If you needed any more proof that the U.S. patent system is totally out of control, here it is: after 10 years of lobbying, Google was granted a patent on Google Doodles this morning.
Doodles are the customised version of the Google logo that the company puts on its home page to celebrate holidays and other events. As the patent application explains, examples include “a company logo is modified with a voter’s button for Election Day” or “modified with an animated character for the Olympics.”
Google cofounder Sergey Brin is credited as the inventor on the patent, which is entitled “System and Method For Enticing Users To A Web Site.”
The patent also covers a method for periodically changing a home page so it appears to display a story line.
The actual methods described in the patent don’t seem to be anything special — it’s not like Google has some amazing unique way of changing its logo daily. It’s just creating a new image, storing it on a server, and uploading it to the Web server.
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.
Just yesterday, Microsoft filed a patent suit against Barnes & Noble and two of its manufacturing partner for using Google’s Android in its Nook e-reader — even though Android is hardly even noticeable on the device.
So Google’s reasoning is sound: as long as everybody else is playing the patent game, they have to do it as well.