Patenting the Obvious

PATENTING THE OBVIOUS….What annoying dreck this is:

Raising another legal threat to the iPod music player, Creative Technology Ltd. said it has been awarded a U.S. patent for a song-navigation technology it claims is used on Apple Computer Inc.’s market-leading devices.

….”Apple tried to claim invention, but this patent dispels that,” said Craig McHugh, president of Creative Labs.

And what exactly is the nature of Creative Labs’ stunning innovation in menu technology? Here’s the claim as stated in U.S. Pat. No. 6,590,730. Read and be amazed:

A method of selecting at least one track from…categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second, and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;

displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;

selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;

displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and

accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens.

In other words, a menu system in which you choose Artist, then Album, then Track. That sure qualifies as “nonobvious,” doesn’t it?

Crikey. I know this patent probably isn’t enforceable, which means this is more a PR stunt than anything else (which appears to be how Creative Labs is treating it), but still. This idiocy needs to stop.

For some ideas on how to do that, read Zachary Roth’s “The Monopoly Factory” from the June issue of the Monthly.