Google Homepage Patent Gratuitous?

By: Doug Caverly - September 8, 2009

In early 2004, Google’s lawyers didn’t have nearly enough to do.  A patent on the design of Google’s homepage (AKA its "[g]raphical user interface for a display screen of a communications terminal") that they applied for at that time was granted Tuesday.

Let us know what you think in the comments section.

What Google’s going to do with the patent is, frankly, anybody’s guess.  No corporation with the ability to approach Google’s effectiveness at search would be dumb enough to copy its exact design.  And it’d be a rare judge who would let Google take action against Yahoo or other search rivals on the basis of similarities born out of identical functions.

There’s a question of prior art, as well, since Google might not have been the first entity to stick a search box in the middle of a mostly-blank page. 

Anyway, in case you’re curious, part of the patent states, "The single view is a front view of a graphical user interface for a display screen of a communications terminal."

Also, "The broken line of the display screen and the broken line showing of certain words and numbers in the drawing are for illustrative purposes only and form no part of the claimed design."

Doug Caverly

About the Author

Doug CaverlyDoug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.

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  • Guest

    Way to go, USPTO! Another fine week’s worth of work, done!

    Man, I would love that job … grab application from inbox, approve application, place application into outbox, next …

    • Sean Utt

      huge backlog at the USPTO that continues to grow
      application: 2004
      finally got around to looking at it: 2008
      made decision: 2009

      they are hiring if you have a bachelor’s degree heavy in hard science courses like physics, chemistry or civil engineering

      • boB

        Yep… Lots of credentials required EXCEPT for common sense.

        • Guest

          Commonsense in government? Now there

      • Guest

        And it will continue to grow at an alarming rate so long as patents such as this are routinely granted. Why WOULDN’T you patent anything and everything knowing you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting approved “just because”?

  • Matt

    Have you guys seen – it’s looking awfully close to Google these days.

  • Guest

    “Don’t be evil”


    • Guest


  • Guest

    Who’s less relevant – USPTO or WPN?

  • Guest

    The Paint.Net Search looks lust like this!

    Press CTRL+E to show the page from Paint.Net, you will see!

  • Guest

    The US patent system finally hits rock bottom; sinking the entire patent system into a money-driven asylum full of pretty diagrams and company logos.

    Patents are for machines and processes NOT webpages.

    The only saving grace here is that we can hope these lunatics will end up sueing each other for their pathetic patents and spending all their money on lawyers.

    • Guest

      Ride on! Exactly!

      This patent is a bad joke.

  • gavin

    It looks to me like one of those patents whereby the party filing the patent files it to prevent another party from filing it. Similar patents exist for things such as a GUI element to close a GUI element and a page up key.

  • Guest

    This is not about preventing others from doing something similar, it’s all about money and how much can be siphoned off from the patent tax free into the pockets of patent authors.

  • Tom

    Hmmm. Fascinating. I’ve read and re-read the article and can find no mention of Microsoft.

  • Guest

    soon no one will be able to write and publish any software application. What if the page is too close in design to googles, what if the description of the xml is in a word document separate from the xml. Every idea will have to be researched to see if someone has a patent on it already and then worked around to avoid infringement.

  • Jeff Schwandt

    I wonder if its a design patent or a utility patent? There’s a big difference.

  • Guest

    Further evidence of the pointlessness of patents. Patents no longer protect the smaller inventor they simply cut out large junks of real estate for the large corporations or the patent hoarders.

    Copyright makes sense, but I can

    • Guest

      -or maybe raise the bar on patent issuance.

  • Guest

    Against the big bad MIcrosoft? Your cracking me up.

    Microsoft was the Google to IBM in 1991 with their radical Windows products.

    Google in bed with China’s represessive regime. They are no longer the promising upstart of your fantasies.

    Meet the new boss…. same as the old boss.

  • Guest

    while it is valid to wonder about the USPTO and what it grants patents for, this is here is much ado about nothing. One needs to be aware that there are various types of patents. Any patent beginning with the letter “D” is only a “Design Patent.” These have one and only one “claim”: “The ornamental design of…” A company that makes door handles will file a design patent on the specific shape of their door handle, thus preventing a complete knock-off. It is closer in function to a trademark than a patent. What the general public refers to when the word “patent” is used is actually a “Utility Patent.” These are the ones that have to be nonobvious, inventive and offer utility. This Google Design Patent really does not mean anything. Better to keep your eyes on patents that are 7 digit numbers, these days in the 7 millions. And also be sure not to confuse published patent applications, which have longer names, starting with the year; these have not and may never be granted.

  • Guest

    So much opposition to something many of you do not understand.

    There are two types of patents; design patents and utility patents.
    A simplistic explanation of the difference is that a design patent is about the way something looks and a utility patent is about what it does.

    A design patent is not as valuable nor as difficult to obtain in comparison to a utility patent. It is also more easily circumvented since you only have to change the way your design looks. Obviously, the change you make cannot be a trivial change.

    A utility patent has to meet two basic criteria; it must be (a) new and unique, and (b) it must not be obvious to someone skilled in the trade.

    Before you dismiss patents, you should at least spend some time learning something about them!

    • Guest

      And your explanation of patent types does what? To me all it does is show that you wanted to tell the world how much you know about patents whilst contributing absolutely nothing whatsoever to the debate which is clearly much wider than slapping a patent mark over the way a page is laid out. Go figure then add something constructive to the debate please rather than simply slagging people off for not explaining what type of patent google has just put on a web page.

      • Don Thompson


        So can I patent “oODLES”? (Different word, reverse the capitalization, make it monochrome.)

        • Guest

          That would be a trademark, not a patent!

          • Guest

            –And that’s what this should have been, a copyright, not a patent.

          • Guest

            Where did the ‘wrong again’ bit come from?

            1. I have not said anything wrong.
            2. It necessarily follows that therefore there cannot be an ‘again’.

            However weak and feeble that particular brand of patent is, the problem lies in the fact that that they have managed to actually ‘patent’ it in the first place.

            Massive implications for the web in general, especially if organisations as powerful and rich as google and microsoft are allowed to slap rights on how things are ‘laid out’.

      • Guest

        All I’m saying is that you should consider it for what it is, a “design” patent. Instead, everyone is attacking it as if it were a “utility” patent.
        The patent office site has documents that explain the difference, if you care to look.

        • Guest

          Oh dear. Sigh.

  • Deci

    To me it seems like an attack to microsoft …
    I wonder if they will ask Bing to place the search bar on the left ^^

    also it seems this can be used for mobile apps

    • Adam

      Yes, obviously the Google legal team sat down in 2004 and asked the “wayforward” machine what their next step should be. It told them that Microsoft was going to come up with something called “Bing” and that they should immediately patent their design because no search engine could ever look different and also be successful.


  • StanM

    If that got a patent then I should patent every web page I’ve ever done! And every program’s user interface as well.

    Who would have ever guessed that I probably have over 100,000 patentable items lying around here in my home office? LOL

  • Pilates Exercises Online

    As if they do not have the major say in many things on the net, and decide basically on everybody’s behalf where, what and how when coming to searching and results. Now with a patent, what will be next? The marketing business terms of Barriers to entry as somewhat monopolistic behavior somehow spring to mind.

  • Change Your Destiny , Now !

    Read more about this awesome alternative
    to the state foster care system.

  • Mansur Khan

    I thought patents were for machines and processes.. I didnt know i could patent webpages – i have lots of sites and web pages…. but no money to keep filing patents… guess i will need to raise money.. any money bags around who want to donate?

    • cnmcomm

      Nailed it …. search is a process!!!!!

  • Aserviced Apartments

    I wonder who the end up suing, surly the lawyers will look into it on the next time they are bored

  • Guest

    I guess google did such a great job, no one will ever be able to do it any better.. all hey can do, is copy it.

  • Guest

    Funny how Google is all about sharing everyone else’s protected materials accept their own 😐

    • Carl

      I second this comment!
      Google is one of the most hypocritical companies on the planet, their plagiarize right and left and never answer to complaints as to their violation of the DMCA yet patent a basic web page design.

  • Don Thompson

    40 years ago a standing punchline was “That great Soviet inventor Regus Patoff.” Now that software and genetics patents are being accepted and patent law is the ‘next big thing’ for lawyers, “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.” itself is the joke.

    The United States has taken “Intellectual” completely out of intellectual property.

  • Motor Cycle Parts Accessories

    Copyright. I certainly see that. But patenting the home page? I guess the sparse home page was an invention.

  • Guest

    The patent is for the “invention” , that had NO PRIOR ART for a totally uncluttered search engine. Consider all the cr*p on MSN & YAHOO search pages. They take 10x longer to load. Google kept it simple, and I say they deserve a patent because they considered the end-user experience.

    • Guest

      The front screen of Google may be simple and Yahoo and Bing may be more elaborate but the results returned by google are mostly useless, they should spend some more time on improving their engine to filter out 404 pages, scamming pages, pages which do not contain your search key words and so on.

      Google is up to something and it probably will start suing “competitors” soon enough to increase their cash flow for their other “allways beta” products which never get finished.

      • Nora McDougall-Collins

        I’m not sure that Google suing well-established search engines for patent infringement would be helpful to them. Many people already consider them the “evil empire,” and that would only send more people to that type of thinking.

        But, I’m sure that the Google folks will be studying and quantifying every single variable.

        • Adam

          Wait a second… WHO exactly considers Google to be an evil empire?? Just because something is bid doesn’t mean it’s going to try to take over the world….

        • Sustainable sewage treatment

          I am sure that if Google tries to uphold this patent, they will lose a lot of search traffic to Yahoo and Bing as a result of peoples disgust.

    • Guest

      Get real. A web site or home page of any company is just a label around the product. Could you imagine a world were Coke patented putting a label on the can? All other manufactures would have to change the shape of the can but not put a label on it. So going to the store you better know what shape your drink comes in. It

  • Susan Dietier

    The monopoly they have on the internet and the influence of Google you would think they would not need a patent on their front page. Insecurity.

  • Guest

    It seems like the patent was filed too late. The patent was filed in 2004 but Google was using this design in 1999.
    “By law, a patent application must be filed within one year of the date your invention is first publicly disclosed.”

    Here’s Google in 1999 (from the wayback archive):

    • Guest

      Look at the actual patent, it is considerably different from the example you indicate.

  • Charles Douglas Wehner

    Patent scripts require an INVENTIVE STEP.

    A patent can be denied on the basis of “OBVIOUSNESS”. If an original design, with no clever trope of the mind, is to be protected, the appropriate medium is a “registered design”, which is not subjected to scrutiny by a Patent Examiner. A registered design is sometimes (wrongly) called a “design patent”.

    I myself have an example of PRIOR ART. It relates to a local search engine to inspect medical books on Addison’s disease:

    That page has been around for years. It is simple, but I claimed no special “INVENTION” in the creation of it.

    Perhaps I am missing something. If not, the Google page falls under the same classification as my own PRIOR design – simple, effective, but NOT an invention.

    Charles Douglas Wehner

  • Guest

    this may be a good cause or thing (I do not know as have not looked) but is no more relevant here than Michael Jackson

  • Guest

    Google is getting nervous … can the probably smell it?

  • ron

    Could this page patent by google be some sort of publicity stunt or is there something further coming we do not yet know about, which will make sense of the whole thing. watch web pro news to find out in the next exiting episode on a computer near you.

  • McLaughlin

    After the fall of the Soviet Empire a Russian gent put in a patent on the glass bottle. I forget how he phrased it but he got the Russian patent on basically anything glass made to hold material.
    Most patents that are far reaching can’t be defended, and I’d love the see the lawsuit that Google would use since Yahoo! Alta Vista AOL and others had the same thing before Google.

  • Google

    I see no point in trying to 2nd guess Google on their reasoning. Seems to me they know all the right moves. They are after all the “untouchables” of the cyber-highway. Perhaps they know something we don’t know and getting this patent could serve as insurance on any potential future concerns.

  • sylvie chen

    You cannot patent something that has been in the public view or use after one year.
    Whether design or use, Google already did business with their page UI long before the patent was granted.
    Alta Vista, Lycos and others predated Google with identical search pages in the late eighties. Come on!

    We need to hire better patent personnel. Let’s them stop hiring people who can’t read or write or use a computer out of community colleges.

  • Guest

    I amazes me how many people, including the author of the article, are making comments about a subject they know so little about.

    Before you make a comment, read the description of design patents on the uspto website:

    Think before you act!

  • Zygella

    AM I missing something here?

    One simply cannot patent something that has been in the public view or use for over a year.

    Nor the idea of having a search box in the middle of a computer screen is revolutionary, innovative or new!

    • Rocko

      Umm…idiot, as long as your patent app predates the first public use you’re fine.

  • Rocko

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have not reviewed the claims or file history; but I smell a rat. A big one.

    I hold numerous patents, none of which took over 4 years to prosecute even with multiple office actions from the PTO so 5 years would indicate numerous office actions, rejections, and mods by the Google team. I suggest some journalistic scholarship here – could Google’s massive campaign contributions to Obama have influenced this rather obvious and not original application suddenly becoming a patent after years of languishing at the PTO?

    Now before you accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist, remember the NTP/RIM dustup? NTP had RIM dead to rights with a judge ready to shut down Blackberry service nationwide. In a straight commercial battle RIM would have been shut down. However, Washington politics intervened keeping Blackberry running.

    Sorry but I’ve lived in DC long enough to know how things really get done. Bottom line, even if Google’s patent ultimately gets tossed on prior art, a lot of search providers could be spending big defending infringement suits.

    A tip – one does not need standing to request a re-exam. Perhaps a motivated journalist could request a re-exam to shine a bright light on what Google is up to. Don’t count on the government to defend us from evil enterprises, have to bring it into the open and let the people decide.

  • Guest

    Webpronews is at it again
    talk cock to get feedback and sell ads.
    Read the whole patent idiot

  • cnmcomm

    In Australia we are continually reminded of electrical goods manufacturer Kambrook’s failure to patent the electric powerboard.

    Maybe putting multiple power points on a board could have been considered to obvious or simple to be considered an invention.

  • Barry Wheeler


    I guess Google does own the internet and everything around!!!


      No but they get you to it cleaner and faster.

  • john Huff

    After just seeing the movie Food, INC and being made aware of what Monsanto has been able to do with a patent about soybean seeds nothing surprises me. Monsanto is able to sue farmers and seed cleaners to rid the competitive field. A practice supported by the Supreme Court.

    The question should be what will they do with the patent.

  • Guest

    Search font and style of BING is virtually identical to GOOGLE
    once you get past their home page. Anyone notice?

  • The Snob

    Google’s homepage have looked pretty mutch the same since it’s launch in 1996/1997 and the minimalistic design of the page has proven to be very sticky amongst us using it. I guess not many people even think of it, but Google should be able to put up the most fancy homepage in the world, but who says it’s not. It ranks 1rst in the world and that is for a simple reason. Less is more and google is on top of it. Minimalism is a big hit if you think about other sites with simple design… Facebook probbably wouldnt been such a success if they didnt keep the design simple. This is planned by smart people you know. Larry and Sergey at google know what they are doing. Why do you think their sallary is 1 dollar a year from Google and they are laughting all the way to the bank. I guess they didnt expect this to happen in the middle of the 90ths when they was in Stanford playing around with the idea. Its funny that they went to the same University as Yahoo’s Jerry Yang. Maybe they found some of his things left on the computers and improved it. Who knows 😉 That the search industry is a big biz I knew allready back in the 90ths when Aliweb was about the best there was. And so many other searchengines are there now. But everyone I know always use google. Why? Its simple and pulls up the most fresh results. No wonder they are getting a patent on their design. I would to if I was number one in the world!

    • toniM

      That was seriously the most sheep-like thing I’ve ever read anyone write except for when Brittney Spears said “We should trust our President [Bush at the time] no matter what . . .”

      Sorry to compare you to Britteny Spears on an intellectual level, but please refrain from writing about technology issues in public until you become a little more educated.

      • The Snob

        It feels nice to be compared to Britney Spears. She is rich, successfull and popular

      • Oracle

        Being online since 1988 there is some good points in “the snob” statement. He got his facts right. In the earlie 90th no real search engines was there. Yahoo was more a directory and we all remember Yahoo first wanted to call themselfes “Jerry Yang and David Filo’s guide to the internet” What Google managed to do was to create a site with a simple interface that only at first was ment to do searches of content on the internet on. Maybe you is the miss Clueless… you must be a american anyways. thats obvious. Its nice to know the Google idea is 50% Russian and Yahoo is 50% Korean… Just some facts incase you think your more wise than the snob

        • Middle Aged Man

          To correct your failing memory the 1st killer search engine was, aka Produced originally as a sales showcase tool, it was a fine search engine throughout the 1990s. The yahoos did not invent search any more than Al invented the web.

          Altavista was only surpassed for quality & content directly by google within a year of GOOG inception. I thought Yahoo was for yahoos, there was so much spam.

  • Home Solar Power Systems

    This is a interesting topic. I would like to say that Google home page is simple and sweet. Patenting the home page is highly appreciated.

  • BasicMonkey

    I need to run down to my Patent office and Patent breathing air. I do it through my nose and mouth and different intervals each time. I beleive my dynamic cycle of breathing air is unique and should be protected….

    • texxs

      Dear sir,

      Your patent application, titled “Breathing Air” is approved! It sounds like a wonderful invention and very useful too. In fact I’d like to buy license to use your technology now, as I’m feeling a little light headed . . .

  • Guest

    relax, its prob just to defend it’s self from all the spoof variants of google. like blah-oogle or something. A page wouldn’t have to be exactly the same to violate the patent, but they do have an interest in having control over their image, and they may need it for leverage if a page is being liable against them or something. I’m not saying it COULDN’T be used unethically, but I doubt it would be. Besides, Google holds a near monopoly status, and while I hate how ridiculous anti-trust law suits have gotten, it only takes a slightly biased or uneducated judge to make them pay a hefty penalty.

  • Guest

    relax, its prob just to defend it’s self from all the spoof variants of google. like blah-oogle or something. A page wouldn’t have to be exactly the same to violate the patent, but they do have an interest in having control over their image, and they may need it for leverage if a page is being liable against them or something. I’m not saying it COULDN’T be used unethically, but I doubt it would be. Besides, Google holds a near monopoly status, and while I hate how ridiculous anti-trust law suits have gotten, it only takes a slightly biased or uneducated judge to make them pay a hefty penalty.

  • Londoner

    I think here we are talking about a design, not a patent. A patent is for some thing, which is a hardware and has moving parts to do a job. The above picture is graphical, which can be protected as a copyright, not as a patent. This is according UK patent law.

    • Charles

      I am a little confused on how a patent can be granted on a concept. I always thought that ideas (a.k.a concepts) could not be patented while actual things such as specific designs could be.

      That said I believe that Google should be entitled to protection against rip offs of their design. The article head talks about a mostly blank page – that is the fundamental reason that I use Google as my home page and probably always will – there are no distractions to me getting exactly what I want.

  • qasim umar

    I want to publish my work. Any one can help me in this regard?

  • Lol at Google

    Seems interesting that Google Homepage would go get a pattern for its simple site layout. Smart I guess, so no one can really take the format legally, but the pattern seems over the top. I think it was originally designed for the searches it allows other people to put on there sites.