Nearly 10 years have passed since he application was filed by Google on April 30, 2001. The patent lists Sergey Brin as the sole inventor and references an application filed in May, 2000. The patent actually references animated GIFs in its description, so you know the Google patent lawyers have been working on this a long time.
The filing describes the summary of the invention as:
Systems and methods consistent with the present invention address this and other needs through the use of an animated story line or a modified/customized company logo ("special event logo") displayed on a web page. The story line may change periodically (e.g., hourly, daily, or weekly) to entice users to repeatedly access the web page to view the next episode in the changing story line. The special event logo may be provided for special occasions, such as holidays and other special events. The special event logo may be selectable by a user and lead to a page of search results related to the holiday or special event.
So there you have it. Don't create special renditions of your logo for holidays or special events, or Google may be able to enforce its patent on you. The real legal question becomes, if you redesign a "special event logo" but not for the purpose of enticing visitors to "repeatedly access your Web page," are you safe?
The reaction around the web has been swift, harsh and full of sarcasm. You can find a plethora of them in the comments on SlashDot.
What are your thoughts?