The Secret Origins of Clippy: Microsoft’s Bizarre Animated Character Patents

By  |  Friday, January 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

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The Secret Origins of Clippy

Of all the peculiar ideas that Microsoft has pursued over its almost 34 years in business, I can’t think of many that are more inexplicable than its long-standing interest in using animated characters to provide help to users of its software products–an aberration best known in the form of Clippy, the “Office Assistant” paperclip who was introduced in Office 97 and only departed the scene completely when the company released Office 2008 for the Mac a year ago. It’s hard to take Clippy, Microsoft Bob, and Windows XP’s Search Assistant doggie seriously. But a dozen years’ worth of patents relating to the basic idea shows that Microsoft takes it very seriously indeed–and I’m convinced that someone, somewhere within the company is still working away at it. Herewith, some images from those patents (click on the filing dates to see the filings in their entirety at Google Patents).

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