Blind Bargains

Freedom Scientific Holds Patents for Form Labels, Listviews, Excel Custom Summaries, and More

The much-discussed placemarker patent isn't the only such claim filed by Freedom Scientific. Several other patents which relate to the operation of JAWS and MAGic have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Do you think these patents are justified? Post your reactions in the comments. Here's a summary of a few such patents.

Screen Reader List View Presentation Method. New in Jaws 6.0, this feature allows the user to customize the speech or braille output for listview columns and headings. The patent was filed more than 8 months after the release of Jaws 6.

Custom Summary Views for Screen Reader. This feature, introduced in Jaws 7, allows for easier retrieval of information in Microsoft Excel. This patent also includes mention of "multiple region support", a method for defining regions in an Excel spreadsheet.

Custom Labeler for Screen Readers. Also new for Jaws version 6, this feature allows the user to give custom labels to form fields, images, and other elements in webpages or Microsoft Word documents.

Graphic User Interface Control Object Stylization. This feature, found in MAGic, allows users to modify the visual presentation of controls such as checkboxes and radio buttons.

13 patents are listed in total by the Google Patents search engine.

View a complete list of Freedom Scientific patent filings from Google Patents.

Category: Software
Displaying 6 comments.
darknexus Wednesday, 09-Jun-2010 5:07 PM ET:

Wow, the more I hear about fs's practices the more I'm glad I've never once even considered giving them any of my money (and no, I'm not talking about pirating either, I don't use jaws at all). This idiocy never ends, and it's funny how the more they litigate the less quality their products actually seem to have. I've installed demo versions of each new version of jaws briefly (I like to be familiar with all screen readers) and imho jaws is certainly nothing to brag about. Still, I hope they keep trying this crap and keep getting smacked around, it'll only bring them down. Now, I'm about to say something that'll make me very unpopular, but here goes anyway as it's the truth as I see it. To all users of fs products (both legal and otherwise) *you* are as much a part of the problem as fs itself. They'd be nowhere without their users. I don't care if you bought it, you pirated it, or if it was purchased for you. If you use an fs product, you support this situation whether you believe you do or not. It is your support that allows them to continue trying to put every other screen reader down. Of course, they'll probably mod this comment to oblivion, but it has to be said.

MGD4Ever Wednesday, 09-Jun-2010 5:37 PM ET:

Darknexus, I'm not trying to start a debate here, but I do feel you are over simplifying the situation concerning users of FS products. while I completely agree with you that FS's actions have been contemptable over the past few years, it wasn't always that way with JAWS. 15 years ago when I started using JAWS, it was a pretty innovative product. In fact, the reason why I started using JAWS was because my employer's computers all ran Windows 95. I had been a very happy vocal-eyes user for several years in the Dos environment, but Window-eyes did not support Windows 95 at the time, nor did any other Windows screen reader except for JAWS. The reason why I still use JAWS is because, despite my disgust with FS's litigious nonsense, JAWS still works better than any other screen reader with the proprietary database my employer uses. something tells me that, if you were in my same situation, you'd put aside your moral high ground in favor of continuing to be able to put food on your table.

darknexus Wednesday, 09-Jun-2010 6:20 PM ET:

Well, fifteen years ago it wasn't fs. It was Henter-Joyce and, while they engaged in propaganda, they didn't actively try to kill everyone else's product. Also, the "oh it works better" line is often trumpeted, but in reality why is this? Because scripts were designed. The other screen readers can be scripted as well, and yes this is what I would do if I needed to rather than use an fs product and help to perpetuate this situation. I try to cut things down to their most basic level and, in the end, it is the users who allow this situation to continue regardless of how each individual user views the situation. Users bring scripters, scripters bring more users, more users bring money, money pays the lawyers, repeat cycle. In the end, this won't change until the users motivate them to do so. Money is all they understand, so that's how the message must be sent and yet so far most people aren't willing to stand up and do it. You do realize, should fs succeed, they could kill off not just every Windows screen reader, but every screen reader on every other platform as well? What good will your job do you then if you lose it and can't get another as a result? Of course, the real solution to completely fix this is to get rid of software patents altogether and block this nonsense completely, but in absence of common sense, people need to stand up before this goes too far. Sure, fs have been unsuccessful as of now, but that's no guarantee of the future. This is dangerous territory.

MGD4Ever Wednesday, 09-Jun-2010 7:35 PM ET:

This is a very interesting discussion. window'eyes didn't contain scripting functionality until a couple years ago, and I have held this job for far longer than that. I wrote the JAWS scripts myself. Let's put your comments into a real-life context. You have a job to do every day. You are using a screen reader that, through the scripts you wrote yourself, allows you to perform your job at the same speed and level of productivity as your sighted counterparts. finally, another screen reader introduces scripting functionality which, in theory, means that you could now use it instead of JAWS to do your job. but wait, the other screen reader works completely differently from what you're used to and, once you get used to the way it works, you still need to learn how to write a whole new set of scripts in that screen reader to access the proprietary programs you need to do your job. Now, all of this is going on while you still have a job to do each day. do you honestly think you could go to your employer and say, "Well, my productivity is going to suffer while I learn to use a new screen reader and write new scripts so I can use our database program. I'm sorry to say, but that's not the way the real world works. Again, I completely understand and agree with what you're saying about FS. I can't stand their obvious agenda to kill off all competition in the assistive technology arena, but at the end of the day, I've got a job to do and JAWS enables me to do that job, and whether you or I like it or not, doing that job well has to trump any other ethical issues I may have with FS.

darknexus Wednesday, 09-Jun-2010 8:33 PM ET:

Perhaps my perspective is biased, as I could never get into jaws. The bugs annoyed me more than the so-called enhancements scripts created. I wasn't trying to say that you should care about this as your number one priority, but you do have to accept that by willingly using their products you are giving tacit support to their agenda at least from a monetary point of view. You are, like it or not, enabling them to continue with their agenda and thus are giving support to it. That was the point I was making. Obviously, what issue is more important for each will differ, that's why we're all individuals and not clones :). Personally, I like to look to the long term rather than the short term, and fs have very bad long term implications should they ever get support for their idiocy. Fortunately, so far, it seems as though our government is actually exercising logic for once and denying them, but that might not happen forever. Of course, as I said above, the real way to render this entire debate moot is to kill the problem at its source: software patents. That way, fs would have no legal ground to stand on and no one would have to give support (tacit or otherwise) to things like this.

Sun Sounds of Arizona Thursday, 10-Jun-2010 4:11 PM ET:

Two points: First, some of us do not have a choice on whether we use JAWS or not. Our IT providers are often on contract and we as employees must use what is provided. Second, I as a JAWS user am a bit tired of being blamed for the excesses of FS. That is like blaming the rape victim for the rape. Is FS a predetory company? Yes. Is it's screen reading product way over priced as in gouging? Yes. But, I say I as the user am just as much a victim as those companies FS is suing. For personal use, I choose System Access, but at the office, I am forced to use JAWS.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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