Good news for Microsoft as their patent for the Metro UI, filed under "Visual motion for user interface feedback", has been approved by the USPTO. The patent was originally filed in early 2010 but finally approved on August 18th. We're still waiting on the official patent number to appear, which we're told usually takes a few days to be generated and listed--for now we have the issue date within the application itself. From the application abstract comes a very abstract description of the UI:
"Aspects of a user interface that provides visual feedback in response to user input. For example, boundary effects are presented to provide visual cues to a user to indicate that a boundary in a movable user interface element (e.g., the end of a scrollable list) has been reached. As another example, parallax effects are presented in which multiple parallel or substantially parallel layers in a multi-layer user interface move at different rates, in response to user input. As another example, simulated inertia motion of UI elements is used to provide a more natural feel for touch input. Various combinations of features are described. For example, simulated inertia motion can be used in combination with parallax effects, boundary effects, or other types of visual feedback. "
This is of course a welcomed approval as Microsoft gets to use Metro on the Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone without fear that someone can come along and just lift it. This extra protection is especially important in this case since one could argue 'Metro' is the new look and feel of Microsoft and with it being so successful for them, it stands that they would want it protected. All we know is we're glad we don't have to write up patent applications. Eghads that's boring.
Update: We did a little more digging on this based on your comments. The patent process is about as confusing as the way the some of the applications are written. The August 18, 2011 date could have meant two things, approval or publication. A delay between approval and assigning a patent number is not uncommon and it appeared as if the date was an approval date.
In discussing this with a patent agent, we have confirmed that the date is the publication date. The application has now been docketed for examination and prosecution. The USPTO will review the sixteen claims from Microsoft and basically rule whether or not Microsoft has a legitimate claim on these inventions. There is no time frame on the examination and prosecution but it is usually lengthy and solely at the discretion of the USPTO as to how fast things roll.
So, for now, Microsoft hasn't been awarded the patent on Metro UI but is one step closer on what could be a very lengthy journey.