Adding another weapon to the Cupertian arsenal being wielded in the ongoing patent wars, the US Patent and Trademark office has granted Apple a new design patent, D670,713, entitled "Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface".
The patent is one the briefest we've seen in our coverage of the strange and mysterious workings of the USPTO. Here is the text of the patent's Description subsection, in toto:
FIG. 1 is a front view of a a [sic] display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface showing a first image in the sequence showing our new design;
FIG. 2 is a second image thereof; and,
FIG. 3 is a third image thereof.
The broken lines in the Figures show portions of a display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface and portions of the display screen or portion thereof which form no part of the claimed design.
The appearance of the animated images sequentially transitions between the images shown in FIGS. 1-3. The process or period in which one image transitions to another forms no part of the claimed design.
This massively complex concept required three inventors to craft it: Elizabeth Caroline Cranfill, Mikio Inose, and Stephen Lemay. The trio submitted application D/408,904 on December 19, 2011, and this Tuesday it was consecrated by the USPTO and awarded to Apple, Inc. as design patent D670,713.
As you can see in the three figures to the right, what the patent covers is an animation of the turning of a page, presumably in an e-book – although patents being patents, it's not impossible that it could be extended to other applications, as well.
As we see it, patents are necessary and valuable tools for protecting intellectual property. That said, as with any tool, their use should be judicious, aimed at fostering innovation and increasing competition by safeguarding inventors and companies that are willing to risk capital to bring their unique creations to market.
The Reg remains unconvinced that granting a design patent for an animated page-turn meets those criteria. ®