In a reversal of last year’s jury verdict, a federal judge in Texas concluded that Apple did not infringe on patents owned by Mirror Worlds, a company founded by computer science professor and luminary David Gelernter. At issue were patents relating to the Spotlight, Time Machine, and Cover Flow features in the Mac OS. Originally, jurors decided that Apple had willfully infringed on Mirror Worlds patents by copying the company’s interface design, which showed a series of files as image cards. However, U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis did not agree with the jury verdict, stating yesterday that there was no infringement, and no evidence to support the jury’s damage awards of $208.5 million per patent.
For Mirror Worlds, I guess it’s easy come, easy go. But as for David Gelernter, you can’t deny the man had a breakthrough design concept at a time when most people were still thinking of directories and folders as the only possible way to organize computer files. And interestingly, although Apple was the focus of this lawsuit, it’s actually Google, in my mind, that first took the Gelernter concept (implemented by Mirror Worlds in the short-lived Scopeware Vision software) to its most useful conclusion. Google’s desktop search software isn’t visual in the way that the Mirror Worlds idea was, but it does offer chronological streams of data outside the file-folder paradigm. Today, I still use folders for my files, but I also rely heavily on desktop search, particularly where email is concerned, for a chronological look at my file archives.