I’m sure many of you have heard that Samsung lost a patent infringement suit in California Patent Court earlier this week. Yes, we may be paying more for smart phones for a short while. Yes, Samsung may have overstepped “taking design inspirations” from the iPhone. Yes, this may have a ripple effect on all the other patent suits that are pending between the giant technology companies. But all of this is nothing new.
As nearly everyone that has been in the tech industry knows, everything is “stolen” from someone else. Apple “stole” their user interface from technology developed by Xerox in their PARC research lab. But Xerox couldn’t figure out how to sell that technology. Microsoft was “inspired” by the Apple user interface and developed Windows™.
Back when I was in software development, I used to say that there was no such thing as an original program. Every program was copied something from somewhere else and then stuff was added to the original. I’m sure that even the “first” program was just a set of instructions that was translated to something a machine could do.
Innovation should be rewarded. But now, companies claim innovation and pay lawyers to prevent anyone from saying it isn’t. I have a friend that was awarded several patents for things he did when working in the telecommunication industry. He told me that he didn’t think what he had done was anything really special, but the lawyers made it look special so they could stop anyone else from coming up with the same answer when confronted with the same problem.
I cannot really see that a rectangular shape for a phone is patentable. Many phones before the iPhone were basically a rectangular shape. The dimensions of the rectangle of a phone or proportions between the dimensions are probably more a function of human ergonomics and technical requirements. Are ergonomics now patentable? Are companies going to sue people because a shape feels comfortable and they make something in that shape?
In the technical world, innovation really comes from using something you learn (so someone else did it first) for something different than what it was originally intended. Or taking something that already is and finding a way to automate it. If this infringes on patent law, then patent law needs to be changed.