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Moom removed from sale due to patent violation claim (manytricks.com)
226 points by esolyt on May 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 129 comments

What's really galling about this particular patent trolling is that Rob Griffiths, principal of Many Tricks which publishes Moom, is one of the original OS X nerd's nerd.

He's done so much for the OS X and the UNIX communities, having run Mac OS X Hints for more than a decade. [0] When pro users were just figuring out best practices for everything from window management to command line AppleScript (osascript) to postfix configuration, Griffiths' tireless and largely selfless (ads were unobtrusive, implemented with a very light touch) support of Mac OS X hints made it the go-to site for how to do all things command line in OS X.

It's a shame this patent troll has chosen to shake down so selfless a member of the OS X community.

[0] http://macosxhints.com (redirects to) http://hints.macworld.com

EDIT: Grammar: add missing direct object to last sentence of second paragraph.

Years ago, when OS X was my preferred platform, I was really impressed from the fast and really good support of "Many Tricks". Always felt like I was supporting one of my colleagues emerging side projects and I felt quite good as he was actual taking customer care serious by trying to solve things in direct communication and not just redirecting to a FAQ or similar.

I just want to say thank you, Rob! Keep fighting the trolls.

okay you like the guy, but unlikable people need sympathies too.

If anyone is looking for an alternative: I put together a grid based window manager without an UI some months ago. https://github.com/janten/keypad-layout

This looks pretty cool. I'm on a phone, so didn't look at source, but I'm curious about install procedure (also see an issue about brew).

As a web dev, I think I'd like to see this work like a css grid. Width then height. So, ^3^2 would be three columns two rows. Maybe that won't work in practice. Maybe I'll play with the code to see.

Right now it is a simple download from GitHub though I have already submitted a pull request to brew cask. Thank you for opening the issue which finally motivated me to do this.

The tool does work like a grid but with start and end positions instead of sizes so you can move and resize at the same time. ^1^3 is from position (1,1) to (3,1) (i.e. top row), ^1^6 is (1,1) to (3,2) (top two-thirds) etc. You can basically paint the location and size of the window using your numeric keypad. Its pretty straightforward once you try it.

Cool stuff! I built the same thing but with configurable size grid using Hammerspoon.

This is awesome! Thanks

Looks great!

Oh dear. I guess Spectacle (the app I use that does a similar thing) will be on a pretty long list of those to follow.

I've been using Magnet for a while now. It seems much more stable and efficient than Spectacle. Hopefully it will not end up on this chopping block as well. http://magnet.crowdcafe.com/

Magnet author here. We’re from Europe, Czech Republic in particular, so I don’t think we’re a viable target for a US patent troll. Glad you like our app!

Hey, I mailed you guys but you never responded :( Would it be possible to add sort of a tiling window manager mode that would disallow stacking and force any open window to adhere to a 6x6 (or whatever) grid? Sort of like Amethyst..

Sorry about that! We have considered adding more features, but it’s impossible to do that while keeping the app reliable and simple, so it’s likely to stay this way.

I too am a Magnet user!

Is there a similar app for Ubuntu-flavor Linux? I use it on MacOS, but sometimes play around with Linux on a laptop with a terrible track pad. I know you can customize keyboard shortcuts but haven't been able to replicate Magnet precisely.

Does Spectical have a grid UI like that? I've only ever used keyboard shortcuts to position the windows using it. If it doesn't have that grid UI selector thing then I think it's fine.

Spectacle has keyboard shortcuts - in fact, I think that's all it has. All I use it for at least. The first command sets the window to 1/2 width (or height), second tap sets it to 2/3, third tap sets it to 1/3. Works great for me. Also I should note it's OSS.

Software patents don't exist in Europe. So they can probably just add some small-print that says "please don't download this if you are outside of Europe".


They do exist in Europe, and indeed many companies patent things in Europe to take advantage of legislation like Patentbox.

Okay, I looked it up, and strictly speaking you are right, [1].

But, quoting:

"The European Patent Convention (EPC), Article 52, paragraph 2, excludes from patentability, in particular

1. discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;

2. aesthetic creations;

3. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;

4. presentations of information."

I believe the patent in question falls under 4, 3 and perhaps 2.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_under_the_Eur...

That's all well and good, but if you get sued you still have to pay quite a lot of money to a lawyer to prove you're right, and even if you win you're still stuck with the bill.

EU system is a bit different - first, you're not stuck with the bill as in USA, and second, there would be no patent so no reason to sue.

Unlike prior art, which often needs to be proven in court, disallowing software patents as a class means that this patent simply would not get issued in EU.

Given the description of the law -- is that something that happens a lot in Europe? (patent troll's actually suing, and people actually defending). Your comment suggests it does unless I"m mis-reading but I'm curious what that's based on.

Some are heralding the European courts as the next hot venue for patent trolling. I am not super current on it but so far I don't think that's particularly materialized. I think the delay and uncertainty of the UPC has a lot to do with it.

Isn't that the case for literally anything and everything?

I once designed an app to later realize that I was infringing dozens of patents I never knew existed before.

Go and read a dozen patents, then come back and tell me they're not obvious. Most of them are ridiculously obvious, assuming you have some understanding of their given field/domain.

I was always told not to read patents. If it can be proven you're aware of a patent prior to releasing something that infringes it, you get hit with extra penalties. See [1] and [2].

[1]: http://www.dresan.com/blog/2011/04/05/i-dont-read-patents/ [2]: http://endsoftpatents.org/2010/03/transcript-tridgell-patent...

That was definitely true around the time your links were written, 2010-2011 or so. A few things have shifted in the application of treble damages and some new avenues for avoiding prolonged patent battles that have prodded many to come around on that way of thinking. Still, some entities choose to be willfully ignorant. But in my opinion, it's better to know what's out there

I was about to complain loudly about bullshit patents, but then I took some time to read the actual patent (make sure to look at the images too!), and it turns out that this patent describes a method that is very similar to what Moom does (judging by screenshots). This is not a case of the overly broad patents that we usually complain about, this is a very precise patent.

Being similar doesn't justify it as a patent. A core foundation of patents is that the invention be novel and non-obvious to a practitioner. If countless people independently -- without learning from the claims -- derive exactly the same "invention", it is an invalid patent. Of course then you have to actually get it invalidated, at great time and expense.

It is completely a bullshit patent. The patent office got their fees, and then they'll get their fees again to re-evaluate it.

My main beef with patents (from a layperson's perspective) is that due consideration isn't adequately given to the effort taken by the patent owner to provide some sort of value to society in general.

What use is a novel invention if the patent owner does nothing with it. I would argue that Moom or other apps have provided more value to society at-large as compared to the patent owner.

One could argue that securing the patent puts the innovation into the public domain. Otherwise it might have stayed inside one person or company's domain. Then died with them.

When was the last time you actually read a patent to learn about a novel technology? As opposed to an article, published paper, conference talk, random blog post, or a thousand other sources? They're not particularly good forms for conveying information; they exist primarily to stake a claim on a pile of territory.

That leaves aside the liabilities that reading patents to learn about technologies can open you up to, in the form of "willful infringement.

Yeah, this is currently a huge problem with the patent system as a whole, and can be summarized in one word: lawyers. I believe the patent system has been hijaked by lawyers and has veered off course from the original intent (even though i hate that term). The solution to this is to rewrite the written description law to reduce the burden on patentees to add in a bunch of verbosity and at the same time require more in the claims. And while we're at it to simplify the whole damn claim construction process. I'd advocate for putting examiners at the forefront of construing claims, and requiring statements by the examiners on the record of what the claims mean at the time of examination and why they are being allowed. A mini memo on claim construction at the time of allowance. This will never happen, of course.

It's only a bullshit patent if you have pockets deep enough to take them to court over a patent issue. And, the patent holder is considered "Right" until otherwise proved.

From a qualitative perspective it's a bullshit patent, full-stop. But yes, the legal process is prohibitive, but if you demonstrate prior art to the USPTO you can request a re-examination that allows them to save face.

If this patent were filed in 1988 it might have a hope of standing. It was remarkably filed in 2008, years after countless grid-based Windows manager had come and gone. It stands no hope, and the EFF will make quick work of this.

The USPTO needs to be held liable for this sort of nonsense, or alternately people who file spurious patents need to be penalized. This is legalized extortion.

And since this always comes up - someone is going to say "read all the claims...this is novel only in its entirety". The claims of a patent, unless specifically cross-referencing, hold independently.

I'm not giving any assessment of said patent. It appears to be bullshit from other commentors here.

I am approaching this as, "You had better be rich, and prepared to throw 500K at lawyers to defend or attack a patent lawsuit. And even then, has no guarantee of any good results.

For future reference, anythng patented in 1988 is long-since in the public domain. ;- )

Well, a number of comments here point to the success of the product due to that feature. If it was so obvious why didn't someone do it before?

Precise, and still obvious. So, still a bullshit patent.

I disagree. I feel that patents should exist to help companies recoup the cost of expensive R&D. Designing a window manager of this kind doesn't fall under that umbrella. Any reasonably competent software designer could come up with UX like this without a large time investment. Different companies should be able to iterate and refine these kinds of designs. This only has the effect of reducing the size of the software economy and does not provide the intended benefit of helping anyone recoup expensive development costs.

This patent was granted in April 2013 (see http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=08434019&IDKey=...), and does indeed pretty precisely describe Moom's "drag across a grid" window repositioning method. Which... first appeared in April 2011. See this old blog post, describing the brand new grid-selection feature of Moom 1.2: https://manytricks.com/blog/?p=1297

So that should be interesting.

This patent may also cover the window arrangement widget in Adobe's products, which seems to date back to at least 2011 (google for 'adobe application frame'): http://egypt.urnash.com/media/blogs.dir/1/files/2017/05/Scre...

...but somehow I doubt they'll be suing Adobe until they've successfully gone after all the other folks who independently invented something similar to their patent.

Here's Divvy doing this in 2010 [1], the question is if Divvy is related to the patent or if they too received a letter.

[1] http://lifehacker.com/5715221/divvy-window-organizer-lands-o...

Agreed. I read the patent before checking out what Moom was, and I'd say Moom is a pretty good implementation of the invention described in the patent. I think they might be stuck here.

It's an obvious software patent, therefore bullshit.

but it was completely not novel at the time of the patent

What other tiling WMs had the same gui menu to select layout?

Window Tidy had it as early as 2011.


Isn't the patent from 2008?

This person holds a number of similar patents from the looks of it:



The patent describes something very like Moom's "Grid" feature (I think the «select more than one selectable region» bit is the key restriction).

So if the patent stands up, I suppose they'd have the option of just removing that feature.

Indeed they might: The first versions of Moom were released after the patent priority, but before it was published.

This is something they should discuss with their attorney.

I wonder if they can engineer around the patent by having the user customize their own regions.

Sadly, that's Moom's best, differentiating feature.

Interesting, I guess there's so much prior work around* it should be easy to dismiss the patent.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiling_window_manager

Please go read the patent, it describes an "apparatus and method" that is much more advanced than traditional tiling window managers. The patent doesn't even compare to simple terminal based tiling of sub-shells. It also describes a GUI to control the positions, and describes in detail how it's supposed to work. There is a section "Description of the Related Art" in the patent which makes references to existing (at that time, year 2008) approaches and why they are not good enough. Example: "[...] Windows provides [...] commands which are accessible from the Windows taskbar. However, these commands are not as intuitive as they could be and they do not provide a desired level of control when positioning windows".

>There is a section "Description of the Related Art" in the patent which makes references to existing (at that time, year 2008) approaches and why they are not good enough

In that section, it mostly compares itself to Microsoft Windows' stacking (not tiling) window manager. There's no comparison to ANY of the already existing tiling window managers.

It was filed on June 2nd, 2008.

There were a ton of tiling oriented windows managers in place for many, many, years prior. Many of them supported automatic layout, and many supported a variety of grid layouts as depicted in the patent.

Here's a video from 1987, 21 years prior to the filing of this patent, showing the Siemens RTL tiling window manager: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFd0FDv3fQc You can see the selected layout in the upper left hand corner of the screen. The video itself shows the user choosing where new windows will land, and the automated tiling/fit.

As mentioned earlier, a ton of other tiling window managers existed well before the filing of this patent. Many of them with automatic tiling, and several grid layout options. I don't see anything in the patent that sounds novel to me.

The patent doesn't appear to describe tiling window management, but the composition of a window layout using a number of menu options that integrate neatly with the existing environment's window controls, and that visually demonstrate their effect.

Indeed the patent describes a user interface to accomplish this that looks very similar to screenshots of Moom.

My experience with the USPTO is that statements like "I don't see anything in the patent that sounds novel to me" doesn't amuse them and they take this sort of thing seriously. Whether you agree with software patents or not, I think it's important to not be too dismissive of that fact.

[1]: https://www.google.com/patents/US20090300541#forward-citatio...

>The patent doesn't appear to describe tiling window management

It does though. The screenshots show grid options, and describe how the end user can place windows in the grid. It specifically complains about how MS Windows has overlapping windows. Grid + no overlap == tiling.

>Indeed the patent describes a user interface to accomplish this that looks very similar to screenshots of Moom.

Sure. The argument about "novel" is that the patent holder wasn't the first to do something "similar to Moom". The idea that 2008 was the first time someone had the notion of grid layouts and allowing an end user to place a window in them is just silly.

> The idea that 2008 was the first time someone had the notion of grid layouts and allowing an end user to place a window in them is just silly.

That's not what's being patented. The gui menu to select placement of windows is what's being patented.

Did that exist before 2008?

Yes, it did.

I know I used window managers with almost the same grid square select in the 1990's. Not able to conjure up a screenshot yet. I did find one that's very close, here: http://www.badros.com/greg/papers/scwm-extensible-wm.pdf

That is clearly a UI for dynamic window placement and sizing, just not with the exact grid dynamic, though you can define new constraints, so it's possible it can do it as well. It's not the one I remember, but it's hard to Google up old UI's in HN time.

Given some time, I'm sure I could find something exactly like it.

It may be silly, but remember that the US uses first-to-file, not first-to-invent.

That only comes up when two people file for patents that overlap. You cannot patent known inventions.

First to file, though, is just about the patent being granted. Once you start using your patent to bully people, prior art, even non-patented prior art, can be used against you.

Edit: "Once the patent has issued, you can challenge it at the USPTO by filing a request for reexamination of the patent"[1]

[1] https://www.uspto.gov/patents-maintaining-patent/patent-liti...

Edit2: It's also possible there are overlapping, earlier patents. This one looks promising...compare the drawings: https://www.google.com/patents/US5712995

> Edit2: It's also possible there are overlapping, earlier patents. This one looks promising...compare the drawings:

There's also:


That's not what 35 USC. § 273 says. It says that commercial prior use may be legitimate defence for that prior use, which isn't the same thing at all.

Seems like the patent is already by a Microsoft engineer: http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?Docid=05371847&homeurl=http%3A%...

And look at the images too, they help you visualize what the patent is about.

And the patent pretty much describes the mouse based interface which Moom implements, and I can't think of any prior art of that.

You should be able to find prior art and invalidate many clauses of the patent, like the general idea of grid based layouts, especially driven by keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures, but the general concept of a graphical drop-down menu for arranging windows will probably stay.

I used to use GridMove [0], which looks quite similar. This was certainly prior to 2008, though I can't find a version history right now.

0: http://jgpaiva.dcmembers.com/gridmove.html

Edit: first alpha version May 30 2006 (http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=3824.msg2...).

> Please go read the patent, it describes an "apparatus and method" that is much more advanced than traditional tiling window managers.

I read/skimmed the patent, I cannot find anything described which is obviously novel. Care to provide a quote of these particular features?

A judge is not going to skim the patent. They will patiently read each and every independent claim, and evaluate whether Moom implements any of them.

In evaluating claims 1 and 2 (¶9) I imagine that a judge will get to this screenshot[1] and compare it to this diagram[2] and ask the authors of Moom for their justification. This justification can indeed be that it isn't novel, but I do not think the judge is likely to accept it because the patent examiner did indeed grant the patent.

In evaluating claim 3 (¶17) it may be that Moom is not infringing, but it is difficult to tell from screenshots and a video.

[1]: http://web.archive.org/web/20110309004337/https://manytricks...

[2]: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/US20130219331A1/...

> because the patent examiner did indeed grant the patent.

I am not a patent lawyer but I don't think that how it works. The patent examiner is not qualified to do and does not do an exhaustive check for novelness. They mainly do a procedural check.

I've been through the process both in the US and in Europe.

"Exhaustive" has a specific legal definition.

The examiner indeed identifies existing work[1] and asks for an explanation.

They usually focus on existing grants, but they also look at other applications (that are published). They do not have to pay as much attention to un-filed prior art because the US uses a "first-to-file"[2] system.

[1]: https://www.google.com/patents/US20090300541#backward-citati...

[2]: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/aia_implementation...

From your comments in this thread, your understanding of first to file is incorrect.

First to file doesn't invalidate un-filed prior art or give it lower presedence.

First to file only really matters when there are overlapping patent applications. Basically a situation where one person files first but the other applicant claims they actually invented first but didn't publish the invention.

Had the person who claims they invented first published their invention, they'd have a year to file.

If that year was up, their prior art could still prevent the other applicant from being granted a patent the same as it would be under first to invent.

> First to file doesn't invalidate un-filed prior art or give it lower presedence.

I'm not saying it invalidates anything.

I'm saying this kind of arm-chair lawyering isn't going to impress a judge.

> First to file only really matters when there are overlapping patent applications.

35 USC 102 (b).

35 USC 102 (b) covers the exception that allows an inventor up to a year to file after publishing their invention. It prevents an inventor's own disclosure from being used as prior art to deny the inventor's patent request--provided the patent was filed within a year of the disclosure.

What do you think it says?

>I'm not saying it invalidates anything.

You said this:

>They do not have to pay as much attention to un-filed prior art because the US uses a "first-to-file"[2] system.

That implies that un-filed prior art was made less important by first to file, which is incorrect.

>I'm saying this kind of arm-chair lawyering isn't going to impress a judge.

Good thing I'm not trying to impress a judge. I'm just trying to stop the spread of misinformation on first to file.

No, unfiled prior art counts as always, as long as it's published somewhere. It's only secret prior art that stopped counting.

Also, the FITF system only became effective for patents filed on or after March 16, 2013, whereas this patent was filed back in 2008.

Yes, and they have an incentive to pass as many patents as possible (because more patents is more money).

Are you saying that patent examiners are paid for each application that is filed?

I don't even believe that the author knew about the WinKey/arrow key shortcuts. They let you size a window to half a single viewport without the rigmarole described in the application.

Exactly! The first thing I thought of when I read the title of the patent was the tmux session I had opened in my terminal.

Given how GNU/Unix Screen has been available for thirty years I doubt this patent will hold up in court.

> The first thing I thought of when I read the title of the patent was the tmux session I had opened

Looking at these screenshots[1] and these diagrams[2] I can't possibly agree that this is what you're doing with tmux.

[1]: http://web.archive.org/web/20110309004337/https://manytricks...

[2]: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/US20130219331A1/...

> I doubt this patent will hold up in court.

I don't think a judge would be amused by that defence either.

I agree this set up of window positioning is much less useful than actual tiling window managers.

> I doubt this patent will hold up in court.

Of course the problem with the patent system is, who can afford to court? Even if they get completely pro-bono legal help from someone like the EFF, it's a massive time-sink and also means their game is no longer on sale.

Another Moom Alternative (free) - SpectacleApp, https://www.spectacleapp.com/

Looks roughly like WinSplit Revolution, which afaik was first released in 2009, but I don't know which features existed back then.

There's something fundamentally broken about the patent system.

It's difficult to say where the fault lies. I would rather live in a world of patents than not, if we insist on sticking to the idea of not forcing research and discoveries into the public domain. What would have prevented this particular case?

Usually when you create a patent there's no expert from the government who can verify that your idea is actually novel. Or complex enough to constitute an invention.

So you can easily register something, write it in an unreadable way and sue people for it.

Additionally there's a corrupt area int Texas where judges and lawyers have a very high tendency to rule in favor of patent trolls, because they'd have no jobs without them.

Here's an easy proposal: Let anyone claim patents for everything. If someone sues you for patent infringement it's their job to proof you infringed on their patent. And it's their job to proof their idea is complex enough to constitute a patent. And it's their job to proof their idea is novel. After the patent holder invested some money to show all these things; They can start to sue you.

This puts the assumption of innocence back in our justice system like it should be. And makes sure less people get patent trolled, since trolling now is a lot more expensive then sending out thousand of spam letters.

Just for anyone reading this, this is not how the patent system works anywhere in the world. Patents are examined by an examiner who is an employee of the government who exactly says that the patent is novel and non-obvious, that's what they do! No countries have a simple registration system for enforceable patents, that would be insane

"Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

The trade off with patents is that the author will, in exchange for a limited monopoly, reveal his invention to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts". In the case of software patents, the things that are patented are not worth this trade off and, IMO, are a net drag on Progress.

As a developer, I'm making Progress in spite of patents. Software patents are a bit like giving tax breaks to oil companies when we are awash in cheap oil - the cost isn't worth it.

Whenever a client wants to patent what I've done for them, I grit my teeth and fill out the paperwork they ask me to. My reluctance is partly because I know it is making the world a worse place for developers and partly because I feel ashamed that they would consider it patent-able - like getting your crayon drawing put up in the Louvre.

you've created a false dichotomy. the question isn't whether patents could create net public good... depending on the implementation they could.

but the current system in the US, which it forces on the rest of us via trade agreements, is completely bonkers.

this is the fact: the public in countries where copyrights and patents are granted have voluntarily given up their prerogative to copy or implement a work or an invention in return for the public good of dissemination of those ideas (which might otherwise be "locked up").

As with everything else in the US, big corporations have co-opted the system using lobbyists, and public good is harmed by actions such as this.

And in the era of the internet, is dissemination and publication as valuable as it was in the past? I would argue that it is not.

it would be fascinating to hit the reset switch: delete all IP, patent, and copyright code from the legal system, and see the real effects it's having on the economy. having said that, it's probably too drastic of an action to take all at once given the far-reaching effects it would have. but it's the right direction to move in, for sure.

Just FYI, the "big money" lobbyists in Washington are largely in favor of crippling the patent system. Large companies are generally the ones sued for infringement, usually by smaller companies.

For example, the EU patent principles (which don't grant software patents at all) would have worked fine in this case and work quite well in other cases as well.

You definitely could argue that for pure software features copyright and trademarks is enough, and granting patents on them doesn't facilitate innovation but likely slows it down.

This is an obvious feature for just about any user, making it nonpatentable by the criteria of USPTO, as far as I understand it. This is also not novel, though it is very useful (for the other 2 criteria).

The problem with that in the USA is that you are burdened to prove that in court as a defendant, and you also have to pay your legal costs (lawyers etc.) even if you win the case. The costs are huge, so only the big guys have to afford defending themselves!

Absolutely, but I'm more talking in the initial patent approval than the litigation afterwards.

> This is also not novel

What other tiling WMs included a gui menu in the title bar to select the layout?

knowing absolutely nothing about patent law, I'm surprised that tiling window managers are not considered prior art or would at least mean this idea is not novel.

Read the patent. I'm not aware of any TWMs implementing the kind of grid interface Moom is using.

I did read the patent but I don't understand exactly what moom does. If a tiling window manager defines a set of inputs for defining grids and moving/resizing windows on that grid, where is the difference?

The actual patent document, with drawings, is at [1]. It describes the visual, mouse-driven grid UI Moom uses to let you draw out where windows should be placed. As far as I can tell it doesn't mention anything about hotkeys.

[1]: http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=08434019&IDKey=...

I'd be curious to see how this affects other similar apps. I use Magnet and I love it - I'd hate for it to disappear.

The most important single thing to read in a patent is the claims, especially the independent (stand-alone) claims.

Infringement analysis amounts to attempting to map the claim's list of elements onto the accused method or structure; if the map function returns FALSE, then that particular claim very likely isn't infringed by that particular accused method or structure.

(That is: If any claim element isn't present—possibly in the form of an "equivalent"—then the accused method or structure doesn't infringe that particular claim.)

Prior-art analysis works backwards: If a claim returns TRUE when mapped onto a piece of prior art—or onto something that would have been "obvious" at the time the invention was made when taking into account all of the relevant prior art [0]—then that claim is probably unpatentable.

In this patent, claim 1 seems to be representative. I've broken up the paragraphing and added bracketed lettering.

(Usual disclaimer: This shouldn't be relied on as a substitute for legal advice; I'm not acting as anyone's lawyer; etc.)


1. A method for positioning a window on a user's display, the method comprising:

[A] providing, in a window-based computing environment, an image [i] representing an entire display area of a user's computer screen and [ii] comprising a plurality of selectable regions,

each selectable region [x] representing a sub-area within the display area and [y] having a shape and orientation similar to the corresponding sub-area,

wherein the selectable regions are arranged in the same way the corresponding sub-areas are arranged in the display area;

[B] enabling a user to simultaneously select more than one selectable region from the plurality of selectable regions; and

[C] automatically moving a window in the window-based computing environment to a sub-area corresponding to the selected more than one selectable region.


[0] Obviousness analysis is really tricky because it necessarily requires hindsight. The test is, in essence: Given everything that was known in the relevant field(s) at the time, would a hypothetical person of "ordinary skill" (in that field or fields) have regarded the claimed subject as obvious?

My personal tl;dr for obviousness analysis is this: Suppose that a team of competent-but-not-necessarily-stellar colleagues were shown or told about the claimed invention. If their collective reaction was to raise their eyebrows and murmur, "hmm; that's interesting," then the claimed invention might well have been non-obvious. On the other hand, if their collective reaction was to shrug their shoulders and say, "um, yeah, and?" then the claimed invention might well have been obvious.

In the real world, obviousness analysis is supported by "objective evidence" of nonobviousness, if available. For example, commercial success that's shown to be due to the technical merits of the claimed invention (as opposed to being due mainly to, e.g., marketing) can weigh heavily in favor of nonobviousness. Admiration of experts, ditto.

(I once heard a story, very likely apocryphal, about a patent examiner who rejected a patent application on grounds of obviousness; the patent attorney overcame the rejection by pointing out that the claimed invention had received the Nobel Prize. Personally I'm skeptical because the timing wouldn't work, but the story illustrates the concept.)

Came here to say this, and I wish more non-lawyers understood how to read a patent. The scope of coverage is not the title. The scope of coverage is not the drawings. It's the claims.

If folks want to explain why this shouldn't have issued, identify a single document from before 2008 that describes every single feature of the claims.

It's worth noting that this issued just before a 2014 Supreme Court case (Alice v. CLS Bank) that probably can be used to kill the patent regardless of whether it's novel and non-obvious.

Let's talk about prior art about this patent claims.

I remember using software from Barco to position application Windows on a videowall that predates that patent at least five years.

Maybe getting prior art at hand could be good (just a suggestion)

Kinda feels the same to me as when they tried to patent Turmeric.

What's the best way to prevent patent trolls from suing you? Or is it more like hoping to just have luck and not get sued?

1. Have a lot of money to hire best layers to sink bastard. 2. Work for a big corp/government. 3. Live in a country where they don't give a damn about patents.

Are there any interesting stats/graphs or an estimated percentage of US-granted patents that are bullshit?

The problem: bullshit is in the eye of the beholder.

so.. as programmers, we should be getting a patent first on any new idea before we begin programming? So much for an MVP.

We need tools to simplify the process of writing a good patent. The current system is skewed towards business types that would rather game the system than create an actual thing.

I thought patents were invalid if they were just "something you can do in the real world... but using a computer". I'm pretty sure grid layouts have been in mathetmatics, printing, etc for hundreds/thousands of years. It's likely a shit patent.

A bad patent is still a patent, and if it shouldn't have been granted the burden is on you to prove it. With all the costs and risks involved.

What galls me most about the patent system is all of the things that are trivially obvious once an enabling technology becomes available, and the first person to apply gets a government sponsored monopoly.

What kind of person spends their days looking through other people's software, asking if their collection of questionable patents applies to someone else's hard work?

Is this an honest question?

Honest answer: That person is someone who makes more money per hour than the person who did the hard work. And they stand to make even more money in the event of a settlement.

How can you fix this problem? Take away the financial incentives.

The same kind of person that owns a collection of valid patents, based on many years of unique research and development, looking to see if they apply to someone else's lazy theft of their hard work. Hint: it's really hard to tell the difference!

A person who wants to make money.

are there any open source alternatives to Moom?

There are many alternatives for Mac suggested here, but I'd like to share an alternative for Win too, Windowgroomer: https://github.com/aarmea/WindowGroomer

It's stale but works perfectly on win10, has just what I want from it. Secretly, I'm suggesting it here kind of hoping someone around here likes it as much as I and feels like contributing (since I'm not very good at the Windows stuff). A great contribution would be to be able to use keyboard to set the grid, not just the mouse. That said, I've been using it a long time and it works great.

Cinch and SizeUp.

http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/cinch/ http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/

Been using them for a few years now. I'm quite happy. The combination, after you configure it, is superior to the Windows implementation.

They're not open source

I highly recommend Slate (https://github.com/jigish/slate). It doesn't appear to have some of the features of Moom, but it's quite adept and configurable.

doesn't seem to have been touched for 4 years

https://www.spectacleapp.com but whose to say that won't disappear as well...? Software licenses are starting to feel dangerously close to "patenting the wheel".

the patent troll likely want little money instead of no money or costs.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14335243 and marked it off-topic.

Please be aware that "Daniel Paul Nelson" the artist, for which most Google results are, is likely not the same as the Daniel P Nelson who seems to live with his wife in Salt Lake City and applied for the patent.

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