Could Marvel Take Away ComiXology’s Guided View?

comixologyComiXology has grown as the principal distributor of digital monthly comic books, is regularly the highest revenue App in the App Store, and at San Diego Comic Con had its name blazoned across sixty pedicabs. And it made a nice change to see comic books featured there for a change.

But there is a threat on the horizon. As its Wikipedia entry explains;

comiXology’s patent-pending Guided View technology allows readers to read through comics in full screen or from panel-to-panel, mimicking the natural movement of the eye as though readers were experiencing reading a print comic book.

Because, as patents go, it is not alone. It has a rival. And it comes from Marvel.

Filed in September 25th 2006, the year before ComiXology existed, the patent was finally  issued on October 30th 2012, with the inventor named as Peter Olson, assigned to Disney Inc. The patent is for a digital program designed for;

displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes in a specified order and to access dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order

There’s a lot more, and I include the full patent at the end. But this is what ComiXology readers know as Guided View. ComiXology has sold most of their digital comics service on this ability, to zoom in on panels from a full printed page, so they can be read easily on digital devices, the next click leading to the next zoomed-in panel in a smooth action. For many it’s the reason they switched from illegal to paid digital download comics, though some have problems with the whole idea.

Olson also filed patents, one in 2008 for similar “Methods, Systems, and Computer Program Products for Navigating a Sequence of Illustrative Scenes within a Digital Production” and in 2012 for “Methods, systems, and computer program products for navigating content”

So who is Olson? Well he works for Marvel Unlimited, the digital comics wing, with the title VP Web and Application Development. His twitter account has almost 800 followers, though that may be about to change and his bio states “I kinda invented digital comics”

It looks like he might indeed have done that.

So what happens next? Well, the patent can be challenged. It is rather broad, it is possible that ComiXology could argue that a chunk of it belongs to them, though that might take years. They may find themselves subject to very large fees, which could be challenged, though that may also take years.

Or they could sell to Marvel – with all the problems with other publishers that would bring. Or maybe they could find themselves shut out of the market with a new Marvel alternative. They could call it Heroes World. Or they could find a different way of viewing digital comics on tablets and phones.

Either way, it could be good times for the lawyers.

Marvel Digital have been increasing staff of late, with prominent members including Julia Druk, Ron Perazza,  Paul Degnan, Matt Vandrick, Kat Sherman, Kristen Vincent, Jeff Lin, Lori L and Ellen Butters… they are certainly ramping up for something.

Marvel gave us a very sold “No Comment”. ComiXology people didn’t even return e-mails. (UPDATE: ComiXology have now contacted us. With a “No Comment”.)

Welcome to the future folks. Here’s that 2006 filed patent, now issued for Disney;

1. A computerized method for automatically navigating a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production distributed from a content server to one or more clients over a communications network or accessible from a storage medium coupled to one of the one or more clients, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes, the method comprising: accessing a navigation control program distributed from a remote source to a first client of the one or more clients, the navigation control program being operable to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrative scenes;launching the navigation control program at the first client to access instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes in a specified order and to access dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein the dimension data are specified by a user of a content preparation system and the specified order is specified by the content preparation system; receiving a user request to select either a first viewing mode or a second viewing mode; in response to the user request to select the first viewing mode, displaying a first page of the digital production so that the first page is visible in its entirety on a display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in response to the user request to select the second viewing mode, displaying each of the sequence of illustrative scenes with visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein dimensions of each displayed illustrative scene are independent of dimensions of each of the panels within the digital production.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprises identifying a first panel that includes a plurality of characters engaging in a plurality of activities, the dimension data defining a first illustrative scene to display a first subset of the activities from the first panel, and the dimension data defining a second illustrative scene to display a second subset of the activities from the first panel.3. The method of claim 1, further comprises identifying a first panel that includes a plurality of balloons comprising words or thoughts of one or more characters, the dimension data defining a first illustrative scene to display a first subset of the balloons from the first panel, and the dimension data defining a second illustrative scene to display a second subset of the balloons from the first panel.4. The method of claim 1 wherein the digital production comprises a digitized comic book.5. The method of claim 1 including, in response to the user request to select the second viewing mode, displaying each of the sequence of illustrative scenes in an enlarged state compared to an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.6. A system for automatically navigating a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production. the system comprising: a digital content server storing the digital production, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes; a client computing device; a display screen coupled to the client computing device; and a communications network; wherein the client computing device is operable to launch a navigation control program distributed from the digital content server over the communications network, the navigation control program being operable to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrative scenes and operable to perform operations including: accessing instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes on the display screen in a specified order and to access dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene on the display screen with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein the dimension data are specified by a user of a content preparation system and the specified order is specified by the content preparation system; in response to a user request to select a first viewing mode, displaying a first page of the digital production on the display screen so that the first page is visible in its entirety on the display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in response to a user request to select a second viewing mode, displaying each of the sequence of illustrative scenes on the display screen with visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein dimensions of each displayed illustrative scene are independent of dimensions of each of the panels within the digital production.7. The system of claim 6 wherein the digital production comprises a digitized comic book.

8. The system of claim 6 wherein the navigation control program further is operable, in response to the user request to select the second viewing mode, to display on the display screen each of the sequence of illustrative scenes in an enlarged state compared to an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

9. A system for automatically navigating a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production, the system comprising: a client computing device; a storage medium coupled to the client computing device and storing the digital production, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes; and a display screen coupled to the client computing device, wherein the client computing device is operable to launch a navigation control program that is operable to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrative scenes and operable to perform operations including: accessing instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes on the display screen in a specified order and to access dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene on the display screen with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein the dimension data are specified by a user of a content preparation system and the specified order is specified by the content preparation system; in response to a user request to select a first viewing mode, displaying a first page of the digital production on the display screen so that the first page is visible in its entirety on the display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in response to a user request to select a second viewing mode, displaying each of the sequence of illustrative scenes on the display screen with visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order, wherein dimensions of each displayed illustrative scene are independent of dimensions of each of the panels within the digital production.

10. The system of claim 9 wherein the digital production comprises a digitized comic book.

11. The system of claim 9 wherein the navigation control program further is operable, in response to the user request to select the second viewing mode, to display on the display screen each of the sequence of illustrative scenes in an enlarged state compared to an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

And the followups, filed in 2006 and 2008. Go to town folks…1. A computerized method for preparing illustrated content for navigation, the method comprising: receiving an image of a page of the content, wherein the image comprises a plurality of areas within the page; specifying dimensions for a first area within the page; specifying an order for viewing the first area with respect to one or more other areas within the page; and correlating the specified dimensions and the specified order with instructions for rendering an enhanced view of the first area such that the enhanced area view is visually distinguished from the one or more areas on the page.

2. The method of claim 1, comprising saving the specified dimensions, the specified order, and the instructions for rendering an enhanced view.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein saving comprises saving in a PHP file.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the instructions for rendering include instructions for enlarging the view of a specified area within a page.

5. The method of claim 1, comprising specifying dimensions for a second area within the page.

6. The method of claim 5, comprising specifying an order for viewing the second area with respect to one or more other areas within the page.

7. The method of claim 6, comprising correlating the specified dimensions for a second area and the specified order for viewing the second area with instructions for rendering an enhanced view of the area such that the enhanced area is visually distinguished from other areas on the page.

8. The method of claim 7, comprising receiving an image of a second page from the comic, wherein the image comprises a plurality of areas within the second page.

9. The method of claim 8, comprising specifying dimensions for an area within the second page.

10. The method of claim 8, comprising specifying an order for viewing the area with respect to other areas within the second page.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein the illustrated content comprises a digitized comic book.

12. A computerized method for presenting on a display screen content arranged in a plurality of pages each having a sequence of panels, the method comprising: allowing a user to select between a first viewing mode and second viewing mode; in the first viewing mode, displaying a first page of content so that it is visible in its entirety on a display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in the second viewing mode, displaying one or more of the panels on the first page in a manner visually different than one or more other panels on the first page.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein displaying the one or more panels in a enhanced manner comprises displaying the one or more panels in an enlarged view relative to the panels on the first page.

14. The method of claim 12, comprising, in the second viewing mode, allowing a user to navigate from one group of panels to another in the first page according to the sequence on the first page by sequentially displaying each group in the visually different manner.

15. A computerized method for presenting a page of content arranged in a sequence of panels of arbitrary size and shape, the method comprising: retrieving presentation data identifying dimension data for groups of one or more panels in the page of content and a specified order for the groups; upon receipt of a user request, displaying the page of content with a visual focus on a first of the groups of panels that makes the first group more readily perceived than the other groups, the first group being identified by the dimension data; and displaying a next group of panels according to the specified order following the first group with the visual focus that makes the next group more readily perceived than the other groups including the first group, the next group being identified by the dimension data.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the page of content comprises a digitized comic book page.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein displaying the page comprises displaying the first group in an enlarged state compared to the other group or groups in the page.

18. The method of claim 15, comprising displaying a navigational indicator in association with the first group to indicate that the user may navigate to the next group of one or more panels on the first page or on another page.

19. The method of claim 18, comprising displaying a second navigational indicator in association with the first or next group indicating that the user may navigate to a prior group of one or more panels on the first page or another page.

1. A computerized method for automatically navigating a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production distributed from a content server to one or more clients over a communications network or accessible from a storage medium coupled to one of the one or more clients, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes, the method comprising: accessing a navigation control program distributed from a remote source to a first client of the one or more clients, the navigation control program being operable to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrative scenes; and launching the navigation control program at the first client to access instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes in a specified order and to access dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: displaying a first illustrative scene with visual enhancement that makes the first illustrative scene more readily perceived than adjacent illustrative scenes within the specified order; detecting a request to view another illustrative scene in a forward order or a reverse order within the sequence; and displaying a second illustrative scene preceding or succeeding the first illustrative scene in the specified order in response to the request for another illustrative scene with the second illustrative scene having visual enhancement that makes the second illustrative scene more readily perceived than adjacent illustrative scenes within the specified order.

3. The method of claim 1, further comprising: identifying a first panel that includes a plurality of characters engaging in a plurality of activities, the dimension data defining a first illustrative scene to display a first subset of the activities from the first panel, and the dimension data defining a second illustrative scene to display a second subset of the activities from the first panel.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising: identifying a first panel that includes a plurality of balloons comprising words or thoughts of one or more characters, the dimension data defining a first illustrative scene to display a first subset of the balloons from the first panel, and the dimension data defining a second illustrative scene to display a second subset of the balloons from the first panel.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the digital production includes at least one of a digitized comic book, a graphic novel, a comic album, or a comic strip.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the one or more clients include at least one of a cell phone, a personal computer, a personal digital assistant, a portable media player, or a smart phone.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the communications network includes at least one of a wired network, a wireless network, or the Internet.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the digital production is formatted to conform to at least one of a PHP protocol, an XML protocol, an HTML protocol, an HDML protocol, or an HTTP protocol.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein accessing a navigation control program comprises: accessing the navigation control program from a storage medium coupled to the client.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein accessing a navigation control program comprises: accessing the navigation control program from the content server as the remote source or from a third-party server as the remote source.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein accessing a navigation control program comprises: downloading the display program as an applet at the client or as a plug-in to a browser application operating at the client.

12. The method of claim 1, further comprising: providing access to audio, video, or multimedia content associated with a displayed illustrative scene during display thereof.

13. The method of claim 1, further comprising: enlarging a view of a displayed illustrative scene to make the displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived during display thereof.

14. The method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving a user request to select amongst a first viewing mode and a second viewing mode; in the first viewing mode, displaying a first page of the digital production so that the first page is visible in its entirety on a display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in the second viewing mode, displaying each of the sequence of illustrative scenes with visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

15. The method of claim 1, further comprising: detecting a request to view an illustrative scene without user interaction but from an application program communicatively coupled to the navigation control program.

16. A computerized method for enabling a content server to automatically navigate a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production distributed to a remote client over a communications network, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes, the method comprising: receiving, from the remote client, a request to view the digital production; distributing, to the remote client, a navigation control program to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrated scenes when the navigation control program is undetected at the remote client; and sending a display object that includes instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes in a specified order at the remote client, and dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene at the remote client with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

17. The method of claim 16, further comprising: sending, to the remote client, instructions for enabling display of a first illustrative scene with visual enhancement that makes the first illustrative scene more readily perceived than adjacent illustrative scenes within the specified order; receiving, at the content server, a request to view another illustrative scene in a forward order or a reverse order within the sequence; and sending, to the remote client, instructions for enabling display of a second illustrative scene preceding or succeeding the first illustrative scene in the specified order in response to the request for another illustrative scene with the second illustrative scene having visual enhancement that makes the second illustrative scene more readily perceived than adjacent illustrative scenes within the specified order.

18. The method of claim 16, further comprising: providing instructions for enabling display of at least one illustrative scene with embedded links to audio, video, or multimedia content.

19. The method of claim 16, further comprising: accessing a user request to select amongst a first viewing mode and a second viewing mode; in the first viewing mode, sending, to the remote client, instructions for enabling display of a first page of the digital production so that the first page is visible in its entirety on a display screen without visually distinguishing panels on the first page from one another; and in the second viewing mode, sending, to the remote client, instructions for enabling display of each of the sequence of illustrative scenes with visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

20. A computer program product comprising a computer useable medium having computer readable program code functions embedded in the medium for causing a computer to enable a content server to automatically navigate a sequence of illustrative scenes within a digital production distributed to a remote client over a communications network, wherein the digital production includes a plurality of panels with at least one panel displaying two or more of the illustrative scenes, the computer program product comprising: a first computer readable program code function that causes the computer to receive, from the remote client, a request to view the digital production; a second computer readable program code function that causes the computer to distribute, to the remote client, a navigation control program to automate selection and display of the sequence of illustrated scenes when the navigation control program is undetected at the remote client; and a third computer readable program code function that causes the computer to send a display object that includes instructions for displaying the sequence of illustrative scenes in a specified order at the remote client, and dimension data and scale parameters that are processed to automatically display each illustrative scene at the remote client with a visual enhancement that makes each displayed illustrative scene more readily perceived than an adjacent illustrative scene within the specified order.

 

 

 

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