Microsoft has been granted a patent for the concept of having a hardware button on a handheld perform different functions when it is pressed multiple times or held down for a certain amount of time.
The patent covers a wide variety of actions that might be performed by multiple button presses or the same button being held down for a time. For example, pressing a button on a handheld once may open an application, while pressing it again almost immediately may create a new document. However, it doesn’t seem to cover multiple button presses launching different applications or performing operations in two separate applications.
Because it now has this patent, it’s possible Microsoft will be able to collect licensing fees from companies that make handhelds and smartphones that use this technique. The company may even go to court to try and stop the sale of products that violate its patent.
On the other hand, this patent might not stand up in court. It was filed in mid-2002 by Microsoft employees, and if other companies can show that this technique has been widely used before that, the patent would be invalidated.
Like all patents, this one begins with an abstract which summarizes what it covers:
- A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time. An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click.
The full text of the patent, which is number 6,727,830, can be found here.
Thanks to Roel van der Vegte from the Dutch Palm User Group for the tip.