State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Patently Ignorant: Business Insider Article on Google Doodle Patent

Business Insider: Google Gets An Absurd Patent For Its “Google Doodles”, by Matt Rosoff

An article in Business Insider, argues that Google’s patent (USPN 7912915)  on Google Doodles is absurd.  The patent describes a computerized method of creating a new company logo associated with an event.  The modified company logo is associated with a link.  Google uses this on their search page.  The goal is to entice people to visit the webpage and increase the webpage’s traffic.  A major goal of most websites is to increase their page views and the patent describes a new technology to achieve this goal.

The article demonstrates the ignorance of the author, Matt Rosoff.  A patent is a property right in an invention.  An invention is a new creation.  This means that it has to be useful and to be an invention it has to use technology to solve the problem.  This is exactly the sort of invention that patents were designed to protect.  If someone copies Google’s technology, then they are clearly free loading off the efforts of Google.  If the invention has no value, then the patent will not hamper anyone’s development efforts.  If the invention has value, then using it without authorization is theft.  As someone who has been enticed to click on the modified Google logo, I would say the invention appears to have value.

The author is so typical of anti-patent religionists that either ignore or are ignorant of what the true limits of a patent are.  The author describes the patent as:

The actual methods described in the patent don’t seem to be anything special — it’s not like Google has some amazing unique way of changing its logo daily. It’s just creating a new image, storing it on a server, and uploading it to the Web server.

The scope of a patent is defined by its claims and the above characterization is much broader than the actual claims and makes it sound like there is no new technology involved in the patent.  The claims require modifying the link to be associated with an event.  The modified logo has to be linked to another page.  And even my characterization does not capture all the limitations in the independent claims.

The anti-patent crowd misinterprets (purposely?) the scope of a patent making it much broader than it actually is, ignoring the real technology behind the invention.  They then use these misinterpretations to demonstrate the absurdity of the patent.  This dishonest technique has successfully hoodwinked the public and has resulted in exactly the outcome the author is against: namely a patent system that is biased in favor of large corporations at the expense of individual inventors and startups.

Business Insider: Google Gets An Absurd Patent For Its “Google Doodles“, by Matt Rosoff


March 23, 2011 - Posted by | -Philosophy, Patents


  1. […] Via Patently Ignorant: Business Insider Article on Google Doodle Patent […]

    Pingback by If A Google Doodles A Patent In The Woods, Does It Get A Laugh? « Gametime IP | March 23, 2011 | Reply

  2. This does seem rather uncomfortably close to a patent on an “abstract idea” — which the Bilski patent litigation was supposed to prevent. If S.23, the patent reform bill, passes in the House in substantially the same form, It will be interesting to see whether and how the anti-business method provisions of that legislation may be asserted in the future against patents like this one.

    Comment by patent litigation | March 29, 2011 | Reply

    • The Google patent requires at least a computer and computer network. While these may not be explicitly claimed, they are absolutely required to practice the invention.

      Bilski was incorrectly decided. Bilski had no practical application except when practiced by a computer. Is anyone going to perform Monte Carlo simulation with paper and pencil?

      Comment by dbhalling | March 29, 2011 | Reply

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