Barnes & Noble challenges Microsoft's infringement claims with 43-pages of prior art

Who would have thought it would be Barnes & Noble rising up to defend the Android OS from Microsoft.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

It seems that Barnes & Noble isn't ready to roll over and capitulate to Microsoft's five patent infringement claims, and has filed a 43-page document crammed with what it claims to be prior art challenges to patents.

Here's a quick rundown for those who haven't been keeping up. Barnes & Noble's Nook and Nook Color ebook reader use the Android platform. Microsoft claim that Android infringes on a number of its patents and as such has been strong-arming Android handset and tablet OEMs/ODMs to sign lucrative licensing deals. Microsoft wants Barnes & Noble (and co-defendants Foxconn and Inventec) to pay to use Android. Barnes & Noble believes that Microsoft's claims are flimsy, so rather than pay up, the company is digging in its heels and taking its chances in the courts.

Groklaw has copies of the documents in question. The specific document relating to prior art can be found here [PDF].

Here's a rundown of the five patents in question:

  • 5778372 - A browser remotely retrieves electronic documents from a remote computer network for viewing by a user. For enhancing responsiveness, the browser initially displays an electronic document without a background image so that the electronic document is initially displayed more quickly. The browser also prioritizes downloading of embedded images of the document by their incorporation in the currently visible portion of the electronic document. Further, the browser dynamically creates additional connections for retrieving resources incorporated into the electronic document from the remote computer network.
  • 5889522 - New varieties of child window controls are provided as system resources that application programs may exploit. The preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a dynamic link library (DLL) for implementing the new child window controls as part of an operating system. The new child window controls include a header bar control for providing header bars in application programs. The new controls also include a hot key control that allows a user to view and edit hot key combinations. The new controls further include a tab control for establishing tabs that differentiate amongst pages in user interfaces provided by application programs. An image list data type is defined and functions are provided for manipulating the image list data type. Image lists include multiple like-sized images that are stored efficiently in a single bitmap.
  • 6339780 - Described herein is a portable computer having a limited display area. An Internet or other hypermedia browser executes on the portable computer to load and display content in a content viewing area. During times when the browser is loading content, the browser displays a temporary, animated graphic element over the content viewing area. The graphic element is removed after the content is loaded, allowing unobstructed viewing of the loaded content.
  • 6891551- A computer system and method for highlighting and selecting elements of electronic documents is disclosed. In one embodiment, a selection area identifies an initial selection of data, and one or more selection handles appear on the selection area to allow dynamic resizing of the selection area to select a larger or smaller portion of data or number of items.
  • 6957233 - A system and method for capturing annotations for a non-modifiable document is disclosed. Once it is determined that an annotation is to be created, the system determines the file position of the selected object. The file position of the selected object is stored along with the created annotation in another file or a non-read only portion of a file storing the document. Using the file position, the annotation may be properly identified with the selected object without modifying the non-modifiable document.

For patent 5778372 alone Barnes & Noble offers up an amazing 172 examples of prior art, going all the way back to the Spyglass Mosaic web browser that Internet Explorer was based on. It seems that Barnes & Noble is determined to make Microsoft's patents seem 'trivial' and 'insignificant' and that the Redmond giant is using them to damage Android growth.

The document goes on for pages and pages, listing all sorts of prior art for each of the alleged patent violations. It's actually quite a read, and for me digs up names and terms form a time long forgotten. It's a very entertaining read.

Groklaw doesn't pull its punches:

But, as you may have noticed, the whole patent system is tilted toward plaintiffs, even when all they have in their cynical hands are stupid patents, and that is precisely what is so wrong about the patent system that a very heroic Barnes & Noble is trying to survive. Like going down a white river. Some people love doing that, of course, riding the rapids. They call them litigators, and Barnes & Noble has some of the best in the country guiding them.

Barnes & Noble has also complaining to the US Department of Justice about what it claims is Microsoft's misuse of patents:

"In addition to the oppressive restrictions and prohibitions in Microsoft's proposed licensing agreement, Microsoft is also demanding exorbitant licensing fees for the use of Android. Indeed, shortly after Microsoft sent Barnes & Noble a proposed licensing agreement on or about January 6, 2011, Microsoft confirmed to Barnes & Noble that it was demanding licensing fees [redacted] for each NookTM and [redacted] for each Nook ColorTM. It is Barnes & Noble's understanding that these licensing fees that Microsoft demands for the use of the Android are the same, or higher, than the licensing fees that Microsoft charges for its own Windows Phone 7--despite the fact that Microsoft only claims ownership of only trivial and non-essential design elements in Android-based devices, as opposed to an entire operating system."

This looks like it could be very interesting.


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