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Not sure how many people are paying attention to the Apple/Samsung lawsuit that started recently. Apple says Samsung stole its patented ideas, Samsung says Apple stole its patented ideas.

A couple links on the lawsuit in general.

I'm going to gloss over a lot here to simplify the discussion and keep it from growing into a novel but there seem to be two patents getting a lot of attention. Apple says Samsung stole its design ideas (primary concern seems to be the rectangular design with curved corners). Samsung says Apple stole its ideas for handling traffic, giving priority to voice signals over data signals to avoid dropped calls. Yes, there are other things both are accusing the others of. Certain touch screen features, user interface features, data transfer features. However, these two claims have been garnering most of the attention in the media I've seen.

Now, I am hardly a patent law expert. However, both of these patents seem to my lay person understanding to be questionable at best. You can't be granted a patent if your invention is "obvious". Isn't it obvious that, with a smartphone-size screen, the smartphone should be rectangular in shape? Isn't it obvious that, when holding that hard plastic rectangle in your hand, rounded corners would make it more comfortable? Likewise, isn't it obvious that, if voice and data are going to collide with each other, voice should win since dropped data will result in retrying later while dropped voice results in a dropped phone call? Some of the other patents might have a little more ground to stand on but these two seem to fail this basic test. The others, in my opinion, are not original ideas or were (obvious) logical extensions of prior work (gestures like pinch-to-zoom or functions like sharing a picture would be examples of functionality that existed before the iPhone or barely extended functionality that did).

Who stands to benefit from this? Well, if one of these companies wins, it could get a windfall of cash.

Who stands to lose? Everyone.

This is the real problem. Patents are granted way too easily. Most, if not all, of the patents being argued over in this lawsuit, in my opinion, shouldn't have been granted. As a result of these patents and many like them being granted, everyone who designs a new product or writes a new piece of software has to look over their shoulder for fear of violating a patent they might not even know about.

I'm not suggesting no patents should be granted. If you come up with a truly innovative idea, you should be able to patent it and protect it from being copied by Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, or any other corporation - large or small - or any individual without proper renumeration. However, when patents are granted to obvious designs like a rectangular smartphone with curved corners or to incremental advances in technology like a user interface redesign or a new touchscreen gesture, we end up with less incentive to innovate. That leads to everyone, from small startups to large corporations to the consumer, losing out.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Apple must have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RHinWI, organicus

    a whole Olympic Team doing nothing but racing to the Patent Office to patent the obvious (which nine times out of ten they copied from someone else anyway).  The system is fundamentally flawed when a patent can be had on something you can read about in 1930's (of 40's, or 50's) "science fiction" . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 11:05:25 AM PDT

    •  They all seem to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deward Hastings, organicus, codairem

      Not just Apple, all the big tech companies seem to have a team pushing patents. For the most part, they are patenting incremental improvements they are making to their or, often, someone else's existing technologies. Hardly what the patent is designed to protect. It's an abuse of the patent and it can be crippling to small start-up companies.

      Just imagine, you're at a small company. You come up with a great idea for, let's say, extending the battery life in cell phones. Let's say you even patent it. Apple, Samsung or some other big company comes along and modifies your idea a bit. Are you going to be able to sue them for patent infringement? You don't have the resources to take them to court. Meanwhile, you're halfway through developing the improvement they just patented. You finish the development and they sue you for infringing on their patent. Now, what do you do? Again, you don't have the resources to take them on.

      This is creating industry consolidation. We all know what that leads to. A lose/lose situation for consumers.

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