Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Aug 2011 13:58 UTC
Legal Breaking news from my swamp home country The Netherlands: the Dutch court has just banned the sales of all Galaxy S, SII and Ace smartphones in the entire European Union. The judge has ruled that Android 2.x violates Apple's 868 patent which covers scrolling through photos on a touchscreen. Only this one patent is violated - the complaints about two other patents as well as the design patents has been thrown out. In other words, the judge did not agree with Apple that Samsung is copying Apple's design. The injunction only covers the Galaxy smartphones, since they run Android 2.x; Android 3.0 does not violate the patent in question, and hence, sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can continue. In fact, only the Gallery application violates the patent in question, and Samsung has already stated it is going to replace this application on all new Galaxy smartphones from now on - sales won't even be interrupted. In other words - two patents thrown out, design stuff rejected, and only one patent complaint upheld which will cause no harm to Samsung. Apple just scored a meaningless victory. The Dutch court order is here. The pictures speak thousands of words.
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RE[2]: I Am Confused
by cfgr on Wed 24th Aug 2011 21:19 UTC in reply to "RE: I Am Confused"
Member since:

Does that imply that it would be OK to stop bundling the gallery application and make it downloadable instead? The distinction is rather blurry to me.

What I personally see as innovative is: "an input screen that generates coordinates when touching it with your finger". Everything else simply uses those coordinates to do something with it, independent of how those coordinates were obtained.

The swiping simply detects a linear pattern in a bunch of coordinates. Regression analysis has prior art all the way back to the 18th century (and probably before).

The animation between switching photos is the result of a swipe event - basically a line segement represented as [Point start, Point end, bool fingerDown]. This is independent of how that swipe action was calculated. And an animation itself is just a transformation (shift/rotate/project...) in some space (2d, 3d, or even colour spaces like RGB and YCBCR). It's abstract and pure mathematics, and does not depend on a device.

This is my main issue with software patents. Software is designed to be abstract and modular. Bundling a few modules together does not make it innovative, nor does it mean you suddenly require a device. The only software that may violate a "software" patent is spaghetti code that's irrevocably attached to the hardware itself.

Too bad the lawyers/judges don't see it that way. Perhaps a course in a pure functional language such as Haskell (where unpure IO code is separated from the application logic) should be a requirement before someone is allowed to judge abstract software patent cases. Although I doubt there would be many cases (nor judges) still standing if that were the case.

Edited 2011-08-24 21:26 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: I Am Confused
by JAlexoid on Thu 25th Aug 2011 12:29 in reply to "RE[2]: I Am Confused"
JAlexoid Member since:

Pretty much yes. As long as the device is unknown at the moment of development. If it's firmware for a very specific model of device then it's patentable. (Or at least, that is how I understand EPO's and other courts' explanations)

So, if you have a patent on a device function by software all iOS apps will infringe, while Android apps will not. iOS is a device specific OS, Android is a generic OS. (My interpretation)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: I Am Confused
by cfgr on Thu 25th Aug 2011 16:57 in reply to "RE[3]: I Am Confused"
cfgr Member since:

So, if you have a patent on a device function by software all iOS apps will infringe, while Android apps will not. iOS is a device specific OS, Android is a generic OS. (My interpretation)

I doubt that all of iOS's code and modules depend on a specific device. If that were the case it would be a horrible, unmaintainable software architecture. The point was that there's only a very small layer that directly depends on the hardware (the firmware). Everything else is just built upon (several) abstraction layer(s). In that respect, I fail to see how any software patent is still valid.

From quickly reading through the specific patent, it appears to be a software problem disguised as "device specific" because it states that it needs I/O interaction. Every application does, that doesn't mean it's linked directly to the hardware and hence should not be patentable.

So yeah, I agree with you that firmware is (or should be) the only patentable software, but anything above that no longer communicates with the hardware directly, which in turn makes it device independent - all you need is the same API. The very fact that Samsung implemented it on Android without violating touchscreen firmware patents pretty much proves its independence.

A software patent is just maths obfuscated in lawyerspeak.

Edited 2011-08-25 17:00 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1