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The Tim Cook memo: line by line (jacquesmattheij.com)
334 points by plinkplonk on Aug 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments



I think this is an excellent occasion to relink PG's essay on Apple's behavior from 2009:

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

Maybe Apple thinks they can afford to play bull in the china chop of developer opinion right now but I'm sure I'm not the only developer that felt a little sick to his stomach firing up Xcode today. I plan to put iOS and Apple in my rear view mirror.


I should also add that this is just the last straw for me. I've been feeling increasingly uncomfortable about Apple's policies since they (temporarily) banned all languages but Obj-C from their platform.

I've just had enough of their controlling, paternalistic attitude. It was one thing when they were the scrappy underdog but the idea that I need the OK of the richest company in the world to install software on my (mobile) computer just suddenly seems equally laughable and creepy to me.


> It was one thing when they were the scrappy underdog but the idea that I need the OK of the richest company in the world to install software on my (mobile) computer just suddenly seems equally laughable and creepy to me.

It astounds me the kind of stuff Apple gets away with this days that Microsoft could have never dreamed of doing in the 90's.

Can anyone imagine if Microsoft had required its approval of applications like Netscape before allowing Windows users to install them?

Can anyone imagine if Microsoft had sued BeOS or RedHat for infringement of patents as trivial as pinch-to-zoom?


Can anyone imagine if Microsoft had required its approval of applications like Netscape before allowing Windows users to install them?

And now they're doing exactly that with Windows 8 apps, and nobody cares because Apple made walled gardens cool.


Is your argument that because Apple is now successful, that their walled garden approach is now flawed?

I don't follow the line of reasoning there.


No it was just easy enough to dismiss it as a harmless eccentricity of a niche player. Now that they're in the driver's seat in many ways it takes on much more sinister overtones. If Apple succeeds in driving Android out of the market they will be the sole arbiter of what's allowed on the devices that mediate most users' interactions with the net.

I have no problem with curated app stores or app DRM, by the way. I just think that there has to be a way to side load apps that don't meet the censor's approval for whatever reason.



It's cool to hate Apple because elite hackers don't like closed systems, despite the fact that their walled garden is actually better for 99.9% of consumers out there.


I wonder if folks said the same thing for AOL's walled garden approach to the internet once upon a time too.


Yep. But for people like my grandma and parents it was absolutely true. My apologies that I have nothing to cite but my own experience and analysis, but closed ecosystems are a temporary solution, at best, for building trust in a new market paradigm. Any attempt to justify extending the life of a closed ecosystem once the market has matured enough to adapt to it will have a tragically shrinking effect on that company's market allowing other competitors to wedge themselves in by differentiating on greater flexibility and convenience.


The idea that you need Apple's permission to install software on your mobile computer is false. You can install whatever software you want, via multiple methods. Out of the box you can install apps built using web technologies downloaded directly from the web.

Apple controls what goes into the store because they want to protect users from apps that steal information. iOS does not have the malware problem that android does as a result.

Javascript does not have the ability to do this, and so Apple will let you install wahtever app you want, directly from the safari browser.

It is not apple's fault that this has not proven as popular in the makretplace as the appstore-- but they had this feature in from day one, a year before the appstore even shipped.


This is just simply not true. Without a provisioning profile from apple you can't install anything. And putting a web link on your screen counts as an installation only in bizarro world.


It is true, you're just simply being dishonest. You can download and install full javascript apps that run on the device. To call it "putting a web link on the screen" is a lie. After you installed the app, you can go into airplane mode, tap the icon and be in the app and use it-- with no connection to any network. It is an app, not a link. It requires no provisioning file at all, it could be anything you want to download from the web. It could be porn or a shopping list app, whatever.

These apps have access to the iPhone UI patterns such as navigation controller, tab controller etc, and look and feel and work like native apps-- because they are native apps.

I'm tired of people who are ignorant of the technology and ideologically driven to spread lies calling the truth "bizarro world". You're the one who is telling the lie here, buddy. Your need to characterize me like that stems from it. Further, your ignorance of the existence of a solution is not proof that the solution doesn't exist, and when told about it, you should research it, not characterize me.


You're probably also the first to dismiss HTML5 apps when it suits you to talk up native, right?

I write iOS apps for a living. I know how their distribution controls work, thanks. Without Apple's explicit permission for each and every device I can't distribute my app. To muddy the waters here is intellectually dishonest. You should be embarrassed for trying to argue that this is anything remotely like Android or any of the current desktop platforms.


>The idea that you need Apple's permission to install software on your mobile computer is false.

How do I put executable code onto my iPhone and run it without their permission? Unless you can answer without the words "iTunes app store" or "jailbreak", you have proven yourself wrong.


That apple are a bunch of assholes should have been no surprise to anybody in 2009; the obscenely smug image which they've cultivated through their marketing has always reeked of a company which is shiny on the outside, and rotten in it's core.


Wow, you're going to also take down your current iOS apps from the App Store as well?


I think so. I'm trying to decide what's best for my customers. Since I don't plan to update them anymore I think it's best if I stop selling them.

However, I do want to make sure that I get at least one more update out there to take care of any issues that might arise from the iOS 6 transition so I'll probably wait until I'm sure there's nothing serious there.


I'm exactly the opposite. I don't have any strong feelings about patents but I'm fully aware that they're abused. That said, it was plain to me that Samsung was wrong and really did copy Apple. However, even if I thought Apple was plainly wrong which I have many times in the past I wouldn't think twice about buying their products and developer for their OS. I don't develop or buy Apple's products because of their corporate behavior. I do so for two reasons:

1. Apple products are the best in quality, design, and utility for me.

2. Their platform is hugely profitable and I want in on the action.

For me, it's simple economics. But I also tend to be an oddball around here. I'm one of the few who sees the benefits of copyright and I also believe patents have a completely valid place in society. What I think really sets me apart in these views is that I'm not a hard liner about any of them and from what I've seen on HN for the past 3 years, most people here (at least the ones who comment on these issues) are. I know about the dark side of patents, their abuse, and I'm right on the same page as others when they come out against abuse of the patent system. I also see some of the insanity surrounding copyright too. But you have to consider all the information in order to make an informed decision. Because of this I'm not one of those who decides to boycott all things made by company X because of their actions or position (could be one or a history of them) on issue Y.

I don't understand why people such as yourself take to boycotting every time something like this happens. I truly don't, and I'm not trying to be snarky or dickish at all so please don't read it that way. What I see in this case is standard Apple behavior and coincidentally they just happen to be right on this. If this abandoning of Apple really is about the lawsuit then why didn't you jump ship from the start instead of waiting for the ruling? And if this really is about the patent system then why is everyone making it about Apple? Apple is using the tools at its disposal to protect itself and in other cases simply make sure they stay ridiculously profitable. Apple didn't invent the patent system. If anger belongs anywhere it should be directed toward the system not the user of the system.


Hindsight, I don't agree with a lot of things in that essay. Its mostly hard lined towards software development point of views.


Wow Jacques, I usually love your posts and your comments here are valuable - but I think you are so off the mark with this post.

For starters, the reality is that Apple's revenue streams are quite diversified and their product portfolio is very strong. From iMac, to iTunes to iPods/iPhones/iPads.

So the notion that Apple would launch into litigation "just for the money" seems misguided, at the least - if only for the fact that if they lost the suit, there could be significant ramifications for their sales (e.g. an injunction against selling any of the products in the suit for X period of time, etc.). With sales and revenues growing as much as they are, a wrongly filed lawsuit can be even more risky than rewarding.

For a company as wealthy (and innovative) as Apple, there are more considerations than just protecting market share and trying to extract patent rent from competitors as a revenue stream.

There are many other companies that come out with many features in their products that Apple doesn't sue. See Windows, Safari vs Chrome, iPod vs Zune, Adobe Premiere vs Final Cut Pro, most "ultrabooks" vs Macbook Air, etc.

The issue here is that Samsung, HTC, et al. essentially have done what many companies in China have done. They acted like a hardware manufacturing partner - then using the inside knowledge they gained of the intimate architecture of the products, they reverse engineered them and competed directly.

That's like you hiring a web developer to build your startup - and both of you build it to traction, and once you take all the risk and prove the market, (s)he leaves and builds a direct competitor using his insider knowledge.

It's the most insiduous kind of 'IP stealing' that you can get.

If you had that done to you, and your ex-developer (in fact, he is still managing your codebase) is making a ton of money off of your ideas and IP in your market, I am sure you would be pissed too.

The money is just sprinkling on top.

Also, I think it is hard to argue that Apple doesn't pour their hearts into what they do. That's why they are the most valuable company on the planet and will continue to be for years to come. It's because of the rate at which they innovate.

Not the rate at which they copy.

So cut them some slack, and walk a mile in their shoes.


Really well said- for all of Jacques great posts, this opinion piece isn't well supported and doesn't go very deep considering its length.


Sucks that this post is so far down. It's the only piece of content on the page so far that doesn't seem like a biased, drunken tirade, including the OP.


This is absurd and frustrating. Apple is not responsible for the broken patent system.

Apple is a public company. If Apple decided to hold itself to a set of standards more stringent than its competitors, it would be hampering itself and acting against the interests of its shareholders. Complain about, and work to fix, the system. Don't expect Apple to fix it by ceding the rights it currently has to its competitors. Especially when, as a company, Apple genuinely seems to believe that the blatant copying of iOS in Android is unethical.

Also, you know Samsung has filed similar suits around the world, and in no way is opting out of the patent system, right? Buying a Samsung as a fuck-you to patent law is a joke. They aren't working to fix the problem. They're just losing.


Would you ever think about patenting a double touch interaction when you were the first to implement a double click action on a touchscreen? I think these things are so obvious I would even be ashamed to call them my innovation.


If you think it's obvious, Have you ever tried to double click the screen or pinch an image on your old Palm Pilot hoping the size would change?


Well the Palm Pilot isn't multitouch so ofcourse you can't do a pinch there. But double click just works out of the box on almost all devices when an existing OS is used.

I think you should give this a read: http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html and notice these words: "What I am pointing out, however, is that "new" technologies - like multi-touch - do not grow out of a vacuum."


Just because you can, doesn't mean that you have to. Look at Google. That's a nice company, which keeps the patent trolling down.


Oh, so now that Google has bought Motorola, they've stopped Motorola suing Apple?


I would not be surprised if suing Apple was a pre-condition of sale for Motorola.


Right. Just because you can doesn't mean you have to, but it does mean you can.

This is little more than a new round of the CSR debate.

I find it hard to fault Apple for cashing in on the ridiculous legal system.


hypothetically, if grinding babies was legal, would you also find no fault with those who chose to partake, after all its perfectly legal.

Hate the game, not the player, right?


Apple genuinely seems to believe that the blatant copying of iOS in Android is unethical.

Its unethical because the Android - iOS relationship can be narrowed down to one person...Eric Schmidt. He sat on the board of Apple, absorbed the process of Apple getting into the smart phone market, then emulated it at Google while he was CEO there. Although to be fair, Android innovates in some areas where iOS does not explore (running the JVM on smartphones).


In this case, no. It was a case against Samsung, not Google. And was about Samsung's hardware and their own implementation of Android.


But it wasn't (all) about the money. It was personal.

http://www.macrumors.com/2011/10/20/from-steve-jobs-biograph...

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs said. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

With that in mind, the email reads far more genuine than the blog post implies.


It's interesting to consider what it might take for an actual war to occur.

Samsung makes up a non-trivial share of the entire South Korean economy, one fifth of the country's exports and employing roughly one of every thirty people - if overnight they were barred from selling products internationally, at what point does the state intervene?


Samsung also makes a hell of a lot more than phones. 1 in 30 people in Korea mig be employed by Samsung, but they're not all making phones, and they're not all going to be affected by this decision. Even if Samsung was forced to abandon mobile phones altogether, it's big enough to weather it out.


Imagine an apple battle tank. Would it whale on a samsung tank? Or Drone? Or would Samsung need to down an apple drone then reverse engineer it before they had equality in the war?


The fact that Samsung does actually manufacture killer robots makes your posting a little sad. (I know that it's not the entertainment division, but I still don't understand why no one cares about that part of Samsung.)

http://dvice.com/archives/2006/11/samsung-creates-machinegun...


Phew. That's a little over-wrought.

Surely Apple has a responsibility to defend its patents and innovations?

We ("rabid Apple fan[s]") need a strong and successful Android to ensure some balance in this next generation of computing. We need a successful Android to keep Apple on their toes.

Google has figured out how to innovate with Android. Ice-cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean feature a unique and notable user interface.

Samsung, on the other hand, designed 'TouchWhiz' to imitate parts of the iOS look-and-feel in order to mislead customers.


Except that since there is a pending suit over the Galaxy Nexus, and this suit found that the Nexus S is infringing of all of the same patents, both ICS and Jelly Bean (stock, no TouchWhiz) are non-unique user interfaces. They've been found to blatantly copy iOS. Stock Android, including the most recent version, has been found to violate the patents in this case.

Think about that.


None of the companies are saints. However, the software patent idea is so absurd it makes my blood boil with anger.

But, of course, Apple has the rights (and responsibility) to defend it's patents no matter how baseless / crazy they are.


"Pinch to zoom" is an innovation?

Motorola recently sued Apple, and one of the patents covers siri's audible voice prompt, so Apple will have to innovate around that. Also, media playback resume among several devices is Google's innovation. Apple will have to innovate around that. And that's just the beginning. None of them are FRAND, which means higher penalties and bans.

I agree, companies have a responsibility to defend their innovations.


Pinch to zoom was unheard of on any device (mobile or not) at the time of iPhone's launch. Not surprising considering no one had multi-touch screens either.


Multi touch and Pinch to zoom was demonstrated by Jefferson Han¹ on a TED conference before the release of the iPhone.

¹: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Han


Although the Han ted talk is from 2006, before the iPhone but after the patent (2005).

The oldest multitouch device I know is the MERL Diamond Touch table (2001) which clearly predates everything Apple did. I am unsure whether or not somebody had implemented Pinch&Zoom on it before 2005.

In 2007 I worked on a Multitouch Table project as a student (http://digitable.imag.fr/). We built our own FTIR table and implemented a basic interface. We used Pinch&Zoom; I implemented it myself and I can assure you I had never seen an iPhone before. It is so obvious that when you include it in an interface you do not have to explain it to the users, they will try it naturally. If anybody using a multitouch interface tries that within 10 minutes, how can it be patented?

I wonder when Microsoft started to use it internally, too. They already had a working prototype for Surface in 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEiFhD-DIlA


Patents cover inventions of methods and processes to accomplish something-- implementations, not the idea or the feature.

Thus pinch-to-zoom as Jeff Han demonstrated it, using cameras to take pictures of your hands is not the same thing as apple doing it using software to turn noisy amorphous blobs into finger points on a capacitive touch screen.

Other people can implement pinch-to-zoom because pinch-to-zoom cannot be patented.

Both Apple and Jeff Han could have patents on their very different implementations of this same feature.

Unfortunately people really seem to believe that patents cover features, and I think this is due to the deliberate spin put on the discussions by anti-patent people.

If you disagree, try reading the pinch-to-zoom patent itself.



Patents cover inventions of methods and processes to accomplish something-- implementations, not the idea or the feature.

Thus pinch-to-zoom as Jeff demonstrated it, using cameras to take pictures of your hands is not the same thing as apple doing it using software to turn noisy amorphous blobs into finger points on a capacitive touch screen.

Other people can implement pinch-to-zoom because pinch-to-zoom cannot be patented.

Both Apple and Jeff Han could have patents on their very different implementations of this same feature.

Unfortunately people really seem to believe that patents cover features, and I think this is due to the deliberate spin put on the discussions by anti-patent people.

If you disagree, try reading the pinch-to-zoom patent itself.


Minority Report had the concept, but with two hands. Something new would be the notifications stolen from android. But in any case, it's a patent and companies are required to protect their innovation!


> Surely Apple has a responsibility to defend its patents and innovations?

People love to say this kind of thing. "They had to defend their property!". No they didn't.

Throughout the 2000's we had an orthodoxy that all these seemingly obvious and bogus patents being filed by huge companies were OK because they were for "defensive" purposes. In other words, the very premise for why most of these patents were not vociferously protested against was the fact that the companies were not going to exercise them aggressively. Now that the stockpile has been accumulated we have people like you saying "Well, it's not their fault, since they have the patents they have to defend them!". Again - no, they don't.


Almost every single founder would go crazy if someone copied their interface or device design in the same way. Yes the same people that are now claiming that Apple is a threat to innovation.

The jury's decision is the best thing that could've happened to the industry in the long term.

I hope we don't really need to discuss the fact that Smsg's devices and Android at least started as clones.


Exactly. I find it amazing that people suddenly start applying a different set of rules once it's about Apple.

If I was a startup founder who designed and developed the iPhone, and then saw the blatant rip-off by Samsung, I would go nuts with rage. And HN would likely rage with me. But hey, it's Apple, so no bullying, and anyone is allowed to copy whatever they do, right?

Also, I view this whole trial as "a way" for Apple to get at Samsung. Patents were a tool here, not the end goal. We all know the patent system is broken and obsolete, but since it exists, it is a tool that Apple could use. Note that no one seems to dispute that Samsung copied Apple designs, people just complain about the use of patents. I think that is a very one-sided view. Samsung blatantly copied (and continues to do so) Apple designs and they deserve to be punished — that Apple used patents is something I'd consider secondary.


It's a question of intent not of rounded corners. Smsg and Android had the clear intent to copy Apple, so there should be no discussion about their guilt.

I totally agree on your view on patents.


My comment in another HN Thread:

Is it good for the industry in the short term? I'd say No. Is it the best thing that could have happened to the tech industry in the long term? Yes, I think so. Android and most devices started as a direct response to iOS. All the major players saw that iOS was disrupting the market and there was no time left to invent something on their own, so they simply built a clone. From a business point of view the right decision, Microsoft invented a new UI and new devices with Nokia, but it seems they failed, since they were late to the market and to succeed they would have needed a really disruptive idea themselves. Google had the team and skills to invent something that could disrupt iOS, but they decided to copy it instead and in the process wasted all the brain power of the team that probably has the best chance of finding the next paradigm. What a waste of talent to use all those great people for building a clone.


I can't help but feel as if all of the claims made regarding "real innovation" in this post grossly undervalue the strides Apple has made in UI/UX and overall product design in favor of elevating more immediately self-evident technical advances.

The strength of Apple's innovation has always been in delivering complete, cohesive products. In that regard, user interface details and interactions which seem trivial technically are hardly trivial in terms of user experience.

As a competitive entity, there's no reason for Apple not to leverage every technique at its disposal to ensure its competitive viability - and one of these techniques is using patent litigation to prevent competitors from carbon-copying its innovations.

Moral and ethical arguments should be made with regard to the integrity of the patent system itself, not a single corporation's lawful use of that system. Decrying Apple's behavior either speaks to hopeless naiveté regarding the nature of competition, or self-congratulatory moral posturing.


I think Steve said it best himself:

http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/7/2011/11/230bfc...

Companies have an obligation to their shareholders and their staff to protect themselves. A lot of big companies have come out against the current Patent Laws, but at the same time are fighting tooth and nail to protect themselves because that is the current legal environment that they are operating in right now.

PS. Jacques, the "freemium" and "consulting" links on your personal website are dead links


If that's real, that's really just an example of the asinine (and petty) side of Steve Jobs I choose to forget now that he's dead.

Imagine Gabe Newell's version of that email.


Don't shoot the messenger. If you don't like the way the patent system works, then criticise the system, but don't criticise a company for making use of it. The 800lb gorilla in the room is patent reform, not Apple. They certainly don't need the money. Given the discovery that went into this case, claims like "Apple didn't even invent it" seem rather far-fetched.


> If you don't like the way the patent system works, then criticise the system, but don't criticise a company for making use of it

So when and how exactly are we supposed to complain? In a vacuum? When nothing bad is happening, just start writing letters about how awful the patent system is and hope somebody listens? Do you honestly think that would ever work? It's a ludicrous proposition.

If you want change, you have to illustrate why that change is needed. You do that by highlighting demonstrably problematic cases, and by showing that the parties involved are behaving in a fashion that is contrary to the public interest, yet legal, and thus changes to the laws are needed. That is how it works. If anybody thinks the patent system needs reform then this is exactly when they should put their effort into complaining, and they should absolutely be criticizing Apple for their actions. It is not just appropriate - it's the only way change will get achieved.


Hmm - i really dont agree with this. Apple revolutionised the industry - before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR. Apple frankly blew the industry apart.

"These are not patents on innovation, they’re patents on simple ideas and features that you didn’t even think of first but you were the first to patent."

Then the magical aspect of patent law called "prior art" would come into play and it wouldn't be patentable. Yet it is - and yet despite all of Samsungs insistences and millions (no doubt) spent on prior art research - nothing has been shown prior to the date of filing that anything existed. It's no different than Amazon's One-click.

It would be interesting - if you invented something, you spent ten-of-thousands on patents, you spent huge amounts of capital in developing a product - you launch it to much positive press and then someone simply copies everything you have done. You're a small business - what do you do now ? According to your article you sit back and say "oh thats totally ok because thats innovation and I'm happy that everyone has copied me and destroyed my advantage".

The problems with the patent industry are patents abused by companies who have absolutely no interest in developing them but rather trolling them to simply extract money from other companies. Hence the reason the law should be reformed to attach patentable rights to have a enforceable requirement to actually 'use' the patent - thus destroying the majority of trolls. If you dont actively use it as it is meant to be - you have nothing. The requirements and the search of prior art should be greater and longer - to ensure patents are truly innovative and this should not be the role of the courts (due to expense, time and so on within the legal system)

The entire basis of patents was essentially trying to protect the little guy, with an idea against the onslaught of bigger companies just copying them outright and giving them no chance. You state "gone are the days of Steve Wozniak" and indeed "gone would be the days of apple" long ago - because he just wanted everyone to have everything and thats not how you run any business.

I agree that patent law needs reform - but I totally disagree that your somewhat misconstrued article that we should simply destroy patents all together. It should destroy them if they are not being actively used - but a company trying to protect its innovations in not something that I'm against. If you had a startup and a patentable innovation - it would be ridiculous to assume that you would be willing to forgo millions/billions in revenue for some abstract concept of "a greater good". America is a capitalist society and therefore you are fighting that as a concept - not the patent industry. I know my post will get down-voted but it's a reality of business and running a business - you either file for protection or you don't and get copied.


Just because something makes you money doesn't mean it's inherently good or useful, and it doesn't mean it should be protected by law. Every time a company's competitors catch up to it, and every time technology makes a company's business model obsolete, they turn to the law to try to wipe the competition/technology out of existence. And, quite frankly, it's bullshit.

You're right, the entire basis of patents was to protect the little guys. But nowadays the exact opposite is happening. Over the last 200 years, the big guys have wielded their influence to change the system to their benefit. And now they abuse patents to crush anything that threatens their leadership position, whether that's a little guy trying to innovate or another big guy trying to play catch up.

Either way, the consumer loses, and for what? Innovation certainly isn't any better off.


Either way, the consumer loses, and for what? Innovation certainly isn't any better off.

You have no way of knowing whether this is true. Patents could come with a host of disadvantages and drags on innovation and still be a net positive for innovation. There's just no way to know without a control group.

As long as we're throwing out opinions, I find it very hard to believe that the patent system, broken though it is, is anything other than a HUGE net positive for innovation. I'm talking about the patent system across all industries, but I suspect the same would be true for the tech industry specifically. Companies across many industries regularly spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to develop products that are primarily protected by patents. If we did away with patents, many of those investments would no longer be made, and the rest would be as shrouded in secrecy as possible. And secrecy is a patent that potentially never expires.


I find it very hard to believe that the patent system, broken though it is, is anything other than a HUGE net positive for innovation. I'm talking about the patent system across all industries, but I suspect the same would be true for the tech industry specifically.

The Economist (hardly a bastion of the free software movement) quoted a 2008 study showing:

A study in 2008 found that American public companies' total profits from patents (excluding pharmaceuticals) in 1999 were about $4 billion—but that the associated litigation costs were $14 billion.[1]

Clearly the litigation costs have grown significantly since 1999. It is unclear to me if the profits have kept pace, but even if they have that still would mean patents cost over 3-times the financial benefit they bring.

[1] http://www.economist.com/node/21526370


That seems intuitively wrong. $4 billion across all public companies? Apple makes more than 10 times that on its patented inventions yearly...


But how much of that revenue would they miss out on without patents, taking crosslicensing out of the picture? I suspect very little. People buy iphones for the whole product's look and feel, not for any specific feature.

It's a myth that software must be protected through patents. Copyright and trade dress law is sufficient.


> You have no way of knowing whether this is true.

There is a whole field dedicated to answering this kinds of questions, it is called economics, and there is quite a bit of research in this area analyzing historical evidence from different legal systems, times and industries.

And most of the evidence indicates that patents hinder and stop innovation, and that most innovation and progress happens when there are no patents:

http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.h...


You're correct that economics is a science, but you make an error when you say "most of the evidence", and then link to an ideological position.

Science doesn't work that way. Even if the preponderance of evidence were the standard, you haven't provided evidence that the preponderance of the evidence supports your position. And even if every economist in the world shared the same opinion, it would be a meaningless claim (even if you got a petition and they all signed it) from a scientific standpoint.

I believe you are wrong, but I would fall into the same error if I simply made the opposite claims you do, and I cannot prove my position scientifically, so I won't argue it.


You're correct that economics is a science, but you make an error when you say "most of the evidence", and then link to an ideological position.

It is a mistake to simply link to a book and said it is evidence, because that's just being a lazy person. People should be able to come up with their own arguments in a discussion.

That being said, it's an economic book that should be evaluated on its own merit. Calling a book "ideological" is quite unfair unless you're prepared to make an argument against the book's arguments.


>> And secrecy is a patent that potentially never expires.

Do you seriously believe, no one else can come up same/similar functionality/product? I would like a system where they keep the patent secret(nothing is published) for 5 years, and if in 5 years no one comes up with same/similar idea, patent is granted for next 10 years (rather than current 20 years from filing), otherwise patent is not granted. My guess is 99% of software patents will go away.


That would slow innovation to a standstill.. After you invent something, you couldn't use it for 5 years. Everyone would be even more secretive and it would favour big companies who could afford to 1) sit on ideas for 5 years 2) register as many patents as possible.


There is a control group for the impact of patents. It's called software.


> Either way, the consumer loses, and for what?

If you take the lawsuit for what it is, namely that only Apple can have pinch-to-zoom et.al, yes the consumer loses.

But if this lawsuit makes vendors keep a little more distance between each other, I'm all for it. As a consumer, I'd rather have a wide array of choices rather than one cash cow and its copycats, and I'd argue that this is what most people would understand as innovation. (And this is the opposite of innovation: http://allthingsd.com/20120807/samsungs-2010-report-on-how-i...)


> Just because something makes you money doesn't mean it's inherently good or useful, and it doesn't mean it should be protected by law.

Are we talking about patentable innovations, or something else? A lot of patentable innovations do not make anything, a lot things which are not patentable make boat load of bucks. Your comment seem to have clouded this distinction.

It seems to me that you are questioning the basis of government granted monopoly. But this grant is not on the basis of money generation, but on innovation and benefits to the society by disclosure.

Imagine if someone discovered and invented a principle and device for unlimited cheap source of energy. If he kept it to himself, it may definitely help him to unknown riches. And possibly the secret could die with him. But if he shared his secret sauce, then all of us in the society will benefit a lot. Patents are a means to that end. What do you think?


> Imagine if someone discovered and invented a principle and device for unlimited cheap source of energy.

First of all, this imaginary genius could still choose to not disclose his innovation. Patents are optional. Take for instance the Coca Cola recipe. Its kept as a trade secret [1]. But consumers can still choose to drink Pepsi and co. instead.

Second, I doubt a case like this, an truly important innovation that only one person will come up with, has ever occurred or will ever occur. If you look at the history of science and innovation, there is apparently always multiple people or groups working independently on the very same innovation. Famous examples are the first piloted flight [2] or the discovery of calculus [3].

For me this is the strongest case against, today's, patent law. We overstate the importance of the supposed single genius that humanity depends on. And yes, I question the the basis for any monopoly.

In the Apple vs Samsung case though, it was _also_ about consumer confusion. Samsung did not only use Apples innovation like pinch-to-zoom, which in my opinion should be fine, but tried to fool buyers into thinking that they got an iPhone by copying Apple's look and feel. You could say, that any idiot would see the difference. There is no Apple logo or iPhone label on Samsung products. But, I argue, thats just our geeky perspective. My grand parents or even parents wouldn't be able to tell the difference, unless I write them a note with 'A P P L E' on it. I could live happily with this problem, but I can agree that this is a grey area.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_early_flying_machines#C... [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculus#History


You're exactly right - unless I tell the older folk "it's from Apple.. You know, the iPod company", they're not going to know. And when the iPod came out, it's was similar "it's called an iPod and Apple, you know, they made the Macintosh about 20 years ago, they made this. You can put 1000 songs on it..".

If this 'education' is not performed, then they'll never know. I've seen it with my own eyes.


"Coke is a trade secret" is a shibboleth.

The real value to Coke is the brand, marketing, advertising, and bottling network.

There are numerous versions of the Coke recipe floating around, and seven open source cola recipes ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCola_(drink) ).


The problem is that it seems nobody actually benefits from reading patents when implementing ideas. First, if you read a patent you can be found liable for willful infringement, which can triple the damages. Second, patents are intentionally written to reveal as little information as possible. Drug patents in particular often do not explain a reproducible method for creating the drug.


Weren't the guys that Apple bought to get multitouch "little"? In a world where such "obvious in retrospect" designs aren't protected, why doesn't Apple just copy their work?


So they could sue competitors.


I do agree with you in this regard. True innovations should be patentable and it's been the consistent bashing of the law to extend the scope of what is patentable that comes to the fore here. By fundamentally - having a patent and litigating a patent are hugely different things and that's a big problem. The patent offices around the world have timelines and deadlines - even if they approve a patent which shouldn't be - they rely on the courts to determine whether it is or is not. That's a huge time cost, financial cost and so on - thats the system today. So you go to court - you spend literally millions arguing and you get a decision as to whether or not it's innovative. That's wrong in my mind.


This seems to mostly be the case in software industry where everything moves really fast so nothing seems patent worthy. There's a whole world out there where innovation moves a lot slower and patent protection is crucial.


Was that not the whole point of the patent-system? That there is an incentive in doing/thinking first?

I disagree that patenting was meant only for the small guys. Patenting was meant to make innovation happen and fast. Simple as that. Social welfare policies are designed for the small guy.

In any case how expensive is it to file a patent, or get a job with the company which has the patent and work with them.

The so called small guy you talk about does not give a damn about innovation. He wants to be the next Steve Jobs.

Let's admit it. Money is important for everyone. Apple, Samsung, Small guy, Big guy. Everyone.

What one can discuss is how to collect taxes from people and deploy that to support indie innovators(if may call them so) who want to fly solo.


> Was that not the whole point of the patent-system? That there is an incentive in doing/thinking first?

No. The point of the patent system was to provide an incentive to documenting your inventions and sharing them with others.


You mentioned the difference between big and small company.

When Apple had clearly stolen the look and feel of Delicious Library to make iBook. The author was a "small company". He even show some happiness that his work was used by Apple.

The point is, he couldn't have sued Apple. Simply because, actually, a small company could certainly not win over a big one. The big one will use a lot of money to keep the trial as long as possible while continue to steal your stuff. Even if won, it would have last too long to save your business. And you had lost a lot of energy. This remember me the medieval justice were the richer always win.

Actual patent system only give an advantage to big companies. What if big player start to sue small startups because they used the double-click, the swipe, a wood texture that looks like a library?


Funny

Apple bought the "coverflow" look from a small company

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


I wish you were kidding. In the 1990s I worked on software that had the same "look and feel" of the "delicious library". We had shelves and we put things on them, books, CDs, etc, in our software. This was for a seattle software company- the same city that Wil Shipley lived in when he created delicious library.

So, can I claim that, because he put books on shelves in his software that he stole the idea from us, when we did it 10 years before him?

His claim that Apple "stole" this from him is completely absurd to the point of nonsensical. He couldn't have sued Apple because his claim is nonsense.

Just as my claim that he stole our idea of putting books on shelves is nonsense as well.

The sad thing is, so many people believe this kind of nonsense.

"Hey I put books on shelves in software!" Look how innovative I am!

To compare this to patents is beyond reaching.


Actually, if you'd had a patent on it, you could claim that, under current law. Some of the software patents being upheld cover far less.


I stopped reading after "Apple revolutionised the industry - before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces".

Clearly you are very misguided. You are comparing featurephones with smartphones (the ones with screens and stuff). Smartphones existed way before the iPhone.

It makes me extremely sad that the marketing lies of Apple are taken for truth.

Apple may have invented the vendor lock-in, though! :P


Name one pre-iPhone smartphone that you'd be willing to pit against the iPhone.

Oh, and Apple's vendor lock-in is still a damn sight better than the telco lock-in it replaced (in the US).


I guess you misread my comment. I was criticizing the comparison of feature phones with the iPhone not comparing iPhones with smartphones. It's a big difference. If the iPhone would have been the first smartphone you could probably call it revolutionary. But you can't. Evolution ok, Better as the competition at the time of release ok. I'll grant you that already. Still a big difference.

The first iPhone didn't even support 3rd party apps (and afaik in the beginning Steve Jobs never intended to support native apps). Other smartphones had native apps for ages, though.

People should just stop to pretend that apple invented phones with big screens, it's ridiculous.


Yep. I was using a Palm Treo smartphone four years before the iPhone came out. A solid phone, the Internet in my pocket, email on the go, and plenty of apps. The Palm app market went back to 1997, when the PalmPilot first came out. So as far as features and utility went, the iPhone looked kinda weak to me at launch.

I think the iPhone's main novelty in the market was that Apple invested heavily in consumer-friendly design and aesthetic appeal, and then they marketed the shit out it. They single-handedly dragged the smart-phone market across the chasm, just like they did with the MP3 player market. Brilliant and gorgeous work. But not in areas that I think are deserving of patent protection except when the R&D drives some deeper technical innovation.


This is a joke, right? Having used three different models of the Palm Treo and the Wince Treo, I can assure you I was desperate to use the iPhone because it just worked. Sure the Treo exceeded the original iphone on many different features, but none of them worked. The software was awful, it crashed all the time, you couldn't receive calls b/c the software would crash, none of the apps worked well, and the internet was completely unusable. It was a total nightmare.

Yes the iphone was shiny and beautiful, but it also worked! This "treo was awesome" straw man floats around alot until I actually ask them about it and then the whitewashed memories come flooding back and people step back and say, you're right, it was awful.


I like how you started this reply with a question and ended it with a statement. You've decided you know better than all other Treo owners and so now you can speak over them and overrule their decisions.

No.

This is not how civil discourse works, and for the record I owned Windows Mobile phones before the iPhone and while they were not as good as the iPhone or the HTC Dream or many competitors, they had rounded corners, a bezel, a rough multitasking framework, apps etc.

They were in every way a proto-iPhone, and the idea that the iPhone did anything but promote smartphones to the average person is hilarious.


I think you're judging pioneers by the standards of later arrivals. It would seem terrible now, but compared to the options then, I was very happy. Internet! In my pocket!

I do think the PalmOS was showing its age at the time, and a bad app or extension could cause a lot of trouble. But having used PalmOS for years, getting things reasonably stable wasn't hard for me. And as a nerd, I'm pretty tolerant of crashes.

So no, it's not a joke. The Treo was a solid nerd smartphone for me.


Yeah fair enough, I just know that I could never get the internet to be useful. The email in my pocket was OK, but the Blackberry did it much better. The Apps were trying, but they just couldn't quite get there. I remember the whole frustration of the experience was because the Treo was so close to being a nice phone and yet literally so far away from being there. I was also an original Handspring user, so very familiar with the PalmOS, but that was another major annoyance - nothing had changed since my Handspring in 2001! Sigh.


exactly


Nobody are claiming Apple invented phones with big screens. But you have to be pretty blind to not see that iPhone was a revolution in the smartphone market, which had barely seen any user interface innovation in 10 years prior to that.


I'm pretty sure this was a patent infringement lawsuit, so the statement that the "iPhone was a revolution" is irrelevant. Apple won a claim against Samsung for mimicking "bounce back" behavior among other patents.

Hopefully pull-to-refresh isn't patented. I'm not about to look either lest I be found willfully infringing.


Pull to refresh is patented by Twitter, and Apple has bought a license (apparently, since it'll apparently be implemented in iOS 6).


>Apple won a claim against Samsung for mimicking "bounce back" behavior

False. Patents don't cover features. Patents cover inventions. Apple won against samsung for copying apple's solution for how to implement a feature. Not for having that feature.

This misrepresentation trivializes the nature of the patents and is ideologically driven. Don't fall for it.

If you disagree, try reading the patent.


I'll check it out. I remember seeing a number of patents involved in the case, just haven't read them. My comment was certainly a generalization.


Yeah initially it wasnt made to support 3rd party apps he expected everyone to innovate on the web. That's why they concentrated so much on making Safari great. All the developers wanted native apps and eventually it brought the app store to life.


> Name one pre-iPhone smartphone that you'd be willing to pit against the iPhone.

The iphone was not a smartphone when it was released. It lacked the ability to install ANY third party software. It was essentially a very snazzy feature phone.

Its success did not come due to its smartphone credentials, which are still heavily inferior to its competition. It's wholly owned to its design and usability.


> Name one pre-iPhone smartphone that you'd be willing to pit against the iPhone.

Any phone that let you install your own applications.


...not to mention Jobs with his extreme willingness to control everything, was initially against any third party apps. His vision was: you buy this device, here are the set of app, go and have fun. thats it. Its only after Cydia getting traction he changed his mind...

http://www.cultofmac.com/125180/steve-jobs-was-originally-de...


> Name one pre-iPhone smartphone that you'd be willing to pit against the iPhone.

The TARDIS.

Your move.


The LG Prada : December 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_Prada


> Apple revolutionised the industry - before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR

Even if that were true, the problem for me is Apple didn't patent the iPhone. They patented tiny little implementation details, like pinch-to-zoom and slide-to-unlock. The iPhone was revolutionary not because of rounded rectangles and a regular grid of icons. It was revolutionary because it was a phone that people actually enjoyed using. Did pinch-to-zoom and whatnot play a role in that? Possibly, but this whole case hinged on a handful of tiny implementation details and that's what I'm disappointed about.

It's like blocking the sale of a car because someone had a patent on having the indicator paddles on the steering column. Are there other places to put the indicator paddle? Sure, but it's only a tiny detail in a hugely complex system.

Having said that, I'm happy Samsung got done for the trade-dress stuff, because that was pretty obviously blatant copying.


Im with you. The jury has spoken and found Samsung guilty, but the actual legal details seem random and should not be anybody's property.

People often compare it to the Tv market or the car market. Yes, all TVs look alike. They are all ugly. Yes all cars look the same: like shiny bling to impress an ape. I dont consider the lack of choice in design in those markets a good thing.

I dont like patents, but i would love for products in all categories to look more unique. Maybe Apple should have won because of the tradedress. But not because of the patents.


You misunderstand the nature of patents. Patents cover inventions, which are non-obvious methods to solve problems. This is not giving apple the exclusive right to "pinch to zoom" or "slide to unlock" but the methods for implementing those features.

Apple also has a great deal of very fundamental patents with regard to the unique way for reading touch screens that they invented. This does not mean only Apple can have touch interfaces, but the method they invented for implementing them, however, they do have patents on.

The reason this trial was about these lesser patents and trade dress was the same as the reason it was over products that are no longer on the shelves-- the legal system moves very slow. The "big gun" patents hadn't yet been granted at the time Apple started getting sued.


I don't think I've misunderstood anything. I'm not saying patents do not work like this, I'm saying they should not - its my opinion that the way the system currently works is broken and it should not have been possible to get a patent on trivial features.

Also, I'm curious to know which are the "big gun" patents you're referring to. Does this mean Apple will be able to sue Samsung again for even more?


> Hmm - i really dont agree with this. Apple revolutionised the industry - before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR. Apple frankly blew the industry apart.

What?

No, we weren't.

I had a Cingular 8125 (HTC Wizard) a year and a half before the iPhone was introduced and it was perfectly fine. Apple just added shiny icons and took away the keyboard and stylus. BFD.


If you can not see the difference in the touchscreen UI between the Wizard (or any other pre-iPhone device) and the iPhone, you have to be blind.

Until the iPhone, touch-screen phones were slow, clunky and unresponsive. They had shitty resistive screens that were a total pain to use. (LG actually released a capacitive phone before the iPhone, but the software was the same shit we had for ages so it didn't change a thing). Even simple things like lists were scrolled by aiming for a 2px wide scrollbar and dragging it.

But then the iPhone came along with smooth and fluid graphics and animations, actually innovative and fun touch gestures like simple flicks to scroll through lists (and a 60fps smooth animation while doing so), pinch-to-zoom and so on. The experience was actually enjoyable.

The same thing happened with the iPad. Back in the early 2000's we had "tablets" with a downsized desktop OS (Windows XP). Total shit for a touch-screen device.

Even after the iPhone some competitors failed to realize what made it good. Nokia's touch screen abominations were just sad - and they're still releasing some terrible Symbian devices like the new PureView 808. The Verge's review summarizes Symbian's problems pretty well:

> THE SYMBIAN EFFECT: WHEN GREAT HARDWARE IS RENDERED USELESS BY TERRIBLE SOFTWARE

> Actions like scrolling or pinch-to-zoom feel like requests you’re filing with a clerk somewhere in a bureaucratic dystopia — to be carried out at some indeterminate time in the future. Completing this slow-motion train wreck is the only thing worse than unresponsive operation: a complete crash of the entire phone.

Apple needs to stop with their bullshit litigation but they truly did push the industry forward with touch devices. It isn't a coincidence that touch screen phones exploded after the iPhone and that people actually started caring about tablets after the iPad.


It seems like you're walking back the claims of the guy I responded to for him: "Oh, well, okay, Apple didn't have the first touchscreen phone, but they had the first good one."

Well, I don't even agree with you on that.

I got five years out of my "unenjoyable" HTC smartphone. I could tether it to my laptop without forking over extra money. I could run whatever apps were available (which is more than could be said for the iPhone on launch day, because there weren't any). I had a full keyboard, a web browser that supported SSL, a music player, and Pocket PuTTY -- should I have given a shit about smooth scrolling?


I also got many years out of my old Nokia smartphone (which on paper could do more than the first iPhone). However, I immediately understood what a revolution the iPhone UI was when it launched.

Lucky for Apple that most competitors had key people who thought exactly like you do for a good while after the iPhone launched - why give a shit about smooth scrolling and polished, intuitive interfaces?


I had a Cingular 8125 (HTC Wizard) a year and a half before the iPhone was introduced and it was perfectly fine

No, it was not "perfectly fine." Otherwise they would have sold a hundred million of them.

Give credit where it's due, for Pete's sake. It is a fact that prior to the iPhone, cell phones sucked ass. It is also a fact that granting Apple a twenty-year legal monopoly on trivial "innovations" will hurt consumers as much as it will Apple's competitors.


> No, it was not "perfectly fine." Otherwise they would have sold a hundred million of them.

This is a lot like saying to a friend who sees $100 on the ground that it can't really be $100, otherwise someone would have picked it up already.

Apple is a marketing powerhouse. They are brilliant at it. They hook you emotionally. They convince you that they created some device specifically for you. They really make you believe that it is changing your life. That it is revolutionary. They even help you rationalize flaws. (iPhone drops cals? Oh, that's just stupid AT&T's fault.)

That's how they sell 100s of millions of devices. The devices are also quite slick, but you have to concede that slickness alone is not what drives Apple's profits. The marketing budget numbers came out during this trial I believe, and they were staggering.


This is a lot like saying to a friend who sees $100 on the ground that it can't really be $100, otherwise someone would have picked it up already.

(Shrug) A $100 bill lying on the ground will be picked up very quickly, by the original owner if no one else. That means that if you see $100 on the ground, chances are that it's not real. It might be a $1 or $10 bill that you've mistaken at first for $100. It might be counterfeit or play money. It might be someone playing the old "glue some cash to the pavement and laugh at/film people trying to pick it up" game. The chances that someone has actually misplaced a $100 bill in public, and that you are the first to come upon it, are very low indeed.

They convince you that they created some device specifically for you.

I don't know about you, but if the engineers don't do their job well, the marketers have no chance of making me believe that. Otherwise my house would be full of shiny gad.... wait, uh, OK, moving on to the next point....

The marketing budget numbers came out during this trial I believe, and they were staggering.

Larger than the marketing spend across the entire Android ecosystem?

The fact is that there are plenty of tech companies who spend more on marketing than Apple does, and who often have better ads, as well. Each of those companies has something in common: they sell less stuff than Apple does. Therefore, your dismissal of Apple as a "marketing" company, while not necessarily wrong, must be incomplete.


> The chances that someone has actually misplaced a $100 bill in public, and that you are the first to come upon it, are very low indeed.

It's impressive how you try and own the very fallacy you're using. It doesn't change the result but gives the superficial impression that you've addressed the criticism.

> The fact is that there are plenty of tech companies who spend more on marketing than Apple does, and who often have better ads, as well. Each of those companies has something in common: they sell less stuff than Apple does. Therefore, your dismissal of Apple as a "marketing" company, while not necessarily wrong, must be incomplete.

Citation needed. Apple advertise their products on UK TV to a much higher rate than any other smartphone. I've only ever seen brief SGS3 and N7 adverts, I see an iPad or iPhone advert every other break.

Stop making assertions and demanding they're right. You are not.


Oh.


Apple just added shiny icons and took away the keyboard and stylus. BFD.

I actually think that is a BFD. If it had a keyboard, the whole idea of dynamic UI's would not exist.

Would anyone think that angry birds is cool if we had to play it with arrow buttons on the keyboard?


Windows CE 'Pocket PC' handhelds had retracting soft keyboards 10+ years ago.

Handspring Treos were dedicated touchscreen-based phone-PDA hybrids not much later.

PalmOS had grids of icons for its screens from day one.

Apple's primary innovation wasn't technical, it was marketing. They tied a few pre-existing ideas together slightly better, made them more shiny and used the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field to convince the world it was a never-before-seen quantum leap.


They can't hear you.

Look at the recurring pattern in this thread and elsewhere.

Apple fanatic: Apple deserves a 20 year government enforced monopoly because they did it first. Everyone else stole it, and are thieves, who deserve to pay.

Member of the reality-based consensus: small portable computers existed before the iPad/iPhone and every individual part that you could name (or patent) had been done before by others. Concrete factual example A, B, C...

<sound of crunching mental gears and cognitive dissonance defences engaging>

Apple fanatic: But Apple did it better and make more money! Therefore it doesn't matter who did it first. People who build on the innovations of others and provide them to consumers are what is important here.

You could spend all day trying to get them to face up to their conflicting logic, but they'll resist with all their might.


Yeah! There's nothing new in the iPhone, that Bell didn't demonstrate over a century ago!

The reality is, you guys are ideologically driven- you want to get google off the hook for stealing Apples inventions, so you pretend like the patents cover features rather than implementations.

Your dishonesty is shameful.


Please quote, from the relevant patent, what implementation (rather than feature) you think Google and/or Samsung stole from Apple.


> The reality is, you guys are ideologically driven- you want to get google off the hook for stealing Apples inventions, so you pretend like the patents cover features rather than implementations.

This is Samsung vs Apple. Not Google vs Apple. Don't be so arrogant and blind.

> Your dishonesty is shameful.

Pull down notifications. Begin backpedalling.


Since this is essentially Apple vs. the rest of the industry, how can you claim those supporting the industry are the ones that are ideologically driven?


Cause Android is the rest of the industry?


Samsung is not Android.

But you bolster my point: it's clearly Apple on one side. Who is on the other side in order for the anti-bad-patent crowd to be labelled collectively as "ideologically driven"?


All the phones which are blatant knock offs of the iPhone. This obviously started with the Android OS and Eric Schmidt on the Apple board , then spread to other forms of copying. Samsung is the most egrigrious example. This is very plain to see for the average man on the street who knows nothing about patents. Even something like Windows Mobile with its tiles (and tiny Market share), people can see at least it's trying to do it's own thing.


Those prior things you speak of were absolutely terrible. I had all those devices and they sucked compared to the iPhone.

I think that those "innovations" seem simple now in hindsight, but why didn't any of the companies previously making smart phones or PDAs (Palm, Windows CE, HP, Compaq, Dell, etc) come up with something that not only the hardcore nerds would actually want to use?

I really don't think it was just marketing. Apple made a smartphone that almost everyone could pick up and enjoy using.

I definitely see both sides to this story. It sucks that Apple is killing fair (and unfair) competition but it also sucks that Samsung can just sit there and blatantly copy Apple's innovations. There needs to be a balance.

This is the best quote I've seen about the verdict:

"Samsung only found itself in trouble with the products that copied liberally from Apple. It did not help their case that they had a hundred page document describing what to copy nor the fact that Google went to them and said "do not copy Apple that blatantly"."


> Those prior things you speak of were absolutely terrible. I had all those devices and they sucked compared to the iPhone.

One of the reasons they sucked, was because they had to...

They were done 2, 5, 10, 20 years before the iPhone, iPad, etc came out... When we had CPUs, screens, drives, etc, that were inferior and could not handle the same load or work that modern hardware does.


No, they didn't have to. The CPU speeds, storage and screens existed years before the iPhone launched. The iPhone did have a capacitive touch screen, but that wasn't exactly new, bleeding edge technology.

Three years earlier in 2005, the N770 had a bigger higher DPI screen than the iPhone, HTC had phones with the same CPU speed.

But none of those devices had software specially made for finger touch with a capacitive screen. They didn't suck because the technology didn't exist, they sucked because other companies didn't see further ahead than the existing, navigation button / stylus driven interfaces that had existed for 10 years prior.

If you need further proof, just look at the time it has taken Nokia, RIM and others to respond to the iPhone. It took _years_. If technology was the limiting factor, you'd think they would be just as aware of technological developments as Apple was, and have similar devices to the iPhone lined up and ready to go by 2007?


Then I wonder why other companies hasn't realized this and hired the same marketing company as Apple uses? If marketing is all (or mostly all) there is, why can't other companies easily replicate Apples profit margins?

Why didn't Apple just rebrand a Symbian or Maemo device and put an Apple logo on it, if marketing is the main deal? (Or better yet, why not just relaunch the Newton GUI?)


If Windows CE had everything well before iPhone came, why didn't Microsoft patent the stuff then?


Sensible people considered these minor features too obvious.

Apples invention was the combination of many simple things into one good product, but they are protecting it by patenting all of the simple things.


To be clear, if this were actually the case, the $$ that Samsung spent on this suit would have clearly uncovered this as prior art.


You don't really believe the HTC Wizard was "perfectly fine" do you?

I went through so many Windows Mobile phones until I finally realized that the joke was on me. The user experience, the battery life, the apps, the bugs, the limitations imposed on operating system data and indeces, and the hardware were all horrific. I can't extract anything good from that experience, let alone say that any of those devices were "perfectly fine."


So, answer me this:

If you think "pinch-to-zoom on a mobile device with touch screen" is a reasonable thing to patent so that nobody except Apple can use it on a smartphone, then you would have also had have no problem if:

- Someone patented "tabbed browsing" on a desktop computer[1] and nobody could sell a browser with tabs on a desktop platform

- Someone patented the pull-down list-select control on a desktop computer, and now everyone writing a GUI for the desktop platform would have to come up with their own variation of a list-select control that is sufficiently different from the patented one.

I could come up with many more similar examples, but I'm not at all sure how/whether the above two hit the mark as an analogy for the trick Apple just pulled (because I find all three situations absurd).

Hm, now this makes me wonder, Ableton Live has this truly brilliant way of navigating a waveform/timeline effortlessly to anywhere in both large and tiny zoom scales, it's incredibly efficient and quite intuitive, and I've (so far) never seen any audio editing software that has something quite like it. I wonder if they patented it? It is way more innovative and non-obvious than the "pinch-to-zoom" that Apple grabbed. Also there are quite a number of different but quite obvious ways to navigate a waveform on the same input devices (desktop+mouse, usually) unlike "pinch-to-zoom", which is really the most obvious gesture for zooming on a touch-display.

Because I was thinking of maybe one day coding up a very simple waveform editor, and I wouldn't be satisfied until I at least tried to implement that mode of navigation. Of course as long as I don't sell it, I'm safe from patents right?

[1] just adding that because as far as I'm aware these software/design patents only work because they're coupled to a specific piece of hardware (in the US, that is. for now, thankfully it works a bit differently in the EU)


Addition from what I've read further down the thread, it appears that the patent is about the way Apple implemented pinch-to-zoom, not the feature of having pinch-to-zoom as a gesture for zooming in general.

So that would be where maybe my analogy breaks down. However:

Can someone maybe explain me/us what is exactly so unique and non-obvious about the way they implemented it, then? And yes I did read the patent, or at least an excerpt of it that appeared to explain roughly how any decent programmer would implement such a thing, given an hour to think it over and an OS/GUI API that is vaguely object-oriented and event-based.

I did read that part.

Does anyone have the non-obvious part handy? (for the pinch-to-zoom specifically, as I just want to focus on one thing, this conversation is convoluted enough as it is)


There is no non-obvious implementation here. It is the only reasonable way to implement such a feature on a touch screen.


If you think "pinch-to-zoom on a mobile device with touch screen" is a reasonable thing to patent so that nobody except Apple can use it on a smartphone

I agree that this would be absurd, but I think it kind of misses the point of the case. Samsung pretty clearly copied Apple in a "look and feel" way that goes beyond the particular collection of patents. The patents in the case are just the instruments that Apple used to punish the copying.

There are all sorts of other phones that technically infringe on Apple's patents (and vice-versa), but Apple doesn't seem interested in taking the offensive on these. I think Apple's position is much more about the spirit of Samsung's copying rather than defending any particular technical patent violation. But in order to bring a case, you have to pick out some particular violations rather than argue some abstract notion of "copying the spirit" of the iPhone.


No it's pretty clear that among other things, Samsung is paying damages for violating the "pinch-to-zoom on a mobile device with touch screen" patent. It is also very clearly a bounded part of the claim: if it didn't hold, the rest might still, and vice versa. Assuming your justice system somewhat works, that really should mean that Samsung is in fact guilty of violating this patent.

But so far nobody has really explained what this actually means. You're all dancing around the question.

It's very simple: what is the non-absurd way in which Samsung violated the pinch-to-zoom patent in particular? And please be specific, if you're about to use the word "implementation", I'd like to know what you understand by that term. This is not "Explain like I'm 5".


You've mis-understood my comment. It probably wasn't clear enough. I'm talking about Apple's motivation to bring the case in the first place. It wasn't because of individual technical violations of patents -- lots of other phones violate the patents and Apple hasn't sued. It was the spirit and totality of the copying. But once you decide to sue, you have to pick out the particular patents that will be the legal basis for the suit.

I'm not trying to argue that the patents should have been grated, or that they are a good thing. I'm just saying that they were the particular tools that Apple used to punish a form of copying that went beyond the patents in question.


Will somebody please explain what this means. Does this mean Apple can now sue someone who uses pinch-to-zoom on a touch screen? In other words can Apple now just sue for using pinch-to-zoom without having to build a huge case like it did in this one?


You can't patent the feature "pinch-to-zoom" you can only patent an invention of a method to implement that feature. Thus, samsung could have implemented the feature if they had done it their own way.

For example, Jeff Han demonstrated a similar feature, but his system uses cameras to take pictures of your hands.

Thus both he and Apple could have patented their inventions for implementing this feature.

The idea that these patents cover the rights to use features is misinformation designed to make them look trivial.

Of course they seem absurd- they are made to look absurd to you to get you to oppose patents.

And they are doing this by lying to you about what the patents cover.


Fine. I got that. The patent, however, describes the most obvious and straight forward algorithm to implement pinch-to-zoom on a touch-screen.

Of course you can't (officially) patent algorithms either (unless they're sufficiently technical, like MP3 and LZW).

It seems what you're avoiding to state clearly, is what exactly you believe this patent does cover, then. What is it?

Is it that Samsung shouldn't have used a touch screen on a smartphone if they also wanted to implement pinch-to-zoom? Because that's still absurd.

Really, I asked an honest question, and all you say is that's not what the patent covers and it's disinformation--well I was asking wasn't I? So enlighten us, what is the non-trivial bit that the patent covers??


I did answer your question. Nobody can patent "pinch to zoom" such that nobody else can use it. The question comes from a misunderstanding of the situation and the patent.

I've met this method of arguing before and consider it a trap. "I think its this, prove me wrong!" In my experience, no amount of research on my part will meet the burden of your opinion.

If you want to argue that the claim is trivial, please, feel free to do the research and quote the patent yourself. Your speculation about what the patent covers is not compelling.

Constantly on this page-- and it appears that this has happened 50-100 times, people have asserted that the patent covers the "right" to use the feature and not the invention.

In fact, the entire basis of the anti-patent movement is grounded in that falsehood.

Thank you for acknowledging that it is false, that was my only issue (because debating specific patents applicability is far more technical of a discussion than you can have in an ideologically driven site like this.)


I've read the patent and while you are technically correct, the effect of the patent is to grant them a monopoly on the feature pinch-to-zoom on a smartphone with a touch interface.

The end result is that no one else can implement pinch to zoom on a smart phone.

The patent is also overly broad in that it covers all multi-touch touch screen devices. So that whether I use an infrared overlay or a capacitive screen it is still covered.


No one else can implement pinch to zoom, so what? Is pinching the only way, or even the best way to zoom? It may seem like it is the best and most obvious way right now but that is only because Apple popularized it and made it ubiquitous. In the future someone may (gasp) innovate and come up with a better solution, that would in hindsight seem even more obvious.


Did you read what I was replying to?


And so we leave this discussion without anyone becoming any wiser. Not me, not other people reading this, not you.


I'm not sure about you, but I've seen a fascinating display of apologizing for the patent system. People have been staunchly repeating what it should do as opposed to what is actually happening in practice.

I've also watched a series of curious arguments revolving around the assertion that patent somehow protect small business which are innovation; as if big companies won't dredge up incredibly expensive patents from purchased portfolios to force licence agreements.

I short, I've learned that the average software & design patent proponent really is as disingenuous and intellectually bankrupt as I have suspected... at least this venue.


"It's no different than Amazon's One-click." exactly: It is just as outrageous as 1-click.


Then if its not innovative - show me the prior art ? There is none - so it's innovative under law - regardless of whether I agree or not. Amazon patented an innovative process unthought of at the time - the fact you apply retrospectivity to it now and look at it as ridiculous does nothing to prove it was not innovative back in 1998. If you thought of this process - would you be happy not to charge Amazon if you patented it ? Lets assume you didn't patent it and now its used by everyone on the planet - would you sit back and think "I wish I had of patented this so I could make millions" ? Again, they're the questions you need to ask because in my view it's a capitalist question over and above hating patent rights. If you didn't choose to patent it and someone took advantage of you - then in every country but America - they would have the rights (as has happened before). America relies on first to invent - but its a big ask and its being abolished in changes passed by congress to fall in line with first-to-file.


In the case of one-click, it's first important to note that in addition to prior art, a patent must also pass the obviousness test. One-click does not. You may not be a developer, I don't know, but I know any developer here could implement one-click in a day.

Patents are not intended to be a lottery rewarding insight. Patents protect development effort. One-click fails that test.

But in terms of prior art, Jeff Bezos and Tim O'Reilly backed BountyQuest in 2001 as a forum for researching prior art for patents. They couldn't monetize it, so it shut down in 2003 - but not before O'Reilly received what he calls a "killer piece of prior art" on the one-click patent, which he has on his bookshelf in case "Amazon loses its senses and sues someone". [http://openp2p.com/pub/a/oreilly/ask_tim/2003/bountyquest_10...]

The point here is not that your example is wrong. Where you go wrong is assuming that a patent granted on software is anything like a useful mechanism to support innovation.


But again - "i know any developer her could implement one-click in a day" and indeed a huge number of inventions could be implemented in a day. But you are again applying retrospecitivity (at least in my mind) - you need to remove that. Just because something is simple - doesnt mean it is not innovative. You contend that simply because something is simple that therefore it fails the test of obviousness - but that is not true and it's right that it's not true.

The test is asking whether the invention is an adequate distance beyond or above the state of the art. The state of the art at the time had no idea of such a simple one-click method - if it did - why wasn't it invented ? The fact it can be implemented so easily is irrelevant to fundamental idea that its innovative, non-obvious and unique. The best ideas are usually the ones no one see's and yes I am a front-end dev so I deal with more interaction components than anything.

Patents do not protect development effort - they protect novel, non-obvious and useful concept's. If they protected development effort - it would be a requirement to actually develop the idea and there is no such requirement and indeed many inventions wouldn't be possible to protect if such a requirement existed - that is, you must fully develop the invention before being granted protection. You're contention that because something is simple infers that its not patentable is incorrect in my mind.


I am utterly flabbergasted to discover that you are right with respect to a working model. [http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08-09/startups-new...]

However, I think I don't "need to lose" my opinion that innovation consists of more than saying "put a grid of buttons on a larger screen than most phones" or even "click one link to get to an order screen". You're welcome to your view, although I question your ability to understand what innovation is. I don't issue arrogant ultimata that you "need" to lose your attitude. I just think you'll fail if you live your life that way.


And I totally do agree with you that some patents are totally absurd - but I reject your notion I don't understand what innovation is. The problem is - innovation as a concept and innovative step under law are two completely segregated idea's. The language and their use are unfortunately bipolar.

My point is - the unfortunate way that patent law currently works is - you are a doomed if you have something innovative that is patentable - not to patent it because you are most likely going to invest a huge level of resources developing it only to have someone copy it later without anything to fall back on. You might not agree with the patent system, you might hate the way it currently works (and I agree with this notion) but you are stuck with it and you aren't protecting your business from an intellectual property stand point - or providing adequate shareholder return if you don't seek to protect it.

You will do hundreds or thousands of hours developing, fixing and perfecting what could be an amazing idea - you will (maybe) get lots of fresh VC investment and take money from your parents, friends and family all who believe in you - only to push it to market and have someone copy it in a flash and reproduce it without question. What to do then ?


Granting a monopoly on insights does not benefit society. Granting a monopoly on non-obvious inventions in return for the knowledge to replicate it does benefit society. Pharmaceuticals take years and millions of dollars to develop. Pinch-to-zoom took a moment of insight and a day of development work to prototype.

Apple's victory in this case is a negative for society.


> Just because something is simple - doesnt mean it is not innovative.

Just because something is innovative doesn't mean it isn't inevitable.

I believe capacitive touchscreen interfaces like the iphone's were inevitable. In fact, pinch to zoom was widely demoed before the iphone's launch. That doesn't invalidate the patent, but it does invalidate the idea that without apple it wouldn't have been invented.

Should the first on a market that was going to arise anyway get the monopoly rights on that market? If we were talking about a 5 year patent I could begrudgingly accept it, but to see the touchscreen device market chained to apple's whims for two decades cannot be anything but bad for the customer.


The patent doesn't cover the idea of using pinch to zoom. Patents are not on features or on ideas. They are on implementations.

Thus someone else demoing pinch to zoom using a different implementation is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

You guys are trying to redefine patents in order to argue that they should be "reformed"!


No, i think they should be abolished, not reformed, at least in the case of software. While they may benefit the megacorps like apple, they seem to be only doing harm to the industry as a whole.

By the way, patents don't cover implementations, they cover methods. A method can be so generic that it covers all possible implementations.

Specifically, apple's 915 patent seems to cover two things: determining whether you're in scroll or zoom mode based on the number of discrete inputs on the screen, and also while zooming rubberbanding the content if zoomed out too much. The second claim is something you could replace with some other solution (and samsung did that in a software update), but the first one seems generic enough that it covers all sensible implementations of the concept.

http://www.google.com/patents/US7844915.pdf


I don't know any programmer who could implement one click in a day.

You think that it is just "checking out with a single button press", but that's not what the patent covers.

This is the fundamental problem with the anti-patent position. It is based on a lie.

The lie is the claim that patents give the "right" to use "features", like checking out with one click. They do not.

The One-Click patent, for instance, spends a great deal of time talking about fraud.


You're overly-focused on the existence of prior art. Simply being the first to do something shouldn't automatically give you the right to prevent anyone else from doing it. That philosophy, applied consistently, would lead to ridiculousness.


Because that is what patent law is focused on. And yes - that's exactly why is ISNT applied consistently because only things worth patenting are filed. If you think you have a billion dollar idea (and you may have) - and no one has thought of it - are you suggesting you simply tell the world and expect everyone to play nice ? The only way to prove something is unique is if nothing is available in the public domain or nothing is filed before hand. I'm in no way suggesting the patent system is great (read above) - but removing it entirely like this article suggests is also wrong.


Yes, but so what if I have a "billion dollar" idea? An idea is merely a thought inside the mind. Just because an idea can be used to make money shouldn't give me (or anyone else) the right to own it. If you don't want others having access to your idea, then keep it to yourself. Thomas Jefferson put it far better than I ever could:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than
    all others of exclusive property, it is the action of 
    the thinking power called an idea, which an individual
    may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
    himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself 
    into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot 
    dispossess himself of it.

    That ideas should freely spread from one to another over
    the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man,
    and improvement of his condition, seems to have been
    peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she
    made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without
    lessening their density in any point, and like the air in
    which we breathe, move, and have our physical being,
    incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.
    Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
I like to think of it like this: At some point in the past, two ancient humans were sitting in the rain. One of them -- let's call him CavemanA -- was smart enough to construct a shelter. That certainly would have been a unique and valuable idea at the time. But do you really think that CavemanA should then have the power to tell CavemanB that he's not allowed to build a shelter?

Ideas are not property. Allowing people to own them is extremely harmful, and should only be done to prevent even more harmful situations from arising. We certainly shouldn't give someone ownership of an idea for no other reason than to reward them for having it first.


I entirely disagree. "keep it to yourself"

a) the society doesn't benefit b) then you do nothing with it c) then you don't commercialise it for gain d) if you don't protect it - you get crushed by everyone else who does

and so on and so on. Indeed, Jefferson stated

"Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility"

Discouraging commericalisation of unique ideas - discourages those who are capitalist and want to move society forward. If every had no protection of their ideas - then all good ideas would be copied and the incentive to produce new ideas would be reduced as a result - or rather everyone remains secret and tries to produce entire products by themselves - again argubly reducing innovation. As I stated in my first post

"The problems with the patent industry are patents abused by companies who have absolutely no interest in developing them but rather trolling them to simply extract money from other companies. Hence the reason the law should be reformed to attach patentable rights to have a enforceable requirement to actually 'use' the patent - thus destroying the majority of trolls. If you dont actively use it as it is meant to be - you have nothing. The requirements and the search of prior art should be greater and longer - to ensure patents are truly innovative and this should not be the role of the courts (due to expense, time and so on within the legal system)"

The argument with the cavemen is a primitive example. My response - Caveman B would most likely build it or kill Caveman A to build it. Which extrapolated to the protection of ideas in modern society may very well occur - competitor A and competitor B want to succeed more than each other and so on. If Caveman A is stronger than Caveman B - then he may very well ask for fruit to borrow his design - Caveman B gives him something of value to borrow his unique design - the other alternative.

Idea's should be able to be commercially protected. You suggest that by no one having a right to commercialise them that society would be better off - what is then the point of innovating and trying to essentially fulfil the capitalist dream of commercialising inventions to profitability if everyone is freely copying everyone else's ideas ? It results in no competitive advantages to some degree. The desire to be innovative and drive society forward is closely coupled with the profitability and commercialisation attached. That's not to say that all inventions require profitability - but most people seeking to protect their inventions are seeking to do so to ensure they maximize the potential of their idea's from a commercialisation standpoint. If anyone was free to copy anyone's truly awesome idea - that doesn't reward or provide additional incentive for people to innovate per my post below - what you get instead is the Samwer brothers who just outright cloned everything.


I think you are missing his point. His point is not that patents should not exist, it is that patents are not protection of ideas. They are protection for inventions, as in, the actual (used to be physical) functional embodiments of an idea.

If you allow someone to patent cotton gins just because they thought that they sounded swell and wrote the idea down, you've seriously hindered any kind of market at all. Your idea is worthless without an embodiment, and no one else can make anything until your patent expires.

If you allow someone to patent all cotton gins based on their single implementation one, you again have poisoned future implementations -- perhaps better and more efficient ones with completely different physical forms -- just because they belong to the idea class of "cotton separating machines".

The point is a very important one: ideas are not property. We can go a little further and say all IP is not property either. You cannot be deprived of it (short of a lead pipe), but you can be deprived of your granted right to profit from it, for a little while at least. That's the motivation you speak of, and that's the only reason patents exist at all, at least in the US.


In October, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected 21 of the 26 claims of Amazon's famous patent after an Auckland patent enthusiast, Peter Calveley, produced evidence of prior art.

http://web.archive.org/web/20081211093025/http://www.out-law...

Of course, this was only after Amazon bullied others, including B&N, using the bogus patent.


Nope. The patent should be granted only if it is "not obvious to a skilled practitioner skilled in the art", not just if nobody published the same exact thing before. 1-click WAS obvious in 1998 to any skilled practitioner who knew about cookies.


Again, this patent has been litigated over and over and over - so it has been deemed not to be obvious to a person skilled in the art at the time of filing relevant to the claims. You can't state "it WAS obvious" - because literally millions has been spent on PROVING it wasn't. Even if some of the claims have been subsequently rejected - there are still components that are patentable.


You're talking about the US. The patent was never granted in the first place here in the EU. So yes, I can state that it WAS obvious - at least in Europe.


And as a result Europe produces the Samwer brothers - who just copy everything from the United States and open it in Europe. I'm not arguing that patent law is perfect (per my first post) but rather that it does have a function and the original article conveys the view its entirely pointless. EU patent law has its problems as well and its a long post to discuss it - but without any protection you just get outright copies (Airbnb, Stripe and so on and so on) and that does nothing for innovation.


It's funny to have to state this on a site where a common mantra is that "execution matters":

If US entrepreneurs suck at serving a global market (and they do - failing even with covering Canada and Mexico for years, their direct neighbors), someone else is bound to fill the niche.

Instead of whining about the Samwers, how about expanding as soon as possible? Either there's money to be had abroad (then go and get it) or there's not (then why aren't Samwers bankrupt by now, at least thrice?).


I totally agree with you that execution does matter. But the Samwer's don't execute - they outright copy. From reverse engineering, to out right cloning the CSS style sheets and design UI's which is totally wrong. That's not innovation in any sense and I wholeheartedly disagree if you are defending the cloning of a product completely.

I'm not "whining" about the Samwers - I am bringing them into the larger context of this debate. That is - with patent protection - their outright clones would not exist. You draw a completely different imputation by comparing it to business strategy of expanding faster and cloning a product. I am not against, in any sense, taking an idea (groupon) and making it work in a different part of the world - as long as it adds something to it - a different UI and so on.

The Samwers don't add that and that's what is detestable. If your startup worked hard, built a product with a great UI that is commented upon and then a competitor clones it outright in a different market - are you suggesting you wouldn't be pissed ? Because that's exactly what the Samwers do. And sometimes it's not so easy to just "expand as soon as possible" - payments is a whole massive legal headache (in the case of stripe). Verification systems, financial approval and so on and so on per country and many others. Plus, expanding quickly involves local offices, larger teams, greater strategic planning, more investment capital which then dilutes existing people more and so on and so on. So it's not a simple matter of "expand as quickly as possible" but sometimes that's just not feasible.


What they bring to the table: experience in foreign markets (all that legal headache, market research, contacts).

They probably "should" do that by offering this as a service to promising US startups. But who would pay for that an even remotely comparable amount of $$$ than what they get now?


Are you serious? The Samwer brothers don't do anything different from thousands of US startups and big companies that try to imitate new ideas that have success in the market. How many venture capitalists in the US finance exactly that kind of ventures?

The only difference is that they evidently found a good formula to do it with repeated successes by focusing on early localization on European (and especially German) market, and so became famous.

By the way, I'm in favor of patents in general, but with very stringent non-obviousness requirements. IIRC the USPTO changed its attitude not so many years ago here, going from a "reject as much as possible" one to a "accept as much as possible" one.


And as a result Europe produces the Samwer brothers

Thanks for the pointer, I'd never heard of these guys. Pretty amazing...


This attitude frankly disgusts me. The legal system is all kinds of screwed up and its verdicts don't necessarily have any relation to reality. It's an intellectual cop-out: I don't have to actually put thought into the issue, because a bunch of expensive lawyers already did, and I can just parrot them!


> Hmm - i really dont agree with this. Apple revolutionised the industry - before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR. Apple frankly blew the industry apart.

No one brings this up, but all of those phones looked and behaved the same as well. Presumable the first inventor of said phone style could have patented everything and disallowed anyone else to make a dumb phone. This is what the author is speaking to; the notion that an inventor, if with enough resources, can legally own the only logical way to do a particular thing. And if armed with enough of those, can legally own an industry. You don't have to be a lawyer to see there is something wrong with that.


"before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR"

Some of us may have been, but technically speaking that's not true. Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Nokia all had high end devices available with large touch screens prior to Apple's iPhone release. What Apple offered (that was revolutionary) was an easy way for users of their device to purchase content. They achieved this since they required users to have an iTunes account when provisioning their device; and they got away with that because they already had many of the users in iTunes already.

Apple definitely made advances to large screen smartphones (ex: their touch screen was far better than all other offerings at the time, and remains superior to most alternative devices); but to say that it was the iPhone alone (a piece of hardware) that revolutionized the mobile industry shadows integral aspects of the legal and historical argument.


It's no different than Amazon's One-click.

You're not seriously trying to suggest that one-click is a reasonable patent, are you?


You should try reading that patent sometime before you claim it isn't reasonable.

It is profoundly dishonest to characterize patents using a trivial phrase like "one-click" and then pretend like that also means that the patent is itself trivial.

I know why you do it- it fits your ideology.

But it doesn't fit reality.


Would you care to explain which part of this patent is not trivial?

http://www.google.com/patents?id=O2YXAAAAEBAJ

Until then I'll have to assume we live in different realities.


Is that actually the entirety of the patent? If so, that is a major-league joke.

You mean a client communicates with a server with information, then returns some information? How delightfully ingenious!


You think Barnes and Noble copied the novel implementation of one-click, as disclosed by the patent, and didn't use bog standard database and cookie techniques?


You cannot implement "one-click" using "bog standard database and cookie techniques".

Your idea of what this patent covers is incorrect. It is not a patent on the feature of "press a button to make a purchase and skip the checkout process" or "have a cookie so we know who you are".


I'll bite - what parts of the patent can't be done with bog-standard techniques? I took a look and it seems obvious in retrospect, though so many things do.


You're a small business - what do you do now?

You continue to innovate. You do a better job at understanding your customer's needs and fulfilling them. You do a better job at marketing, positioning, and advertising. You give better customer service. There's tons of ways to compete, other than raw product uniqueness.

According to your article you sit back and say "oh thats totally ok because thats innovation and I'm happy that everyone has copied me and destroyed my advantage".

Meh. A better product is not a sustainable competitive advantage anyway. Better to have a product "arms race" where everybody is forced to "innovate or die", IMO.


>>You continue to innovate. You do a better job at understanding your customer's needs and fulfilling them. You do a better job at marketing, positioning, and advertising. You give better customer service. There's tons of ways to compete, other than raw product uniqueness.

How exactly do you do a better job at marketing, positioning, advertising, customer service, etc. as a small business? The implication of being a small business is that you are resource-constrained and cannot do those things as well as the big players can, which is why you need patent protection for your innovations.


The implication of being a small business is that you are resource-constrained and cannot do those things as well as the big players can

I disagree with this implication. Being small just means you have to use the resources that you do have, to greater effect. And a small business has a lot of advantages in it's own way... you can typically learn faster, react faster, give customers more personal attention, and you can pursue niches that would be too small for a larger player to focus on.

which is why you need patent protection for your innovations.

Right, because if Apple decides to use technology created by Enraged Camel Software, Inc. you're going to be able to afford the legal fight with them, even if you do have a patent?

And never mind the money you wasted getting a patent in the first place. Depending on who you believe, it can routinely cost somewhere north of $50,000 just to get a patent. What else could a small company / startup do with $50,000?

And never mind that your startup can easily be attacked by $RANDOM_BIGCORP for "violating" some submarine patent that you never knew about, if you step on their toes. IBM alone has so many freaking patents, I'd bet they could construct a reasonable enough patent lawsuit against nearly any new startup that emerges, if they felt like it. And even if they lost in the end, they'd bankrupt the startup in the process.

I just don't think patents (and software patents in particular) do any good for startups / entrepreneurs. Actually, I think they are actively harmful; especially when the USPTO is granting these ridiculously overbroad patents for trivially obvious ideas.


The Jury system in the US is actually well suited deciding complex moral questions and too much fine print hinders more than it heps, which was evident in this case.

To me, instead of a patent office there should be a central online register to archive jury-understandable photos and descriptions or ideally videos of the stuff you do simply to have a validated reference of when you thought of it.

And then patent/IP Law may simply should read soething like this: It is ok to base any creative work on the work of others as long as the result is something new and great in it´s own right.

It´s not ok to copy the work of others without significantly improving it simply for making money.

Done. Plain Language.

Everything else, the moral right or wrong would be left to a Jury with guidance from a Judge.

Which they basically did in the Apple case. All that patent BS aside, I guess they descided on the basic morale question and started the paperwork.


> The entire basis of patents was essentially trying to protect the little guy

No it wasn't. Why does this misconception exist? The point of patents is to open up trade secrets for the benefit of society and advancement of the sciences. We don't allow patents to encourage inventors or make sure they can profit, that is the price we pay to get their knowledge, it is not the goal, just the means.


If you invented something, you spent ten-of-thousands on patents, you spent huge amounts of capital in developing a product - you launch it to much positive press and then someone simply copies everything you have done. You're a small business - what do you do now ?

Been there.

Me and 2 other people invented a product that hadn't existed before and created an entire lexicon for it. Then jokers at a larger company duplicated our product. The manual and website had been at least rewritten but the similarities to our stuff were obvious.

Eventually we found evidence of typos in the internals of our product showing up in their UI. That was when we got a lawyer. We significantly slowed down their product launch and probably got a few managers fired.

It took a few years for our patent to be issued, which finally got them to fuck off. I would have gladly traded a much shorter term on our patent for a faster issuance. Those years felt like decades.

(We didn't appeal to the Internet because the Internet was a much much different creature back then. A corporate blog was unheard of. And it could have backfired: we had one loose cannon employee in our own company who went around a conference telling everyone how that company had ripped us off; the next year at the same conference everyone remembered the story but many people mis-remembered who had stolen from whom. Which is why we tried to handle things with the legal system instead of by trying to tell everyone what assholes they were. Although there is a Texas company that is now complete poison to have on your resume at any company I work for.)


Most innovations are not patentable. Most notably are most business models.

Think of Groupon's business model. There's nothing specifically innovative about it: forced email list, 1 product per day, discounts. But, put together it formed a successful business model. Had they not thought of it and tested it in the marketplace all their copy-cat competitors probably would not exist today either.

At some stage someone someone invented department stores. Someone hypothesized that yuppie americans would like to eat sushi. Someone thought that doing massages in full view in malls would create a new market of people who wouldn't have gone through the book-in-advance, go behind a heavy curtain, 1 hour minimum normally associated with the trade. In Australia I would guess that this last one tripled (or more) the massage therapy market.

It's hard to talk about patents without slipping into the legalize definitions of important concepts like 'non-trivial' but I think a common sense definition is 'wouldn't have been invented otherwise.' A lot of these innovations are genuinely nontrivial by that definition.

They weren't developed in r&d labs but they are all genuinely innovative. They didn't spend huge sums on r&d but someone did the economic cousin of spending, they risked (usually personally) a lot testing them in the market. Much or most of the profits eventually went to copycats. Without the innovator most would not have existed today. They still got invented. I doubt that patenting would increase their rate of invention. I'm sure that patenting would have harmed consumers.

I'm not saying this as a general refutation of patents. I don't know what the correct laws are. I think though that any patent laws are always going to leave us with huge ugly deckfulls of by-catch. Mostly skate & sunfish. But occasionally a walrus, whale or dugong that the crew will not want others to know about.


> Then the magical aspect of patent law called "prior art" would come into play and it wouldn't be patentable.

I have difficulty taking the "prior art" system seriously. It's especially unbelievable with software patents (there are so many things where different patents exists on the same technology), but it leaks over into the whole patent system.


"before the iPhone we were using tiny screens with Nokia SMS interfaces or Motorla RAZR."

Unless you had a Palm Pilot or a PocketPC. Stopped reading your essay after that.


Erm, I was using an Orange-branded HTC with a big touch screen and mobile internet long before the iPhone came along.

That was actually much more functional than the iPhone, but harder to use (required a stylus) and in comparison with the iPhone it was ugly.

That Windows Mobile device replaced a Nokia phone and an a Palm V (with internet).

At the same time my colleague on Helpdesk were using Microsoft Tablet PCs running XP to do everything (for two hours).


"Hence the reason the law should be reformed to attach patentable rights to have a enforceable requirement to actually 'use' the patent - thus destroying the majority of trolls."

Not really. It will simply create a new class of startup pitches. "We have this idea. Fund us now and we will return to you with a MVPFP - "Minimally Viable Product For Patent". Big companies of the world will still fund it.


> then someone simply copies everything you have done

Copyright law prevents direct copying. If someone wanted to make an iphone clone without building on google's effort, they would have to spend hundreds of millions on software deelopment. There is no "simply" when it comes to copying technologies, unless the technology is truly trivial.


Before the iPhone I was using the Sony Ericsson P800 and the Nokia Communicator E95. Both had big screens. The iPhone was not the first smart phone with a big screen.


"Apple revolutionised the industry"

You give them far too much credit. Apple happened to be first in implementing an obvious conclusion in the evolution of computing: combining a true operating system with the features of a PDA and adding a radio. Many people saw this coming a decade earlier; I was one of them.

The reason it happened when it did had to do with the hard work of the scientists and engineers who kept shrinking and creating ever more powerful computing technology, not with the guy who happened to allow his engineers to pursue this obvious conclusion. Steve Jobs was a visionary only when compared to other CEO's, not when compared to the scientists and engineers that really make things happen.


There was nothing obvious about the iPhone, otherwise Apple's competitors, who had been in the phone industry for years, would have done it already.

Hell, they and much of the "experts" spent the 6 months between announcement and shipping of the iPhone claiming it was going to be a total failure.

So, not only was it not obvious, even after it had been revealed, people claimed that it was a bad idea and would be a failure.


"Obvious" is a relative term. What is obvious to an adult may not be obvious to a 2-year-old. Likewise, to many engineers the iPhone was obvious. To many of the CEO's heading large cell phone companies? Not so obvious.


Many people like to talk up things like the iPhone as "betting the company", maybe rather than being idiots, these cell phone CEOs realised that the easiest way to make money was to milk their mostly captive audience for every cent they could? Why risk something new? And why does every narrative about the iPhone have to involve everyone else being idiots and Steve Jobs and (via some associative magical thinking) iPhone owners being so clever and tasteful. It's all a bit transparent.


If the iPhone was obvious to many engineers, why did none of them develop a similar product? Why did Google's Android team develop an operating system that resembled a Blackberry, only to transition to something that closer resembled an iPhone after the iPhone's launch?


Usually engineers don't get to decide where major resources are applied. That's the call of the increasingly non-technically savvy CEO. (HP is typical of this trend -- founded by engineers who were the cause of its greatness, over time degrading and being run by MBA's instead).

"Why did Google's Android team develop an operating system that resembled a Blackberry"

Irrelevant. The trend toward a more powerful OS as computing resources increased was inevitable. Somebody happened to get there first, and they deserve a pat on the back for winning that race, but they should not get all the credit. People who came before who actually pushed the technology to the limit deserve most of the credit; all Apple did was exploit it at an opportune time.


Engineers don't often build great products on their own. You also need great industrial design, great user interface design etc. In some ways I can relate to your view - as a software engineer myself I often fall into the trap of thinking everything I do is 'obvious' and that any other right thinking engineer would have probably made the same decisions. For any one decision this might even be true, but for large, complex systems it certainly isn't. Everything is obvious with hindsight, as they say.

Your certainty that the innovations brought to the table by the original iPhone were inevitable needs to be justified I'm afraid. Of course it's true that there are many hardware components in all modern smartphones for which the development of which had nothing to do with Apple. However as with the original Mac, to dismiss Apple's contribution is rather to miss the point.


I don't dismiss Apple's contribution. On the contrary, I think Apple dismisses the contributions of scientists and engineers that allowed them to build their iPhone. They want to take all the credit, when in fact, only a relatively minuscule amount of credit properly goes to Apple. Do they deserve this minuscule credit? Sure. I don't dismiss that. But the contribution by those who created the technology that go into the iPhone is far greater.

It's as if someone created the most cool looking web page on the planet, and then wanted to claim they invented the Internet. That's how I see Apple. They merely rearranged existing technology in a nifty way, they didn't create all of it. They deserve credit for what they did, not more.


No, I don't think Apple is claiming to have invented lcd displays, multitouch, capacitive touch screens, solid state storage, 3G or any of the other core technologies used in an iPhone. I don't know why you think they are.

They're claiming that they introduced what has now become the new standard way of interacting with a mobile device, and are seeking to protect aspects of that design from another large corporation that seeks to profit by emulating their work. I'm mystified as to why people find this surprising or worthy of criticism.


"It's no different than Amazon's one-click."

Right. But Amazon was wise. They could have seized major portions of the software patent landscape early on, they thought about going down the path Apple is on and they decided against it. In contrast to Cook's statements here, Bezos basically said software patents are not our future and other companies should follow our lead.

If you truly understod the patent system you'd realise it's a lot less "cut and dry" than you perceive it to be. Patent law with all its wonderful intricacies that many spend careers learning can get you to an issued patent. But an issued patent can't guarantee you anything, except the right to sue alleged infringers. It gives you no "right to a monopoly" only a right to sue. It gives you no right to manufacture or sell anything. Someone else might sue you you, regardless of your patent. That's not the patent office's problem.

Your issued patent is only as good as it holds up in litigation. And patent litigation is more or less a crap shoot. With high stakes.

The only way to determine the "validity" of a patent claim is to litigate it. And Federal Circuit decisions are not exactly "consistent" so as to be "predictable", to say the least. The end result is patent litigation is extraordinarily expensive and is to be to be feared, even when the patent claims being asserted are garbage.

The issue is not with the patent system in general. The issue is with how Apple is using the system.

There is nothing inherently wrong with patents or intellectal property.

The problem is with companies like Apple who think it is all some kind of game.

Again, the problem is not IP. IP is just rules.

The problem is Apple, specifically the people who run the company. The problem is the actions they take.

When nerds on the web discuss IP, unfortunately it ends up being employed as the proverbial "straw man". Nerds ignore the actions of Apple and instead debate IP. But IP is not a person, real or imaginary. IP makes no decisions. IP is just a concept. The decisions and the evil being done here are by _people_. Patent law (or any law) does not mandate that anyone has to behave like an a-hole. That is a decision Apple makes, not the drafters of patent laws.

But Apple thinks that just because they can afford to dump millions into legal fees, month after month, year after year, it gives them the justification to make life miserable for everyone else (forcing them to spend the same amounts or be forced out of the game).

Apple behaves like an a-hole. And everyone has to mimic them.

IP is not going to disappear. It's only going to grow. The reforms will have to change how it can be used.


eponysterical


It´s very clear that it´s been a personal mission by Steve Jobs who felt it´s wrong.

I´m personally quite conflicted in this case: Apple has a point that Samsung was copying them. Pure copying, not using elements of it and turning it into something new.

On the other side, the ways of protection with patents of tiny bits of it is silly and broken. They are trivial and regard the overall design and should not be allowed.

Famously the Mac itself is based upon the work of Xerox Parc. To the credit of Apple and Steve Jobs they put in a lot of work, made many concepts useable and re-developed the mouse to actually make a consumer product out of it.

For me the morale right or wrong is the following:

make it your own: While heavily using concepts existing prior, you´ll re-combine them into something way better than the thing you copy: That´s ok for me, it has creative value.

copy: You simply dumbly copy things line-by-line without even understanding the basic concepts of why something is great and throw it on the market at a lower prive: That´s wrong and ripping of the creative work of others.

Samsung to me falls quite clearly into the copy category. I doubt that they have a deep understanding of UX design and the subtleties what actually made the iPhone great and delighted the users.


While lots of MacOS was taken from Xerox’s work it wasn't’t copied, it was licensed.


Right. They managed to get a licence from Xerox to the astonishment of many of the guys working in Xerox PARC.

What´s your take on the morals of this?


The astonishment of the Xerox guys has a lot to do with the utter incompetence of their management.

But yes, Apple had a deal with Xerox


Uh in one case they've gotten permission and are paying to use it and in the other they're not? The morality is clear.


Sorry, my fault... What´s your take on the morals of the Samsung/Apple trial and your feelings regarding protection by software patents?


How about simply having shorter tech patents? I feel having a patent length of 5 years would absolve these problems quickly. The tech industry moves too fast for 14 or 20 year patents...


And how about compulsory licensing after, say, 2 years, at reasonable terms, subject to arbitration and penalties for excessive demands.

The patent system needs to be fixed globally. Current international trade agreements are going in the wrong direction, driven by the USA negotiators who are ultimately driven by Disney, MPAA and so on.

The rest of te world would dearly like to see US citizens get involved - the TPP is a good place to start.


I have an idea of creating an Intellectual Property tax (similar to property taxes) based on an assessed value of the licence. You would pay yearly to maintain a patent. Or, you could enter it into the public domain.


Given that it takes about 3 years for patents to be issued now, that 5 year window is comical.

However, if you could get a software patent in, say, 6 months, then that 5 year window would make a lot more sense.


It would alredy be much better. But it's never going to happen imho.


Agreed, and another thing

Make patents unsellable.


The thing you have to ask is: would apple have invented the iPhone if the patent system as it stands didn't exist? Also assuming that copyright protection, and protection against counterfeit goods was still in place.

I think the answer to that is, yes. Samsung and other companies did copy Apple just about as far as they could without actually creating a counterfeit.

Yet, that didn't stop Apple from making billions of dollars. To me that is proof that in this case the patent system did nothing to foster innovation.

Take the example of pinch to zoom. If Apple knew they couldn't patent the process would they have implemented it? Of course they would have, it's a better interface (and the fact nearly every other smartphone copied it, yet they still created it proves my point).

Furthermore the purpose of the patent system is to encourage innovation by rewarding inventors for not hoarding innovation with trade secrets. Could something like pinch to zoom even realistically be protected by trade secrets.

The implementation is so simple that once someone has seen it, nearly anyone could replicate it.

Patents no longer serve they purpose of disseminating knowledge. Companies aren't digging through the patent office in search of implementation details, the way it was intended to be used.


I wish I could back in time and convince Steve Jobs not to do the iPhone and (Butterfly Effect style) return to present day and see what phones were like.

I'm guessing we'd be viewing the web scrolling up and down on a Blackberry's nipple :D


Unlikely that there's a difference. It wasn't Apple (or Steve Jobs Himself[tm]) that invented the capacitive touch screen and made it available in large quantities (ie. mainstream compatible).

There were prototypes at many (probably all) mobile vendors exploring the capabilities unlocked by that technology. Apple "merely" was boldest - but then they hadn't to consider how a new HCI impacts the brand, since they had no old mobile HCI that mattered.

Things might lag half a year or so due to this, but someone, somewhere would have kicked off the "touch revolution" in about the same time without Apple. Maybe even RIM or Nokia.

Funnily, Android/Google was in a similar position as Apple, in about the same time (new market to enter, knowing the old style mobile HCI and touch, having prototypes for both) - and they seemed to prefer the old style for now.

In a world without iPhone they probably would have waited for one of the big guys to introduce touch, and then followed quickly. Google wasn't as confident about pushing an unproven HCI onto users as Apple was.


Capacitive screens were already used by one terminal, I think an LG phone. But the iPhone put something different in the market: multitouch and gestures. Some things like slide to unlock or pinch to zoom seem trivial now but they weren't really product of the normal evolution of phone interfaces. Locking the screen was done with a hardware button because it was deemed safer, zoom was double tapping in the part of the image you wanted to magnify.

Had the iPhone not been introduced I doubt small little details like these would have changed at all, and there are tons of these small subtleties in the current smartphone OSs.


"but then they hadn't to consider how a new HCI impacts the brand, since they had no old mobile HCI that mattered."

And that's the BS that Apple ignores and that it makes them go forward.

They should consider how shipping crappy products impacts their brand (are you listening Motorola)

There is a reason I don't even look at the prices for Motorola products anymore.

"Funnily, Android/Google was in a similar position as Apple, ... and they seemed to prefer the old style for now."

That's what happens when you only have engineers making decisions.


Apple didn't invent touchscreens but..

I've seen two of the pre-iPhone touchscreen OSes without a sliding keyboard or anything like that and they both sucked hard. I owned a LG Prada and knew someone who owned a Samsung F490. They were both terrible, I would've rather had a classic phone than a Prada and my friend who owned the Samsung F490 handed it down to his daughter and replaced it with a classic phone. Lots of people thought that smartphones with touchscreen would behave like the iPhone in its ads except that it was far from the case.

I don't think anyone but Apple could've kicked off the touch revolution. RIM and Nokia ? they only switched course after the iPhone. Nokia's stayed in the comfort zone with Symbian for far too long and didn't have any innovative OS for smartphones and RIM was making candybar, fat and ugly phones with basically just one target audience : people who constantly use email. As long as most people use cases of mobile internet came from email software, RIM wouldn't have felt the need to innovate at all.

The iPhone was really the first touchscreen phone I ever felt comfortable to use. People who made the comparison to the Prada when they were saying that Apple didn't innovate obviously never touched a Prada. It's one of the shittiest phones I've ever used, and phones with keyboards were much better than this. The tactile feel of the touchscreen wasn't good, it lacked precision and the whole interface was programmed in mobile flash. It lacked any advanced feature and couldn't install apps outside of J2ME crap, unlike Windows Mobile. It didn't even have a real web browser.

It's been proven with the new Windows Phones, and new BB os, that you don't need to copy Apple to make good touchscreen OSes. I can understand the anger Apple felt with some Android vendors, and it is true that Samsung even changed the stock Android icons on some of their phones to match more closely the look of the iPhone (WHAT exactly is wrong with the stock android UI ? for god's sake, don't mess with something that already works great). Samsung is renowned for being copycats, and not just in the mobile phone market. The trial itself revealed that they were targeting Nokia before they changed course to target Apple. But almost all of their electronic division consists of nothing more than being shitty copycats. Their digital cameras aren't anything to brag and Samsung was so late to the DSLR market (mostly hybrids in their case.. uh) that I can't understand why one would ever consider them seriously. Their whole home appliance division consists of nothing but copying other products, they never made anything worth a look.


I'm surprised how Apple-biased the people here is. They're clearly abusing the patent system by patenting ridiculous things. How come things like slide to unlock are considered innovation? that's been used to open laptops before Apple patented it.


"Even the most rabid Apple fan can see through this and realize this is just about money. If it wouldn’t be about money and control then there wouldn’t be so many efforts to get injunctions and damages." - Seriously ??? Dude, A billion dollars is nothing for Apple. They probably earn more than that in a month.

If I'm not wrong, these were Steve's words to Eric Schmidt - 'I don't want your money, I don't want 5 billion $, I just don't want you to do Android, period'. So the lawsuit is definitely not about money.


While many of the OP's claims seem genuinely true, it saddens me to see how mad he becomes halfway through, after rightfully assessing facts, like the obvious flaws behind some the Apple patents.

But what started as a well presented and valid argument essentially became an unresortfull, self righteous Apple-Bashing that culmulates in "But as proud as you [Tim Cook] are, as disgusted I am. [...] Today, values have won and I hope the whole world listens. Your values have won, mine have lost, [...]"


How can we make these threads not be like comp.sys.mac.advocacy?


Wait for ten years. If that doesn't work, twenty. In that much time, something is bound to change.

(This may sound impractical, but it's the approach I'm taking. And, hey, it already worked for discussions involving Microsoft.)


There's a nice video series about why the primitive moral idea "stealing is wrong" wreaks havoc in the world of ideas:

http://www.everythingisaremix.info/


Okay this guy wrote paragraph(s) retorting each individual line in a memo. The author is reading way too much into this. They wrote their opinion, this clearly wasn't a fact finding mission.

I'd probably give this a "C-" for poor format, unbalanced opinionated writing, and it's length (too long).

In the future, it's fine to pick a side, but make a case and defend it with research. Don't ask a series of questions in response to a memo. Questions are unconvincing at best.

"Should your kids be home before 10PM?" vs "Your kids should be home before 10PM"

Hopefully this helps the author improve their writing. I don't even have a Nokia phone, I have no phone. Maybe we'd be friends.


This is total abuse of patents and copyrights! Of course, the obvious way to do things should never be patent-able in the first place!! Someone definitely needs to re-look @ how patenting works... I think the rules have obviously become archaic... and not useful anymore. Another example of this is the Indian Judiciary... completely meaningless laws and rules all over the place. A law book to govern a nation should ideally not be over 150 Pages, but now we have one which is like 5,000 pages and its completely meaningless!! Dawh!!!


Software patents don't make sense, but copying something bit by bit also makes no sense. It is one thing use good ideas as inspiration and another thing to just copy something recklessly.


The idea behind patents is a _sound_ one; it provides incentive to innovate by guaranteeing profits for a certain period of time. Those who don't care about profits can freely give away patents or not bother getting one!

The details are probably up for a fair debate -- 20 years of loyalty that can be trivially extended by trivial process changes (e.g. Pharma companies) is undesirable.

For the argument that someone else can come up with an idea, that is an interesting point. If you can see how something works, it is not that difficult to reverse engineer it. But, in the true spirit of innovation, the innovators should be thinking about _outdoing_ what they see. Merely copying someone else is not innovation. And, that is the case with so many software features: both genuine and trivial ones are considered equal.

If there's a way to hide the secret sauce, people would easily do that (and that was historically done for so many things like the spices etc). The only way to achieving that in modern day is to (i) manufacture each important component by self and (ii) create a product that can't be taken apart. Imagine an Iphone that can't be un-assembled without destroying it. In this context, patents would speed up innovation (see the development of alternative compression algorithms) by allowing to examine the details of current implementation and improve upon it.

Samsung (and others) have been making un-wieldly phones for decades. I wonder why they decided to make "rectangular phones with rounded corners" after runaway success of iPhone.

And, this comes from someone who hasn't owned an iPhone :-)


It actually all becomes really clear as soon as you realize that what Apple wanted to patent all along, was innovation itself.

Apparently that claim did not get accepted[1] so now they're trying to stop competition from using iNnovation by means of patent-lawsuits for everything else.

[1] Prior art, they said. Even though it's absolutely indisputable that Apple came up with the iWheel first, and everybody else copied its rounded corners.


My take on it is encapsulated by this:

"For us this lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money."

It is clear that it can't be about the money because Apple makes 10x the money Samsung does, its all about crushing your enemies using every available tool in your arsenal, no matter what. When Microsoft did that by bundling their own browser into their dominant OS they were convicted of illegally using their market domination to crush competition. I don't think that fate will befall Apple but the ramifications of this on Apple will be far and wide and for the most part uncontrollable.

I expect that everyone reading this today will, in 5 to 10 years be able to look back at today and see all the manifestations of what happened because of it and then see what Apple has wrought. I have no idea if it will be the best or stupidest thing they ever did, but it will define them as a company. I'm strangely reminded of the Tesla / Edison rant for some reason.


I don't think this is about money. Apple has enough money. This is about destroying the competition - in particular, Android. I believe Steve Jobs wasn't shy about it, either: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15400984


I think it's bullshit that Apple did this for money.


Why? Because Apple already has all the money it will ever need. Think again.


You think Apple cares about a measly $1b?

Think about it, the company itself is worth 600+ billion dollars.

They did this more out of principal and to defend their products than anything else.


They didn't it to get $1b from Samsung. They did it to stop anybody else to compete with the iPhone, and so be able to make even more money.


Of course Apple wants to protect their revenue. But they focus their litigation efforts on companies that, in Apple's view, try to sell devices by making the look and feel imitate that of the ios. Microsoft also competes with the iPhone, but I doubt Apple will sue them as vigarous as Samsung, because Microsoft developed, again in Apple's view, an original take on the smartphone concept.


Or, possibly, they just focus on suing companies that are successfully competing with them?

By the way, I have no problem with Apple suing to defend the look and feel that characterize their brand. It's the obvious patents that worry me.


I think that is at the core of this issue: Apple feels Samsung copied the iPhone experience, without any effort or even vision on Samsung's side on how to create this experience. Blind copying so to say. So Apple wants to sue them on look and feel, but they can't; what I remember from the Microsoft-Apple litigation about look and feel is that it turned out that look and feel is almost impossible to patent and defend. That is my explanation on why Apple is now suing over their obvious patents, because they cannot sue over look and feel.


Why would the company be worth $600b? I haven't seen them do anything that I can't buy from another company cheaper, or in some cases, years before Apple "invented" it (ex: the iPad was a decade late to the tablet market).

I'm not trying to be snarky here, but what is it that Apple can actually sell me that no one else can?


To answer your question: a sturdy, forged aluminum computer with a powerful unix-like OS with the most polished interfaces around and the greatest collection of software of all systems? With a 200dpi+ display? With wireless, seamless, video/audio streaming to other devices? Bluetooth 4? The best multitouch trackpad? The only decent power cord on earth?


None of those are particularly interesting to me... not at double the product cost. Maybe I'm just in the minority and don't get it.


Don't forget the cute minimalistic bitten apple and the fact that they are #1 in product placement.


> the iPad was a decade late to the tablet market

I'm sorry but you just flipped your own bozo bit.


I can see how Facebook could loose its value in a couple years, but Apple, no way. They can market and sell stuff with a great profit margin.


That's the magic of investment! It may not be worth that much to you, personally, but the shareholders beg to differ.


You're forgetting the impact this will have on it's stock, already reaching records highs since the decision was announced. So if you think it a "measly $1b" you're horribly mistaken. How about a "measly" tens of billions in overall stock growth over the next months?

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