The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit digital rights group, has slammed one of Microsoft’s patents, giving it the crown for the “Stupid Patent of the Month.” One such patent gives the Redmond-based company the rights over the design and technological solution behind the zoom-in and zoom-out slider that you see at the right side of the status bar, found at the bottom, in Microsoft Office.
There’s nothing much to say about the patent, though, here’s how Microsoft has described it, adding the slider as a key part of the “Ribbon” interface. “The Microsoft Asserted Patents are directed to, among other things, graphic user interfaces used in productivity software applications, such as Microsoft Office. Microsoft has given its interfaces, including menus and toolbars, a distinctive look and feel. The Microsoft interfaces are recognizable and enjoy substantial goodwill. For example, Microsoft has introduced and publicized the Microsoft Ribbon—a horizontal display of easily accessible and logically grouped controls whose layout can be dynamically adjusted based on the screen size or object of the program.”
The digital rights group has slammed the fact that Microsoft deemed the slider design worthy of a patent, adding that there is no way this pushes the innovation forward. “[…] whether Microsoft needed the patent incentive in order to come up with this design, and whether it is even desirable to grant a company a government-backed monopoly on a graphical slider (we don’t think so, that’s why this is a stupid patent), the scope of damages for design patent infringement has the potential to become a powerful tool to shut down legitimate competition,” wrote EFF lawyer Vera Ranieri.
In Microsoft’s defence, the company used this patent to take revenge against Corel, which had sued Microsoft earlier this year. In July, Corel, whose productivity suite WordPerfect lost its battle against Microsoft Office over a decade ago, sued Microsoft for infringing several of Corel patents in Microsoft Preview. On December 18, Microsoft sued Corel, leveraging the Ribbon patents (including the slider patent) claiming that several of Corel’s software such as Corel Write, Corel Calculate copied nine of Microsoft’s patented designs.
The company didn’t shy from admitting as such. “Microsoft’s lawsuit is in direct response to the meritless claims made by Corel earlier this year in a Utah court,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica. “We are confident we will be successful.”