December 23, 2007 | By Jason Schultz

Should Yahoo! be able to patent "smart drag and drop"?

Help the US Patent Office reject a bogus patent claim

The Peer-To-Patent Project (PtP) is a new initiative by New York Law School's Do Tank in cooperation with the US Patent Office (USPTO) that uses open source and open knowledge techniques to help stop the deluge of bad software patents in America. The project works by posting new software patent applications that have been voluntarily submitted by their inventors and asking the public to comment on them. It has been endorsed by such open source and Internet luminaries as Tim O'Reilly and PJ from Groklaw.

Participants can point out prior art, explain technological concepts, or even opine on whether a certain technique is obvious (and thus non-patentable) or not. After two months of commenting, the top submissions are sent off to the Patent Office to help them decide whether or not to grant the patent.

There have been a series of new applications hitting the PtP site lately, some of which are pretty broad and outrageous. For example, check out this one from Yahoo! claiming to have patented "smart" drag-and-drop technology. Here's claim one:

A computer-implemented method for manipulating objects in a user interface, comprising:

  • providing
    the user interface including a first interface object operable to be
    selected and moved within the user interface; and
  • in response to selection and movement of the first interface object in the user interface, presenting at least one additional interface object in the user interface in proximity of the first interface object, each additional interface object representing a drop target with which the first interface object may be associated.

That's it. You drag, you drop, you infringe. Crazy, eh?

So what does this have to do with you? It's time to do something about it -- if you have examples of drag and drop interfaces that can invalidate this claim, go to the PtP site and submit them here (heads up: some registration required). Your submissions could mean the difference between Yahoo! getting a bogus patent or not. So, if you want to help fight an overbroad software patent, now is the time to act. There are only 31 days left to submit prior art to the USPTO on this patent.

(For additional help and information about participating, check out PtP's tutorial.)


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