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Xerox Unistrokes Patent Ruled Invalid
Stop dotting your i's and crossing your t's
Good news for many of you old-school Palm users out there.  The long drawn out court battle relating to Palm's infringement of Xerox's Unistrokes patent may finally be over, with end-users of the Palm OS being the big winners.

palmOne announced that summary summary judgment had been issued in its favor dismissing Xerox Corporation's claim that palmOne's former text-entry system, Graffiti, infringed a Xerox patent.  Judge Michael A. Telesca of the US District Court for the Western District of New York held that the Xerox patent was invalid.

One thing I find interesting is that palmOne, rather than PalmSource, was the one making this announcement.  One would think that after the Palm split, PalmSource would have been consider the responsible party for any patent infringements of Unistrokes.

My search for the truth (or, I need a life)
Some time ago I did some extensive web-based research.  My personal conclusion was that Jeff Hawkins (the father of the first Palm OS PDA) and/or one of his team quite likely derived the Graffiti input method from Xerox's Unistrokes concept.  I came to this conclusion based on a variety of findings including the earliest online references to each technology and the fact that early press releases indicated that Hawkins was seeking a patent on Graffiti yet no such patent request was ever filed.

During this research, I also found an excellent usability study that verified that the differences between the two input methods was not merely for show.  Each had certain strengths and weaknesses, with Graffiti having a shorter learning curve due to its character set which more closely resembled the Roman alphabet.  Unistrokes' abstract alphabet featured characters which were more distinct, thus offering the potential for greater accuracy and speed.  However, this also meant that the learning curve for Unistrokes was much higher.  In my opinion, Hawkins' modifications to the Unistrokes concept were well thought out and resulted in a much more viable input system for the average user.

Graffiti 2: New Coke for geeks
When things were going Xerox's way in the court battle, Palm made modifications to the Graffiti alphabet to get around the "single stroke" wording of Xerox's patent.  The result was Graffiti 2, an "improvement to the Graffiti input method which had nothing to do with the Xerox patent," to summarize the Palm marketing team.  Fans of the original Graffiti method, on the other hand, pretty much agreed that "it sucked" and it wasn't long before some creative users discovered a way of essentially "beaming over" the old Graffiti libraries to newer, crippled-by-Graffiti 2 Palm OS PDAs.

So now the big question: Will PalmSource and/or its licensees provide users with that Classic Graffiti that so many of us desire?  Come on Tapwave, show us some love.

Update (5/24/2004):
Well, it ain't over till it's over.  Even though Judge Telesca is the same judge who earlier found palmOne guilty of infringing the patent and now is ruling Xerox's patent invalid, Xerox can still appeal.

In a statement, Xerox said it was disappointed by the ruling, calling it "another round in the process".

"The District Court previously found that Palm's products with the Graffiti handwriting recognition system infringed Xerox's patent rights. Xerox has won two prior appeals of other pre-trial rulings in this litigation and anticipates a favourable outcome in yet another appeal," Xerox said.
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