Coat

        Re: during those 2 minutes

        Yep.

        it's like coppery but more silver-ry

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really torn

      Patent trolls usually hold more than a meagre 4 patents.

    3. Vic

      Re: Really torn

      > But they hardly "defended" their patent while WP7 was all the rage, so I expect the claim to fail.

      They didn't need to. You're thinking of trademark legislation.

      Vic.

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        @Vic Re: Really torn

        Oh aye. I used quote marks for that, among other, reason. But the courts are more likely to take them seriously, or at least make a significant award, if the patent represents a real product, and they were active in protecting it. At least, that's what I would hope or expect from an honest judge.

    4. hazydave

      Re: Really torn

      But it was WP7 with this before. Totally credible that they just didn't know enough about WP7 to investigate. Kind of a fail, that one. I don't have much love for most software patents, even having been paid to write a whole mess of them (and mine start out honest and reasonable, though lawyers can fix that for me) and read many more on various technologies being developed. They are still technically based on implementation not idea. But that's been lax in SW patents, which no longer require source code. Worse still in business method and design patents, which don't really answer the important question: why is this even an invention.

  5. The Mole

    For once I'll be on Microsoft's side in this fight.

    First example off the top of my head is the system tray next to the clock on the task bar. Introduced in Windows 95. Take task manager for instance - when minimized it shows a mini graph in real time of cpu usage, but when clicked on it magically opens the application.

    (http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2007/07/29/simple-windows-task-manager-tips/ shows this even happened all the way back before this amazing patent was discovered.)

    I'm pretty sure Active Desktop could do all sort of wacky things like this as well - it was microsofts first attempt at tiles and widgets etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dealing with a couple of points

      Active desktop was like asking hackers in through the front door and secondly MS stole it's GUI from Xerox.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dealing with a couple of points

        According to Xerox it was Apple that did that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dealing with a couple of points

        And Apple didn't?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "but when clicked on it magically opens the application"

      It's not magic -esp when Microsoft is involved !

    3. Jad
      Stop

      RE: Microsoft's side

      A button that is updated with data pertaining to the contents of the application ...

      On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

      1. dajames Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

        I was thinking much the same ... I remember seeing demos of Windows 1.0 with multiple tiled windows (Windows 1 didn't support overlapping windows) showing content that updated in real time -- the clock was always one of the windows (and the others were usually filled with bouncing balls and the like, because there was no internet them, and not much that could be used as a live data feed).

        It's not surprising that nobody much saw the point at the time.

        This is just the same rubbish that Microsoft have tried to fob off on us with Active Desktop and Vista "Widgets" ... and there's nothing to it that you can't achieve by opening some ordinary applications and arranging their windows where you want on the screen (apart from the fact that these windows annoyingly stay put when you "Show Desktop").

        1. dajames Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

          (Replying to myself, sorry ...)

          ... and Vista "Widgets" ...

          Damn! They're called "Gadgets" not "Widgets" ... A GUI element so useful and memorable that I neither use them nor remember what they're called.

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            Re: On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

            doesn't matter. They wer ekilled in a security fix.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm pretty sure the American Patent system is one of the signs of the apocalypse, and Europe's desire (and a few British MPs) to follow them is likely another.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Yes, here we go again, flimsy patents, no working model, no search for previous art and no sense at all, anything goes, as long as you pay. But lets not forget that Microsoft does the same with thousands of similar silly patents, and they are very proud about it. And they are much more dangerous and will support the rotten system because they will win more than they loose.

  7. Mike Judge
    Stop

    AOHELL

    http://obamapacman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/AOL-1996-vs.-Microsoft-Windows-8.jpg

    Nuff said...

    1. Hoagiebot
      Thumb Up

      Re: AOHELL

      Wow! That image that you linked to is great! The resemblance between the old AOL start page and the Windows 8 Start Screen is rather striking! Even sadder still is that I actually remember having to use a version of AOL like that way back in the 90's, as it was the only local ISP that still supported the old hand-me-down Windows For Workgroups 3.11 machine that I used as a high school student during that time. Every other ISP demanded Windows 95 as a minimum, and that would have been a bit much for the ol' 16MHz 386SX with 16MB of RAM to handle!

      1. dajames Silver badge
        Windows

        @Hoagiebot

        Windows 95 ... would have been a bit much for the ol' 16MHz 386SX with 16MB of RAM to handle!

        Yes it would, especially as (if I remember correctly) Win95 required at least a 386 DX to run at all!

        1. Cyberspice

          Re: @Hoagiebot

          Yes, The SX was a typical Intel marketing ploy. It was more like a 286 with some tweaks than a genuine 386. For one thing it had a 16 bit external data bus. Windows 95 needed the 32 bit bus of the DX.

          1. jake Silver badge

            @Cyberspace (was: Re: @Hoagiebot)

            "The SX was a typical Intel marketing ploy."

            True. But what else is new when it comes to corporate product names?

            "It was more like a 286 with some tweaks than a genuine 386."

            Incorrect. It had the complete 386 instruction set.

            "For one thing it had a 16 bit external data bus."

            True. At the time, that was hardly an issue for most folks, though.

            "Windows 95 needed the 32 bit bus of the DX."

            Incorrect. I have a 386 that runs Win95. Painfully slowly, but it runs.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: @Hoagiebot

          "Win95 required at least a 386 DX to run at all!"

          Nope. My aging 386sx runs Win95 painfully slow. But it runs.

          The same 386sx runs Slackware 14.0 quite nicely, after a couple tweaks :-)

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: AOHELL

        "Every other ISP demanded Windows 95 as a minimum"

        Bullshit. I still connect to systems that require nothing more than a dumb terminal and a modem. That's today, in 2012. I still use UUCP internally, too ... nothing else beats it for functionality.

        Glitter is not the be-all & end-all, people ... information, on the other hand, is.

  8. Big_Ted

    To most above

    The way I see it is this is different from the "widgets" you are talking about as they specify windows tiles ie what were icons to launch programs on older versions of windows.

    The only thing I can see where they would not win is if their patent covers icons in the old sense to launch the app/program or if this is only some sort of widget and limited in what it covers.

    I doubt it can be widgets though or they would have gone after Android etc ages ago.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pffff

    They're all a bunch of WIMPs

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err...

    Having had a look at the patent, what they had is a system which shows part of a window in a tile like grid. Not the same as a tile, which is a device to show information specifically designed to fit into that tile, such as unread emails, clips of a picture from a library, the weather outside etc. etc.

    I strongly suspect that Lotus Notes would have a claim of prior art as its client has had a system of tiles on a grid which dynamically update (albeit only with unread numbers.)

    1. dssf

      Re: Err... WOW??? Lotus Notes

      Was on my mind, too. The old drawers and file cabinet version. IIRC, any old good dev could place text and dynamic info on the drawer face.

      Also springing to mind is Killer Windows Utilities, iirc, published by Que. I bought it for Win 3.1 to get more desktops, more gadgets, and much more functionality from windows than ms provided until win 95 came along with a gui bolted to dos.

      I would have felt sympathy for the patent-claiming company, but they seem to have gambled on goosing ms. Once again, never thought i would come down on ms' side., as ironic and quasi embarrassing as it may be.

      1. Desidero
        Pint

        Re: Err... WOW??? Lotus Notes

        Beautiful, if we can all team together to solve Microsoft's prior art problems, I'm sure Steve Ballmer will pay us something trivial. Free Beer (screw the speech) for the Reg gang?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Err...

      Did you have to bring up Lotus Notes?

      Have to put up with it at work - don't need reminding of it at home!

  11. A J Stiles

    Hmm

    Actually, I'm sure NextStep dock applications could act like clickable icons while being updated in real time. If not NextStep, then definitely in one of its many work-alikes (WindowMaker definitely does this: you can have e.g. a media player showing just a track number and play / pause buttons while docked, but clicking it opens the full control panel).

    Even if the idea is non-obvious, this surely must count as prior art.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Hmm

      I thought exactly the same. You had an xbiff-style mail notification, click on it to get to the mail reader. A clock, click on it to bring up the calendar. A load monitor, click on it to bring up a top-like tool. All circa 1990.

  12. Colin Miller

    Microsoft Tetris for Windows 3.1 could be played in minimised mode - its 32x32 icon would show a mini-game field.

    1. Michael Thibault
      Alert

      Is that fitting?

      ... in minimised mode ...

      You're concentrating on a 32x32-pixel patch of a screen that likely has at least another 300K pixels. You're concentrating diligently, intently. On a square patch of 1K pixels. To the exclusion of all else visible on the screen. Fitting 'objects', continuously, using the arrow keys on the keyboard, into neat rows as they 'drop' though that 32x32-pixel space. That you can do this is the result of design decisions in the coding of the game being displayed in that tiny patch of pixels ...

      WhyTF (YTF)?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Unix/Linux beat these idiots anyway....

    "The company has just four patents, but one of them, filed in 2000 and granted in 2004, deals with a "system and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources".

    So filed in 2000 but IIRC the 'screen' commandline utility already existed before that. Combined with "tail -r" you get exactly the same situation as covered in this patent: a system capable of multiple information sources in a simultaneous way.

    Quite a weak patent if you ask me...

  14. Bob Vistakin
    Facepalm

    "We couldn't get anyone to like them either"

    Correct.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great Minds

    Great minds think alike

    Small minds seldom differ

    So, the same bad idea twice?

  16. dssf

    KWU

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Killer-Windows-Utilities-Development-Group/dp/0789700018

    Damn, i finally found a url with a photo, after all these years.

  17. An0n C0w4rd

    I have a sneaky feeling that surfcast waited until MS released all their software so that they could press for as much infringement revenue as possible. Why sue for WP7 when it hardly moved any units, and reveal your hand before WP8, Win8, etc, ship. Wait and get more revenue.

    The fact the patent sucks, and they're not suing in the patent friendly East Texas venue, means they're probably losing anyway.

  18. jim 45

    "We couldn't get anyone to like them either"

    I guess I'm the only one? Except for the thousands who just lined up to buy Surfaces, of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We couldn't get anyone to like them either"

      Why line up to buy something you're going to get anyway whether you want it or not ? It's like for instance staying in line to pay your taxes.

  19. jake Silver badge

    Anbody but me ...

    ... remember the "touch screen" kiosks at Tower Records, in the early-mid 1980s?

    Same concept. Nobody liked them, either ...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Oh FFS

    This patents bullshit is really getting so damn ridiculous, it's not even funny.

    It's a fucking updating content area with an icon in it.

    There's plenty of websites with a similar interface.

    ""A Tile is different from an icon because it can be both selectable and live - containing refreshed content that provides a real-time or near-real-time view of the underlying information,""

    Yeah, pretty much like a click-able ajax driven content box on any modern website.

    It's just money grabbing chancing and I really hope it never even gets to court.

    The damage patent lawsuits like this are doing to technology is going to end up with even more Monopoly and fewer new and innovative ideas.

    Yep, the big Monopolies may hire the brightest talents or buy them up, but they inevitably squash ideas that have merit.

    Patent law needs a *massive* complete reworking, because it's rapidly becoming impossible for a "geek in a garage" to do anything these days without selling out to a large corporate or getting sued.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

      Here's a quick idea to try to stop patent insanity - it would need some refining, but the basic principle:

      * A concept for a device or UX cannot be fully patented until the device is actually produced. *

      In other words, if you come up with loads of sketches for a concept of, say, a user interface on a mobile phone, until you actually *produce* a working version of that user interface, you can't patent it.

      OR

      You get a defined amount of time to produce it.

      I thought this patent concept already existed - thinking it was part of the 'patent pending' process.

      Apparently not.

      You should not be allowed to patent ideas, period.

      1. El Andy

        Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

        You should not be allowed to patent ideas, period.

        The whole purpose of patents is to protect ideas, period. Take that away and there's nothing left.

        What really needs to happen is shorter patents and much stricter control to protect against "obvious", pre-existing or just plain vague patents.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

          I take your point - but surely a *working* example of the idea needs to be produced?

          Not just sketches of concepts?

          The problem is, Monopolies are just churning out patent idea after patent idea willy nilly. (sorry, had to find a place to use that term)

          The case of Apple against Samsung - I mean, really, that was patently ridiculous (*cough*)

          These are just the big boys we actually hear about. I'd love to see what the 'lesser' companies and individuals come up against when trying to apply for patents - the sheer abstraction of some of the patented ideas is bordering on the ridiculous. Patents are taken out for the most obvious of actions and are given blanket coverage over huge swathes of possible implementations.

          It's not right.

          1. El Andy

            Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

            Trouble is, to get from being a guy with a genuine idea to a *working* example often requires VC funding. And getting VC funding pretty much requires a patent, so that you're protected and so they know someone else can't pinch the idea before they've made their cash back.

            The system is broken, but fixing it isn't quite as easy as it might at first seem. Especially if you don't want to screw over the "guy in a garage" inventors who are coming up with genuinely good ideas.

            1. chris lively
              Thumb Down

              Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

              Sorry, but creating software based on ideas doesn't require vc money. You *might* need some startup cash if you need certain expensive equipment. However that's pretty rare.

              I, for one, am just disgusted with the ideas that any software is patentable at all. This should go the way of business plans and simply not be patentable at all.

              1. Vic

                Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

                > I, for one, am just disgusted with the ideas that any software is patentable at all.

                It isn't in most jurisdictions, including the USA.

                But that doesn't stop the USPTO granting the patents anyway, and East Texas keeps upholding them.

                Vic.

            2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

              "And getting VC funding pretty much requires a patent"

              This is not an argument for patents. It just means VCs are chicken and want to have a guarantee. Well, FUCK THEM. If they want a guarantee, they can buy a toaster.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

              "idea to a *working* example often requires VC funding. And getting VC funding pretty much requires a patent"

              You file a provisional patent and then have a certain period before it needs to be completed or abandoned.

        2. Chemist

          Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

          "The whole purpose of patents is to protect ideas"

          No it's not - patents protect implementations of ideas -workable inventions

        3. Vic

          Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

          > The whole purpose of patents is to protect ideas, period.

          No it isn't.

          The purpose of patents is to protect *inventions*.

          As soon as you broaden that to ideas - which is what many left-pondians are trying to do - you have a legal method of preventing people from thinking independent thoughts...

          Vic.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

        I guess the idea is that you come up with some amazing new idea in your garden shed. You get the patent for it. Then you can go to investors to put it into production. You can do that without worrying about them stealing the idea because you have the patent.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You should not be allowed to patent ideas, period.

        Y'know, that's a really good idea.

        You should patent it

      4. Vic

        Re: Oh FFS - patent - ideas

        > cannot be fully patented until the device is actually produced.

        No.

        This precludes the independent inventor from gaining patent protection for something he cannot afford to build; it hands the patent space to those with money.

        What needs to happen is that the *current* rules for patent eligibility be observed - is it novel? Is it non-obvious to someone skilled in the art? Is it of a patentable subject matter?

        The above rules entirely solve the nonsense we are currently undergoing. But no-one applies them :-(

        Vic.

  21. PassiveSmoking
    Devil

    I'm honestly sick of this.

    Can we not please just scrap software patents? They were a bad idea when they were introduced, and the clusterfuck that's engulfing the smartphone market demonstrates that it's a worse idea now. That you can patent an oversized icon is just further proof that the whole concept needs to DIAF.

    Copyright should be the only IP protection applicable to software, (plus trademarks for associated assets such as logos, characters in games, etc)

  22. polpo
    Angel

    there is a lot of prior art. Do you remember when HTML frames where introduced ? there were tons of crazy sites with an homepage showing 20, 30, 40 or even more micro frames (aka tiles) each with a different HREF and updating with a simple page-frame refresh.

  23. Matt Piechota

    AfterStep

    Sounds a lot like my mid-late 90s AfterStep configuration with xload, xeyes, etc. docked on the right side of the screen. And Windowmaker in the later 90s.

  24. vic 4

    since Windows Phone 7 became available two years ago

    Could forgive them for not noticing, did it not peak at just under 2% share in the smart phone market?

  25. masked_freetard
    Pirate

    Hoist with their own petard

    Oh dear, Messrs Ballmer and Gutierrez, can it be that for all your claims of valuing "intellectual property" and your constant condemnation of those who, like Google, you claim steal others' ideas, that here we find you "stealing" ideas yourselves? I think it's time to get out your chequebook, Mr Ballmer!

    I do not expect Messrs Ballmer and Gutierrez to reflect on the fact that no matter how hard you try, you cannot avoid stepping on someone's patent. They know the patent racket well, and probably have funds set aside against such suits as this. But I hope that with suits like this, the hollow rhetoric of property behind which Microsoft and their ilk hide will be shown to be just that, vapid, empty, without merit.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    unless they have the money like apple does, i doubt its a very valid patent, they probably didnt really create a true tile.

  27. Lost in Cyberspace

    Certain Vista/7 gadgets had this

    And they bring this up now?

  28. Christian Berger Silver badge

    I remimber

    Way back in the early 1990s there was some bad software package for Windows which was sold for use with multimeters. It allowed you to have tiled displays of multiple values which were updated automatically.

    What I still don't understand why Microsoft didn't just go for a tiled Window manager. Just split up the display into little 640x480 or 800x600 pixel rectangles and tell the applications they are "maximized". Few Windows GUI Applications can make use of more than that resolution anyhow.

  29. Jop
    Coat

    Who next?

    Hasbro lawyers have a eureka moment whilst playing Scrabble on Windows 8 and spelling the word Tile....

    The patent system will blow up eventually and hopefully bankrupt some patent trolls in the process. Time to stop vague patents and let them expire if the company who filed them does not make a product based on the patent within 18-24 months or so. Add a fine on top for filing and not using it which could potentially slow down technological progress.

    1. Vic

      Re: Who next?

      > The patent system will blow up eventually and hopefully bankrupt some patent trolls

      The problem is that it is far more likely to bankrupt essentially all legitimate developers in the process, so the trolls will end up with all the money :-(

      Vic.

  30. Johan Bastiaansen
    FAIL

    Corners

    These tiles they invented, where they square, or had they rounded corners? And what was the radius then?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It really looks exactly like Windows 8! Or maybe not.

    Here's a screenshot of SurfCast from 2007. Somehow, it doesn't seem exactly like a "Live Tile" to me.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070101195125/http://surfcast.com/images/news.jpg

    1. Hellcat

      Re: It really looks exactly like Windows 8! Or maybe not.

      That's a blatent rip of my monitoring webpage which used frames to display live info from SAN fabric switches circa 2005.

      I should sue.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Thanks for all the memories

        Those headlines. If a time traveler had executed the whole upper political US crust including the retarded reporters and the Prez with a zap gun set to "max pain disintegration", all of this could have been avoided.

  32. billium
    Facepalm

    Live by the sword die by the sword .. fsck M$.

    This is why the monopolies want software patents.

    The winners as usual , the laywers.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Actually, when software patents were discussed, I think I remember Microsoft basically sitting in the corner and saying neither Nay nor Aye. The lawyer types however, were salivating everywhere while dire predictions came from the technical press. I would need to dig up some old IEEE magazines for that though.

  33. Dom 3

    *My* Prior art

    20 years ago I was working on the Windows front end for a telemetry application. When minimised, one of the child windows had an oscilloscope for an icon. I realised / discovered that I could draw a tiny little version of the full graph, updated in real time, in to the ten by ten pixels or so that was the oscilloscope's screen... so I did.

  34. William Donelson

    MIT pre-Media Lab, World of Windows, late 1970s, prior art

    Check out:

    MIT pre-Media Lab, World of Windows, late 1970s, prior art

    Long before these guys "invented it"

  35. Jason Hindle

    Oh yes, I remember SurfCast!

    Didn't we all use their operating systems in the 90s when they put all that good work into delivering usable GUIs?

  36. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Devil

    I would like to announce.....

    That I have successfully patented the electron. Please send me $50 apiece or you'll be hearing from my lawyers....

  37. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    a "system and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources".

    My copy of Watchmen has a copyright date of 1986. I'm thinking, of course, of Ozymandias' s multi-screen display allowing him to absorb a multitude of information streams at once.

    I wish I had a secret Antarctic lair :(

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theoretical software patents

    Are like patenting the story of a book BEFORE it's written

  39. johnwerneken
    Mushroom

    More Idiots

    More people who know nothing. Doesn't matter who discovers or invents something. Matters who runs with it and how well. That is why there is no such thing as Intellectual Property, and the fact that the Constitution establishes such things, in a fashion, in order to encourage invention, and we have laws allegedly for that purpose, doers not mean I feel contradicted. First discovery + first mover = first revenue; immediate resale of it by others is what the legal system, quite properly, discourages. Kinda like what Christians plus Governments say about physical property: find it, or create it; use it, break no law doing that, it's yours; break no further law, it stays yours. Sometimes "Stewardship" is legally required, like homesteading the place to get title to free land. It is always required in practice: ignore and lose track of physical property, unless it is literally immoveable, it will disappear, laws don't matter. They never matter they are just useful crutches. For getting along or sometimes for resolving disputes (power does that, in general).

    Only naturally exclusive things - places and objects - can remain exclusive. Does not matter what people think of this nor what any law says, it is still true.

  40. Richard 15

    Nothing new here.

    I've written programs in vb with tile like functionality.

    The tiles would change color or be grayed out depending on whether on the status.

    For example, a picture viewer.

    If the picture was "missing" then it grayed out.

    If the QA process said that it was not acceptable, the tile would have a red back color.

    If the QA process said that it passed then the tile had a green back color.

    If the QA process had not yet been run it was a neutral color.

    Now granted, this was within a program, but an OS is just a program to and I did launch

    external programs from within the program.

    I did this in VB6 sometime in the 90's.

    I'm pretty sure I was inspired by similar functionality in a different program too.

  41. Confuciousmobil
    Pint

    I'm going to patent...

    The idea that you can't patent ideas.

  42. Sirius Lee
    Thumb Down

    Unfortunately for the plaintiff...

    The prior art here goes back into the 1980's. At that time I worked for a company which sold a touch-screen, OS/2 based 'Executive Information System' (EIS). Users were presented with an array of large, dynamic icons which when touched (or clicked with a mouse) displayed more detailed information. The chairman of that company is, and was then, a friend of BG so Microsoft certainly knew of this functionality long before this patent was tabled let alone granted.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    they should sue Apple too

    My weather icon looks like my kitchen tile, I know it has round corners, so do the tiles in my kitchen. It displays the temperature and weather too - "Information". lol

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QQ

    QQ SurfCast. Stop hampering the work of others who can otherwise accomplish what you could not. Obviously, as other posts here mention, you haven't heard of any "system and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources" other than your failed concept. Grow up.

  45. yossarianuk
    Thumb Up

    Karma

    See Microsoft, its not nice when a shit of a company comes along and use patent trolls you.

    At least your company gets TAX PAYER FUNDING to pay for lawyers to patent troll others (and prevent innovation for all)

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

    1. jason 7
      Facepalm

      Re: Karma

      I would have to say that MS is one of the lesser patent heavy corps out there. Certainly far more aggressive corps out there running after more frivolous stuff.

      Folks slag off MS all day long but they tend to forget whether they are using Apple or Linux, that the reason they can afford such gear and in such volume was down to MS helping to bring down the price of computing to the masses.

      Left alone to Apple we'd still all be paying £2000+ for a computer.

      Anyway I could discuss this further but I'm currently too busy getting a patent on knives, forks, spoons and chopsticks.

  46. Cyberspice

    RISC OS

    Acorn's RISC OS and its predecessor, Arthur, had dynamic updating icons. That was around 1986.

  47. Tom 13

    This could get amusing when MS rolls out their

    Windows 95D (or was it C?) Active Desktop software...

  48. waswasere

    Active Desktop Anyone?

    Tiles are little more than Active Desktop and push channels which pre-dates this patent by several years.

    I used it for pretty much the same purpose as tiles until I replaced my channels with sidebar gadgets.

    Shouldn't Microsoft be suing them?

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember ye olde BBC .....

    ... with a sensitive frame attached to the screen. I wrote a simple BASIC prog to put tiles on the screen to touch for a reading exercise of a maths exercise etc . Crude but functional - so what's new?

  50. hazydave

    Also, OS/2

    In OS/2, icons in PM were SOM objects, capable of displaying dynamic information. Not used as much as in Metro, but they did that.

  51. Steve Martins

    oh crap...

    Yet another patent I've violated by developing a UI component I thought was bleedin' obvious... so you mean it's not bleedin' obvious? OMG - i've just realised this is surely unequivocal proof that I'm a genuis!

  52. Kenny_Strawn

    At least this patent suit targets proprietary software for a change...

    The patent suits Apple has been perpetrating are doing nothing short of making me scream. Since Windows 8 is proprietary software, let Microsoft get sued! If SurfCast gets an injunction against Windows 8, it will be a BIG win for Linux, Android, and Chrome OS.

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