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Double-clicking patent takes on world

Who's that trip-trapping over my bridge?

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Hopewell Culture & Design reckons it owns the act of double-clicking, and is suing Apple, Nokia, Samsung and just about everyone else for breaching its patent.

It's not double-clicking per se that US patent 7,171,625 covers, just the act of clicking twice on an already-selected component to action a request for additional information or greater interactivity. But that's not stopped the current owners of the patent from launching an action against all the popular mobile-phone platforms – as well as Opera and QuickOffice – in an attempt to protect its painstakingly-developed intellectual property as picked up by Florian Mueller.

Reading the patent, which was filed in 2002 and awarded in 2007, it's clear the innovation to which the author was hoping to lay claim: clicking and right clicking are pretty-well defined in web browsing, but Cristiano Sacchi, the named inventor, thought that assigning an action to a double-click was sufficiently inventive to be worth patenting.

In the example an image is displayed in a web browser – clicking on the image activates a hyperlink, right-clicking calls up a context-sensitive menu, but the innovative step is that double clicking loads the image into an editing application.

Quite how that maps into mobile telephony is far from clear. The patent goes to great lengths (more than 400 words) explaining what a mouse is, and then notes briefly that "The invention can also be used with a touchscreen". It also describes in great detail the act of moving the cursor to select the content before clicking (twice), something which is alien to all but the most advanced touch-screen interfaces*.

But never let reality get in the way of a decent patent case, especially in Texas where this action has been filed. Hopewell is no doubt hoping that Apple, Nokia, et al will decide to slip them a few grand rather than fight, but we're hoping that the various defendants will instead band together against the common enemy, drop their own actions against each other, and live in peace and harmony – embodying the spirit of the season. ®

* On Tablet PCs, a cursor appears under the stylus as it approaches the screen, allowing selection without contact in the style of a traditional mouse.

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