Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Google has a Patent on Google Doodle

There have been many notable Google Doodles this year such as Lunar Eclipse Doodle and Les Paul's Doodle. Now how many of you knew that Google has a patent for these Google Doodles? Surprising ? 

Yes, Google was granted patent, US7,912,915 (the '915 patent), entitled "Systems and Methods for enticing users to access a web site " on March 22, 2011.  The '915 patent discloses method for changing logo and attracting users to a site on a network. The patent claims priority under 35 USC 119 (e) (provisional patent applications), based on provisional application number 60/200, 957 that was filed on May 1, 2ooo. It took Google more than 10 years and a request for continued examination to get this patent. 

A total of 8 independent claims and 19 dependent claims were initially filed. The initial set of claims were very broad and thus required many amendments before they were finally granted. The first independent claim as was filed with the USPTO read:

"A method for enticing users to access a web page, comprising:
               uploading a first image in a story line to the web page, and 
               periodically uploading successive images, following the first image, to the web page according to the story line"

In the first non-final rejection, the examiner had raised a 35 USC 102 rejection for a majority of claims by citing US6034652 as the relevant prior art and a 35 USC 103 obviousness rejection for remaining claims by citing US6034652 along with US6317740. Further, a restriction requirement was also raised as claims 1-17 were directed to uploading a story line to a website and thus were classified under US class 709/218 whereas claims 18-27 were directed towards providing search results associated with special event logo that a user selected and thus came under US class 709/228.

In response to the restriction requirement, claims 1-17 were cancelled and new claims 28-33 were added. Readers may note that if certain claims are removed from a parent application because of restriction requirement, the dropped or cancelled claims can still be used for applying for a patent in a divisional application for patent.

In the second non-final rejection, the examiner rejected claims 18-33 under 35 USC 103 (a) as being unpatentable over US6247047 and US20020055880. In response to the second non-final rejection, claims 18, 24 and 28 were amended and new claims 24-39 were added. Further, all the rejections raised by the examiner based on obviousness were argued.

However, the examiner raised a final rejection and rejected claims 18-39 based on the same patents. i.e. US6247047 and US20020055880.  On April 12, 2006, a personal interview was held between Applicant's (Google) representative, primary patent examiner, and another examiner, wherein the examiners agreed to reconsider the rejections raised in the final rejection. The amendments to the final rejection included changes in claim 18, 22, 26 and 28. 

Thereafter, the applicant filed a Request for Continued Examination (RCE) on May 17, 2006. In the non-final rejection after the RCE, the examiner continued to reject claims 18-39 under 35 USC 103 (a). Further, new reference [""] was also cited by the examiner for supporting the obviousness rejection. This made Google amend claims 26 and 37 and add new claims 40 and 41. However, these amendments were not considered by the examiner and a second non-final rejection was raised. As a second non-final rejection was raised, Google appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) on February 7, 2007. The BPAI affirmed in part with the examiner and rejected claims 18-28 and 30-41. However, the BPAI reversed the examiners rejection of claim 29. The final set of claims included only one independent which has been reproduced below from USPTO site:

A non-transitory medium computer-readable instructions executable by stores That one or more processors to Perform a method for Attracting users to a web page, comprising: instructions for Creating a special event by Modifying a standard logo company logo for a special event, where, Creating the instructions for the special event includes instructions for logo Modifying the standard company logo animated With One or more images, instructions for associating a link or search results With The special event logo, to document the link Identifying Relating to the special event, the search Relating results to the special event, special instructions for uploading the logo to the event web page; instructions for Receiving a user selection of the special event logo, and instructions for Providing the document Relating to the special event or the search results Relating to the special event based on the user selection

Diagrams from the '915 patent:

It is brought to the notice of the readers that the patent term adjustment for the '915 patent is a whooping 2024 days!

So next time you see a unique doodle, you can tell your friends and colleagues about this patent ! What intrigues me is whether any companies are infringing on the '915 patent and whether Google would file a lawsuit if it were to find out if some small pr medium scale company were actually infringing on the '915 patent. Till then, keep doodling!

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