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First U.S.A. Patent for Ethiopic Granted

April 5, 2016

Ethiopian Computers & Software of Colorado announced that it was granted a U.S.A. patent number 9,000,957 on April 7, 2015. The patent the CEO of the company, Dr. Aberra Molla, received involves the typing of the Ethiopic characters with one and two keystrokes each in computers. The patented novel Ethiopic character entry method known as ABSHA system is for typing the default characters with one keystroke and the rest with two keystrokes each. It is virtually similar to typing the English alphabet in computers and some other devices (http://patents.com/us-9000957.html). The invention by the Ethiopian-American scientist is also significant in that the patent application 20090179778 of July 16, 2009, (http://www.google.com/patents/US20090179778) was cited by six new U.S.A. patents for English and other uses by the time it was granted in 2015.

Notice to grant an Ethiopian patent for the invention entitled “Ethiopic Character Entry” application patent ET/P/2009/111 was also sent to Dr. Aberra Molla on September 9, 2015. 

Ethiopic or Geez is one of the oldest alphabets in the world and has been in use in Ethiopia for millennia. The phonetic alphabet was written manually until the printing press made it to Ethiopia around 1911. With the advent of the computer technology, Dr. Molla computerized Ethiopic and revolutionized the Geez script when he came up with a method of rendering each glyph with two keystrokes in the 80’s. Since then the character set with about 500 glyphs has been standardized by Unicode, a consortium that provides a unique number for every character of the world.

What has remained a challenge was how to effectively type all these characters on computers with less keystrokes. In the meantime, desperate attempts to improve on the two-keystroke Ethiopic typing method were made by others. These included entry by mouse clicks, the potential use of three to eight keystrokes to render some letters using English alphabet and learning how to spell them out, the introduction of spaces within words and the utilization of methods that are unable to type some glyphs and words. Multiple keystrokes came about as a result of some Amharic users trying to type their letters by spelling them out with English alphabet while English spells out words and not letters. The novel invention relieves Ethiopic users from unnecessary methods by eliminating distractive waste of time and energy, by replacing them with impartial and efficient scientific technology. Ethiopic is an excellent phonetic syllabary and one advantage of the alphabet is because it is not affected by one type of spelling error of the Latin alphabet as each glyph represents a phoneme (or sound). The new method is simple to use and takes minutes to understand while allowing the typing of the most commonly used syllables with one keystroke each just like English. The invention is an efficient and significant improvement of the default and shifted keyboards as Geez can be rendered from the default keyboard. For instance, it takes the same number of keystrokes to document “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” in English and “ዘ ኲክ ብራውን ፎክስ ጀምፕስ ኦቨር ዘ ሌይዚ ዶግ።” in Ethiopic because of the invention. On the other hand, the 23 glyphs in six example Amharic words,ሐመር ኋይት ሃውስ ሦስት ቋንቋ ትዕግሥት” are rendered with 32 to 34 keystrokes with the ABSHA system as opposed to more than 50 by other Amharic methods. The default keyboard assignment is based on the English keyboard making it simple to type in Ethiopic. Thus it is unscientific and waste of time and energy to type any Ethiopic glyph with three keystrokes. Unlike English that has patents even for the English typewriter, the computer version is the first patent for Ethiopic.

Ethiopic is used by many Ethiopian languages and the various subsets include Agew, Amharic, Awingi, Bench, Bilen, Dawro, Dizi, Gamo-Gofa, Geez, Gumuz, Guragie, Kayla, Kunful, Meen, Mursi, Oromiffa, Qimant, Quara, Suri, Tigre, Tigrigna and Xamtang languages with their own and overlapping character sets. The inventor has also added new glyphs such as Ethiopic zero, Birr (Ethiopian currency), penny, stress, copyright, trademark, registration and other Ethiopic signs as well as the signs and symbols of the English keyboard to the set. This is because the company has its own English character set to go along with the Geez from the get go.

The company has been selling GeezEdit Version 2 with pending patent notices online at http://www.geezedit.com for computers with Windows XP to Windows 10. A free Amharic online version was given out in 2011 for Windows and Mac computer users. In 2014 Apple opened up its iOS 8 system to third party keyboards for iPhone 6 and iPad and the company released its GeezEdit App for Amharic. The App also works in iPhone 4S and 5 with iOS 8 upgrade. It allows the typing of Amharic glyphs with one and two keystrokes and other languages would be opened up when necessary. The online, Windows and Apple’s App versions all utilize the same patented and patent pending keystrokes and GeezEdit is the trade name of the Geez editor. The App allows the rendering and editing of Amharic in various applications such as Text, Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter, Notes, Microsoft Word, Office Suite, OpenOffice, Pages, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Wikipedia, WhatsApp, etc. The user can switch between English and Ethiopic in the applications as the App shares the English system with Ethiopic and one can search in more than one language alphabet at the same time as in the Windows versions. The smartphone can be configured to utilize Amharic as a preferred language. Amharic is the most commonly used alphabet of Ethiopia. The GeezEdit App is available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/geezedit/id935624754?mt=8. An Android version will be released next month.

Dr. Molla encourages Ethiopians to respect intellectual rights and focus on innovation and be as creative as earlier ancestors while defending their heritage, languages and the perfect African alphabet. The novel method has given Ethiopic a new power to put down ideas faster in Ethiopic-user languages such as Amharic. Ethiopic is syllabic and renders an idea with clarity utilizing less glyphs and space. With Dr. Molla’s digitization method Ethiopic users typed only six glyphs with two keystrokes from any two keys and his novel invention improved that to 14. Because one can type hundreds of glyphs from a default keyboard, there is no need to spell out the Ethiopic letters as if they are English words or modify the English vowel accent typing method for typing Ethiopic. The company has continued with its pioneering scientific work and another pending patent was recently published, http://patents.justia.com/patent/20150212592

The doctor is a well-known veterinarian and has made significant contributions in his field and also has other patents. The company is owned by him and his wife, Senait Ketema. For more information email Geezedit@aol.com

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