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Nokia suing Apple over the iPhone (bbc.co.uk)
35 points by shivam14 on Oct 22, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments



This is exactly why patents are not good for the world. Imagine if the iPhone was never built because they respected these patents. The cell phone industry would literally be 3 years behind where it is now.

Patents do not encourage innovation, they smother it.


Ugh, what a knee-jerk echo-chamber reaction.

If there were no patents, the iPhone would have never been built, because Nokia would have kept this IP as trade secret, or not developed it at all. For companies, patents increase the value of R&D investments by orders of magnitude, and without them, most current R&D spending would be impossible to justify to shareholders. If there were no patents, Apple would have no financial incentive (and that's the only incentive public companies have) to invest so heavily in all of the technologies in the iPhone, as they could easily be copied by others.

The world isn't as simple as "competition always yields innovation". Giving companies limited time monopolies on their discoveries (by definition, limiting competition) increases the amount of R&D they do. This was understood hundreds of years go, even before the Copyright Clause was debated, and still holds true:

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

I'm not saying that the spirit of this holds true here, or in every patent case. I'm saying that responding "ugh! patents suuuck!" is too simplistic of a world view.


> If there were no patents, the iPhone would have never been built, because Nokia would have kept this IP as trade secret, or not developed it at all.

knee-jerk? ROFL... talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Have you ever actually read a software patent? I have yet to find one which is educational, which is (as you point out) the basis of granting exclusivity for disclosure. The complex and abstract style used to write many of them makes them basically useless. Even those that are readable are often obvious to those "having ordinary skill in the art". They were granted because the USPTO is over burdened and innovation happens quickly in the industry, but once they have been granted, simple prior art is no longer sufficient to invalidate them.

Patents on software are basically patents on math. I'm all for copyright protection on software, but patent protection is stifling the industry.


Have you ever actually read a software patent? I have yet to find one which is educational...

I'm not saying that the spirit of this holds true here, or in every patent case. I'm saying that responding "ugh! patents suuuck!" is too simplistic of a world view.

Patents on software are basically patents on math

How, exactly, is that, in a way that patents on anything else aren't "basically math"? More importantly, do you think Nokia would ever have spent $60B on R&D if they got no patent rights for it?

I'm all for copyright protection on software

How is that even remotely, marginally related?


I'm not saying that the spirit of this holds true here, or in every patent case.

When people say "patents" on Hacker News, you should assume that they mean software patents. Maybe business method patents on rare occasion.

How, exactly, is that, in a way that patents on anything else aren't "basically math"?

A sewing machine is not "basically math". A stapler that doesn't use staples is not "basically math". But more importantly, "a scientific truth, or the mathematical expression of it, is not a patentable invention." (Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co. v. Radio Corp. of America, 306 U.S. 86, 40 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 199 (1939)).

More importantly, do you think Nokia would ever have spent $60B on R&D if they got no patent rights for it?

Yes, of course they would, thats the business they are in. They made $76.22B revenue in 2008.

How is that even remotely, marginally related?

The tools of our industry are already sufficiently protected to encourage investment, research, and development. Mechanisms are easy to invent are often invented independently, and patents interfere with this.


Now you're just plain confusing things...

a scientific truth, or the mathematical expression of it, is not a patentable invention

The mathematical expression of a scientific truth is not just math, it's an observation of our reality. Algorithms ("just math") can be implemented in hardware or software, and can operate on paper or bits. Those are patentable.

Yes, of course they would [have spent $60B on R&D if they got no patent rights for it], thats the business they are in. They made $76.22B revenue in 2008.

Would they still have made $76.22B if their competitors could use their discoveries freely?

This is silly. I'm not sure what you're arguing against - I'm claiming that there is a good reason for patents, both hardware and software (same reason - to encourage innovation) that shouldn't be ignored when talking about patents. You're saying you agree for hardware patents, but not software patents, but have yet to explain the difference between the two, aside from calling one of them "just math".


If there were no patents, Apple would have no financial incentive (and that's the only incentive public companies have) to invest so heavily in all of the technologies in the iPhone, as they could easily be copied by others.

No financial incentive other than, you know, a need to compete in order to sell their product? It's not as if you can just photocopy a phone and wind up with the software written and hardware designs necessary to reproduce it -- and if you can, how novel are the ideas?

It's disingenuous to state that Apple relied on Nokia's IP (that they would have otherwise kept trade secret), especially given that it's almost certain that Apple engineers ignored existing patents as much as possible when developing the iPhone to avoid additional liability.


No financial incentive other than, you know, a need to compete in order to sell their product?

There are many ways to compete and sell products. Investing as much money as Apple does into R&D is only financially reasonable with government guaranteed monopolies in place. Do you seriously have any doubt that Apple would spend less money on R&D if they weren't able to patent their discoveries? Would any of their products be possible without such extensive R&D spending?


It's disingenuous to state that Apple relied on Nokia's IP

Unless there is any truth in the "we got our patents into industry standards which Apple supports" line from the article.


"Giving companies limited time monopolies on their discoveries (by definition, limiting competition) increases the amount of R&D they do."

I think this was a public good as long as companies--Nokia and Apple are both examples of this--used their R&D to produce goods and services for the marketplace. Under the circumstances, there may be some merit to Nokia demanding licensing fees.

My guess is that there is some back-room stare-down taking place. Perhaps Apple feels that Nokia should cross-license some of Apple's patents. Perhaps Apple is threatening to invalidate some of Nokia's patents. It will be interesting to see this play out. I hope Nokia doesn't devolve into a shell company trolling for license fees :-)


Another knee-jerk reaction is thinking that companies must have looked at the patent and copied it, if they infringed on it. Most likely Apple never considered those patents.

I would imagine that the iPhone still would have been built and would have been nearly as good, even if those patents did not exist.


There is a difference between a willful patent infringement and an un-willful (not sure what the real term is) patent infringement. Both are patent infringements, and both carry penalties etc., however a willful patent infringement carrier a much higher penalty. So, even if Apple didn't know about it, it could still be infringing on Nokia's patents. This is exactly the reason why patent attorneys constantly tell folks in the R&D to never go look or read other's patents, so that if they are ever sued in the future, they can at least claim that it was not a willful infringement.


That's a great way of figuring out how the law is broken."Un-willful" patent infringement shouldn't be stopped. If a patent is likely to be violated without intention, that really means that the (social good) justification for the patent isn't very strong. The only reason it is even illegal is to stop companies from being willfully ignorant but still take advantage of the idea's prior existence.


Most likely Apple never considered those patents.

Except that the actual complaint states that Nokia offered to license Apple the patents and Apple declined multiple times.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/21458614/Nokia-vs-Apple-Complaint


Yes, but he means "Apple never considered those patents at the the time of developing the iPhone" therefore meeting his definition of "un-wilfull".

This is also possibly a reason why Nokia have waited to sue - they have been spending the time trying to get Apple to license them out of court.


Aaaah...no. It's one thing to claim patent on something so general or obvious that it strains credibility, but if Nokia's patents were open (as in well-known by the industry) and easily licensable as they claim, then Apple would be acting in bad faith. You think Apple wouldn't sue if you put out a 'miPhone' that used their patented technology, without consulting them?

Need more details on this, but Nokia is a respected company, I rather doubt they've decided to take up patent trollery just to see what they can scam out of Apple.


Wasn't Apple the reason Android spent it's early days without multitouch? Imagine modern touch mobile without multitouch?


Isn't the reason Apple spent the amount of money they did developing multitouch because they knew they could patent it? If there were no patent protections in place, it would have been very financially foolish to spend most of the R&D money Apple spends.


It's not that I disagree with you, but there's also the option of paying patent licenses.


Why would apple be responsible? Last I checked they were using a separate radio processor chip from someone else (I believe Broadcomm), so wouldn't Broadcomm either have already negotiated the patent rights or ultimately be the one responsible for any patent suit?


This line says it all:

"Earlier this month, Nokia posted its first quarterly loss in a decade amid falling sales."

And that in the same month where Apple has a record quarter.

If you can't beat 'em, sue 'em.


I have to think that the author of the article added this statement precisely so that the reader would make the same inference that you did.

It could be that they legitimately spent time and money researching technology, only to have it brazenly ripped off by Apple, and they just realized it right now. Starting legal proceedings against a big company like Apple isn't something you do between lunch and your afternoon cup of coffee, after all.

(But actually, I made the same inference, and I think it's right. I am just pointing out how carefully-picked "facts" can lead you to believe something that you imagined is a fact.)


I think you are both right.



I would assume Apple has some patents in its portfolio too.

So, what happens when one company sues other over patents, and the other has interesting patent portfolio? They settle it and each gets to use some new tech (without fear of similar lawsuit in the future).

> "[...] those companies who contribute in technology development to establish standards create intellectual property, which others then need to compensate for," said Ilkka Rahnasto, vice president of Legal & Intellectual Property at Nokia. "Apple is also expected to follow this principle."

So, I think it's not Nokia being evil and suing the disruptive underdog to keep its profits. It's just a (start of) business exchange.

(Disclaimer: IANAL and I own a Nokia phone, so :)



Interesting, they claim they own a bunch of patents related to 802.11, does that mean they can sue every laptop manufacturer, and any other device that is wi-fi enabled next?



Not really. The other one is a Nokia press-release. This is, I suppose, a more balanced point of view.



the article is written with bias





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