Adobe sues Macromedia over infringement of their patented tabbed palettes.
August 10, 2000 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Adobe sues Macromedia over infringement of their patented tabbed palettes.
"Adobe filed a lawsuit against Macromedia® alleging infringement of our intellectual property, specifically our patented tabbed palette, which is a key user interface element and method invented by Adobe and incorporated into our products."
posted by captaincursor (15 comments total)
The two interfaces look identical in Adobe's examples, so I can see why they're calling out the lawyers. However, this description threw me:

"Adobe's tabbed palette patent is Adobe's method of displaying and working with multiple sets of information in the same area of the computer screen. The patented invention allows users to customize how the functions in the product are organized on the workspace. This invention was a significant leap forward for customers' productivity and personalization of the interface."

Is Adobe trying to claim that they created the concept of a tabbed user interface component?
posted by rcade at 6:19 PM on August 10, 2000

As with most discussions like this, is Adobe stupid enough to try to claim they invented this? What they're really saying is, "We patented it," which may not be same thing...

But now that I think of it, the first place I remember seeing the tool palettes that could be combined in user-specified ways by dragging and dropping the tabs was Photoshop, so maybe there's something to it? The Macromedia products definitely didn't have that interface until far more recent revisions.
posted by m.polo at 6:39 PM on August 10, 2000

they will be sueing next for their tabbed navigation scheme, then on to the people that make these light-tan colored folders with tabs that I use at work, and then on to a bunch of other software products that use the 'tab' interface.
posted by greyscale at 6:53 PM on August 10, 2000

and then on to interfaces that use the 'tab' key
posted by lagado at 8:45 PM on August 10, 2000

Knowing Amazon's patent-happy ways, I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to patent their tabs too. And with the Patent Office, who knows, they may have let both patents sail through without noticing.
posted by aaron at 8:50 PM on August 10, 2000

...because they weren't using their tabbed folders in the first place.
posted by goodhelp at 9:38 PM on August 10, 2000

this makes adobe seem even more money-grubbing than usual; three weeks ago at the flashforward2000 conference in NYC adobe co-sponsored with macromedia.

there was much public congratulation between the two companies for product integration. however, adobe overall made themselves seem me-too with their boring, pandering demonstration of live motion (their competition to flash 5, and far inferior).

given that public chumminess and their statement of warnings to macromedia since 1996 (really..?), it sounds like adobe's getting nervous about their competitive force. again. kinda like when they blew aldus out of the water back in 1993 or 4, which was what began polarizing designers towards macromedia or adobe (take yer pick) in the first place.
posted by patricking at 11:08 PM on August 10, 2000

GoLive CyberStudio used the exact same tabbed palette before it was purchased by Adobe. I wonder if Adobe's purchase offer for GoLive included the threat of legal action?

I also think that it's interesting that this is coming out right before the release of GoLive 5. I suspect that this might bite Adobe rather badly. Actions like this make Adobe look like they don't trust that their product would succeed in a head-to-head competition; that instead, they need to kill off the competition in order to have a chance.
posted by Dori at 11:12 PM on August 10, 2000

Maybe they're simply protecting their patent at the advice of their lawyers. Maybe they're unhappy about creating an impression of competing through legal channels instead of product development. Maybe they HAVE to do this, for purely legal reasons, even though they know it makes them look like they're telling Daddy about the bully that picked on them at school. Adobe and Macromedia were pretty darn chummy at Flashforward, and they have engaged in the digital business equivalent of swapping spit. Maybe it only SMELLS like fear.
posted by Zeldman at 11:18 PM on August 10, 2000

Maybe they're doing it for the publicity.
posted by Neale at 12:19 AM on August 11, 2000

If you check out (their own version of the facts, check) it seems that it isn't Tabs as such that are the problem. it's a tab in a modeless floating palette where you can drag a tab off the palette to create a new window that cause the problem.
Draggable tabs are not standard, or obvious (I didn't know about the feature until the lawsuit), so Adobe may have a point. So if Macromedia changes the drag into a double-click, then they should be clear of infringement.
posted by mogens at 1:59 AM on August 11, 2000

Just some background on software patents (esp. at Adobe):
Engineers are encouraged to apply for patents.
Engineers are discouraged from ever READING patents.
There are teams of lawyers whose daily job is to search for lawsuit possibilities (part of which is to ensure patent and trademark integrity so things like good Bezier anti-aliasing algorithm patents are held tightly or trademarks like PostScript(R) don't go the way of Cellophane or Yo-yo).

There is no great love between Adobe and Macromedia. This was especially true when Adobe merged with Aldus and lost Freehand to Macromedia (which, considering market conditions is probably a very good thing).

This particular suit doesn't come as a surprise in the light of these details.

The draggable/stackable palettes are a pretty nifty UI idea and it'd be nice if they were sharable concepts, but a patent is a patent.
posted by plinth at 5:08 AM on August 11, 2000

Macromedia "believes that U.S. Patent No. 5,546,528 is invalid and unenforceable and that Macromedia does not violate the patent." Well, the burden of proof is now on them.

Maybe Macromedia should offer this interfase as an option, name it "Photoshop compatibility mode". This gives credit to Adobe and retains the capability, making it easier for Adobe users to transfer to Macromedia without having to relearn their UI skills.

Microsoft did this when it included Lotus 1-2-3 commands in Excel and WordPerfect commands in Word. FoxPro got people to switch from dBase because the interfase was the same. There's a good article here (Let me go back!).

Thankfully noone thought of patenting the H format for switching gears on a vehicle, or the dial speedometer and steering wheel, and I think it was great that Apple couldn't thwart Windows on their Look and Feel suit. Who knows where we'd be today had car interfase elements been patented.
posted by tremendo at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2000

Delphi 5 also uses float-draggable tabbed windows. Somehow I doubt that Abode will care about it though.
posted by iamcal at 9:24 AM on August 11, 2000

Who knows where we'd be today had car interfase elements been patented.

Well, by this point, those 17-year patents would have long expired. :)
posted by daveadams at 9:56 AM on August 11, 2000

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