Google has acquired a US patent for its popular cycling logo system, also known as "Google Doodles." Patent 7,912,915 was granted on Tuesday, nearly 10 years after its initial submission in 2001 by Sergey Brin.
The patent is entitled "Systems and Methods for Enticing Users to a website." The abstract states the patent is for the invention of "periodically changing story line and/or special event company logo to entice users to access a web page." In layman's terms, this means that Brin has patented the "invention", and I use that term loosely, of changing Google's logo for special events and holidays.
There's a little more to the patent--it also covers a "periodically changing storyline" or changing the Google homepage periodically (over a series of days, say) to make a story. Google has done this a couple of times in the past, with its tribute to H.G. Wells in 2009, and its Dilbert comic strip doodle in 2002. The patent then goes on to describe the method Google uses to change its logo:
"A non-transitory computer-readable medium that stores instructions executable by one or more processors to perform a method for attracting users to a web page, comprising: instructions for creating a special event logo by modifying a standard company logo for a special event, where the instructions for creating the special event logo includes instructions for modifying the standard company logo with one or more animated images; instructions for associating a link or search results with the special event logo, the link identifying a document relating to the special event, the search results relating to the special event; instructions for uploading the special event logo to the 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."
That's right, folks. Google uploads its new logo design to the web server, along with information about the special event. Revolutionary.
If you think this sounds totally insane, you're not alone. Business Insider's Matt Rosoff correctly points out that this is an abomination of the patent system.
"The patent system was originally created to foster innovation by protecting small inventors from having their ideas ripped off by big companies. But increasingly, big companies are using patents for exactly the opposite reason, to stop competitors from innovating," Rosoff says.
TechDirt's Mike Masnick, on the other hand, hopes Google plans to use this patent as an example of just how ridiculous the patent system is becoming. Yeah, I hope so too.
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