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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Have You Ever Coded a Progress Bar?

Comments (16)

Our friends at IBM are trying to patent the "progress bar."  EDN has an article about it titled U.S. patent office looking for prior art on IBM patent applicationAs a result of the Peer-to-Patent: Community Patent Review process, there’s actually a chance that this stupid patent will not get granted.

There are 11 days left to comment on the Pre-Grant Publication Number: 20070220238.  If you don’t want to go through the brain damage of setting up an account, just leave a comment on this blog post and I’ll consolidate and post them on the Peer-to-Patent site.  If you really want to dig into this yourself because you’ve actually written the code for a progress board, you take a look at the overview and the claims (keep a barf bag handy.)

Dave – do you have any of that Clarion code from the late 1980′s with progress bars in them?  I know I’ve got some examples written in Basic for Petcom’s PCEconomics from 1984 – now all I’ve got to do is find something that can read a 5.25" floppy disk.  Nari – thanks for the heads up on this.

  • Dirk G. Schernikau

    Patents on software are so damn stupid. We here in the EU are steps ahead of this discussion. Try what ever you want, there is no chance for a patent on any kind of software, not as long as it isn't bundled with any kind of hardware. And as the Americans think that they are in nearly all cases the worlds mastermind let them take a look to the other side of the Atlantic!

  • Jud Valeski

    I built a few over the years (most of them in various areas of Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape); guess I'm in trouble.

  • Erik Schwartz

    I know I did one in SuperCard in 1989 or so. God only know where the code is though.

  • http://nick@nickdavis.com nick davis

    A progess bar? What a fantastic, non-obvious idea? You could even use it to show progress.

    Maybe I'll take a step back and patent the “gauge”.

    US PATENT 192: A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF SOMETHING ELSE

  • http://falseprecision.typepad.com/my_weblog/ Todd Vernon
  • http://falseprecision.typepad.com/my_weblog/ Todd Vernon

    Appleworks loading interface on apple II
    http://www.guidebookgallery.org/articles/apple2us

  • http://falseprecision.typepad.com/my_weblog/ Todd Vernon

    And, my favorite… Goto the patent office and lookup patent number: 5758155
    ” Method for displaying progress during operating system startup and shutdown”
    This is getting ridiculous :-)

  • http://www.garthwalker.com Garth

    Too many lawyers working over there trying to stay busy?

  • Dave

    No, I don't have any of the Clarion code, not even on diskettes… you shouldn't need the code, though – as long as you can show examples of a progress bar in operation that should count as prior art. Just don't use MS Access, where the progress bar always goes right to 99% and then spends however long finishing.

  • http://gregcohn.com/blog Greg Cohn

    Interesting post and responses – maybe we should build a community to monitor applications like this and crowdsource the prior art search on patents that are overly ambitious.

  • Cindy

    Copyrighting the coding of progress bars? Idiotic! Libraries that include the creation of progress bars are already everywhere. For example, I use a product called “QT” from TrollTech. QT takes a lot of the pain away from trying to develop GUIs that are platform independent. (Contrary to what Terry says, plenty of people still run LINUX, dammit.) So, when you want a progress bar, you just call one of their handy library functions to create it and control it. Groovy.

  • Tom Evslin

    I coded a progress bar for Desktop Express for the Mac in 1985. Have the program and manuals. What date does the prior art need to be?

  • http://www.scrollinondubs.com Sean Tierney

    they must have all the lawyers that were laid off when SCO went under… this is as silly as Amazon patenting the “one-click buy” process. we seriously need to rethink US patents in the realm of software from the ground up. pretty ironic that it's over a “progress” bar…

  • Steve Bergstein

    I know that I've coded the computation behind the bar, but I think that I displayed only the percent complete of the task rather than a bar graph of the percent complete.

    That said, this has to be one of the stupider things that I've heard. I've seen few patents that weren't obvious. For the most part, I think that as soon as you ask the question (“How can I show the user that some process is 10%, 20%, etc. complete?”), the “invention” that answers it is immediately obvious. How is a progress bar any different than the “thermometer” that the United Way had on a billboard in my hometown showing what percent of some financial goal they had reached?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dirk_g_sche3967 dirk_g_sche3967

    Patents on software are so damn stupid. We here in the EU are steps ahead of this discussion. Try what ever you want, there is no chance for a patent on any kind of software, not as long as it isn't bundled with any kind of hardware. And as the Americans think that they are in nearly all cases the worlds mastermind let them take a look to the other side of the Atlantic!

  • nick davis

    A progess bar? What a fantastic, non-obvious idea? You could even use it to show progress.

    Maybe I'll take a step back and patent the "gauge".

    US PATENT 192: A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF SOMETHING ELSE

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jud_valeski3968 jud_valeski3968

    I built a few over the years (most of them in various areas of Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape); guess I'm in trouble.

  • Garth

    Too many lawyers working over there trying to stay busy?

  • Dave

    No, I don't have any of the Clarion code, not even on diskettes… you shouldn't need the code, though – as long as you can show examples of a progress bar in operation that should count as prior art. Just don't use MS Access, where the progress bar always goes right to 99% and then spends however long finishing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/todd_vernon84 todd_vernon84
  • Cindy

    Copyrighting the coding of progress bars? Idiotic! Libraries that include the creation of progress bars are already everywhere. For example, I use a product called "QT" from TrollTech. QT takes a lot of the pain away from trying to develop GUIs that are platform independent. (Contrary to what Terry says, plenty of people still run LINUX, dammit.) So, when you want a progress bar, you just call one of their handy library functions to create it and control it. Groovy.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/erik_schwar3970 erik_schwar3970

    I know I did one in SuperCard in 1989 or so. God only know where the code is though.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/todd_vernon84 todd_vernon84

    Appleworks loading interface on apple II
    http://www.guidebookgallery.org/articles/apple2us

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Anything earlier than 2005!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom_evslin3996 tom_evslin3996

    OK. I submitted prior art. Post is here http://blog.tomevslin.com/2007/12/patent-absurdit

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/sean_tierne2149 sean_tierne2149

    they must have all the lawyers that were laid off when SCO went under… this is as silly as Amazon patenting the "one-click buy" process. we seriously need to rethink US patents in the realm of software from the ground up. pretty ironic that it's over a "progress" bar…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/todd_vernon84 todd_vernon84

    And, my favorite… Goto the patent office and lookup patent number: 5758155
    " Method for displaying progress during operating system startup and shutdown"
    This is getting ridiculous :-)

  • Greg Cohn

    Interesting post and responses – maybe we should build a community to monitor applications like this and crowdsource the prior art search on patents that are overly ambitious.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom_evslin3996 tom_evslin3996

    I coded a progress bar for Desktop Express for the Mac in 1985. Have the program and manuals. What date does the prior art need to be?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2127 steve_bergs2127

    I know that I've coded the computation behind the bar, but I think that I displayed only the percent complete of the task rather than a bar graph of the percent complete.

    That said, this has to be one of the stupider things that I've heard. I've seen few patents that weren't obvious. For the most part, I think that as soon as you ask the question ("How can I show the user that some process is 10%, 20%, etc. complete?"), the "invention" that answers it is immediately obvious. How is a progress bar any different than the "thermometer" that the United Way had on a billboard in my hometown showing what percent of some financial goal they had reached?

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