The Christian Science Monitor has an article informing its readers about a new patent out of the Patent Office: "Systems and methods for enticing users to access a web site" describing the Google Doodle.
The article quotes Matt Rosoff from Business Insider:
If you needed any more proof that the U.S. patent system is totally out of control, here it is: after ten years of lobbying, Google was granted a patent on Google Doodles this morning.
But Mr. Rosoff should rest easily. The title of a patent or the invention that it is based on does not control the exclusive rights of a patent. That would be the claims. An infringer would have to have every element in the claim in their infringing product/process in order to be liable for infringement. The Google patent has only 4 claims, only one of them is an independent claim, the first of which is:
1. A non-transitory computer-readable medium that stores instructions executable by one or more processors to perform a method for attracting users to a web page, comprising:
- instructions for creating a special event logo by modifying a standard company logo for a special event, where the instructions for creating the special event logo includes instructions for modifying the standard company logo with one or more animated images;
- instructions for associating a link or search results with the special event logo, the link identifying a document relating to the special event, the search results relating to the special event; instructions for uploading the special event logo to the web page;
- instructions for receiving a user selection of the special event logo; and
- instructions for providing the document relating to the special event or the search results relating to the special event based on the user selection.
So, this is not just about changing logos. The logo must also be a link or link to search results. So this isn't just about changing fun logos depending on the special event or day but has to be done by making the logo a link to a document relating to the special event or search results with the special event. The image has to be animated. The image has to be a modification of a standard company logo. The reason this is so specific is most likely because they needed it to be to get around prior art. At the same time, it is easy to design around. Looking at the file wrapper, you can see that the claims as filed were numerous and broad and they got whittled away during the long prosecution including a trip to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. This does not show a system that will allow anything through.
What is interesting is the Patent Term Adjustment on the Doodle Patent: 2618 days. That shows an incredible amount of delay on the application. Over 7 years, with a pendency of almost 10 years. That's certainly a sign of a broken patent system.