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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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October 9, 2008

Apple Gets a Dock Patent

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Apple was finally granted a patent, for which it first applied in 1999, on the user interface construction that has come to be called the "dock".

The patent calls it "a userbar" but Apple's own documentation calls it a dock (this image also comes from Apple's site) and that's the term it's generally come to be called. Including all the multitude of reimplementations of the concept. I'm aware of dock implementations for Windows and for Flash applications and there are probably others. Yahoo even has a "widget dock" (on which it has a patent).

Not everyone loves the dock, though. Ex-Apple human-interface guru Bruce Tognazzini published a column way back in 2001 harshing on the dock's (lack of) usability. Still, the widget remains fairly common in a lot of interfaces. The question is whether that'll still be true after Apple decides what it wants to do with this patent.

Given the early filing date it's not going to be trivial to find prior art if people want to challenge this patent. The amount of non-patent prior art cited is small, but there are an impressive number of related patents cited. (Including, to my great surprise, my own patent.) Scanning those it appears that Apple has at least touched on all the related work I can recall from back then.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


COMMENTS

1. knorby on October 14, 2008 3:05 AM writes...

Based on my brief searching on wikipedia: http://www.ooooooooo.net/arthur/art.html

Do you know how this patent plays in with NeXT? Did NeXT get any similar patents before the Apple purchase?

Permalink to Comment

2. drwex on October 16, 2008 10:03 AM writes...

I haven't looked into the connection with NeXT but I seem to recall that Apple licensed all of NeXT's patent portfolio, en masse.

Interesting bit of history on that URL.

Permalink to Comment

3. kived on November 8, 2008 11:56 AM writes...

So we have software patents now? America is.... well uh... America was already screwed. But it's screwed even more now.

Permalink to Comment

4. drwex on November 10, 2008 4:27 PM writes...

We've had software patents for a long time. I'm of several minds on the software patent issue, which is a bit long to go into here. But this patent isn't anything new.

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