Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jan 2017 21:25 UTC
Legal

Apple, maker of the ever-popular iPhone, is being sued on allegations that its FaceTime app contributed to the highway death of a 5-year-old girl named Moriah Modisette. In Denton County, Texas, on Christmas Eve 2014, a man smashed into the Modisette family's Toyota Camry as it stopped in traffic on southbound Interstate 35W. Police say that the driver was using the FaceTime application and never saw the brake lights ahead of him. In addition to the tragedy, father James, mother Bethany, and daughter Isabella all suffered non-fatal injuries during the crash two years ago.

The Modisette family now wants Apple to pay damages for the mishap. The family alleges the Cupertino, California-based technology company had a duty to warn motorists against using the app and that it could have used patented technology to prohibit drivers from utilizing the app.

I feel for the grieving family, of course, but this is, in no way, Apple's fault. The only person responsible for the horrible death is the driver using Facetime, and possibly - although that's probably quite a stretch - the person he was using FaceTime with, but that's it.

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TemporalBeing
Member since:
2007-08-22

At the moment, companies have no disincentive not to patent every tiny ridiculous concept, because the worst that can happen is invalidation. They can't be held liable for patenting tech which could save lives, and then extorting companies to implement it (think medical and other fields)

So.. If Apple loses, the consequences will be great for consumers. Either companies will implement safety mechanisms more rigorously (so they aren't put at risk, which is good for safety), or they will avoid patenting safety mechanisms they don't plan to implement which will allow their competition to implement it. Furthermore, it also introduces further potential risk to patent trolls.

The driver is an idiot, but we should be hoping that Apple loses here


Absolutely agree.

I can see the legal theory being that Apple was Negligent (if not Criminally Negligent) for not implementing a technology it knew would save lives. They're certainly not saying that the one death was caused by Apple, but that Apple failed to do something it knew it could do (it had a patent about it after all) that could have saved a life.

On the plus side - if Apple loses, then companies will think twice before filing patents they don't intend on implementing - especially if they are safety related. This is a good thing.

On the down side - it may discourage companies from investigating some of these safety aspects too out of fear that if their research became known that they may then be subject to such a suite if not implemented in their products.

So while I'd appreciate the added liability and reduced patents...I'm not really sure which way it should go. If I were the judge I would probably make a big deal of the patent being there in the final judgments, making it a requisite part of the case which should preclude the downside effect at least for the time being.

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