10 Physical Gestures That Have Been Patented

Breakdancer

Photo: Chris Kirkman (CC)

Interesting article from Annalee Newitz on io9.com:

If you’re making a flicking gesture with a pen near your computer, watch out. Microsoft may own the rights to the gesture you’re making. And if you like to draw letters of the alphabet using one penstroke per letter, you may one day find yourself paying a licensing fee to Xerox.

It sounds crazy, but tech companies have been patenting physical gestures for almost two decades now. In a world ruled by touchscreens, Kinect, and Guitar Hero, these businesses don’t want people making certain gestures without paying for it. Find out which gestures you’re making that may be infringing somebody’s patents.

People have been claiming exclusive ownership of physical moves for a while. Famous choreographer Martha Graham’s company copyrighted many of her iconic dances, and even sued a man who said the work was actually his. A few years ago, the guy who copyrighted the Electric Slide dance asked YouTube to remove a video of people dancing his copyrighted moves (YouTube complied, but after some legal negotiation the choreographer made his dance available under a more open Creative Commons license.)

More on Annalee Newitz on io9.com

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  • Navysealteam7

    lol, I’ll just move to another country and ‘Dance-how-I-want-to’ and bypass those absurd copyrights. ;D

  • Navysealteam7

    lol, I’ll just move to another country and ‘Dance-how-I-want-to’ and bypass those absurd copyrights. ;D

    • Jbar

      Me too, and I already have two picked out. Maybe four.

  • Grooveboss

    yeah right. these companies need to go. we going  back to the primitive 

  • Grooveboss

    yeah right. these companies need to go. we going  back to the primitive 

  • Grooveboss

    im going to copywrite people dying, the ultimate gesture. Money filled pool here i come

  • Grooveboss

    im going to copywrite people dying, the ultimate gesture. Money filled pool here i come

    • SF2K01

      I’m going to copyright the idea of copyrighting things that were pre-existing actions that anyone could do. Either I’ll make a fortune or people will stop filing useless patents. It’s a win-win situation!

      • quartz99

        Why not just patent (not the same as copyright, btw) the procedure of filing a patent? And the procedure for filling out the patent form. No wait, I think someone already has the patent on “filling out a form by putting data in spaces that have been left blank for that purpose”.

        Another bizarre one that’s not a gesture but still ubiquitous — Microsoft owns the patent on creating embedded and dropdown/slidedown menus. You know, like you find on just about every website on the web.  Here’s some more of the things Microsoft has patented, that they’ve used to sue competitors who do things like… include a drop down menu on their website: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2341-microsoft-patent-trolls-salesforce

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to copyright the idea of copyrighting things that were pre-existing actions that anyone could do. Either I’ll make a fortune or people will stop filing useless patents. It’s a win-win situation!

  • Nunzio X

    Have they copyrighted the “raised middle finger” gesture?

    Doesn’t matter. I’m directing it at them, anyhow.

  • Nunzio X

    Have they copyrighted the “raised middle finger” gesture?

    Doesn’t matter. I’m directing it at them, anyhow.

  • Anonymous

    Why not just patent (not the same as copyright, btw) the procedure of filing a patent? And the procedure for filling out the patent form. No wait, I think someone already has the patent on “filling out a form by putting data in spaces that have been left blank for that purpose”.

    Another bizarre one that’s not a gesture but still ubiquitous — Microsoft owns the patent on creating embedded and dropdown/slidedown menus. You know, like you find on just about every website on the web.  Here’s some more of the things Microsoft has patented, that they’ve used to sue competitors who do things like… include a drop down menu on their website: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2341-microsoft-patent-trolls-salesforce

  • Anonymous

    Why not just patent (not the same as copyright, btw) the procedure of filing a patent? And the procedure for filling out the patent form. No wait, I think someone already has the patent on “filling out a form by putting data in spaces that have been left blank for that purpose”.

    Another bizarre one that’s not a gesture but still ubiquitous — Microsoft owns the patent on creating embedded and dropdown/slidedown menus. You know, like you find on just about every website on the web.  Here’s some more of the things Microsoft has patented, that they’ve used to sue competitors who do things like… include a drop down menu on their website: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2341-microsoft-patent-trolls-salesforce

  • Anonymous

    Why not just patent (not the same as copyright, btw) the procedure of filing a patent? And the procedure for filling out the patent form. No wait, I think someone already has the patent on “filling out a form by putting data in spaces that have been left blank for that purpose”.

    Another bizarre one that’s not a gesture but still ubiquitous — Microsoft owns the patent on creating embedded and dropdown/slidedown menus. You know, like you find on just about every website on the web.  Here’s some more of the things Microsoft has patented, that they’ve used to sue competitors who do things like… include a drop down menu on their website: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2341-microsoft-patent-trolls-salesforce

  • Anonymous

    Patents are used to create business protections for procedures, inventions, material compositions, and designs (product design, not graphic design). They exist to stop other companies or individuals from using something you design in their own products. They do not grant you rights to competitors’ infringing products or royalties. A patent does not give _you_ the right to use what you have patented, just to keep others from doing so (which is an important distinction as your patent may be built on a technology you do not have the rights to reproduce directly either). A patent’s term is 20 years from the date of filing. You must file for a patent to receive a patent. In cases where two entities are using the same invention/design, whoever gets the patent filed first is considered to own it and the other is an infringer even if they can prove they invented it independently.

    Copyright protects the expression of art and ideas, generally in a fixed form or in some cases in the performance of them (in that the performance will have a written script with specific staging and choreography and especially if it’s recorded on video or audio, all of which can be protected by copyright as they are tangible creative expressions). Copyright protections give you the right to your work, and the right to profit from any use of your work. Hence, while a copyright holder may send a cease and desist letter to a copyright infringer, they may also sue instead for royalties, a percentage of any tangible or intangible benefits conferred upon the infringer by their use of the copyrighted work. You do not have to file for a copyright to be protected by copyright, though it is still recommended to do so because that gives you legal paperwork that can prove the date of creation. Nor do you have to mark it with a copyright date and symbol; you gain copyright protect just by producing the work in question. The length varies based on whether it’s the expression of a company or an individual. If an individual, it’s the rest of their lifetime plus 70 yrs, up to 120 years for a company. Copyright passes via inheritance.

    This is an important difference that the author seemed to miss. Using copyrighting choreography, the creative expression and livelihood of a person, as an example to be considered as equivalent to arbitrary patenting of common gestures, is ludicrous. There’s plenty of obnoxious and frivolous patents out there. No need to go cherry picking something entirely different and unrelated and twisting it to make it sound related.

  • quartz99

    Patents are used to create business protections for procedures, inventions, material compositions, and designs (product design, not graphic design). They exist to stop other companies or individuals from using something you design in their own products. They do not grant you rights to competitors’ infringing products or royalties. A patent does not give _you_ the right to use what you have patented, just to keep others from doing so (which is an important distinction as your patent may be built on a technology you do not have the rights to reproduce directly either). A patent’s term is 20 years from the date of filing. You must file for a patent to receive a patent. In cases where two entities are using the same invention/design, whoever gets the patent filed first is considered to own it and the other is an infringer even if they can prove they invented it independently.

    Copyright protects the expression of art and ideas, generally in a fixed form or in some cases in the performance of them (in that the performance will have a written script with specific staging and choreography and especially if it’s recorded on video or audio, all of which can be protected by copyright as they are tangible creative expressions). Copyright protections give you the right to your work, and the right to profit from any use of your work. Hence, while a copyright holder may send a cease and desist letter to a copyright infringer, they may also sue instead for royalties, a percentage of any tangible or intangible benefits conferred upon the infringer by their use of the copyrighted work. You do not have to file for a copyright to be protected by copyright, though it is still recommended to do so because that gives you legal paperwork that can prove the date of creation. Nor do you have to mark it with a copyright date and symbol; you gain copyright protect just by producing the work in question. The length varies based on whether it’s the expression of a company or an individual. If an individual, it’s the rest of their lifetime plus 70 yrs, up to 120 years for a company. Copyright passes via inheritance.

    This is an important difference that the author seemed to miss. Using copyrighting choreography, the creative expression and livelihood of a person, as an example to be considered as equivalent to arbitrary patenting of common gestures, is ludicrous. There’s plenty of obnoxious and frivolous patents out there. No need to go cherry picking something entirely different and unrelated and twisting it to make it sound related.

  • Hadrian999

    we’re doomed

  • Hadrian999

    we’re doomed

  • Jbar

    Me too, and I already have two picked out. Maybe four.

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