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I wouldn't call it the standard script. Most tech companies actually do show restraint and use patents for defensive purposes only. In fact I heard a heart-warming story at lunch today about how one of the top guys at a large well-known software company recently shut down an internal proposal to start using its IP more offensively. This is, however, the standard script for Apple, originator of the long, infamous, ultimately unsuccessful attempt to sue Microsoft for "look and feel" infringements. For a company that stole so much of its own core technology in the early days from Xerox, Apple has never been shy about making overly broad IP ownership claims. Their legal department has historically been one of the most aggressive and overreaching in the industry. I agree with you that it is surprising that so many people are only now seeing Apple in this light.

Apple did not steal from Xerox. They licensed the good parts legitimately and made substantive improvements. Xerox's stuff didn't draw overlapping windows properly, for instance; redrawing to an occluded window surface was a problem for them and in order to redraw they basically had to redraw the entire window stack. Apple's menu bar (at the top of the screen, where menu bars belong) was a huge usability win over the context menus Xerox employed, enabling -- among other things -- the UI to be manipulated with a mouse with a single button. And on and on.

Look, Apple defines entire classes of devices. That's what they do. Look at the history of PCs, media players, and smartphones: everything that came before Apple's entry into the market was a rough prototype, and everything that came after was a knockoff. Their IP claims are not overly broad for a company whose work shapes the entire industry.

Picasso had a saying: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas. -Steve Jobs


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