Ethics of using MS icons

12 Nov 2005 - 7:42am
9 years ago
4 replies
570 reads
jbellis
2005

Perhaps this is too off-topic, but let's see.

We all know that the icons for open (folder), save (diskette), and print are widely duplicated from either MS Office or Windows, in innumerable systems. Files such as C:\WINDOWS\system32\SHELL32.dll show typical Windows icons when you set the properties of a file and click Change Icon.

My question is, "Is it improper to copy and use any of Windows/Office's icons in what are essentially the generic aspects of non-competing products?" (I'm not talking about going through MS project and copying 50% of its icons to a competing system.)

I'm not a lawyer but I dated one, and I've read a fair amount from the gov site and brochures. (Stop laughing.) The spirit of intellectual property law is protecting the other party's ability to make an income; the letter of the law (in this case, copyright... not trademark law or patent law) is that one must not use another's time-money-labor as one's own. Not too complicated.

I am one of those Windows-philes (windowphiles) who constantly recommends, even in web apps, that one mimic the artifacts of the ubiquitous environment (Windows/Office) to capitalize on the users' mental model, yada, yada, yada.

Do I cost MS income potential or lost fruits of labor if I use their identical pixels for my Attach icon (paperclip) as seen in Outlook? I argue, and I don't think it's a self-serving rationalization, that 1) I don't; 2) I strengthen—not weaken—their franchise; and 3) they've left me with no engineeringly responsible choice, having strongarmed their way into being the world's first truly global utility? (Consider this: If they get their hands on our car dashboards or nuclear plant consoles and I make an add-on product that doesn't match the model... ..?)

Am I...
-LazyCheatingRationalizer or
-Gottapoint?
Thanks,

Comments

12 Nov 2005 - 9:23am
penguinstorm
2005

On Nov-12-2005, at 5:42 AM, jack wrote:

> My question is, "Is it improper to copy and use any of Windows/
> Office's icons in what are essentially the generic aspects of non-
> competing products?" (I'm not talking about going through MS
> project and copying 50% of its icons to a competing system.)

Not really, in many ways.

> I'm not a lawyer but I dated one,

You poor man. I feel your pain.

> I am one of those Windows-philes (windowphiles) who constantly
> recommends, even in web apps, that one mimic the artifacts of the
> ubiquitous environment (Windows/Office) to capitalize on the users'
> mental model, yada, yada, yada.

Microsoft can't protect a trademaker/patent/copyright on items that
they have let be copied so often that they've become ubiquitous. If
they've persistently failed to pursue action, they've failed to
protect their rights.

An analogy of the conversion to common nouns or verbs of product
names: Kleenex and Xerox stand as examples. I recall reading a story
recently that suggested Google was trying hard to keep "google" out
of the dictionary, in order to avoid this fate. The same principal
applies.
--
Scott Nelson
skot at penguinstorm.com
http://www.penguinstorm.com/

skype. skot.nelson

12 Nov 2005 - 8:15am
Robin Jeffries
2005

I am definitely not a lawyer, but there are situations where Microsoft
encourages you to use their standard icons. If you build your app using
Visual Studio (and maybe other tools providied by Microsoft), the icons are
available to you, and these is a specific license for using them. (Or there
was 5-6 years ago when I looked into this)

I also know that Microsoft hasn't sued competing products for using very
close copies. I don't know what to infer from that -- whether it's not worth
their time or whether they are strongly encouraging icon consistency across
Windows for the reasons you describe.

On the other hand, I also know of at least one case, where a (not that
close, in my opinion) icon was used by a competing product to mean something
different than Microsoft uses it for, and they sent a cease and desist
order.

Robin

On 11/12/05, jack <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Perhaps this is too off-topic, but let's see.
>
> We all know that the icons for open (folder), save (diskette), and print
> are widely duplicated from either MS Office or Windows, in innumerable
> systems. Files such as C:\WINDOWS\system32\SHELL32.dll show typical Windows
> icons when you set the properties of a file and click Change Icon.
>
> My question is, "Is it improper to copy and use any of Windows/Office's
> icons in what are essentially the generic aspects of non-competing
> products?" (I'm not talking about going through MS project and copying 50%
> of its icons to a competing system.)
>
> I'm not a lawyer but I dated one, and I've read a fair amount from the gov
> site and brochures. (Stop laughing.) The spirit of intellectual property law
> is protecting the other party's ability to make an income; the letter of the
> law (in this case, copyright... not trademark law or patent law) is that one
> must not use another's time-money-labor as one's own. Not too complicated.
>
> I am one of those Windows-philes (windowphiles) who constantly recommends,
> even in web apps, that one mimic the artifacts of the ubiquitous environment
> (Windows/Office) to capitalize on the users' mental model, yada, yada, yada.
>
> Do I cost MS income potential or lost fruits of labor if I use their
> identical pixels for my Attach icon (paperclip) as seen in Outlook? I argue,
> and I don't think it's a self-serving rationalization, that 1) I don't; 2) I
> strengthen—not weaken—their franchise; and 3) they've left me with no
> engineeringly responsible choice, having strongarmed their way into being
> the world's first truly global utility? (Consider this: If they get their
> hands on our car dashboards or nuclear plant consoles and I make an add-on
> product that doesn't match the model... ..?)
>
> Am I...
> -LazyCheatingRationalizer or
> -Gottapoint?
> Thanks,
> ________________________________________________________________
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>

12 Nov 2005 - 11:26am
david gee
2004

jack wrote:
> My question is, "Is it improper to copy and use any of Windows/Office's icons in what are essentially the generic aspects of non-competing products?" (I'm not talking about going through MS project and copying 50% of its icons to a competing system.)
>
If you are using XP-style icons, these were originally developed by Icon
Factory, from what I remember. However, there is an easily purchasable
and very large set of icons released by Icon Experience (
www.iconexperience.com ) that matches the XP-style very closely, and has
even been used by Microsoft in some of it's more recent offerings (their
anti-spyware app being one example).

david gee

--
david gee ::: david at mode3.com ::: http://www.mode3.com/david

12 Nov 2005 - 1:33pm
penguinstorm
2005

On Nov-12-2005, at 9:26 AM, David Gee wrote:

> icons, these were originally developed by Icon
> Factory, from what I remember.

Can't recommend Icon Factory highly enough. Great selection, and way
to give your app some style.
--
Scott Nelson
skot at penguinstorm.com
http://www.penguinstorm.com/

skype. skot.nelson

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