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Microsoft’s New Patent is a Threat to All eBookstores Apps

A friend tipped me to a new patent that Microsoft was awarded a few days ago. Patent No. 7925548 has a long and tortured description, but its purpose is pretty clear. It covers any type of app that was created to perform a specific task. Here’s the abstract:

A client portal that is optimized to fulfill a specific function. The portal can include a browser that is dedicated to performing a particular task, such as reviewing and purchasing electronic books. For example, to better perform the specific function, the browser may only be able to directly access sites designated by an authorized party, e.g., the browser’s publisher. Because the browser is dedicated to performing a single task, the user interface for operating the dedicated browser may be simplified to include only those controls useful for performing the assigned task. Also, the content available for access by the client portal can be controlled by a single authorized party, such as the portal’s publisher or distributor.

In case it’s not clear, this patent covers all the eBookstore apps (Kindle, Kobo, etc) as well as all the magazine and newspaper apps (NYTimes, WSJ, etc). It also covers all the retail apps (Amazon) as well as any streaming content apps (Pandora, Audible).

Basically if you can think up some way to move a task from a website to an app it will be covered by this patent. In other words, Microsoft has been granted the modern day equivalent of a patent on the wheel.

This patent was originally filed in 2004, but was only granted last week. In the time since it was file, any number of people have come up with the same idea. No, they did not steal the idea from Microsoft.  The concept is blindingly obvious, and that’s why the patent should never have been granted.

I don’t usually post on patents (even though they are a form of IP), but I do read about them. This is not the first blindingly obvious patent I’ve seen, nor will it be the last. The patent system in the US is a pathetic, broken, joke.

A client portal that is optimized to fulfill a specific function. The portal can include a browser that is dedicated to performing a particular task, such as reviewing and purchasing electronic books. For example, to better perform the specific function, the browser may only be able to directly access sites designated by an authorized party, e.g., the browser’s publisher. Because the browser is dedicated to performing a single task, the user interface for operating the dedicated browser may be simplified to include only those controls useful for performing the assigned task. Also, the content available for access by the client portal can be controlled by a single authorized party, such as the portal’s publisher or distributor.
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