Google Patents Web Page Design
Google filed a patent five years ago for its home page design. Yesterday, it was approved.
I’m with Valleywag’s Ryan Tate:
We always thought the page was brain-dead simple, but apparently it’s an innovative “graphical user interface.”
In other words, subject to how the patent is enforced, Google owns the idea of having a giant search box in the middle of the page, with two big buttons underneath and several small links nearby. Since the time of the patent application in 2004, the company has moved some links, for searching News and Groups and other alternate databases, from directly above the search box to the top of the home page. But Google presumably believes its patent is broad enough to cover the variation.
Mashable’s Barb Dybwad has a similar reaction:
The patent application contains a single illustration of the familiar Google.com user interface which, as we know, is quite spartan. In other words, Google essentially owns the concept of putting a big search box on top of two buttons and putting some text links nearby.
No one knows exactly how or even if Google (Google) plans to use the patent to go after similar interfaces. But if they chose to, at least Yahoo (Yahoo!) and Ask.com would be potential targets. Microsoft’s new Bing (Bing) search might be spared thanks to its background image approach and other interface dissimilarities.
Perhaps more likely, Google’s patent will scare away any new startups brave enough to enter the search space against existing towering giants in the first place. They might think twice about borrowing the “keep it simple, stupid” approach of Google.com.
How in the world can this be patentable?
Techgeist’s Michael Klurfeld has a benign theory of what Google is after:
I think Google filed this patent over liability concerns. The Google homepage is certainly iconic. I doubt there’s anyone who’s been online for an extended period of time who doesn’t recognize the image. Let’s say I’ve been around online for a while, but I’m not all too… perceptive. I could go to some malicious site posing as the Google homepage which steals my data. It could actually say “Goagle,” but I may not have noticed. Google then has a legal basis by which to shut down the owners of that webpage.
IANAL but it strikes me that a trademark would cover that sort of thing. A patent implies something novel and non-obvious. A search bar with two buttons? Not so much.