Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Incredible - Perhaps Not True

Somebody tell me that the Patent office hasn't actually granted Microsoft's application for a patent on double-clicking.

This is why I don't like software patents.


A patent granted doesn't mean it's defensible. In this case, prior art would invalidate any claim in the patent on simple double-clicking. Regardless, I'm going to play it safe and avoid double-clicking from now and on :)

It's a hardware patent, though, not a software patent.

brandon. Details... details... ;-P

Hardware, and ONLY applicable in 'limited resource devices' like PDA's and phones, and not specifically with a pointing device.

Doesn't sound like anything that's actually out right now (kinda like Apple's 'translucent windows' patent).

Personally, I think it's actually a defensive patent.

It reminds me of my Next-App button idea although I forgot to think about the double-click because I was thinking of the thumb:

Jeremy - what do you mean by "defensive patent?"

Reminds me of when Apple licensed the 1-Click 'technology' from Amazon. Just plain stupid!



Whether hardware or defensive patent, the patent should not have been granted. Double clicking is in the public domain, having been in use on the Macintosh since 1984 (for just one obvious example).

The patent is not really about double-click but about using limited input device (i.e. a cheap button on a mobile phone) to trigger more than one function like morse code sent from user to mobile. It adds functionality without increasing cost nor adding clutter. What it does is map:

Down-Up -> F1

Down-1/2sec-Up -> F2

Down-1sec-Up -> F3

Down-Up-Down-Up -> F4

and so on.

IMHO, this is not a trivial patent but a rather innovative new use of existing technology. Frankly, I prefer my Next-App (aka Appy) button idea better since user doesn't have to remember the correct pattern. Instead, the user just flips apps as if flipping pages until they get to the one they want to use. In the end, users remember 'where' the app is (i.e. 3rd app) and click the button that many times as they move the device up for use.

Does this mean that everytime I doubleclick I am committing a crime? If, so lock up all of us.

Will the Plaintiff have to define double-click? How would a double-click differ from two distinct single clicks? A specific time frame? To Click or not to Click - that is the question, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury!

OK, I'll admit to sometimes perusing that cesspool of ignorant ramblings that is Slashdot, but the following comment on that board seemed relevant:

Microsoft Receives Patent For Double-Click

Posted by simoniker on Wednesday June 02, @07:48PM

[..Long thread elided..]

Re:Xerox and Apple (Score:5, Informative)

by Lt.Hawkins (17467) on Wednesday June 02, @08:08PM (#9320890)

If thats the case, I've seen prior art. A panasonic walkman I once had, included a single-button remote control. Click, and it changed presets. Doubleclick, and it did something else. Tripleclick, and it did a third thing. Hold it down, and it switched to the tape player, which had its own modes. Small learning curve, but a great one-button interface.

I am not sure if that fully applies as a precedent since they used variations in the *count* (number of clicks) where Microsoft is using *time delay* variations between button down and button up events. There is sufficient overlap though to cause trouble for Microsoft, I think.

BTW, Microsoft is not claiming that they invented double-click. They are claiming to be the first to apply the idea on 'limited resource computing device'.

I have to say, it's discouraging to see people jump on this so quickly, saying "ooh, MS patented the double click"...

It's just not that simple. How can we get people to stop looking at only the most superficial aspects of patents and stop to think about the fact that maybe they don't really understand how limited the patent is?

Obviously, if you reduce a patent to one sentence, you're not really describing what the patent is. It's like taking 10 pages of code and describing it in one sentence. It's going to be an incorrect description of the patent, in every case.

I'm really getting frustrated at how little thought is going into fearmongering stories about patents. Coders seem to want to take one look at a patent abstract and then go splattering all over the web talking about how horrible it is, when they would never think of doing something similar with regard to software architecture...

Sure, there have been some bad patents, but don't characterize something incorrectly by oversimplifying it...

I used to double click the AC button on the calculator to wipe out all data way back in the 1960's. Would I be eligible to apply to share in the patent?

I used to double click the AC button on the calculator to wipe out all data way back in the 1960's. Would I be eligible to apply to share in the patent?

Trevor Hill wrote:

It's just not that simple. How can we get people to stop looking at only the most superficial aspects of patents and stop to think about the fact that maybe they don't really understand how limited the patent is?

Trevor, given that more and more portable devices — e.g. music players, cameras, phones — have become digital, Microsoft’s patent might actually encompass a broader scope than you think. One could argue, for instance, that the CPUs embedded in these digital devices are running custom “applications” operating on “documents” — e.g. music files, pictures, movies...

See e.g. the patent’s claim 4:

4. A method for expanding the functionality of an application button on a limited resource computing device, comprising:

(a) detecting that an application button associated with a limited resource computing device application has been pressed;

(b) determining the length of time the application button has been pressed;

(c) opening an application if the application button is released prior to the expiration of a threshold time limit; and

(d) opening the application and automatically causing the application to open a predefined document if the application button is pressed, without being released, for a period equal to or in excess of the threshold time limit.

The patent’s other claims are in the same vein.

The Slashdotter’s description makes it obvious that the Panasonic “walkman” (apologies to Sony) already relied on the “time threshold” method to let the user select between available functions:

• “Click, and it changed [radio?] presets”

• “Hold it down, and it switched to the tape player”

It would also have been straightforward for someone skilled in the art to forecast that such portable music players would evolve towards digital implementations. Microsoft’s application had thus little novelty or non-obviousness value.

Furthermore, given the claims’ (intentionally?) sloppy wording, semantic creep is also a concern: Moore’s law will ensure that even a device considered fairly advanced today might be labeled as a “limited resource computing device” in a few years, and hence fall within #6,727,830’s scope.


You are doing here exactly what I'm not talking about... You're onsidering the claims of the patent rationally. Sure, there are a lot of arguments for and against the validity of this patent.

What I'm saying is that when the media gets hold of these things and publishes little stories saying "MS Patents the Double Click," they're actually misinforming people and doing more harm than good. It's over-simplification to the point of being simply incorrect.

I'm pretty sure I remember a digital watch using exactly those "click... hold down... release" vs "click, release" semantics to differentiate two actions. And if a digital watch isn't a "limited resource computing device", what is?

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From the WTF Department:

In its patent application, Microsoft said the purpose of the now-patented technology is to make it easier for users to launch applications by either double-clicking a button or holding one down.
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