Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Jan 2009 12:04 UTC
Legal Remember when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, and held it up in the air, proudly proclaiming "Boy, have we patented it", followed by a massive applause of the adoring audience? It may seem like this wasn't just an empty claim, either. During the earnings conference call yesterday, the company hinted at possible legal action against Palm were the Pre to infringe on iPhone patents.
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Here's a relevant quote from that seminal book on Interaction Design, Alan Cooper's The Inmates are Running the Asylum:

"If, as a designer, you do something really, fundamentally, blockbuster correct, everybody looks at it and says, 'Of course! What other way would there be?' This is true even if the client has been staring, empty-handed and idea-free, at the problem for months or even years without a clue about solving it.... Most really breakthrough conceptual advances are opaque in foresight and transparent in hindsight. It is incredibly hard to see breakthroughs in design. You can be trained and prepared, spend hours studying the problem, and still not see the answer. Then someone else comes along and points out a key insight, and the vision clicks into place with the natural obviousness of the wheel. If you shout the solution from the rooftops, others will say, 'Of course the wheel is round! What other shape could it possibly be?' This makes it frustratingly hard to show off good design work."

Few know this better than Cooper, a pioneer in the field of interaction design with an immense portfolio of clients. So whether or not you agree that Apple's innovations should be patentable (as a matter of fact I feel it's worse for "the greater good" as it tends to balkanize interaction paradigms across vendors and thus make end-users' lives harder), the fact is that you cannot objectively assess their level of obviousness.

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