Apple's latest "patent"Apple's latest "patent"

What's with Apple? Seems to me they're just crying over the fact that they haven't figured out how to make a smart phone with a reasonably sized display - like everyone else has. Their latest puddle of spilled tears involves Patent 8,223,134 (in short, this describes how to create, use, whatever a "hidable" vertical position indicator).

I have an Android phone (mostly because I'm loathe to participate in proprietary systems). It uses mechanisms as described in this patent, but some Android apps use different methods to indicate/use vertical position. Two come to mind:

  1. The Motorsport Calendar uses a wide-ish slide-out tab;
  2. GO Contacts EX uses a vertical list of alphabetized letters/numbers.

Neither of these uses fit the patent's description, plus the vertical indicators on both are usable as scroll bars and/or allow direct navigation.

Even if Apple's application could be considered patentable, the method/system/whatever in this one specifically includes the wording "the vertical bar is not a scroll bar" and has additional wording that it cannot be used as a scroll bar (it covers only methods to indicate position and (optionally?) percentage of document/list displayed).

There is a simple, easy way around this (which some Android apps already do as noted above): Google could add scroll-bar functionality to its existing use of the methods described in this patent. Not only would doing so avoid any possible conflict with this patent, it would significantly improve usability.

My apologies; I know this article rambles a bit, and actually has two points (I'm pissed enough at Apple, Google, Motorola, etc. that I couldn't seem focus on anything other than I'm pissed at them). I guess the main point I'm trying to make is that I'm not happy with what's happening in patents - particularly software patents (and not just Apple's - Google, HTC, Motorola et al are just as guilty of patent abuse). I won't get into specifics, but it appears that the patent system is now being used more as a tool to stifle innovation than to protect IP; the USPTO needs to re-think what can be considered a "patent". Unfortunately, current "reforms" are only making things worse.