Google gets a design patent – aka the Twitterverse’s collective head explodes
Just a warning – this may sound a little snarky.
It’s been a hot topic on Twitter the last two days – and I would hazard a guess that it is being viewed as akin to Darth Vader doing the Macarena while shopping for sheets. Or some such nonsense.
So – do you hear the sound of the apocalypse coming? Patent abuse! Patent abuse! (Are they talking about the intellectual property right or about not cleaning your leather shoes?)
Well, it doesn’t surprise me that PHOSITA readers are probably not too concerned about the issuance of Design Patent No. D599,372 (PDF) because you are well aware that it is a design patent and not a utility patent. It is only one word, I know – but that one word makes a tremendous amount of difference. A difference that is obviously lost on the twits above.
A utility patent protects the functional expression of an idea while a design patent protects the ornamental design of a functional product. A design patent does not protect the functional aspects of the product itself – rather, it protects how the product is decorated and/or designed.
Google cannot keep anyone from “de-crapifying” their website (e.g., the functional aspects of a product) – it can merely keep you from “de-crapifying” your website in a manner in which embodies the patented design or any colorable imitation. It is kind of like a trademark – you can’t look like Google’s ornamental design – but you can still “de-crapify” your website and/or create a better search engine. (I wonder how high I will rank in Google now for the term “de-crapifying”?)
As such, the scope of protection afforded a design patent is much more limited in nature, scope and breadth than a utility patent. And it only lasts for 14 years.
So – to the twits (or is it twitts?) – CHILL OUT. The world is not ending, the system is not spinning off the rails – Google was granted a property right in the ornamental design of its unique website.
Furthermore, why shouldn’t Google be allowed to protect it’s unique design?
From a cursory review of the history of the page – at the time (and up to this day) many people thought the design was (1) dumb, (2) two simplistic, (3) moronic, (4) genius… no one thought it was “done before” – i.e., it was novel – no one or only very few designers were taking the simple and clean route Google took at the time. It stands out in a crowd and has become a very important symbol of Google – i.e., something that they would want to protect and keep people from copying.
It also protects the user – if you see the interface, you know it is Google – and not some porn site or spammer.
I know it is the hip cool thing right now to “fight the man” – with the “man” being the patent system, but I really wish people would take a few minutes to actually figure out what occurred and what it means. It would save you a lot of wasted “outrage” and tweeting. There are abuses of the patent system – Google getting a design patent is not one of them.
Then again – what would patent attorneys do with their evenings if they didn’t have to correct the record?
/snark (End of snark for those of you “not in the know”)
Image by Mermay19 on Flickr Creative Commons