ESP Wiki is looking for moderators and active contributors!

Example software patents

This page discusses gives details for a few examples. For longer lists, see the sections and #External_links.

Classes of software patents

Specific patents


Fat lines

Scant details can be found in a Forbes article.[1]

...IBM's notorious "fat lines" patent: To turn a thin line on a computer screen into a broad line, you go up and down an equal distance from the ends of the thin line and then connect the four points. You probably learned this technique for turning a line into a rectangle in seventh-grade geometry, and, doubtless, you believe it was devised by Euclid or some such 3,000-year-old thinker. Not according to the examiners of the USPTO, who awarded IBM a patent on the process.

Changing email font colours

Mentioned in a Slashdot submission.[2] See also, the patent itself.[3]

For example, an email created in the U.S. in red font to indicate urgency or emphasis might be mapped to a more appropriate color (e.g., blue or black) for sending to Korea.

Synonym replacing email watermarks

Only an application:


  • IBM holds patent #4,965,765 which covers the use of different colors to distinguish the nesting level of nested expressions.
  • Patent #5,249,290 covers assignment of client requests to the server process having the least load.
  • Patent #4,941,125 covers using a digital camera in conjunction with character recognition software to store and index documents on a CD ROM.


Page up, page down

US patent no 7,415,666, granted August 19, 2008.

Title: Method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments


A method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed. In one implementation, pressing a Page Down or Page Up keyboard key/button allows a user to begin at any starting vertical location within a page, and navigate to that same location on the next or previous page. For example, if a user is viewing a page starting in a viewing area from the middle of that page and ending at the bottom, a Page Down command will cause the next page to be shown in the viewing area starting at the middle of the next page and ending at the bottom of the next page. Similar behavior occurs when there is more than one column of pages being displayed in a row.

The IsNot operator

The author of the patent has stated that his strictly personal view, software patents should not exist and that they "generally do much more harm than good".[1]

FAT and shortening filenames


US patent no 6,727,830, granted April 27, 2004 to Microsoft.

Title: Time based hardware button for application launch


A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time. An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click.

To see the details of this on the USPTO's website, use their search page and search for patent number 6,727,830.

Sparklines in grids


Non-software patents

These examples are less useful, but they can show the general problems of the patent system.


The PVR patent

EP1254562, described as a Patent On Digital Video Recording.[2]


EP1170667, described as a patent that would cover Debian's "apt-get" software update tool.[3]


Tabs in applications

US 5,546,528 aka EP 0,689,133.

FFII article:

The progress bar

EP 394160 covers the progress bar.[4]

Some dispute this claim.[4]

Webpage frames

2003: SBC Communications is claiming a wide-ranging patent on Web frames.[5]

Charging views by location

Pop-up windows in a webbrowser

  • US6,389,458, granted May 14, 2002 (filed October 30, 1998, by Brian Shuster)

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

In Europe

In the USA

From many countries