Knowing what to pay attention to

One of the things that this blog is going to look at is times when other people out there just don’t get it.  Case in point:

Microsoft Patents “Pg Up” and “Pg Dn”

I ran across this post on Slashdot, and it immediately drove me nuts:

An anonymous reader notes that Microsoft has been granted a patent on “Page Up” and “Page Down” keystrokes. The article links an image of an IBM PC keyboard from 1981 with such keys in evidence.

Seriously? That sounds like a dumb move by the Patent Office. And, of course, such stories spawn all sorts of comments about patents being evil, and how patent reform must happen NOW or else all innovation will cease and Western Civilization will grind to a halt, yadda, yadda.

Of course, it’s not true. Without getting overly technical, it’s the claims that define the scope of what Microsoft “patented,” not the patent abstract, or the description, or the drawings, or any of the rest of the information that the Patent Office publishes. Microsoft could have put something in the patent specification saying that if you press the Page Down key, a unicorn will materialize out of thin air and whisk you off to a magical world where fairies ask you what part of your document you want to view, and then the fairies will scroll the document for you while you kick back with a complimentary umbrella drink.

Which would be awesome.

However, unless it ends up in the issued claims, it isn’t really fair to say that Microsoft patented the unicorn thing, because they’re not going to be able to exert any sort of patent right to the unicorn thing.

This is pretty obvious to people who deal with patents a lot, but to people not all that familiar with patents, it would be pretty easy to be misled by such a story.  Which, I suppose, is why the Slashdot story drove me so nuts.  It took seven pages of comments to see someone actually set the record straight, and I doubt many visitors read that far.

Anyway, it’s about six months later, but the story did incense me enough to start blogging about it.  Hopefully, there’ll be more things to blog about soon.


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