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Apple, Google and Microsoft sued over thumbnails

updated 02:20 pm EST, Fri December 26, 2008

Cygnus vs. Apple, etc.

Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been targeted in a lawsuit related to software technology, reports say. The three have been accused by Cygnus System of violating US patent 7,346,850, System and method for iconic software environment management. In depth, the patent describes "a method and system for storing, navigating, and accessing files within an operating system through the use of a graphical thumbnail representing the video display of the active document within the active application."

The patent may therefore cover software like Apple's Cover Flow and Microsoft's Windows Explorer, both of which are capable of showing previews of documents via thumbnail images. Cygnus' lawsuit makes particular mention of the iPhone's file previews, and Safari's browser tab thumbnails. The main Google technology cited is the Chrome web browser, which is based on the same foundations as Safari.

The suit could have broad consequences in the software industry, as many companies produce products directly or indirectly founded on technologies named in Cygnus' court filings. Similar concepts are also used in applications by the likes of Adobe and Opera, and Cygnus is asking not only for general damage compensation, but retroactive money going back to the beginning of patent infringement.

by MacNN Staff



  1. dslund

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good Grief and

    Good Grief.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    And to think people have used thumbnails for decades without realizing they were infringing on patents.

    And notice that the original patent was filed in 1998, expanded upon in 2001, and finally granted in 2008. What took so long on the granting? Waiting for the right clerk to go "Well, this seems different!"

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Does anyone...

    at the patent office ever say no to these kind of patent applications? This is getting ridiculous. Some things are too fundamental to be allowed. If it were possible, someone would try to patent the concept of a DOOR and want everybody who walked through one to pay them a royalty. Hey, I have this great idea. It's a device that lets you hang an article of clothing on it and then you put it in on a rod in a closet. I want money for every clothes hanger ever made!! Absurdity, of course, to illustrate how some things should not be allowed to be patented.

  1. designr

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Well. I guess we're going back to using the command line.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    prior art

    I am quite sure someone somewhere in the video production industry had thumbnails of clips prior to 1998.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: prior art

    Well, imovie was released in 1999... and Apple bought that from some other company.

    But you're right. You would think Avid had this capability back in the mid 90s...

  1. scotte75ky

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Yeah, there is a program called Thumbs Plus that has been around since the early 90's on the PC. This lawsuit is about as dumb as it gets!

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These patents are ludicrous. Remember when people used to patent real innovations for real products.

    Remember when trolls were only fantastical creatures not lawyers for companies with no products.

  1. tobor68

    Joined: Dec 1969


    prior art, hello...

    i used animation station, on the Amiga, in 1991 to make a short film.

    case closed.

    get a job, trolls, or get back under the bridge.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Xerox Parc

    Didn't they steal the icon from Xerox Parc ... along with a windowed operating system with icons .... you're right


    Corporations starting frivolous law suits should face some financial consequence as a result of their actions. Companies who must defend themselves against them should be compensated for the time and trouble of dealing with them. Lastly .... firms and lawyers who perpetrate such actions should face some consequences. Something like points off your license to practice. I bet the lawyers would be a LOT more careful if they had some real skin in the game.

    Just rambling thoughts.

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