annotation patentBad patent laws and imbecilic bureaucrats aren’t mere abstractions for software developers in the e-book area.

Just ask someone trying to come up with a better DRM system.

Now Alex Turcic at MobileRead is out today with important commentary on Microsoft’s efforts to patent electronic annotation–used in countless e-book readers. And the depressing thing is that the patent seems to involve the generic use of user-selectable anchors in a permanent file and a separately linked file for the annotations.

My hope right now: That the patent is so absurd that Adobe will almost beg Microsoft for a court test. It will be interesting to see what Jon Noring, founder of OpenReader, has to say from an OR perspective. Reminder: I’m among the ringleaders of OpenReader, and, yes, our main implementer, OSoft, uses not just annotation but shared annotation.

USPTOThe biggest threats to American innovation: The clowns at the USPTO, just a few miles away from me in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Maybe the damn place needs a good picketing, except I doubt it would do much good. The real solution is to tell political candidates, “Sorry no vote, no donations, nothing, unless you pledge to reform ‘intellectual property’ laws and related bureaucracies in the U.S.” Oh, and by the way, if the Microsoft patent is successfully enforced in the States, that does not mean it will be so elsewhere–such as China, home to the Apabi Reader.

I’d summon up a Shakespearean quote about lawyers except that in this era I might not be able to board an airplane again.

Meanwhile I remember the old days when the USSR was claiming to have invested the light bulb, or was it the automobile? Well, that spirit is alive and well in America, except now the braggarts are corporate monopolists who directly or indirectly buy up the government and see their fantasies honored in the courts. Trade associations often are the pimps.

Hey, I’m not on an anti-Microsoft jihad, and I’ll continue to give the company and its products their due. But this patent is so silly that it will play into the hands of Microsoft-haters everywhere.

Meanwhile I’d suggest that Jon Dudas, head of the USPTO, check out what’s happening within his ranks. Did this patent get approved by the same Einstein who okayed one on an anti-gravity machine?


  1. Bear in mind that it says this patent was filed in 1999– SEVEN YEARS ago. Not that there weren’t other companies doing similar annotation at the time, but surely they weren’t as prevelent as today. The problem does seem to lie with the patent office. It must be hard to keep a staff with enough technical expertise to make knowledgeable patent decisions when there’s more money to be made in the private sector. They’re probably one of those agencies that are perpetually understaffed and underpaid for the volume of work they’re expected to manage.

    All that being said, yes, it’s still a bad patent. I hope Adobe contests it.

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