Corporate

Adobe Invents: Distinguished Inventors Share Their Stories

July 22, 2015

At Adobe, we value all ideas that come from everywhere in the company. In the first half of this year, Adobe has had over 157 patents issued in the U.S. alone, with 39 employees receiving their first patent. Oftentimes, these ideas can be patented, and sometimes, employees patent multiple ideas: for the special few who have achieved 10 or more patents at Adobe, they earn recognition as a “Distinguished Inventor.” Nine employees have acquired this distinction in the past two quarters—over 70 employees hold this honor at Adobe. Meet a few employees who achieved Distinguished Inventor status in the first half of fiscal year 2015, and learn about the innovations they’ve contributed to Adobe.

Liang-Cheng Lin, Sr. Experience Design Manager, Product Design, San Jose

What do you currently work on at Adobe?

I am currently working on Acrobat for Document Cloud (or “Acrobat DC”). I am one of the design managers leading a team of XD designers responsible for all the experience design supports across desktop, web, and mobile for Adobe Document Cloud.

What technology have you patented?

Since I have been an experience designer and manager at Adobe for years, all the issued patents are user interface-related. A lot of them can be seen in Acrobat X, Acrobat XI, and the most recent release, Acrobat DC.

One of the patents is a context-adaptive floating toolbar, in the optimized document reading mode within Acrobat, for users to navigate pages and control page view and zoom level. The controls (icons) on this toolbar are contextual-sensitive based on the UI environment the users are presented. When the application detects users do not use the mouse, the toolbar will fade out so users have the full portion of the display screen to consume the document without distraction. There are a few individual design patents  I got that are associated with this design rationale.

This example might not sound like a compelling enough idea. But interestingly, in some cases, I learned the design patents issued might not represent the fanciest or most creative ideas we explored. It’s always the uniqueness and the origination of the idea that will make its way to an issued application. For those who plan to pursue filing patents, don’t be shy to show off your ideas!

How do you see your contributions adding value to Adobe?

In my case, as a professional experience design practitioner, all my issued patents, so far, are design patents instead of utility patents. I have been striving to define the minimalist and intuitive design solutions that help our end users achieve their task goals efficiently and effectively. However, not every great idea can make its way toward implementation. Often, there are hard trade-off decisions to be made. I would say the mission for any designer will be to persistently pursue and refine great ideas, and regularly consult with patent attorneys to review these great ideas and whenever applicable, file the patent applications for these great ideas to protect Adobe’s intellectual properties for any future use. Who knows? Some of these great ideas might be applied  in future Adobe products.

In a word, I feel my contribution reflects my aspiration and mission as an XD design practitioner, to continue exploring creative ideas that provide delightful user experiences via Adobe products.

Joe Steele, Sr. Computer Scientist, Software Development, Runtime Engineering, San Jose

What do you currently work on at Adobe?

I work on the Adobe Primetime product in Digital Rights Management engineering (previously known as Adobe Access). I am currently working on adding support for commercial video in HTML5 browsers using the proposed Media Source Extensions and Encrypted Media Extensions.

What technology have you patented?

I have patented various techniques relating to application security. Some are related to cryptographic protocols (for example using image data to generate public/private key pairs), some are related to signing and/or encryption of documents and data (for example converting TLS session data into a digital signature), some are related to user interfaces used for data security (for example, allowing the user to select a security policy to apply without knowing the cryptographic specifics).

How do you see your contributions adding value to Adobe?

Patents are great for defending ourselves in patent disputes. They also provide a greater level of credibility in discussions with outside companies or standards organizations. Some of these patents are in use in current products (e.g., Acrobat, Reader, Primetime), some are simply ideas that we developed but never productized.

Sven Duwenhorst, Sr. Computer Scientist, DVA Engineering, Hamburg

What do you currently work on at Adobe?

I am proud to work in the audio team in the Digital Video and Audio (DVA) group taking care of the ‘a’ in it with some audio fellows. We primarily add new features to Audition, but also consult and help out to shape audio-related features in Premiere for example. Personally, I find this type of cross-product development very exciting.

What technology have you patented?

I am inventor and co-inventor of various audio-related patents. There are a few dealing with rearranging a music score to a desired length in time and UI-related interaction. Another one describes a method to simplify audio mixing for dialog sound. The close cooperation with research has also resulted in a patent around color search in images whilst working in our Core Technology team.

How do you see your contributions adding value to Adobe?

Patents are an excellent way to track innovations I have done independently of the product work. For the company, they are important to protect intellectual property, but foremost, they help in patent lawsuits, so ultimately patents can save Adobe a lot of money.

Yohko Kelley, Sr. Experience Designer, Lead, Experience Design, Customer Engagements, Washington

What do you currently work on at Adobe?

Our team often straddles several projects at a time. I am currently working in the areas of Digital Publishing and team collaboration.

What technology have you patented?

Most of my patents describe a new user interaction model, or new ways to interact with elements on the screen.

How do you see your contributions adding value to Adobe?

Great user experiences allow people to connect emotionally with the tools they use. It’s great to see Adobe place great value in user experience (UX)!

Remon Tijssen, Principal Designer, San Francisco

What do you currently work on at Adobe?

Currently, I spend my time heading up the Experience Design (XD) Studio as a principal designer and creative director focusing on identifying untapped potential and the future direction of user experience adjacent to Adobe’s business. We do this by rapidly iterating through hypothesis, design, prototyping, and validation.

The XD Studio is the team behind Context, and have seeded and designed many of the Creative Cloud mobile ecosystem applications. The main new areas we’re currently focusing on are image search, collaborative sessions, motion graphics creation, and augmented reality.

What technology have you patented?

Eight of them are utility patents issued by the U.S. patent office, three are design patents. Most of the patented work are about innovative user interfaces. It’s a pretty broad variety of inventions. To call out a few in specific, there is one on rapidly creating high fidelity layouts using multiple fingers.

Simultaneous controls for multi-touch gesturing is another one which you see applied in Adobe’s first mobile creation app, Adobe Ideas (now called Illustrator Draw). Others are on creating animation using physics, using a mobile device for larger screen application input, and a method for using social and location data to share assets.

How do you see your contributions adding value to Adobe?

When I started at Adobe in 2008, one of the areas I focused a lot on was touch and multi-touch. Design and prototyping, as it still is, was the way to conceive and explore ways to take advantage of an emerging input method. Because we thought, fundamentally, of how you could take advantage of two hands and multiple fingers, we got to a solid foundation on how we think we should design for touch. For instance, there was this notion of having a “creation” hand, and a “controls” hand. This led to positioning most of the controls on the sides of touch devices. Making something useful, more intuitive, and having high quality results is always the goal, and there are many factors that lead you to the end goal. Sometimes, inventing something new is an integral part of it.