More Bad Patents: Gets Animated Traffic Patent

When will this end? today received a patent (U.S. #7,116,326) on displaying animated traffic data on a graphical map of the road system:

A computer-implemented method of displaying traffic flow data representing
traffic conditions on a road system includes creating a graphical map of
the road system which includes one or more segments. The status of each
segment on the graphical map is determined such that the status of each
segment corresponds to the traffic flow data associated with that
segment. An animated traffic flow map of the road system is created by
combining the graphical map and the status of each segment.

Unbelievably, and, in reading the claims, grotesquely over-broad. While you might argue that no-one currently shows realtime animation, that is hardly a meaningful and patentable innovation.

This stuff has to stop.


  1. Agent00yak says:

    When I saw this the first thing that came to mind was simcity 2000’s roads with little blue cars… Then I went there and the graphs on their website don’t look nearly that good.

  2. Something tells me there’s a strong prior art case to bust this up. Between SimCity’s animated traffic densities and the color-coded maps that news teams have been using for years, the only leg this crew might have to stand on is the integration of their system. If they can develop a new, useful, and novel system that’s fine, but many of the display elements have clearly already been practiced and documented – impeding any efforts to prosecute ‘infringers’.

  3. Doesn’t XM already do this with their Navtraffice system? The XM system will show on a car’s nav system what the speed of the traffic flow is on roads by flashing red, yellow, or green based on speed.

  4. How do we stop it?
    Shouldn’t some VCs step up and fund the lobbying effort?
    Who should do it?

  5. Sadly, I have yet to see a viable business model in patent busting. All the money is on the other side, as evidenced by the number of these goofy patents.

  6. Can’t wait for the day Paul.
    I have a disdain for these things.
    Paul, what do you adise your companies regarding patents. Do you file? If so at what stage and in what circumstances?

  7. Generally speaking I’m still averse to wasting much time on these things. That said, I do find myself at least asking teams to consider whether what they’re doing is patentable by some mischief-maker (under these loose and silly terms), and therefore whether they need to consider something defensive. If so, it is better to do it as early as possible, capital permitting.

  8. John Meissner says:

    Regarding ‘something defensive’, is it ever advisable to simply go heavy on the documentation to establish a clear ‘prior art’ paper trail, maybe even leveraging a patent lawyer as a ‘witness’ or publishing in a scientific journal (the patent will make the info public anyway)? I guess at the end of the day it will always come down to He Said, She Said, but there’s got to be a cheap way to establish some sort of protection without actually going through the patent process.

  9. One not terribly cheap way to get rock-solid prior art is to file a patent and then abandon it. This is what was done by the SNP consortium, a group of companies that identified a bunch of genetic biomarkers. They agreed to file patents on the biomarkers and then abandon the patents. This strategy effectively prevents later patenting because patent examiners have ready access to abandoned patents.

  10. Paul Jardine says:

    Techdirt talks about the ‘moron in a hurry’ test for obviousness. Seems like all the morons in a hurry work at the US Patent Office!
    I hate a legal solution, but seems to me the only thing that will stop it is to have some legal precedent of damages being awarded when someone logs a patent where known prior art is proven. You could use the same ‘obviousness’ test, i.e. how much effort would it take to realise it’s prior art!