Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2009 15:17 UTC
Legal Remember when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and proclaimed, to much applause, that they patented the hell out of it? Well, apparently Apple likes to boast about its own patents, but when it comes to dealing with other's they're not so willing. That is, if you believe Nokia: the largest phone manufacturer in the world has sued Apple for patent infringement.
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Blah, Patents!
by AndrewDubya on Thu 22nd Oct 2009 16:13 UTC
AndrewDubya
Member since:
2006-10-15

I'm ok with Nokia doing this to Apple, hopefully they're doing it for the right reasons. My guess/hope is they'd like to use some of Apple's patents, but Apple is refusing while still infringing on Nokia's patents.

Anyway, patents are just plain stupid. Let's think this through... are patents ever good for consumers? Not really. Even a rabid free market fan can admit that a patent is an artificial monopoly.

The only benefit of a patent to the public is that the process is fully disclosed so it can be improved upon. For that reason, a patent is only useful if it can't be reverse engineered easily. Kind of hard to have a public standard if only one company makes it (esp. with wireless comm, where there are devices from many different companies that interact).

So if it isn't good for consumers, and isn't even based on free market principles (which, to be clear, I don't have much faith in anyway), why does anyone want patents, other than self-serving lobbyists for companies that want an artificial monopoly?

Reply Score: 3

RE: Blah, Patents!
by fretinator on Thu 22nd Oct 2009 16:44 in reply to "Blah, Patents!"
fretinator Member since:
2005-07-06

Actually, patents do have an intended purpose in a capitalistic society. If you spend 10,000 hours in your garage, and spend $10,000,000, and marvelously discover the magic "energy for cheap" device, the patent system affords you a time-limited monopoly to recoup your investment. The intention is to foster innovation, since if there were no patent system, your invention could be quickly copied and you would be out of luck (and probably money).

So what's the problem? Put simply, patents aren't meant to cover "stupid" stuff - i.e., the obvious stuff, such as dragging a mouse down to select items in a list (an IBM patent). Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly difficult to define. Is a network protocol patentable? How about a file format?

Most people agree that software patents are foolish, but common sense does not always prevail. Even when software patents are eliminated (which I predict will happen), that may not help in the case of phones. There is a lot of hardware, electricity, brodcasting, etc. going on. Patent landmines are everywhere.

So what is the real solution to the patent problem? There problably isn't one. Instead, hopefully there will be more common sense allowed, and things like software patents, business process patents, and many obvious hardware patents will go away. But as long as a society is based on captialism, this problem will remain in some form. The current balance highly favors squashing innovation, which defeats the original intent. Only a strong injection of common sense can swing the balance back to fostering innovation. Unfortunately, common sense is not common, and it is often not lawful.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Blah, Patents!
by AndrewDubya on Thu 22nd Oct 2009 17:19 in reply to "RE: Blah, Patents!"
AndrewDubya Member since:
2006-10-15

Fair enough. I will say this: I would readily vote for no patent system if the other choice were what we have now. I'm not sure where I would fall in between, except that I think patents should be much more difficult to attain.

Another thing: I agree that software patents shouldn't exist, but that contradicts what we've both agreed to: That patents may be a good thing and may actually encourage innovation. Why wouldn't we want software innovation?

Would you vote for the current patent system, no patent system, or do you think it would be possible/worthwhile to come up with something in between?

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Blah, Patents!
by boldingd on Thu 22nd Oct 2009 21:32 in reply to "RE: Blah, Patents!"
boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

So what is the real solution to the patent problem? There problably isn't one. Instead, hopefully there will be more common sense allowed, and things like software patents, business process patents, and many obvious hardware patents will go away. But as long as a society is based on captialism, this problem will remain in some form. The current balance highly favors squashing innovation, which defeats the original intent. Only a strong injection of common sense can swing the balance back to fostering innovation. Unfortunately, common sense is not common, and it is often not lawful.


There where noises made a few years ago about clarifying and aggressively enforcing obviousness tests. Even now, in theory, a patent can be rejected for being "obvious to someone with mean skill in the art" (if I have the wording right). Problem is, for whatever reason, patent examiners basically haven't actually been applying that standard. Whatever happened to fixing that, I don't know.

Edit:
A patent can also be rejected if it merely combines two already-well-known elements with no novel outcomes, or if the patent covers something that is necessary to entering into a market -- like if the internal combustion engine where patented, no-one could make cars. Again, examiners don't enforce these standards, and I don't know what happened to the effort to, well, start actually using them.

Edited 2009-10-22 21:36 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Blah, Patents!
by JAlexoid on Sat 24th Oct 2009 22:16 in reply to "Blah, Patents!"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

I'm ok with Nokia doing this to Apple, hopefully they're doing it for the right reasons. My guess/hope is they'd like to use some of Apple's patents, but Apple is refusing while still infringing on Nokia's patents.

Anyway, patents are just plain stupid. Let's think this through... are patents ever good for consumers? Not really. Even a rabid free market fan can admit that a patent is an artificial monopoly.

The only benefit of a patent to the public is that the process is fully disclosed so it can be improved upon. For that reason, a patent is only useful if it can't be reverse engineered easily. Kind of hard to have a public standard if only one company makes it (esp. with wireless comm, where there are devices from many different companies that interact).

So if it isn't good for consumers, and isn't even based on free market principles (which, to be clear, I don't have much faith in anyway), why does anyone want patents, other than self-serving lobbyists for companies that want an artificial monopoly?


Patents are actually quite beneficial on a lot of things, but abstract patents are the problem. Patents allow you to disclose your invention's details and not loose your benefits from selling it. In other words, patents have the scientific sharing at the heart.

Reply Parent Score: 1