Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Microsoft patents web photo gallery software

Microsoft has been awarded a US patent (US #6,964,025) for software which enables a user to easily and automatically create a photo gallery of thumbnail images on a Web page. This is further explained to mean that a user selects a group of original images, and the tool automatically produces a corresponding group of thumbnail images on the Web page, with hyperlinks to the corresponding original images.

Now this doesn't exactly sound like rocket science to me. The patent goes on to detail the selection of images, creation, cropping, rotation and linking of thumbnails to the larger original sized image, displaying a preview of the webpage and many other options that are freely available in many freeware, shareware and commercial programs designed to simplify the creation of web photo galleries.

Now according to Microsoft, when creating Web pages, especially Web pages that incorporate a considerable amount of content such as thumbnail images hyperlinked to original parent images, the file management and structural organization required can be challenging, particularly for the casual user.

Clearly, it would be desirable to enable a plurality of images to be incorporated into a Web page as thumbnail images in a single operation, rather than requiring each image to be added individually through a series of manual steps, or even as an automated process that must be repeated for each image. It would also be desirable to provide a plurality of user-friendly templates that automatically define several different formats for a plurality of thumbnail images on a Web page, so that a casual user can easily create an aesthetically-pleasing gallery of thumbnail images with a minimum of effort.

Interestingly, they go on to claim that the prior art does not teach or suggest such a tool.

The term prior art is patent speak for what exists in the public domain. Now admittedly the patent application was filed on March 20, 2001, but can this really be a serious patent and what are the implications for all of the existing web photo gallery creation software out there? Is Microsoft about to start demanding royalties from every program that automatically create a photo gallery of thumbnail images on a Web page?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for a computer company at the time MSDOS was patented. It effectively retroactively grabbed many tools which were essentially public domain and grouped them into the patent. This killed many companies instantly at the time, the one I was in as well. We never could understand how they managed to patent what was in the open but they did and many billions of dollars followed for the perpetrator of this ridiculously unjust act. Since this happened it has taken years for the community to start to recover.
It is absurd to suggest that this process of making thumbnails is patentable when it is in use in many freeware programs. This will as before will stop many developers from working on this useful technique.

2005-12-09, 8:07 AM  

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