U.S. patent office looking for prior art on IBM patent application
As part of its Peer-to-Patent: Community Patent Review, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), is seeking comments and prior art references for another 12 days on a patent application from IBM Corp. concerning “a method for readjusting and interpolating a progress of an execution of multi-step program by a computing device involves a computation of a cumulative point baseline for each step of the multi-step program based on a completion time baseline for each step of the multi-step program, and a regulation of a progress indicator based on the cumulative point baseline and a completion time of each step of the multi-step program as executed by the computing device.”
In June of this year, the USPTO opened the patent examination process for online public participation for the first time with the “Peer-to-Patent: Community Patent Review” pilot, which was developed by the New York Law School Institute for Information Law and Policy in cooperation with the USPTO and allows the public to submit prior art and commentary relevant to the claims of 250 pending patent applications in computer architecture, software, and information security, in order to connect an open network of community input to the legal decision-making process.
Peer-to-Patent involves review and discussion of posted patent applications, research to locate prior art references, uploading prior art references relevant to the claims, annotating and evaluating submitted prior art, and top ten references, along with commentary, forwarded to the USPTO. The goal of the pilot is to prove that organized public participation can improve the quality of issued patents, the group says on its website.
In its pre-grant publication number 20070220238, “Dynamic readjustment and interpolation of progress method and system,” dated December 15, 2005, IBM inventor Nicholas Kovacs says the field of the invention “generally relates to a program execution of any type (e.g., an application program and an operating program) by a computing device of any type (e.g., a personal computer, a workstation, a laptop, a server, a personal data assistant, a cell phone and a smart phone).”
“The present invention specifically relates to providing a displayable progress indicator for a program execution by the computing device where the progress indicator is dynamically regulated to accurately reflect the progress of the program execution by the computing device,” he continues.
By way of background, Kovacs reminds that during a long running program execution by a computing device, it is useful to provide a user of the computing device with a progress indicator to keep the user informed of the progress of the program execution with one method used for such visualization is a progress bar displayed on the computing device.
“A progress bar is typically a horizontal bar that visually shows the completion percentage by painting a larger portion of the bar as the progress is completed. In order to display informative progress, the computing device must be able to determine at any point in time what percent of program execution has been completed. This percentage is fed into the progress widget to determine the visualization. In the case of a progress bar, the completion percentage is used to determine how much of the bar is painted,” he continues.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, others commenting on the application thought so too.
Computer professional Dannis Robinson from Beaumont, Texas wrote on Peer-to-Patent, “This is so common a programming technique that it borders on the ridiculously absurd to attempt to patent something that has been in use since the middle 1960's.”
Another computer professional Elio Mazzocca, commented, “This patent application looks like baloney, masquerading as a sophisticated progress bar indicator. There is no invention. Mr. Kovacs is only seeking to improve his CV for a possible wage demand.”
A third comment from Tony Farrell, software engineering, software development team leader at the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Australia wrote, “This patent application seems to be about progress bars which intelligently update. I admit to be a bit confused by the description - but I cannot see it is anything more [than] 1. Estimate time of completion etc. 2. At pre-defined periods, based on progress so far and knowledge about the application - re-estimate progress. Am I missing something?”
“I feel this patent should fail on the "Obviousness" test. It should also fail due "Prior Invention" since there are many existing tools that implement this approach - most obviously, network transfer indicators that update themselves as the network speed changes,” he added.
For expert advice on when to file a patent, see our exclusive commentary, “Expert Advice: How to decide whether or not to file a patent.”