Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Apple deals massive patent blow to HTC, Android in serious trouble (zdnet.com)
212 points by rbanffy on July 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 280 comments



You know that annoying old joke where you just add "in bed" to everything. Its starting to be like this only you add "In America" to every story concerning patents.

Right now, the US is very fortunate that the rest of the world is kind of going along with its patent frenzy, mostly because of its prominent position on the world stage. As American influence wanes, they might not be so willing to continue.

"You should be thankful for what you have, child. Right now, there are poor children in America who don't even have Android(1) phones. All they get is one expensive, government-chosen monopoly device."

(1) Choose Chinese equivalent.


"HTC claims that is has found ‘alternate solutions‘ to these patents, but Mueller isn’t optimistic:

But can those patents really be worked around? Standing in front of the Great Wall of China, you can also vow to walk around it. That doesn’t mean it’s a viable option."

The fact that you can't go around those patents, emphasizes how broken the current patent system is. How are competitors going to be "innovative", which is what the patent system was supposed to encourage, if they can't actually take another path in building their product, and basically their only real options are to either infringe on the patents or pay the licensing fees.


The patent system has been causing this problem for many years. The Wright brothers asserted that their patent covered lateral control of an aircraft, no matter how that control was implemented, and prevailed in court. Obviously, lateral control is a "blocking patent" - there is no way to work around it (and live).

The resulting litigation and threats of litigation disrupted and damaged the advancement of flying technology in the US, causing the US to lose its early lead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wright_brothers_patent_war

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wright_Company


Damn, the Wright brothers used to be one of my heroes. This draws parallels with the protectionist law stifling space: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/ITAR

The resulting litigation and threats of litigation disrupted and damaged the advancement of flying technology in the US, causing the US to lose its lead indeed.


You learn one thing about someone and they lose hero status? Neil deGrasse Tyson (one of my heroes) one said that you need to assemble your heroes out of the parts of many. No one is perfect.

You can still admire the admirable things about the Wright brothers while disagreeing with their use of patents.


I disagree. Hero in my book is doing eternal good in advancing technology. So, I like to believe in as few heroes as possible as something to strive for.

However, what they did was effectively create something and then sit on it. "The Wrights' preoccupation with the legal issue hindered their development of new aircraft designs, and by 1911 Wright aircraft were inferior to those made by other firms in Europe.[9] Indeed, aviation development in the US was suppressed to such an extent that when the U.S. entered World War I no acceptable American-designed aircraft were available, and the U.S. forces were compelled to use French machines."

They are still notable in my book for being the first aviation flight being achieved just as USA was notable in my book for being the first to land on the moon.

Guess who's harbouring the space technology these days?


For example, I enjoy Mel Gibson movies, but would not invite him to my son's bris.


The fact that you can't go around those patents

The very first clause you quoted states that HTC says they can. You're citing the author's rhetoric as fact.


The innovate part of the patent system was meant to encourage people to create the patents and protect their ideas. It's meant to prevent competitors from trying to steal or go around your idea since you're supposed to be the one who invested the time/money to create it.

Of course, that's the concept. Whether or not it lived up to those ideals is another thing.


To play devil's advocate here, if this patent really can't be worked around reasonably, than this may be, finally, an example of a software patent that is valid and worthy of a patent because it is a true and novel invention.


If the patents can't be worked around reasonably then it could just as easily mean that the patents are so broad and superficial that nearly any approach, whether common sense or not, would violate them. I haven't read the full patents, so I don't have a real opinion yet, but from what I know about software patents in general my explanation would surprise me less than yours.


Yes, you are absolutely correct, I was only making a statement from one angle.

It's too late now, but if I could edit my statement, I would like to point out that the patent could be valid assuming it was very SPECIFIC in its claims, and not just a broad patent which would mean that the single unique invention was so brilliant that it was the one and true path to the end product.


If a patent cannot be worked around, and any engineer coming up against the same technical challenge would have to solve it in the same way, then that is a discovery, not an invention, and intrinsically not a valid patent.


Or the claim is so vague that there's no way you can escape it.


Well, there are lots of ways that an invention could be unworthy of a patent. Being one of many equally good solutions to a problem might be one, depending on your beliefs, and that seems to be the one you have in mind. But it could also, for example, be an obvious combination of existing inventions (say, combining a payment-processing system with a 3-D printer) or indeed something already known in the prior art.


Oft-quoted: "Android May Be the Greatest Legal Destruction of Wealth in History"

It's actually a transfer of wealth from the coffers of Apple, RIM and MS to mostly developing-nation consumers who can now afford the same advanced phones as people in developed countries. The trio is doing everything in their power to kill Android, but I do hope it survives.


I've seen more blogs recently use that quote in a negative way, even though it's taken out of context, and the original author of that quote meant it as an overall positive thing (for the world).


Indeed. A lot of people on the Internet have what I call "Joe the Plumber" syndrome; they imagine themselves as though they are better off than they are, and then get upset when something helps the little guy. In this case, people are upset that there is no money in developing your own phone OS, because you can't compete with Free. But in reality, most of these people don't make phone operating systems, but they do buy phones. So Android ends up being great for them: cheaper fun electronic toys.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_the_Plumber


"Joe the Plumber" syndrome is often a strong indicator of that person taking Ayn Rand way too seriously.


I'm not sure this debate is likely to go anywhere, but what exactly is wrong with people thinking they are better off than they are, or aspiring to be?

If people don't want help, why force it upon them?

Disclaimer: I love Android and 100% of my slates are running it. I love that it's free. Check my profile, it's all I do all day.

I'm just calling out your "Joe the Plumber" reference.


I'm calling out your calling out of the Joe the Plumber reference :)

Here's how I see Joe: he gets upset that Obama is going to raise taxes on the rich to give benefits to the poor, because he thinks he's rich. But as it turns out, he's poor: he makes $40,000 a year and would greatly benefit from Obama's tax cuts. This confuses me not because of the politics, but because he is acting against his own self-interest because he thinks his self-interest is something that it's not. If he did own his plumbing company, he'd see a little less profit due to Obama's tax increase. But he doesn't own the company and probably will never will; he wasn't even a licensed plumber and he left his job there.

To apply this to phones, people imagine themselves in the position of being a phone software company, when they are really phone developers or users. In this case, Android is good, because it means more users will be using their phone, and that means more apps or more users buying your apps.


This is getting off-topic, but it's possible to oppose taxes to the rich without fancying oneself to be rich. The above Joe the Plumber description paints a picture of a delusional redneck. That's not necessary to debate taxation policy.

EDIT: to bring this closer to topic: is it really "transfer of wealth" if the wealth was never really there? Most new cool gadgets get commoditized. If anything, Android is probably one of the better-designed systems under the hood (at least as far as the app API goes). Either way, the first smartphones were themselves incremental improvements and iterations over prior things like PDAs, etc.


I would like to point out that I have no political allegiance to Joe the Plumber myself, and found that whole stunt quite pointless and populist.

My criticism is towards the parent's specific argument. I saw a strawman, and felt that it was doing a disservice to the topic.


Wasn't Joe the Plumber a real person?


He was, and was actually upset that Obama was going to raise taxes on wealthy people (250k+ incomes), and actually raised a stink about it. Later on, the media dug into his life and realized that he had a very basic plumbing license, did not actually intend to buy a business he had mentioned he was going to do, and only made about 40k per year (and had a judgement lien against his income for failure to pay taxes).

The same link as above: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_the_Plumber#Personal_contro...

The comparison to Obama's tax plan was not off topic, because "Joe the Plumber" was in fact characterized and quoted by the media as someone who was going to have his life changed for the worse due to Obama's tax plan, when in reality, nothing in his life would have changed, but he still argued against the tax plan.


One doesn't have to be rich to oppose taxes for the rich. Even if those higher taxes would somehow benefit you through a reduction in your taxes. You can disagree with an increase in taxes in principle. For instance, I don't think more taxation is necessary in any income group. How about reducing military or social insurance spending? Problems abound, but the point is, it's not totally outrageous to oppose taxes for the rich even if you only make an average income.


of course not -- but the subject was Joe the Plumber. He certainly framed his question as one of self-interest rather than one of principle, so the question of misunderstanding ones self interest is applicable.

""I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year. Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?""

The answer to his question is A.) No, you're not buying that company. And B.) Yes, each dollar you made above 250K would be taxed at a 3% higher rate than normal, if you did. So $3,000 per $100,000.

Misunderstandings abound about economics. It does not mean all opinions flow from misunderstandings, but many are colored by them. Most people (regardless of their opinion on taxes and spending) do not realize that federal revenues as a percent of GDP are at 20 year lows. Which is not surprising, as taxes have been cut systematically over the years.

Yet people generally "feel" like the federal gov't is taking in more than ever as a percentage.


I now see why my post got downvotes. I was unaware that JtP as a specific situation was about mistaken self-interest (originally I thought it was solely about generic blue-collar appeal for McCain/Palin).


The problem isn't that he's supporting cuts for someone in a different bracket, it's that his own reasoning has him in the bracket which he's not in. He's opposing tax laws that don't directly affect him based on the misunderstanding that they do directly affect him.


$40k a year and he is poor? umm... Sure he would benefit from tax cuts but $40k/year is not poor. According to wikipedia poverty line sits around $22k in the states.


If he lives in silicon valley and has a family he's fucking poor.


No one said anything about geographic location. I am speaking strictly on average across the states.


It's wrong for people to think they are better off than they are because such thinking leads to decisions that will hurt Joes in the end. It's exactly Joes who shoot themselves in the foot by thinking that it's an each man for himself world.


"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." --Steinbeck


I keep waiting for someone to explain why this is a bad self-image to possess, but it never seems to happen.


I'm not sure I'll be able to change your mind if it's not evident to you why that is a bad self-image, but here goes:

First, you have to define "bad". It's not bad for the planet, or bad for society as a whole. It's bad for the person who has that belief, because it leads him to act against his self-interest (as a poor person) and making him act for the interest of richer people.

Shouting "Why should the rich pay higher taxes so the poor can get better healthcare?" when you're yourself poor isn't "good" for you, is it?


Actually may be that poor person thinks one step ahead and don't want rich people to go pay their taxes in another country?


First, you have to define "bad". It's not bad for the planet, or bad for society as a whole. It's bad for the person who has that belief, because it leads him to act against his self-interest (as a poor person) and making him act for the interest of richer people.

It depends on how important your principles are to you. One expression of altruism that the left in the US doesn't seem to respect at all is the idea that someone who's poor or unemployed might still believe that it's not healthy for society to grant him all sorts of entitlements.

Put another way, apparently "voting for your own self interest" is a good thing only when the lower and middle classes do it. I find this hypocritical in the extreme.

Shouting "Why should the rich pay higher taxes so the poor can get better healthcare?" when you're yourself poor isn't "good" for you, is it?

I'd like to think that my bank balance doesn't determine my political thinking, with regard to what I believe is the best way to run a society for the long term benefit of all of its members.

I wholeheartedly reject the notion of 'class' when applied to productive adults in the United States. So the rhetoric of rich versus poor means nothing to me, beyond referring to an unreasonable concern that some people seem to have with numbers stored in a bank's database under keys associated with other account holders.


Joe the Plumber meet Bob the Camper?

Trivializing money by referring to it as "just numbers in a bank" is surreal. Those numbers in a bank are the #1 determinant of whether you will do things like: eat, have a roof over your head, or pass on your genes.

It's pretty much impossible to overemphasize the importance of those numbers.

You're pretending that class doesn't exist while you pretend that money doesn't matter. Class is real. And class is important specifically because money does matter. A lot.


When you're truly rich, they're just numbers in a bank. They're a scorecard by which you determine whether you're winning. Poor people want a reliable car and a roof that doesn't leak; rich people want a higher score, but rich people are more effective at getting what they want.

As for Joe the Plumber syndrome, there's a relevant quote from Vladimir Nesov. Something along the lines of "revealed preference is not a very charitable way to interpret people's actions."


>One expression of altruism that the left in the US doesn't seem to respect at all is the idea that someone who's poor or unemployed might still believe that it's not healthy for society to grant him all sorts of entitlements.

So if you're poor and left-wing nobody should take you seriously? What if you're rich and left-wing?

And I don't think a lot of people have a problem with the rich voting in their self-interest. It's when they control the airwaves and purchase the government that people get upset.

(Needless to say, I'm not referring to people in the 250k-500k band here, but rather that 1% that controls half the wealth of the nation.)


So if you're poor and left-wing nobody should take you seriously? What if you're rich and left-wing?

You lost me. Can you rephrase that point (or maybe I should)?


Probably because there is a rather obvious negative interpretation: People think they have a real chance to become a millionaire, while in reality, they will probably always be comparatively poor. So they always make decisions based on this imaginary future as a rich person, even if it is much more likely that they will not be better off in the future.


Lots of people seem to think this is bad for plumbers, but I rarely see anyone complain when the same thing is dreamed by a 19 year old in YC.


The implicit assumption is that the plumber is farther along in his life and has a lot more (family, home, social benefits, health, etc.) to lose than a 19 yr old in YC...


The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging you have a problem ....

If the Joe the Plumber wants to support tax cuts for the rich and he's fully aware of his situation, then there is no issue having that opinion. But if his self-image is distorted (as was implied by the media reports), then it is bad to posses that as it means you will be making wrong decisions based on incorrect understandings.

The issue isn't his desire to aspire to greater wealth, it's his unrealistic understanding of what his actual financial status is.


The parent comment never passed judgment on this self-image, just merely asserted that it was pervasive among Americans.


Steinbeck clearly didn't mean it as a compliment, though, so I have to assume the same of anyone who just drops the quote in a thread with no elaboration.


It's a great attitude. People tend to use their political prejudices and agendas instead of rational arguments.


It just happened in the very thread you are responding to.


That's ludicrous. Perhaps people make decisions based on values instead?

For example: I don't make 250k/year, but I'm opposed to increasing the taxes of that income bracket. Perhaps a true value driven person sees taxes not as a way to get more of what they didn't earn, but as something that isn't morally right.


I like to call them "aspirationally wealthy".


Surely Android is a disruptor of wealth rather than a destroyer of it?

There are things Android does for free (or very cheaply) which ask serious questions of competing products but what about the efficiencies that are created because more people have access to functionality which enhances their lives and businesses and the new markets it creates?

Free turn by turn navigation software may destroy wealth for, say, Tom Tom and Garmin, but what about all the people who now have it but didn't before and who are now wasting less time as a result? Some (not necessarily all, but some) of that time will translate into additional wealth for them and those they deal with. Similar cases can be made for getting better information on the go (via e-mail and the web) and so on.

Not to mention the app developers who can now make money where no market previously existed, the handset manufacturers who are selling more expensive handsets, the networks who are selling data plans, the smartphone accessory manufacturers.

It would be hard to quantify what has been created against what has been destroyed, but I'd wager that it's far more accurate to describe what has happened as a disruption or a move than destruction.


Except I don't believe in a free lunch.

Explain to me again, slowly. Apple is spending $1B in R&D to design the iPhone. Google is spending the same amount to design Android. Where is this money coming from and is it a sustainable investment from Google?


You understandably suffer from the mistaken impression that Android is 'free.' when the reality is that the kernel is 'free' but the 'Apps' which most phones have (mail, dialer, appstore, browser, maps, etc etc) are actually licensed for actual cash. It's not entirely clear how much that costs (and it benefits Google for that not to be clear).

In terms of business advantage, Android seems to me to be fairly unique. Google created a lower barrier to entry into the 'smartphone' market than either Apple, Microsoft, or RIM. Folks who took advantage of that were people early on were people who had the most to gain (low end carriers like T-mobile, Chinese ODMs who wanted to move up the value chain like HTC). They captured a large (if somewhat chaotic) developer market by making much of the source code for the system available for download, and they did create the ability for an individual to create a nearly complete phone 'stack' for certain types of hardware.

The established players greatly underestimated the impact of capturing the 'hobbiest' phone market. (Much like the established data processing players missed completely the impact of the hobbiest computer market).

Google generates anywhere from two to three billion dollars a quarter in free cash flow, which accounts for any and all R&D investment in Android, so its a classic example of being able to take huge profits from your cash-cow market (Search advertising) and disrupt a different market (smartphones) which is the fastest growing channel for advertising (Mobile ads).

Not to mention that Google probably has a better network than any phone carrier today, and they have a voice calling product (Google Voice), its entirely possible at some point for them to create a 'phone' system based entirely on WiFi (like, maybe something with this new whitespace bandwidth that is available or a bunch of hotspots) which gives you a device which can replace AT&T or Vodaphone or whomever.

Ultimately Google understands that nobody bought a smart phone because they 'wanted to be a customer of AT&T', rather they bought it because as a tool it made them more productive. If Google can back into owning that whole stack then their company becomes just that much more valuable.

Worth throwing a bit of pocket change at is it not?


Android pays for itself, in lots of different ways, among them and by far most importantly: Being the default search provider on 550k additional phones/day. That's worth a billion $ to Google any day.


Isn't Google the default search for iPhones as well?


And not the default on Verizon Android phones.

I don't think it's just about search. I think sometimes Google does things Because They Can and then try to figure out how to make money later. Android's most realistic reason for existence, IMHO, is to ensure that Google users can take their data with them. If there was no Google phone, then the world would stick with Exchange, and GMail is not Exchange.


I always thought that Android's raison d'etre was to prevent any other company from dominating the smartphone business (Apple having apparently the best shot at this, but would still apply if Microsoft or RIM seemed likely to) because they would then have a huge opportunity to cut Google out of the loop - they could use Bing for their default search engine, have a built-in mail app that's not Gmail, etc.


Yes, but they pay for that privilege. I haven't seen any public figures of how much that is, but it did get extended for a year or two recently.


There's money back and forth between these companies all the time. It's just behind closed doors for 90% of it. Patent suits are the equivalent of tabloid coverage of a public argument. It could very well be resolved behind closed doors like many other suits.


If Google controls the platform, then Google's other products will never go out of style ; do some reading on micro-economics / complementary products.


Android may be cheaper for Google than having to develop apps on a multitude of mobile OSes, the largest of which is controlled by a competitor.


The problem I have with this quote is that Android adds wealth to the world. Its a new open device platform where before there wasn't.

What it does destroy (or more likely, just moves around) is money. There's a great big whopping difference between the two. What was certainly destroyed is power, ripped from the hands of a few and dissipated among many. This makes some people very angry.


All you've done there is say "I have a different definition of wealth".

From the perspective of most people discussing this wealth and money are interchangeable and it's not helpful to start substituting in new definitions (even if those definitions are justified).


Try this one:

http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html

Drop down to "Money is not wealth". Paul did a much better job of explaining it (and why the distinction is important).


As I say, I'm not saying that the definition is wrong, I'm saying that it's not the common usage and it's not what people repeating the quote mean, therefore if you disagree with the quote on that basis you're not disagree with what was actually said.

When you say "it destroys [...] money" that's what they mean, you're just picking on their choice of words.

As it goes I agree with you about it creating wealth (see my post elsewhere in this thread), I just don't think the right way to express it.


Yes, you're right. All of this is going to the third world. What? Don't start believing that Android is CHARITABLE. It's a different business model. And this patent case is just a bunch of huge companies suing each-other. None of these companies is any more charitable than the other really. Has Google not done enough gray things for you to realize this yet?


Android, as an operating system created by Android, Inc. and incubated and promoted by Google, is not "charitable" per se, but that's not the point that martythemaniak is making. As a free, open-source piece of software, it effectively acts as a lubricant in the consumer electronics market. By eliminating the manufacturer's cost of building a device's operating system, Google have made it more affordable for both device manufacturers and consumers to effect smart mobile device transactions. So while it may not be strictly financially "charitable" for Google to do this, if we account for the non-financial value of these transactions, I think it's fair to say that an enormous amount of wealth has been created above and beyond what would otherwise have happened in a market that was only dominated by devices running non-free software, especially in countries that have populations that are generally too poor to afford the iPhone.


The manufactures that put Android on their devices are not mom and pop electronics firms. So the implication that this is somehow shifting money to poorer people is kind of ridiculous. Unless you mean the top 1% richest people in those countries. Because I don't think the manufacturers will go to their labourers and pay them any more money just because some hardware was designed in house (hardware design doesn't employ many people either).

It's not Tom's shoes. In fact I find it hard to believe that even Tom's shoes are Tom's shoes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g


> The manufactures that put Android on their devices are not mom and pop electronics firms

And this has no effect on treeface's reasoning

> the implication that this is somehow shifting money to poorer people is kind of ridiculous.

Again, there is no implication money is shifting hands.

What treeface said is that a massive amount of value is being generated by lowering the cost of building smartphones, thus reducing prices and allowing more people to use them and (he/she didn't say that) by offering a convenient standard software writers can write against, creating a market larger and less fragmented than any other player had managed to create.


Again, there is no implication money is shifting hands.

"It's actually a transfer of wealth from the coffers of Apple, RIM and MS to mostly developing-nation consumers..." --http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2777354


Wealth is not money. Money is just a store of wealth.

http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html


Money is a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money#Functions


That's not the comment you replied to.


Are consumers in third world countries really saving tons of money on android? Anyone with subsistence living won't buy a smart phone. You're inevitably implying that you're saving the money of someone middle class somewhere. Hardly as noble as you might have thought originally.

These companies are much more ethically inert than you think. It's just a new sort of marketing that uses the lifestyles of the CEO's or the employees as a selling point. The change in economics, or straight out charitable donations as a selling point.

Android is shifting things for certain, but it's not one laptop per child.


Here in India, I was able to get an Android smart phone for half the price of an iPhone. I can also build Android apps on my Debian Linux machine without incurring any additional costs.

The fact that the devices cost lesser(even before the phone company subsidizes it) and yet have GPS and an accelerometer enables me to at least attempt certain kinds of applications that target the mass market here in India.

Also, the ability to read the source code allows me to learn about a smartphone operating system in the same way I got know about a PC operating system by reading Linux's source code.

I would never want Android to be like OLPC. Android is more like a free market. OLPC was charity.

Apple has every right to protect its intellectual property. I think it is equally important for Americans to debate about, and review, the American patent system (where required).

Overall, if HTC can pay royalties to MS, then I guess they can do the same with Apple.


If it gets that far, the question is whether Apple will let HTC pay royalties or will they refuse to sell a license at any price?


Here in Vietnam I see tons of people with smartphones, and more Android than iPhone. Most of these people are living on well under $1000 USD a month.


There is a lot of middle-class people in the third world. Also, don't forget every market benefits from cheaper smarter phones and a software stack everyone can contribute to and benefit from is a huge gain in efficiency.


Motivation and effect are different things. Whenever (simplification, all else being equal, yadda yadda) someone undercuts market incumbents with a cheaper equivalent product, it has the effect of leaving consumers with more wealth, whether or not that's the producer's motivation.


It's nice that more people can afford a shiny thing now. But the iPhone has been pretty much market price for a long time now. I just don't see the touting that "poorer" people can afford a smart phone as anything other than marketing.

Henry Ford brought the price of a car down to a price that people can afford. The design to do so was to sell more cars. That's what creating a market for commoditized and mass marketed products does.

But the quote implies that there is some kind of huge shift of either money or power from a large company to the consumer (really poor consumers too!). It's not, it's a shift of a market from one paradigm (and a few companies) towards Google's paradigm where they make money off the back end.


Per the claim chart in Florian Mueller's blog post, http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/these-tables-show-ho..., it seems than any vendor selling a computer with a web browser on it infringes Apple's patent.

Claims Accused HTC Android Products 1. A computer-based system for detecting structures in data and performing actions based on detected structures, comprising:

an input device for receiving data; (a mouse)

an output device for presenting the data; (a screen)

memory storing information including program routines including (computer memory)

an analyzer server for detecting structures in the data and for linking actions to the detected structures; (a browser which detects anchor tags (structures) in html and links actions to them (clicking on a link opens a web page.))

a user interface enabling the selection of a detected structure and a linked action; and (The web browser allows the user to select anchor tags with the mouse.)

an action processor for performing the selected action linked to the selected structure; and (The web browser is also the "action processor" which performs the "selected action" (opening a web page) linked to the "selected structure" (anchor tag).)

a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines. (All computers have a processing unit, CPU, linked to their input and output devices and memory which "control the execution of the program routines.")


Given how broad these claims are, I think the patent office should reexamine the patent. If claim 1 stands, Apple could shut down not just the mobile phone industry, but all vendors of computers with browsers. Note that there is no limitation in claim 1 to phones or tablets. Indeed, the patent was filed in 1996, long before the invention of the iphone.

Here you can download a copy of the patent: http://www.google.com/patents/about/5946647_System_and_metho...

Note the figure on the front page: a computer system with a floppy drive and printer attached. The computer system Apple is referring to in the patent is any personal computer.


I believe Apple and MS have a patent cross licensing agreement. Apple and MS may have created a legal duopoly. Google really needs to treat the legal situation around Android like a serious threat.


If this patent is as broad as it seems, Google needs to treat the patent situation around Chrome as a serious threat.

In fact, depending on how liberally you can interpret things like "input device" and "output device" I could make an argument that elements of Google search infringe (e.g. the bits that parse a site's menu structure into a virtual ToC for faster access).


I also read the patents, and to me, it sounds like Apple has patented both the smart phone, and applications that use a network.


Link to a deeper analysis http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/these-tables-show-ho...

Claims using regexes to match patterns in a piece of text is infringing.

    By way of example, the functionality within the Nexus
    One includes Android's "Linkify" functionality, which
    "take[s] a piece of text and a regular expression and
    turns all of the regex matches in the text into
    clickable links.


That's not what the patent claims. As usual, we are going to burn many tens of messages here debating patents without truly understanding how patent claim matching works.

In this case, Florian Mueller is using examples of Android functionality to illustrate individual elements of the body of a single independent claim. You've excerpted his example without context, leading a reader here to believe that Apple is patenting random Perl features.


Your comments on this issue strike me as disingenuous.

By my understanding, the patent claims the (obvious, with mountains of prior art) behavior of auto-generating hyperlinks from text using regular expressions, so that (for example) when you receive a text message with a phone number in it, that phone number can be detected with regex and displayed as a hyperlink. When you click it, it can then say "Call, Save To Contacts" etc.

That's just one of the supposed infringements. Your comments here make it sound like this is a legitimate patent, and that HN geeks are simply too stupid to understand the issues. Well, we may not understand the obscure details of every patent claim, written as they are in fearsome legalese, but we understand very well when a company like Apple is trying to make an end-run around the Patent Office. We grok it. Don't pretend we don't, or that our understanding is somehow skewed.


> Well, we may not understand the obscure details of every patent claim . . . but we understand very well when a company like Apple is trying to make an end-run around the Patent Office.

If you don't understand the patent claims, you do not understand what the dispute is. End of story.


The problem is once enough geeks accept that software patents can only hurt them, then the days of software patents are numbered. Instead, geeks tend to fall into the Ayn Rand/Joe The Plumber school of thought and will defend the most asinine patent in the world. This benefits the capital owning class as the peons are doing all their propaganda work for them.


This is exactly the impression I took from Ptacek's post. It is condescending and remarkably offers no counterpoint but instead deals in vagaries and innuendo.

If someone wants to discount an opinion about a patent, they have the patent at the ready for their arsenal. Copy pasting the long-form version of "on a computer" is not a response.


I read the patent and it seems that using regex to automate links on a mobile device is exactly what they patented. Can you elaborate why this is not so?

Patent: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sec...


The word "comprising†" in a patent claim means "including but not limited to". In this case, the initial independent claim of the patent --- the broadest in the whole document, the one least likely to be at issue --- comprises:

* an input device

* an output device

* an associated memory

* a server

* a UI

* an "action processor", and

* a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory.

Did you build that? No? Then what are you talking about?

And please, please, please: before we open up Pandora's shipping crate full of geeky arguments about how an end table, a sofa cushion, and an abacus could also be construed as this particular claims construct, can we also acknowledge that we don't know exactly which claim in the document was found binding on HTC? The ITC ruling isn't, as far as I can tell, published on the web. The reason patents have broad independent claims followed by strings of specific dependent claims is that the dependent claims are the ones usually found to be enforceable.

thanks for the correction


a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory.

So in other words... a computer?

A huge amount of modern software patent language is simply generic, copy-paste babble to say, in long and drawn-out terms, "on a computer". This doesn't make the patent any less stupid.


I repeat myself here for purposes of emphasis:

We don't know which of the claims of this patent bound on HTC.

The initial independent claims of patents are deliberately written to be as broad as possible, to insulate the patent from technological changes. The IP lawyers who draft Apple's patents go way out of their way to make sure that first anchoring independent claim is as general as possible.

A reasonable expectation is that it's not simply the initial independent claim --- which, by design, is the claim mostly likely to be challenged as over-broad --- but a combination of independent and dependent claims that actually bound HTC.

Given that, I'm super not interested in discussing whether a court is likely to find that any computer ever built running Linux violates this patent. I'm strongly inclined to believe that no, your infringing product needs to embody a purpose-built device.

I think your logic about "huge amounts of modern software patent language" pertains to the patent description, not the claims.


Do you believe that Google and/or HTC used this particular patent to get the idea or work out how to implement it on their device(s)?

Does the answer to the above question affect how you feel about the patent (and/or patents in general)?


No, I do not believe that Google benefited in any way from Apple's disclosure of their '96 invention.

Generally, I think software patents are as bad as we tend to say they are.

However, caricaturing their badness with statements like "Apple patented regular expressions on URLs" or whatever sucks power away from the argument that they should be abolished, by allowing the "grown-ups" to point and say that opponents of patents think that e.g. this one says you can't regex URLs.


used this particular patent to get the idea or work out how to implement it

A patent protects the invention, not the text of the patent. The more realistic question is whether HTC's implementation was worked out by looking at how the feature works on iOS.


I'd bet it wasn't. I saw this sort of thing shown off as one of the advantages of Android's Intent system (e.g. highlighting a URL or phone number in a note-taking app) at a developer event months before the G1's release.

So far as I understand, iOS doesn't have the same sort of Intent architecture, so it seems unlikely that that Google's implementation drew any inspiration from iOS (especially as the same sort of thing has been done in web browsers for years to the point where a browser might be prior art).


An HTC Android device is a computer running Linux, Android devices are as much multipurpose computing devices as computers.

But regardless of that, having read the 21 claims of the '647 patent (I don't fully understand the other one, but this is the one that covers what this thread is discussing), there's nothing about it being tied to purpose built hardware.

The example implementation described in the patent itself uses a Power Macintosh, the only part that refers to purpose built computers is "For example, program 165 in FIG. 1 can be stored in ROM, disk, or in dedicated hardware. In fact, it may be realized as a separate electronic circuit."

The term "a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device" is only being used as a generic way of describing a computing device (hence the Macintosh being used in the example and the reference to dedicated hardware is only made as an alternative method of implementation)

If this patent is valid, it's likely covers a wide range of computer application including those found on desktop computers (for example Skype's phone number highlighting plugin).


Once again I read the patent and it's safe to say that any mobile device (input/output) with a CPU ("action processor") that uses regex to parse text and automatically turn it into actionable links is infringing this patent.


Completely agree. This is exactly what the patent covers: the automated hyperlink-ization, using regex, of discrete pieces of data ranging from URLs to phone numbers, on mobile devices. Which is an obvious improvement any competent programmer could come up with, and in no way the sort of "invention" patents were intended to protect.


The thing that gets me, though is that the language used is so general. It says things like 'input device', 'output device'. My desktop has an 'input device': the keyboard and an 'output device': the monitor.

Also it talks about detecting structures in a grammar. That has been done before. So putting that on a server and accessing it with input and output devices makes it new and original? Surely an old-style unix terminal running awk on a PL/1 could fit in this broad terminology.


It's worth pointing out that the term "Analyzer server" isn't used in the sense most of us would understand the term server now, but rather referring to an internal software component that's an inherent part of the software rather than an external application.


Could you please explain what this patent entails then?

Too many times discussions on here have been shortcircuited by claims that the complainant just doesn't understand patents. The discussion fizzles and the absurdist situation with software patents continues.

I've read this patent in detail, as gruelling a task as that is, and it does seem to be as trivial as others are suggesting (as is the case for most trivial patents that get criticized on here). The claims that detail, essentially, a computer are boilerplate in 99% of software patents. They are not particularly relevant and add little specificity.

EDIT: Another submitter has posted a listing of Apple's specific complaints, and it is exactly as others are suggesting -- Regex'ing input and identifying types of text.


In this case, it looks like Apple is looking to fire the cheapest missiles that have a chance of hurting. The patent does indeed seem to cover the packaging of (what used to be called in OS9 days) "apple data detectors" with a computer. IIRC, Steve Jobs, in his iPhone announcement keynote speech, said that they've filed about 200 patents. This shows how serious they are about not only building these path breaking things, but also about protecting their inventions. I haven't checked, but it seems a bit unlikely that those 200 applications (or the late part of them) haven't yet been granted.

The situation, in other words, looks like a ticking time bomb for the other phones looking to copy the iphone - android or whatever.

Is there anyone who's analyzed apple potential patent portfolio in the mobile space?


If only geeks could debate patents more effectively on HN, your thinking goes, we wouldn't be stricken with software patents?


To a degree, yes absolutely. The overwhelming majority of software developers, I suspect (invented stat), are against software patents, and the few who aren't suffer the illusion that deep in the obtuse language of patents there really is something novel...because they've been told such in so many internet discussions (that usually follow exactly the course of this one). I don't think that is true, and the illusion that there is something deeper is purely because we seldom talk about the specifics because patents are so horrendously worded, with so much boilerplate.

Thankfully Apple itself has provided such an interpretation, and their interpretation, worded to best be in their favor, is exactly as trivial as many have suspected.

This is a critically important discussion for this industry.


Do you really think that the opinion of people on HN has a measurable impact on our patent system?

Getting geeks to dislike patents is easy. We have a lot of geeks who hate patents and are passionate about it. Yet the patent system hasn't been changing as a result. Why not?


Do you really think that the opinion of people on HN has a measurable impact on our patent system?

Getting geeks to dislike patents is easy. We have a lot of geeks who hate patents and are passionate about it. Yet the patent system hasn't been changing as a result. Why not?

If you can't get geeks, who should all have at least some distaste for software patents, to agree on a solid argument against them, then how can you expect to convince congress? One could view these geeks-only debates as individual geeks refining their arguments and accumulating additional information, in preparation for attacking the problem at its legislative source.


"Getting geeks to dislike patents is easy."

Isn't that kind of strange? Aren't we the ones who most benefit from patents?

"Do you really think that the opinion of people on HN has a measurable impact on our patent system?"

Yes I absolutely do. In fact I think the next 24 months will see a lot of debate and eventually significant change to software patents in the US. All I care about are defusing those who attempt to make everyone feel too ignorant to have an opinion about patents (such attempts appear in every discussion about patents. Lots of hand waving about how we all just don't get it, leave it for the big boys, etc)


Aren't we the ones who most benefit from patents?

No. The two groups that benefit most directly from patents are established companies which wish to block competitors, and patent trolls which wish to sue lots of people.

For the kind of startups that HN people are interested in, patents are an exercise of interest mostly because of their potential value to investors and purchasers. But in the meantime they cost money, don't affect sales one bit, and you likely won't get them until years after it is obvious whether you've succeeded or failed as a business.

Until the big boys decide that the cost of patent trolls exceeds the benefit of their patent moats, nothing will change about patent law. In particular I see no sign that the next 24 months is critical. In fact I'm willing to bet you money on that. The next 24 months is mostly going to be spent with a Republican Congress (who see patents as "business friendly" and have bigger political fish to fry) fighting with Obama. After that we'll have a new administration, which is going to focus on top political stuff for their first 100 days.

My personal suspicion is that the economy is going to go south again, credit problems are coming back in a big way, and financial/economic issues are going to keep software patents off of the list of priorities for a long time.



Actually the author isn't using those examples, he claims those are Apple's own examples:

"Deep down in the ITC archives I've dug up the so-called infringement claim charts Apple presented to the ITC in its dispute with HTC. Infringement claim charts, or often just called "claim charts", typically show the language of a patent claim on the left side and a description of the infringing activity on the right side. Any given patent claim is only infringed if all of the characterizations on the left side are matched by (accurate) information on the right side."

If that's truly Apple's own claim-matching chart, it looks pretty deserving of geek scorn. No?

If Apple invented that stuff it might have invented the computer, the internet, and the 21st century too.


Obviously it's not just patenting regexes. It's patenting using regexes to highlight phone numbers and email addresses in plain(ish) text presented in a UI.

This sounds exactly like the iPhone feature that allows you to tap a phone number in text and call it. What else could it possibly describe?


It could describe features in a CMS that do the same thing with things like ticker symbols or how the NYTimes auto-links Times Topics the first time they are mentioned in an article.


They would not infringe this stupid patent.


Why not? If you look above, you'll notice the initial implementation was on a Power Macintosh, which suggests that the claims are made very widely.


My Sony Ericsson from 2005 does this, why have Apple patented it?


They patented it in 1996.


I thought they filed in 1996.


You're probably right, but that's irrelevant here: a 2005 phone isn't invalidating prior art for a patent filed in 1996. In fact, for some forms of disclosure, there's a cushion of 12 months prior to filing, meaning that conceivably a phone could have been disclosed in 1995 that wouldn't invalidate this one.


No, but you made it seem silly somebody would even create the 2005 phone when the patent had been granted in 1995.


If the patent explicitly mentions its use in a touch screen phone (as opposed to simply highlighting it and adding it to a menu option, like dumbphones did before the iPhone) then this is a fine example of why US patent law needs reform.


Except the patent doesn't. Why do you comment on something that you don't know about, and have not bothered to check?

The patent was written in 1996. The description above is correct. The question is, was it obvious or not. Was there prior art (some people mentioned some agenda software from 1992, that's worth looking into).

In my book, it's quite simple: either people were doing it before the patent was written, in which case it's obvious and deserves to die, or it was never done before, in which case it doesn't matter how obvious it seems in retrospect.


html was done in 1990, and way before that hyper link systems were done. Things resembling html were done in 1986.

Many a perl script has been written pre 1996 to create linked things from plain english text. Automatically turning email addresses in plain text into html links is very common. So have many text adventure games been made which parse english text to present links. Wikis came out pre 1996, and those presented links based on the patterns of english text.

Not to mention text adventure games.

http://www.podgoretsky.com/ftp/docs/Internet/Web%20Publishin...


It is easier for me to believe that you haven't looked at the patent description at all than it is to believe that you actually think HTML or text adventures are prior art for it.


A wiki seems to be a pretty good example. A wiki processor parses data (text) looking for "structures in the data" (camel-cased words), which it then converts to a UI element (hyperlink) that a user can take action on (click it to cause the browser to transition to a new page). At first glance to me it appears wikis violate this patent, so if you can show a wiki as prior art, the patent can't hold.


"either people were doing it before the patent was written, in which case it's obvious and deserves to die, or it was never done before, in which case it doesn't matter how obvious it seems in retrospect."

This isn't necessarily true.

There is also a general concept that if something is obvious to a general practictioner, then it should not be patentable. Does anyone believe that minus the iPhone or that 1996 patent submission that someone else in the computer field wouldn't have "invented" the concept of linking distinct types of text? Now I know that there is plenty of prior art, and this patent will be invalidated, however just discussing the concept that it really was the very first implementation.

Remember the idea of a patent is that you are granted a government monopoly in return for revealing, essentially, your secrets. Who thinks this is a secret? Or the vast majority of patents, for that sake. The current situation is not one where people are actively stealing techniques, but instead it's one where many independent teams of developers inevitably end up at exactly the same end result. That is clear evidence of the farcical, not-as-intended patent system.

Stop and brainstorm for a couple of days about every nuance and variation of wearable or implanted computer. File patents in the hundreds. In a few years you will be a trillionaire.


The technical term is not 'a general practitioner' but 'one ordinarily skilled in the art.' And that ordinary skill is in the directly relevant art. So the proper question is 'was the invention novel and non-obvious to one ordinarily skilled in the art?' And here we run into endless problems because one of the best tested psychological phenomena is the 'hindsight effect.' Once things are invented and become part of popular culture or of the culture and lore of a technical sub-group they are (remarkably quickly) considered to be 'obvious.' Hordes of people who have never invented anything in their lives moan about how 'obvious' this or that patent is. If it is so easy, they should just stop moaning and go make those billions you so mistakenly believe are so easily to be earned by inventing things that are blindingly obvious. This is an absurd argument. It really is time to put it to bed. If something is blindingly obvious at the time, it probably won't get a patent. The USPTO and other such agencies are not perfect but they are not total imbeciles. Will some bad patents get through - yes. But if you want to spend your whole life focusing on edge cases why spend it on patents? Why not do something useful and campaign for prisoners' rights? After all, we know that some prisoners are innocent? So the whole penal system must be abolished, right? If we are going to have sensible discussions about patent reform we have to get some of the basic facts straight. And one of those basic facts is that what is 'obvious' now wasn't necessarily 'obvious' then and no amount of whinging from today will make that act any different. It has been 'obvious' now for some time that if you have HIV you should take antiretrovirals but it wasn't in 1982 when we started to identify AIDS. That's just 28 years ago. 'Obvious' is a slippery term - get used to it. There are no useful discussions about patents without getting over it.


There is no hindsight effect about the notion of identifying classes of text in a string of text. I fully and completely anticipate that patent being invalidated.

"If something is blindingly obvious at the time, it probably won't get a patent. The USPTO and other such agencies are not perfect but they are not total imbeciles."

The USPTO has shown, time and time again, to be willing imebeciles. They have habitually approved virtually all patents, opening them for review only when contested. I have zero expectation that they are doing any serious review of these patents, and they most certainly are not consulting any industry experts to gauge the true novelty of a patent.


You may or may not be correct about the fact that there was prior art in the case of the Apple suit. That however does not refute my key point which is that time and time again discussions include endless statements about how obvious something is, not a discussion about how obvious it was then.

As for your statements about the USPTO that is just a rant. It doesn't contribute anything to a real discussion.


So the only reason you aren't a trillionaire is scruples?


No, the reason is that the time to file all those thousands of patents, and the filings fees, makes it infeasible for normal people.

But very feasible for IBM, Microsoft, Apple, etc. - companies with many laywers and engineers, and lots of money.


Of course - it's so easy that only someone of high moral character wouldn't do it.


Aside from what azakai mentioned (it tends to be large companies that are the biggest culrpits for laying patent minefields), I have no doubt that a lot of people are doing exactly that. The now obvious value of software patents -- artifacts that for decades were literally little more than harmless curiousity -- has led to an explosion in filings.


> Except the patent doesn't. Why do you comment on something that you don't know about, and have not bothered to check?

Why do you comment on a comment you haven't bothered to read properly? Your attitude stinks.

For one, I said 'if' - I simply don't have time to give a patent the full reading it deserves to make an firm assertion, unlike most people in every patent-related post who read the abstract and make BS claims about it.

In addition, I mentioned a previous examples which makes you wonder (1) why this should be an issue now and not a decade ago e.g. with HTC's previous phones (2) how patentable such a thing should be.

I would not be surprised if this kind of thing appeared in the Psion PDAs, either - but it has been a very long time since I used one.


I love the "an output device for presenting the data" item.


I understand that it's not single claims that lead to a violation but a match against many of the claims. Still, if the component claims are things like "using regular expressions to create links" and "using an output device to present data" then matching becomes a lot easier.


This isn't even a single claim! It's one element of the body of a claim extracted without context. Geeks have lacerating ignorance of how patents actually work. And fine, why should they understand them? Except that now we get to have our BiMonPatentFreakoutCon on HN about them.


At the end of the day though all software patents are bogus, trivial, and stupid. (And I'm listed as inventor on a dozen).

We should spend energy abolishing them rather than debating how they work.

just my 2c


I agree with this, but, as a nerd, I have a hard time letting go of people who construct arguments like the one that roots this comment thread.


You can start by just saying "No, thanks," to those $1000 patent bonuses at your company.


That's nice. You'll be out the $1000, and with some likelihood you'll still be forced to help file a patent; the boilerplate IP clause in many (most?) California employment contracts requires patent support, as I found out the hard way 11 years ago.


I feel for you dude. Keep fighting the good fight, but you're probably wasting your breath.

This is a continuing source of confusion for me, how a group of people who generally can't rest until they understand something can be so willfully ignorant about patents.


Good fight? I'm fairly sure at this point Ptacek realizes that he was wrong. So wrong that Apple's own self-serving explanation of the patent is identical to the root explanation that caused so much of this discussion.

You insult this community while offering absolutely nothing to counter any complaints about this patent except for, as others have tried, vagaries. Patents are public, so if you've actually got something, let's see it. Otherwise it's just noise.


Wait, where did he say anything that was wrong? He's the only one in this clusterfuck that seems to know what he's talking about.


Where he suggested that people who were accurately describing the patent were wrong because they were...you know....missing a claim or something. Yet those interpretations were entirely right, and are mirrored by Apple's own interpretation of their patent.

Simply responding to every patent comment with vagaries and innuendo is not enlightened or helpful. It's unhelpful noise meant to short-circuit discussions about the very, very broken patent system.


Do you have a link to a specific comment? Because all I remember is people saying "this patent covers x", where "x" is only a single element of a claim. He was right to tell them that they were missing something. If you don't have every element of a claim, you don't infringe the claim.


His very first message in this discussion!

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2777338

That _IS_ essentially what the patent claims. Ptacek tried to add specificity by pointing out that Apple essentially added the disclaimer "on a computer", which is of marginal usefulness.

His original response was wrong, and was the classic alluding to some deeper (but never stated) meaning to the patent. There is no deeper meaning. That is it.


No, he was right. The comment he replied to was discussing a single element of the claim, and implying that anything that does just that element is enough to infringe.

What the patent claims is a device that has every element of a claim. Not just one element, or some elements. If it doesn't have every element, it's not an infringement.


No he was not right. The comment he replied to quoted an example of an infringing implementation based up all claims and dependencies in the patent. It was 100% correct, and remains 100% correct. Someone didn't cherry pick one elemtn of a claim and that was it, they found a specific infrginging activity, and having read the patent in detail, they are dead on.

More handwaving, however. This is why we can't have nice things.

You are wrong. Ptacek is wrong. AND APPLE AGREES. How is this nonsensical side discussion still occurring? The specific example is one that Apple used, so...what is going on here?


Repeating yourself doesn't make you right. Actually go read that fosspatents article. Then read the comment that links to it. The article discusses entire claims, but the comment focuses on a single element that's discussed in the article. Apple is not claiming that matching a regex infringes their patent.


You understand incorrectly. Infringing a single claim is an infringement. However, you must have all the elements of that claim to infringe. The claims are not things like "using an output device to present data".


This is insane. I just recently implemented this exact same functionality for one of my company's internal apps. I can't believe that such a simple little feature, something that I'd never think of as "invention" can be patented. I wonder what other patents I infringe upon during my normal every day work.


To add just one additional bit of context to the excerpt we are now freaking out about, did you also build "a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines."? No? Then you aren't even nominally infringing the broadest independent claim of the patent.

The patent we're talking about is here:

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sec...


"a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines."

That sounds like you have just described pretty much any user facing computer ever built. Can you explain how this narrows the claims of the patent in any significant way?


Every computer ever build has a processing unit coupled to input, output, and memory that includes an analyzer server for detecting structures and an action processor that controls the execution of program routines on that computer?

Is this trivial to build with COTS parts? Of course it is. Does it describe a web app? No. Web apps do not comprise input, output, memory used to store program routines, a processor coupling them, a server running on that very processor for that uses patterns to recognize structures such as phone numbers, and an action processor that executes specific code stored in that memory based on the structure the analyzer server found. In a web app, half that stuff happens on a server on a different computer, and half happens in the web browser.

If they wanted their patent to describe web apps, they would have said the server was communicatively coupled to the input/output processor, resided on a computer that may be different from the computer with the input/output processor, and that the subroutines run in response to user selections might run either on one computer or the other, &c.

This is not an awesome patent. That's not the point I'm making.


I'm a bit confused about how a web app doesn't infringe. Your claim is it doesn't because it's split between two machines, but that's merely a function of one use. A web app can be used from a single machine, with the server portion and the client portion executing on the same processor. You could even jerry-rig it so the browser and the server communicated via a shared memory map, if using the same memory locations is an issue.


You don't have to build the processing unit to infringe. You can buy it from a supplier, such as Dell.

A patent conveys the exclusive rights to make, use, offer for sale, sell, and import the patented invention inside the US. To be deemed to "make" the patented invention, it is not necessary that you separately make each of the elements of a claim; it is sufficient to buy them each from a supplier and combine them yourself.

But, in any case, HTC is not being accused of making the patented invention inside the US. They are being accused of importing it (and presumably selling it and offering it for sale).

This is very basic patent law. It is difficult for me to imagine that your ignorance of patent law is so deep that you posted your incorrect assertion out of incompetence, which leaves me with the alternative of malice.

Thomas, why are you attempting to derail discussions of the dangers of software patents by maliciously posting false information?


Naturally, you were expecting to attack me with Capo Ferra, with your orthogonal claim coupled to a caricature of a political argument to which I must adhere if I question you. Fitting, considering the rocky terrain... if your enemy hasn't studied his Agrippa. Which I have! Your point is orthogonal to mine, and questioning your dubious interpretation of this patent doesn't mean I support software patents at all.

And while I appreciate your transparency, we are discussing an actual software patent; we are not here to provide a soapbox to rail about software patents from.


I have no idea what you're talking about. You claimed that someone who doesn't build the "processing unit coupled with" etc. is facially non-infringing. This is false as a basic matter of patent law. I pointed out two independent reasons why what you said is false. That's as far from "orthogonal" as you can get. Furthermore, I haven't attempted to interpret this patent, dubiously or otherwise, or caricature any political arguments, and I haven't made any assertions about how you feel about software patents.

Misspelled references to 17th-century fencers, while amusing, are merely a distraction.

So, I ask again, why are you trying to derail the discussion with falsehoods and amusing distractions? What's your motivation for making rational discussion of patents more difficult? If the continuing discussion annoys you, I for one would appreciate it if you simply didn't post instead of trying to disrupt it with misinformation.

Discussing actual software patent cases is a much more reliable way of understanding the effect of software patentability on the world than attempting to reason from abstract principles and hypothetical situations, and the issues at stake here are much bigger than this particular patent. Mere railing is of course unproductive, but rational debate is essential.


Are they actual fencers? How cool is that? I was just referencing the Princess Bride. You learn something new every day.

My point is that the invention we're talking about must include all these elements. Dell computers do not infringe the patent simply because you could use them to create something that potentially infringe the patent. Obviously, Apple doesn't even build all the parts of their "invention". Why would you think I would be making that argument?

Moreover, to restate a point that you are militantly evading: you don't even know which claim(s) in this patent were found binding. It is more than possible, in fact likely, that it isn't simply the independent claim at the start of the patent but rather a combination of dependent and independent claims that were found to be meaningful.

Finally, I'm just going to keep saying this: I am not defending the patent we're talking about. I'm reacting to the guy who creates an "internal app" for his company and believes he is now infringing this patent because it regexes phone numbers.


> I was just referencing the Princess Bride.

I see; that makes more sense.

> My point is that the invention we're talking about must include all these elements. Dell computers do not infringe the patent simply because you could use them to create something that potentially infringe the patent.

Yes, of course; that's the "staple article of commerce" doctrine. But we're not discussing whether Dell computers themselves infringe the patent, but whether an infringing system built with purpose-built processors would still be infringing if you used off-the-shelf computers from Dell instead of purpose-built processors.

The answer is that it would. Buying some of the elements of the claim off the shelf is not a defense against infringement, and even if it were, it would be irrelevant when you're being charged with importing or selling rather than making an infringing article.

(It's possible that under the machine-or-transformation doctrine, a process might be unpatentable, and patents on it might be invalid, if it could be implemented by software on a general-purpose computer, because a general-purpose computer is not a "particular machine". Unfortunately In re Bilski and Bilski v. Kappos have not resolved this question, but only left it muddier than before.)

> Obviously, Apple doesn't even build all the parts of their "invention". Why would you think I would be making that argument?

Because you said:

> did you also build "a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines."? No? Then you aren't even nominally infringing the broadest independent claim of the patent.

The key word here is "build". The person you were responding to had said:

> I just recently implemented this exact same functionality for one of my company's internal apps.

It's patently obvious that he was combining his program routines ("internal apps") with a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines. You brought up the fact that he probably didn't build the processing unit, claiming that he couldn't be infringing if he didn't build it. But the presumed fact that he didn't build it is irrelevant.

In another thread, you wrote:

> I'm strongly inclined to believe that no, your infringing product needs to embody a purpose-built device.

These assertions of yours are false and have no foundation in patent law. However, I retract my earlier claim that you already knew that.

> Moreover, to restate a point that you are militantly evading: you don't even know which claim(s) in this patent were found binding.

I wasn't evading it; you just hadn't stated it. Now that you've stated it, it's trivial to demonstrate that it is false. The comment at the root of this thread links to Florian Müller's blog post at http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/these-tables-show-ho..., which shows exactly which claims Apple is asserting against HTC, and which ones the ITC judge found that HTC is infringing: claims 1, 8, 15, and 19 of the '647 patent, and claims 1, 2, 24, and 29 of the '263 patent.

> I am not defending the patent we're talking about. I'm reacting to the guy who creates an "internal app" for his company and believes he is now infringing this patent because it regexes phone numbers.

Rather than just reacting to him by posting the smokescreen of nonsense and bullshit that you did, it would be more useful to collaborate with him by honestly and accurately explaining the actual patent law and accurately analyzing what would be necessary for his "internal app" to infringe it. Whether or not he is manufacturing his own processors is irrelevant to that.


It's not patently obvious to me that his internal app matches claim 1 of the patent; if it was, I would have commented on it. It is not an infringement of this patent to sell software that regexes phone numbers. Do you believe otherwise?


I wasn't arguing that it did or didn't infringe the claim, because I hadn't read the claim thoroughly yet; I was arguing that running it on a purpose-built processor was irrelevant to whether it infringed the claim.

However, yes, I believe otherwise, if you're selling the software to US customers. (The "internal app" guy isn't selling the patented invention, but he is making and using it.)

It is an infringement of this patent to sell software that regexes phone numbers (in a "server") and makes them into clickable links to take some action, if you're selling it to US customers.

Installing the software on a computer and running it necessarily produces an infringing system, according to Apple's assertion, which the ITC judge has upheld. The staple article of commerce doctrine does not protect the sale of articles "which are only adapted to be used in a patented combination".

Microsoft v. AT&T would seem to protect you if you're exporting the software rather than selling it to consumers within the US; "The master disk or electronic transmission Microsoft sends from the United States is never installed on any of the foreign-made computers in question. Instead, copies made abroad are used for installation." However, it would be very surprising indeed if courts construed that to protect sellers of software for use inside the US, in particular because Microsoft was still paying AT&T revenues for US copies of Windows in that case.


First, you spent a lot of words arguing with me before reading the patent. Don't do that.

Second, you've misread the patent. The "server" needs to be in the same machine as the input and output device. The patent description defines the terms used in the claims language (you will easily find a basis for that assertion in patent law if you look); here, the server is a subroutine coupled to the system via an application programming interface.

Further, I believe if you take the time to poke around, you'll find software extracting patterns from text in the prior art references. Claims cannot be interpreted to substantially duplicate the descriptions (not simply the claims) of cited prior art.

Finally, your logic doesn't work. In your worldview, if I sell frobnitz flanges, and Apple invents a phone that uses frobnitz flanges to legibly display the otherwise invisible color blurple, and then files a blurple-display patent referencing frobnitz flanges, I can no longer sell frobnitz flanges. Any elementary description of "how to read patent claims" will show this logic to be false. The infringer must violate all the elements of the claim.

(Late edit: I mean to say, the direct infringer).


Your objection to me not having read the patent would hold more water if you could show something I was mistaken about as a result.

I'll take your word on the definition of "server". I'm not sure why you think I misread the patent, though. If I thought the "server" had to be on a different machine, I'd be claiming Android didn't infringe.

You are correct about claim construal, but no narrower construal suggests itself to me for this claim. So perhaps you are mistaken and there is no such cited prior art, or perhaps the examiner should have stricken this claim, or perhaps there is a narrower construal that isn't obvious to me.

You are mistaken about my worldview. My worldview comes from patent law. In your example, if people have been buying frobnitz flanges before Apple's new invention, they are clearly adapted to some other use than displaying blurple. So, in my worldview, they are a "staple article of commerce", a term I have used several times in this discussion and which you would do well to look up, so their sale is non-infringing. However, a piece of software whose installation and use on a computer necessarily infringes the patent is not suitable for substantial noninfringing use (unless perhaps you can argue that its use to paper your wall or as an illustration in a discussion about software patents is substantial), so selling it separately is clearly just an attempt to infringe the patent in a sneaky way. (Presuming, of course, that the patent is valid at all.)

This is not some hare-brained theory I just thought up on the spur of the moment. You'll find it explained in any patent law textbook, in quite a number of online introductions to patent law, and in §271 (c) of the Patent Code. You are welcome to attempt to explain to Congress and the Supreme Court that their logic doesn't work because it forbids the sale of frobnitz flanges or whatever, but don't blame it on my worldview.


Is that a pun?


All that lawyer jargon means is that it's running on a device with input, output, and "processing unit" (CPU) with a program that can scan text and automate the linking to different actions. While he may not infringe this patent exactly, it's silly that he's ALMOST infringing it because he parses text and turns it into actionable items.

Edit: True, I realize he can't get in trouble for "almost" infringing. I was just trying to point out that the core part of the patent is not a input/output/cpu but the processing and converting of text into links. This is trivial and it's embarrassing that our system allows such time and money to be wasted.


He's not almost infringing the patent. There is no such thing as "almost infringing" a patent. And unlike a lot of legal language, patent claims language isn't simply "legal jargon"; it is a programming language of its own, interpreted in a specific and strict fashion by the legal system.


A language which the overwhelming majority of people are (understandably) completely unfamiliar.


Why are you under the impression that you need to build the device you describe yourself (which as other posters have pointed out, is just the standard patent description of a computer)? Are you implying I'm allowed to infringe on a patent as long as I outsource the building of some of the parts?


From the link, the system:

"...identifies structures in computer data, associates candidate actions with each detected structure, enables the selection of an action, and automatically performs the selected action on the identified structure... the system may operate on recognizable patterns for text, pictures, tables, graphs, voice, etc. So long as a pattern is recognizable, the system will operate on it. ... The present invention provides a computer system with a central processing unit (CPU), input/output (I/O) means, and a memory that includes a program to identify structures in a document and perform selected computer-based actions on the identified structures. The program includes program subroutines that include an analyzer server, an application program interface, a user interface and an action processor. The analyzer server receives data from a document having recognizable structures, and uses patterns to detect the structures. Upon detection of a structure, the analyzer server links actions to the detected structure."

So they "invented" a device that has embedded pattern feature-extraction, communicates with a server to perform recognition on the extracted data, and return the results, with which the device can do anything it wants with.

Yeah, I don't buy that this is an invention in the 21st century, with no prior art.*

This is a patent for integration of prior inventions, and not really an invention itself (hence, not a real patent). Pattern recognition is an invention; putting it on a device is not. Even if we say "yeah, let's grant patents on integration," there is still prior art for this particular one since it is so broad.

*EDIT: it has been pointed out that this patent was filed in 1996.


The server isn't even a remote server... it's just a service reachable by an opaque API on the phone.


"Yeah, I don't buy that this is an invention in the 21st century, with no prior art."

Maybe not in the 21st century, but it might be in the 20th century which is when the patent was filed (1996).

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sec...


Fair enough, but I've read research papers on pattern recognition that predate even 1996 (the field was pretty hot in the 80s before computing power caught up with theory)


So, don't use regex on an arduino board.


If we have a patent which is violated if the bundled software includes a feature but isn't if the software is separately installed later, by what argument is that a rational patent? Where is the huge philosophical leap between a tool within the platform and an extension which plugs into the API?

The simple answer is, as we all know, that there isn't, and that they've wrapped some fancy language for a general purpose computer around regular expressions (which very substantially predate the patent) and managed to get the patent granted. This is ludicrous.


I don't understand patents all that well, so perhaps somebody could help me understand: how are the things patented not totally absurd?


If you think you can patent utterly absurd things... well, you understand patents pretty well.


I don't understand the question - please rephrase.


I'll ruin your perfectly good joke by actually explaining what I meant:

Some patent applications really make sense to me. I read 'em and I say, "Wow, that was pretty clever. I never would have thought of that." Whether or not we should allow patents is a different question, but if we do, I get why the patent is valid.

These, though, I don't get. I know patents claims are a special language, so maybe I'm missing something, but I'm pretty sure a NeXT OS box circa 1991 running common apps covers all this.


Much clearer - thank you.


I don't understand how some of these are even patentable. The use of an output device? Really?

Does the linking patent apply only to phones? If not, I've been in violation of this one several times in the past.


If you've written a line of code you've violated several software patents. The question is will anyone come after you.

That's why the system is so ridiculous and broken.


Isn't that basically what a wiki does? I'd also suspect that there were similar solutions for the old Psion 3 handheld.


Isn't this the Florian Muller (who is quoted in the article here) the same one who was predicting the end of the world related to the Oracle vs. Google software patent dispute a few months back?


The same. I don't think that dispute has been resolved yet, has it?


So, the world is still in limbo then? Shit!


Yes, it's the same guy because the mentions that he runs the FOSSPatents site.


Perhaps someone who understands patents better can explain this quote to me: "According to intellectual property activist Florian Mueller, Apple is unlikely to grant HTC a license for these patents and might make a damages claim."

My understanding was that a patent (unlike copyright, but like musical performances) was something you could not refuse to license, you could only extract a licensing fee. That being sort of the point of the inherent tradeoff of a patent—by making the blueprints public so anyone can use them, the gov't gives you a time-limited right to make money from anyone that uses that.

But the above quote would seem to contradict that. Can anyone explain?


IANAL, but as far as I understand it, any given patent holder has exclusive rights to use its invention however it sees fit, including licensing the patent (e.g. patent trolls) or maintaining a monopoly.

Some patent pools (e.g. MPEG LA) are set up so anyone can license the patents covered under either FRAND or RAND requirements, e.g. fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory, but participation in patent pools is entirely voluntary. In the case of H264 everyone agreed to these terms to boost adoption and the ultimate value of their patents.


There is no requirement on what you must charge for a license. So, a $1,000,000 per handset "license" would be a perfectly valid offer, and obviously unlikely to be taken up by HTC.


The fee has to be "reasonable", and in fact courts will step in when the patent holder is being demonstrably unreasonable, even going so far as to put the patent in the public domain.

I'm not sure exactly how that translates into a dollar figure for license fees. But the patent holder certainly has an interest in at least appearing to work with potential licensees.


Still, "reasonable" can be widely interpreted, and take another many years to settle if the courts are involved.

Applying a basic sniff test, if all patents had to be licensed for reasonable fees to competitors, there would be almost no sense in having patents in the first place. Additionally terms like "blocking patents" in terms of intellectual property barriers to entry in a marketplace would also likely not need to exist.

IANAL, but I do believe from my own experience that Apple can effectively decide to not make their patents available to HTC if they so choose in this case.


I'd say the license fee is limited by the costs of an alternative solution, isn't it.


I don't believe you do have license your patented IP unless you choose to do so and I would be interested to see evidence to the contrary.


The language of the patent is such that all browsers post 1996 will violate it. So, my questions:

1. Can Netscape (1994) be quoted as prior art? 2. Can an anti-trust case be made against Apple/MSFT etc if Apple does not bring these claims against MSFT? Because, one can claim that there is no other reason except to punish Android if no claims are brought against any of the other violators.


I think you have posted this in the wrong place. It has nothing to do with the point of this thread.


I have looked into this further to confirm my belief. You don't have to license your patented IP. This is well treated in: http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-does-5-buy-htc-...


It sounds EXACTLY like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_tag_(Microsoft) to me, except on a mobile device. Does anyone know if Pocket IE6 had Smart Tags?


> U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 on a “system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data.”

Looks like I'll be closing my doors, too. Software and I: we had a good run...


I think patents are now often unconstitutional as they impinge upon freedom of expression. Do you feel violated?


I haven't read the patent in detail but from Apple's description my initial suspicion is that this patent could likely be invalidated by using the prior art of MUD clients such as Tintin from the early 90s. It was fairly common for users to set up triggers that detect particular patterns of text that represented structured information and then initiating an action based upon them.

Here's Apple description of what the patent in question is:

"The '647 patent generally relates to a computer-based system and method for detecting structures and performing computer-based actions on the detected structures. In particular, this invention recognizes that computer data may contain structures, for example, phone numbers, post-office addresses, and dates, and performs related actions with that data. The '647 patent accomplishes this by identifying the structure, associating candidate actions to the structures, enabling selections of an action, and automatically performing the selected action on the structure. For instance, the system may receive data that includes a phone number, highlight it for a user, and then, in response to a user's interaction with the highlighted text, offer the user the choice of making a phone call to the number."

Anyone who's read the patent in detail care to comment if they think MUD clients would be sufficient prior-art to invalidate it ?


The claim has been made in prior patent-related threads that some fave companies (Apple, Google, Etc) only play the patent game for defensive purposes: A kind of MAD doctrine, a patent detente.

This indicates otherwise. This is a shady, shady act by Apple.


Google generally does that. Most other tech companies, including Apple, are not so benevolent.


All I know is that we need GOOGLE to open up about this issue.

What is the future of Android? Should I keep developing apps for Android? Should I be telling my family to buy Android phones?

I know that the summary of these patents is one thing, but the guts are in the claims of the patents.

To what degree is something actually "infringing" on a patent? Does it have to meet EVERY claim? Does it have to just come close? What REALLY constitutes infringement of a software patent like this?

EDIT:

1 more question if anyone has a deeper understanding of this. Why is HTC being sued for something the Android OS is doing? Is HTC infringing, or is Android?


I personally don't think anyone should be worried. HTC/Samsung et.al are big companies with their own patent portfolios and deep pockets. At the worst they will pay the cartels and move along - business as usual.

If you were to apply the "oh $CORP got sued and lost a patent lawsuit - I might want to dump $CORP product" uniformly - you will be left with no products to buy in the mobile space at least!

Why is HTC being sued and not Android - Because HTC is an corporate entity that makes money off Android - Android isn't a corporate entity on its own - who would they sue if they wanted to sue Android?


Why is HTC being sued and not Android - Because HTC is an corporate entity that makes money off Android - Android isn't a corporate entity on its own - who would they sue if they wanted to sue Android?

Google develops Android and markets it, and I would assume that they could be sued for developing an infringing product. Google most certainly makes money, and a lot of it, from Android.

But Google makes no phones on its own, unlike HTC and Samsung, so Apple goes after those companies to keep the devices from being imported into the US. And Apple can fight Android in a legal proxy war rather than directly suing Google.


> Google most certainly makes money, and a lot of it, from Android.

Could you explain how you are most certain of this? I don't believe they make any money from Android. If you mean they make a lot of money on ads from customers accessing their services via a mobile device -- then fair enough but that's not "from Android" any more than they make tons of money "from the iPhone".


They've released figures in the past that Android is profitable on its own; meaning irregardless to the effect on search profits. They make money on selling Google Apps, Maps service, etc to manufacturers and carriers.


"They make money on selling Google Apps, Maps service, etc to manufacturers and carriers."

Would love a source on this... AFAIK Google never publicly said Android Trademark and Google Apps were not free (apart from the obligation to pass the CTS test suite)


Apple is actually taking this up with HTC and Motorola. They're not suing Samsung, possibly because they do a lot of business with them, and possibly because Samsung has a much larger patent portfolio with which they can defend themselves. Initiating patent infringement is not without risks when you go up against someone with a large arsenal that they can fight back with.


Uh, Apple is suing Samsung: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383820,00.asp

They may not be suing Samsung over this particular patent, but that could easily change.


> At the worst they will pay the cartels and move along - business as usual.

No, worst case is that Apple doesn't see a reason to grant a license and effectively blocks the sale of HTC Android devices until they remove whatever it is that they're "violating" here (and what that is I have no idea).


That's technically possible but unlikely in this case. Apple violates S3 patents for example - HTC own S3 and if they refuse to license those then they could stop Apple from selling iPhones too - which is good ground for both to consider cross licensing in this case.


Are they already licensing S3 patents though? If so, would there not be a contract of some kind in place to stop HTC from just pulling the plug?


If they were licensing why would they be in court with S3 and why would the judge rule infringement - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-01/apple-gets-mixed-ru...


Is it possible that Apple's patent suit against HTC is a retaliation against S3's patent suit agents Apple? And if so, would it make it pretty silly to be freaking out about Apple trying to patent Android out of existence?


You will have to look at the dates - specifically date on which Apple filed lawsuit against HTC and also when S3 filed one against Apple - before or after they were bought by HTC.


      Why is HTC being sued for something the Android OS 
      is doing? Is HTC infringing, or is Android?
Because you can sue anybody that distributes an implementation of said patents. Heck, you can even sue users that bought Android phones.

Yes, patents are fucked-up like that.


  > 1 more question if anyone has a deeper understanding of
  > this. Why is HTC being sued for something the Android OS
  > is doing? Is HTC infringing, or is Android?
I'm not an expert in "patentish" language, but it is of my understanding that the patents as they are redacted apply to a complete working cellphone and not only to it's OS or software.


Apple's patent sounds like Microsoft's "Smart Tags" from IE6. They surfaced in IE6 beta, but were removed from the shipping version because they were so unpopular.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Smart_tag_(Mi...


It seems to me that given the opportunity Apple would have patented the structure of an email address (me@mail.com), Apple would have patented Blogs, Apple would have patented Commenting on an online post. Apple is taking patenting to an ugly new level.

This is why software patenting is really bad for all.


I Just read the first patent and find it seriously, ridiculously retarding that such a generic thing could be patented. If instead of being a software system, it was a social system, it would equate to a patent on secretarial duties.

"If I get a phone call, and it's from somebody important, bring it to my attention, and I will choose from a number of possible appropriate re-actions, which decision I will then inform you of, and you take appropriate re-re-action, if there is one."

Is it possible that in 1996, when this patent was issued, that the patent office clerks rubber stamping these things had no ideas as to what was meant by the pseudo-technical jargon?

Input device? Output device? Action processor?!


Tie this back to the stories of iOS developers pulling out of the US due to patent troubles: it's scary to think that a software company's sole channel provider has interests that side with an institution that could drive it out of business.


I'm so utterly disgusted by the whole patent system I care not to read any further. Basically every software patent that starts off with "a method of..." is usually bogus. The whole system needs to be scrapped.


It's really depressing that business today is less about innovation and competition and more about dirty legal practices to destroy other members of an industry.

This is some incredibly short-sighted zero sum game consideration. I hope we wake up and fix this before the state of innovation has been set back too many years.


It isn't. The overwhelming majority of competition is about innovation.


Article needs more hyperbole.

This is nothing new - companies are constantly going back and forth over patent infringements.


This is serious stuff.

I tend to not believe this when an author ends their point with it.


This is the proof of true disruption by Android.


"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win."

Unless you, of course, agree to license their patents. Then they win by proxy.


Or if you're Netscape.


Jobs is a seriously greedy vindictive asshole, I'll never spend another penny on his shitty company.


Apple is playing hardball, why isn't Google playing hardball back? Why not yank Google Maps and Youtube from the iPhone?


Wow, how is this not the modern day version of patenting the hyperlink? Sounds very close to it.


Patent 5,946,647 (filed on February 1, 1996) seems to cover automatically scanning/recognizing data, creating links for identified data and then providing a way to act on those links. It sounds similar to contemporary technology that created HTML archives from email which scanned data and created http and mailto: links which were then acted on by browser and email clients. Hypermail is one package that did this and was initially released on July 30, 1994.

Ref: http://ksi.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/archives/WWW-TALK/www-talk-1994q...


how. what.... i don't even.

these patents are both so obtuse and vague, could they not cover every single computer program in existence?


I don't know. In 1996, I think this would have been pretty novel. The idea of parsing a random block of text and converting everything that looked like a phone number certainly didn't exist in any device or software I can think of. I don't remember any email or IM clients detecting email addresses and making them links either.

Some software patents are in fact valid inventions. The fact that today, 15 years later, it seems obvious, doesn't mean it was at the time.


I was 17 at the time, and heavily into computers, programming, and the Internet as a hobby. Far from being novel I thought this idea falls into the "bleeding obvious" category.


I guess how you'd accomplish it is pretty obvious, but the idea of linking phone numbers in text is not. There was no pressing need to do so at the time. Once a lot of text messages are happening and people start sending phone numbers and email addresses to each other, it becomes obvious.

Of course, I'm not sure the idea is patentable, only the implementation.


If this does become a larger issue, and US sales of Android are temporarily halted, it could be the high profile patent dispute needed to implement much needed reform, including limiting or eliminating software patents and process patents. So in the long run, this could be a fantastic catalyst and make us better for it. Right now every tech company has the incentive to patent everything they can, regardless of merit, in order to fight each other.


If US Android sales are temporarily halted, don't you think Microsoft and Apple will be more than willing to spend enough money to make sure reform will never happen?


I think this case illustrates one of those landmark moments when you get to choose the forest or the trees. There has to be an equitable middle ground where we don't have to throw out the baby with the bath water but the direction of these patent lawsuits are troubling.

For me the greatest adverse affect is on open-sourcing software. Open sourcing software is not free, there is a very real cost to the people who share even without lawsuits. If the project is interesting enough, sure people will fork it and contribute but you also get half-brained support requests for people who can't get your project to compile or what not.

With the possibility of lawsuits it becomes even more tempting to just keep your code locked away. For a small or medium-sized company it pays to keep any innovative code locked away internally to avoid patent trolls.

If these claims go through and Android falls on the mercy of Apple to license the technology at whatever price they name if they are gracious enough to, then we have to ask ourselves long and hard, will it be worth the wait until these patents expire? Is there any meaning to having Android perennially over-priced compared to Apple for the next several decades so that Apple wins big with any smartphone sale?


From what I can tell, the patent covers converting a piece of text into a hyperlink using regular expressions. There's a good chance that there might be prior art (especially, Perl books, because I remember doing HTML parsing using Perl regexps back in those days).

I can understand Apple's desire to protect its IP. But software doesn't need protection for more than a few years. 17 years is way too much for software patents. This lunacy must end.


Good god, bring back Groklaw. If the most respectable commenter on this topic is Florian Mueller, then we're in serious trouble.

More

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: