28 August 2012

Teddy Roosevelt's Revenge

Now that the planet has read up as much as it wants about the Apple-Samsung case, here comes another drop in the ocean.

Does anyone remember the iPhone, as it was called in 2007? I do. It was the dumbest phone I'd ever seen. Bar none. The current phone design at the time was the flip phone, narrow compact, yet able to span the ear/mouth distance quite nicely when open and in use. This iPhone drek looked like the then current iPod chassis. Here's the page for the iPhone, here's the page for the then current iPod. Notice the similarity? So, what's so innovative about the iPhone? The hardware, but that's not developed by Apple, but by the hardware companies.

From the Wiki:
Most touchscreen patents were filed during the 1970s and 1980s and have expired. Touchscreen component manufacturing and product design are no longer encumbered by royalties or legalities with regard to patents and the use of touchscreen-enabled displays is widespread.

The equally silly BlackBerry of 2007 can be seen here.

The dimensions of the BlackBerry: 107 × 51 × 15 mm
The dimensions of the iPhone: 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm

Should RIM have sued? You betcha. So far as I can find, they never did. Too bad. This case makes it clear that the US patent process is so broken, one could patent a ham sandwich. It's a farce. On balance, the USPTO gets money for granting patents; it's biased towards granting an application for a ham sandwich. The details are convoluted, and AIA makes them moreso (IMHO), but the overall effect is that applicants are buying approval. Much of the (left wing?) criticism of the patent regime is the bias to approve; the rest lies with the law which empowers silly patentability. Not everyone agrees that "Apple has a patent on a rectangle with round corners"; some split hairs and some wave their hands, but the result is that Apple has such authority. Does it make sense to grant such authority?

Not exactly the Square Deal that the Rough Rider had in mind. Here's a picture of what's happened to copyright authority over the years (from the Wiki entry).

Note that the 1909 (beige) version from Roosevelt is about 50% of what it is today, effectively infinite.

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