Google Patents Doodling!

VIDEO: "Nightline" got an exclusive look in the Internet search giants offices.

It wasn't bad enough that Google tried to copy all the dusty books in all the research libraries in all the world.

Or that it photographed your swimming pool from space. Or snapped pictures of your home or devised a scary car that drives itself.


Now the giant, omnivorous, all-aspiring, engine of search has patented doodling.

Does this mean that next time you put pen to paper you'll need to call California and ask permission first? Not exactly.

This week the Patent Office awarded Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and head of technology with Patent # 7,912, 915 for what's known as the doodle.

On Google's home page, for those from Mars, near the top sits a single word, regal and immutable: 'Google.'

But while the word itself remains constant, its appearance varies, depending on the date, on world events, on historical anniversaries, or on the whim and humor of Google's half-dozen full time artist/doodlers.

Is today Thomas Edison's birthday? Then the letters that make up Google may be formed out of little light bulbs or other Edison's inventions. There might be animation. If you click on the word Google, you might hear Edison's voice. The whole thing is considered a Doodle.

It's this method for "enticing" (Google's word) users to access its site—and the enticement possible—is what the company has patented.

Marie Conroy of San Francisco, an inveterate searcher, uses Google all the time and gets a kick out of these doodles. Her favorites, she says, have included one celebrating John Lennon's birthday (a drawing that drew itself and evolved as the viewer watched) and a tribute to cartoonist Rube Goldberg (a whimsical machine that on every viewing grew more and more complicated).

Cute and clever Doodles may be. But are they patentable? The idea strikes some tech-watchers as preposterous. "Absurd" one pundit calls it. Another accuses the Patent Office, in having granted the patent, "of smoking something they shouldn't be."

Patent attorney Kenneth Bressler, a partner at Manhattan law firm Blank Rome LLP, says of the Doodle patent, "I'm not sure it's justified." Were it enforceable (which he doesn't think it is), it would prevent "Macy's from having a picture of a turkey on its website at Thanksgiving."

Making something by adding enticing artwork or other enhancements—even ones that vary according to season or circumstance--is not new, he argues. And the technique is obvious. Only things non-obvious can be patented.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kenneth Sherman strongly disagrees.

Sherman, who has shepherded dozens of patents successfully through the approval process, has a new one pending for an enhancement of the online- and e-book reading experience called "Magic Reader." Everything is obvious, he says, after it's been invented. Today's obvious was yesterday's unimagined.

Sherman finds several facts about the Google patent impressive:

First, it was filed more than 10 years ago, when few people envisioned all-singing, all-dancing home page logos. Second, it was filed by Brin alone -- not by a group of inventors. That Brin was sole inventor, says Sherman, is a testament to Brin's foresight and creativity.

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