Google granted most trivial patent in history

Search giant's website logo 'Doodles' now protected from ... what, exactly?

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After deliberating for almost 11 years (or more likely hoping it would just go away), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted search giant Google a patent for co-founder Sergey Brin's breakthrough "invention" of dressing up his company's website logo with various theme-based drawings called "Doodles."

Not being a patent attorney, I don't really understand the implications of this patent. Does it prohibit any other websites from altering their logos with drawings? Or does it just prohibit someone from starting another search engine named Google and then adorning the logo with doodles? What's being protected here?

(Also see: Resentment of Netflix by carriers, media companies grows)

The initial patent application was filed way back in May 2000, when Google was an up-and-coming search engine, the first Internet gold rush was beginning to flame out in spectacular fashion, and Bill Clinton still was president.

As my friend Paul McNamara writes in his Network World blog, reaction to the award "has been swift and unkind," with many Internet commenters mocking Google and its Doodle patent.

I'll eagerly join the nay-saying chorus because I don't see how the Google Doodle qualifies as an invention. I also find Google's argument for why it needs a patent to be dubious. From Brin's patent application:

With many web sites, it would be desirable to have users access the web site frequently. Online businesses, for example, would benefit from having users (i.e., customers) return to their web site on a regular basis. Additionally, web sites that display advertisements can obtain more revenue from their advertisers if users regularly visit the web sites.

As a result, there exists a need for mechanisms that entice users to return to a web site on a regular basis.

So having the best search engine in the world won't accomplish this, but scribbling on your logo will? Is that what Brin is claiming? No wonder they made Larry Page the CEO.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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