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Microsoft Seeks Patent for Resolving Conflicting Contact Info

Written by Steve Brachmann
Freelance Journalist
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Posted: April 5, 2013 @ 11:00 am
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Microsoft Corporation was a huge winner at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office this past week, as the Washington State-based computer software developer received no fewer than 65 patents from the USPTO and had another 49 patent applications published. Many of Microsoft’s more intriguing applications deal with upgrades in responsiveness to user input, including e-mail address book synchronization and a collection manager for content users follow online. Microsoft also received a patent that improves the parsing of handwritten digital text for conversion into textual characters.

Resolving Contacts in Conflict Through Suggestion
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130080521

It’s very easy for a computer user to obtain multiple e-mail addresses from which they can send and receive e-mail. These different accounts are housed in separate servers and come with a variety of features to aid digital communication, like an address book to store contacts. These features don’t sync well between accounts and can cause conflicts in certain cases, such as when an e-mail application tries to communicate with contacts from multiple addresses. If a contact is listed in two different address books, it can cause a communication error if the e-mail application simply copies the contact lists from both addresses, and managing the application by removing duplicated e-mail addresses can be time consuming.

Microsoft wants to protect a system where the e-mail application accessing multiple accounts would detect address book conflicts created by repeated contacts. The application would resolve the conflict by linking the contacts from two e-mail accounts within the e-mail application.

As Claim 1 of this patent application states, Microsoft has invented:

“A method to be executed at least in part in a computing device for resolving conflicting contact information through a suggested link, the method comprising: retrieving a contact that includes conflicting information with an existing contact from a data service; presenting at least one suggestion to link the contact that includes the conflicting information with the existing contact; and resolving the conflicting information based on a response to the suggestion from a user including one of: augmenting the existing contact with the conflicting information upon an acceptance of the suggestion, and discarding the contact that includes the conflicting information upon a rejection of the suggestion.”

Motion Controlled List Scrolling
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130080976

Microsoft is also involved in the development of user interfaces for gesture-based computer systems. These systems use a depth camera to capture an image of the computer user, typically as they stand, and send commands to the central processing unit based on user gestures. One consumer form of this gesture-based system would be Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360. When a user wants to select an item that is not displayed on the screen, the system has a difficult time recognizing that the user wants to scroll and the user must employ an additional input device, like a game controller, to complete the job.

The system developed by Microsoft and explained in this application would read the location of a user’s hand through the depth camera. If the hand was held in the correct region of the user interface for long enough, it would send a signal to scroll the screen in the direction closest to the hand. These regions are typically found along the edge of the gesture-based user interface.

Claim 1 of this Microsoft patent application seeks protections for:

“A data holding subsystem holding instructions executable by a logic subsystem to: output to a display device a user interface including a plurality of selectable items; receive from a depth camera one or more depth images of a world space scene including a human subject; identify a world space position of a hand of the human subject; responsive to the world space position of the hand of the human subject being within a first region, scroll the plurality of selectable items a first direction within the user interface; responsive to the world space position of the hand of the human subject being within a second region, scroll the plurality of selectable items a second direction, opposite the first direction, within the user interface; and responsive to the world space position of the hand of the human subject being within a neutral region, between the first region and the second region, holding the plurality of selectable items with one of the plurality of selectable items identified for selection.”

Techniques for Managing and Viewing Followed Content
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130080900

Internet browsers have many ways to follow content through a number of basic web features. A computer user can bookmark favorite websites directly through the browsing application. Social media networks allow users to “like” certain pages, increasing the chance that they’ll see status updates posted on that page. People can also subscribe to Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds that notify a person when a website has been updated.

The Microsoft system laid out in this patent application is a collection manager that stores reference information and links for followed content. The collection manager would receive a command to store information when users indicate they want to follow specific content in ways like those listed in the previous paragraph.

As Claim 1 states, Microsoft wants to protect:

“A computer-implemented method, comprising: receiving a selection to follow a content item; storing references to followed content items for a user; displaying the references in a centralized location in a user interface; displaying contextual information about each followed content item with its reference; and displaying additional information and functions for a followed content item in response to a received selection for additional information.”

Ideas Promoted to Projects and Synchronization of Status Information
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130080338

Computer systems have provided many ways to improve project management practices through management software or networks that allow remote users to contribute to a project. However, these systems don’t do a great job of starting at the idea generation stage, where managers may just have vague ideas that they want to record and develop into a full-fledged project later. Also, unless a manager goes through the time consuming process of manually updating project status, the project status given by the management software may differ from the project’s actual status.

Microsoft’s computer-implemented project management system, described within this patent application, maps information as it is entered into the project management program. This information map allows the software to track data changes automatically and update project status without manual input. This system also attempts to provide a better way for users to generate project ideas and promote those ideas to actual projects once ready.

Claim 1 of this Microsoft patent application seeks protections for

“A method comprising: using a collaborative list including a number of list items having fields of associated data types; validating that a list item has not already been promoted to a project; generating a project data set to be used to create a new project including setting up links to list item parameters used to generate the new project, analyzing mapping information for an associated list or list item, and checking a data type of each project field based in part on corresponding list item data types; and calling a project publishing method in part to create the new project.”

Grouping Writing Regions of Digital Ink
U.S. Patent No. 8407589

There are many situations where a person must interact with a computer in such a way that a handwritten response is more appropriate than a typed response. One example of this would be the signature that customers write on a credit card point-of-sale display when they’re approving a credit card transaction. Analyzing the handwritten signature into text the computer can read is possible, but requires cumbersome ASCII character conversion. Parsing methods for text analysis are also useful, but can be inaccurate in how it reads digital ink groupings.

This Microsoft patent protects a system of defining different regions of handwritten digital ink. These defined sections of digital ink can be more easily parsed by a computer system and converted into computer-readable text with much more accuracy.

Claim 1 of this Microsoft patent protects:

“A computer-implemented method for grouping two or more writing regions of digital ink comprised in an electronic medium, the method comprising: receiving a first writing region and a second writing region comprising digital ink; determining whether there is an intent to group the first writing region and the second writing region, comprising: determining that there is the intent to group the first writing region and the second writing region when a drawing that is present between the first writing region and the second writing region does not overlap a first straight line segment and a second straight line segment, where the first straight line segment connects a beginning of a last line of the first writing region to a beginning of a first line of the second writing region and the second straight line segment connects an end of the last line of the first writing region to an end of the first line of the second writing region, the first straight line segment and the second straight line segment not overlapping one another; and determining that there is not the intent to group the first writing region and the second writing region when the drawing overlaps both the first straight line segment and the second straight line segment; determining a confidence score associated with the determined intent to group the first writing region and the second writing region; and grouping the first writing region and the second writing region when the confidence score exceeds a specified threshold.”

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About the Author

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than five years. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun,,, Motley Fool and He also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.



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