Online search supremo Google has patented the "highlight all" button for browser-based searches, a popular utility that you can find in many software packages, including Windows.
The patent means that if the button is in a toolbar Google owns the rights to the "highlight all" function and broswer makers will have to pay a licence fee.
Google's latest patent is number 7,853,586, which has the catchy title "Highlighting occurrences of terms in documents or search results". Google claims to have invented it in December 15, 1999.
According to the claim, Google says its patent covers the use of memory to store instructions and a processor to execute the instructions in the memory to provide a tool bar within a browser application window.
The tool bar has to include a button, for activating a highlighting operation, and an input box, present a document within the web browser application window, It then receives a search term within the input box of the tool bar after presenting the document within the web browser application window. Then uses the button to activate the highlighting after receiving the search term within the input box, change, without user intervention and in response to receiving the selection of the button.
While it appears specific, it does take Google's patent beyond the toolbar. Take for example Windows Explorer and Windows 7 which use a special purpose Web Browser to search for content on a hard-drive.
It is possible for Google to ask Microsoft for huge amounts of cash for using this technique in its operating system.
Google is not big on suing companies for trademark infringement but we guess that having a patent like this is a good weapon if it is ever sued by Microsoft or Mozilla for nicking their ideas.