While sending an email, you must have noticed the drop down suggestions that appear when you start typing in the email address, or even a contact’s name. This first appeared in Gmail, and later Windows Live Mail and Yahoo followed suit. It turns out that Microsoft had applied for a patent for the contact picker interface in May 2004, which they were awarded on 26th August 2008. Patent US7418663 says
An interface for enabling a user to quickly access contact information automatically displays a list of expected contacts that are most likely to be selected by the user when attention is directed to an appropriate object requiring contact information. When a contact is selected, the corresponding and appropriate contact information is automatically entered. If a user does not select a listed contact, but instead begins manually typing in the contact information then the interface performs a search and displays a list of unexpected contacts having contact information matching the typed input from the user. Various criteria can be used to identify which contacts will be presented to the user and how they will be presented.
If you’re wondering how come Microsoft was awarded this patent, then here’s an explanation
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS The present application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/324,746 filed Dec. 19, 2002 and entitled “Contact Picker” which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
I can’t remember if I had seen the contact picker interface in action before Gmail. And as far as I know, others who wish to use this ‘invention’ would legally require permission from the Patent holder. But after this patent and the recently popular Page Up Page Down Patent, would you be surprised if you find out that they patent the names of their newborns as well?