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A small Indiana company has sued tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google, claiming that it holds the patent on a common file preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened.

Cygnus Systems sued the three companies on Wednesday saying that they infringed on its patent with products such as Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome, which allow users to view preview images of documents on the computer. Mac OS X, the iPhone and Safari also infringe, the company said in court filings. Apple uses this technology in its Finder and Cover Flow Mac OS X features, the filings state.

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Later in the article it mentions that Cygnus filed for the patent in 2001, and it was granted this past March. Seven years in computer time is a century, more than enough time for every known file manager, browser, and operating system to integrate these features in their entirety. It’s clear that the patent system is falling apart not only in the patents it grants but the time it takes to grant them. How can we make the patent system work better for the Internet?

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