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What the Mobile Patent Fight Is All About

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the want-to-touch-you-here-and-here-and-here dept.

Patents 222

GMGruman writes "Nokia, Apple, and HTC are all suing each other over mobile patents. Google and Microsoft are also in the game. InfoWorld's Paul Krill explains what the fight is all about: control over multitouch, the technology that enables gesture interfaces on iPads, iPhones, and other smartphones. And he explains the chances that the companies will settle their dispute as they jockey for advantage, why Apple has been playing hardball, and why competitors are fighting back just as hard."

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Useless shit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32204246)

As if 'multitouch' is inventive or someone else would have never thought of it, its like someone patenting single click or one touch...

oh WAIT>. fuck we're doomed

Re:Useless shit (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205052)

Nokia, Apple, and HTC are all suiing each other

And for those wondering, that word is pronounced "swee-ing".

Re:Useless shit (2, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205096)

If multitouch sensors were that easy to create, don't you think we'd have had them in 1980, along with all the craze over touch screens way back when?

Bottom line – good quality touch screens that can take input from multiple contact points at once are hard to build the hardware for, hard to come up with algorithms to interpret the input from said hardware, and hard to build completely new user interfaces on top of.

Not saying I agree with long term patents, or that I agree with all the corporate bitch slapping going on, but that doesn't make multitouch any less innovative.

Your argument seems to be that "anyone could have thought of doing things with two fingers"... which is true... Unfortunately, not anyone could, or did think of *how* to do it. I have already thought of flying around in jet cars all day... Doesn't mean I know how to do it, or that it's in any way easy, or non-patentable.

Re:Useless shit (5, Informative)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205358)

If multitouch sensors were that easy to create, don't you think we'd have had them in 1980, along with all the craze over touch screens way back when?

We did. Sorry if I don't read the rest of the post.

Re:Useless shit (0)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205466)

Pics (or perhaps more precisely videos), or it didn't happen

Re:Useless shit (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205522)

How fucking hard is it to just look it up?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitouch#History [wikipedia.org]

Re:Useless shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205622)

Completely different (and better) technology. Patent deserved for this kind of radical improvement. Took the technology from the land of "eh, look, it kinda works" to "holy shit this is brilliant!"

Re:Useless shit (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205628)

Right. Saying something didn't happen just because there are no pics (or videos) is retarded.

As far as I can make out, all Apple did was to popularise multi-touch (and it isn't all that popular, IMO); and I don't think a company should be allowed to patent something just because they made it popular.

Re:Useless shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205670)

They're not allowed to patent something just because they made it popular, even if Slashdot thinks that's what happens. You can get a patent on a better mousetrap, and the technology in multitouch today is obviously leaps and bounds ahead of the crap from the 80s.

Re:Useless shit (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205664)

Sorry but it goes further than that. Patents in general are all evil and nothing more than greedy asshat tools.

Honestly, look at small things from every handset, if all the good things were unencumbered with patents the smartphones today would utterly rock in usability and function. But we are stuck with A having this, B having that, and C having the other and then all the rich assholes whining to mommie government that billy took their ball.

It's ALL bullcrap. every bit of it. It's why we dont have on demand everything at a reasonable price in our homes, it's why we dont have better cars, it's why our smartphones all have a bit of them that has suckage.

Plain old greed. Dont read into it as anything else. Nokia is greedy. Apple is greedy. HTC is greedy. EVERYONE is greedy.

too much cool-aid (4, Insightful)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204250)

Multitouch is significant to the mobile battle because it enables the use of gestures, which allows for sophisticated interactions on small devices

You don't need multitouch for gestures; in fact, gestures are an alternative to multitouch. And it's also not needed; even software on iPhone and iPad doesn't use multitouch consistently, with some applications only using it for scrolling, others only for zooming, and few applications supporting rotation or more complex gestures. Someone has had too much of Jobs's cool-aid.

And, besides, Apple didn't invent multitouch, and neither did the multitouch company they bought. What Apple did is what Apple always does: they pick some technology, try to get exclusive use of it somehow, and then hype it up, creating the impression that their products are unique and must-have devices.

You can see their m.o. illustrated nicely in their negotiations with Swype: they were quite interested in Swype when they thought they could get an exclusive deal and dropped it like a hot potato when it turned out they couldn't. Apple isn't about choosing the best technology, they are about choosing something that's different from everybody else and creating the belief that it is better through marketing.

Re:too much cool-aid (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204316)

creating the impression that their products are unique and must-have devices.

In a sense, they are unique. While I've never owned an Apple device, there's still this myth about their products, quality and usability.

Who cares if there existed mp3 players before, if the iPod is the only one with a button that still works after a year of use? And who cares if this is actually true, as long as it's shiny enough?

Re:too much cool-aid (0, Troll)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205612)

> Who cares if there existed mp3 players before, if the iPod is the only one with a button that still works after a year of use? And who cares if this is actually true, as long as it's shiny enough?

Ironic, given the failure rate of iPods. What use is a working button if the hard drive fails after a year or so. I've had nothing but trouble with iPods and I will never buy another Apple product (I almost risked getting an iPhone but then the HTC Desire came out which pisses all over the iPhone - a close escape). Apple can't compete on quality or price, so once the marketing lead is over they're forced to rely on legal nonsense like crap patents.

Re:too much cool-aid (2, Interesting)

Flipao (903929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205652)

In a sense, they are unique. While I've never owned an Apple device, there's still this myth about their products, quality and usability.

Who cares if there existed mp3 players before, if the iPod is the only one with a button that still works after a year of use? And who cares if this is actually true, as long as it's shiny enough?

It might be a myth, but in my old HTC touch pro I'd open the browser and have to wait for it to load, and scrolling showed nothing but an empty checkerboard for what seemed like an eternity. On my 3GS Safari loads instantly and scrolling is buttery smooth.

I don't care if it's shiny, it's not my fault HTC churn out devices with 1GHz processors but no hardware acceleration on the UI, Palm can't put a decent SDK out to save their lives, or Google have only just started to get their act together.

I'm not an Apple fan, in fact, I tried pretty much every alternative before giving up and getting an iPhone and promptly jailbreakin it.

I love the damn thing, and I feel dirty all over.

Re:too much cool-aid (2, Insightful)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204370)

Multitouch significantly increases the number of simple gestures that can be created.

Re:too much cool-aid (4, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204418)

Multitouch significantly increases the number of simple gestures that can be created.

Does that include Flipping the Bird?

Re:too much cool-aid (0, Offtopic)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204670)

I flip the bird at the need to smear my phone screen so it's unreadable.

Re:too much cool-aid (2, Funny)

Flipao (903929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205662)

I'm sure there's an app for that.

Re:too much cool-aid (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205050)

And that's a good thing... why? Do you really think that most users are able to memorize a dozen combinations of different fingerings and motions? There is no visual indication of anything with those gestures.

Gestures and multi-touch are anti-usability. They are more obscure than UNIX two-letter commands. It's supreme irony that a company that used to write usability on its banner all of a sudden is pushing such a geeky feature.

Re:too much cool-aid (4, Informative)

iwannasexwithyourmom (1804754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204622)

Someone has had too much of Jobs's cool-aid.

That's "kool-aid" you insensitive clod!

multitouch patents are worth less too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205094)

multitouch patents are worth less too. Several of them are software patents. Billski et al is liable to curtail software patents in the US and most other countries do not recognise software patents.

All countries recognise hardware patents.

So even if the "per use" value was the same where patents are valid, if you exchange Apple's patents for Nokia's, Nokia is paying for patents in countries where there ARE no patents to pay for. Apple is getting a freebie. And quite a large one.

Re:too much cool-aid (1)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205246)

You don't need multitouch for gestures; in fact, gestures are an alternative to multitouch. And it's also not needed; even software on iPhone and iPad doesn't use multitouch consistently, with some applications only using it for scrolling, others only for zooming, and few applications supporting rotation or more complex gestures. Someone has had too much of Jobs's cool-aid.

You don't see that the iPhone was just the test device, and the iPad is the second (beta, if you want) test. Multitouch is here to stay, and it will soon be a major input device system. On a phone, you are correct that multitouch is nice, but not essential. However, on a larger device (like a tablet), you absolutely need multitouch.

Re:too much cool-aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205472)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9BSJQBLZSk

To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204256)

The point of patent law is to "promote the useful arts". In other words, better humankind. The way this is done is by granting a temporary monopoly to an inventor for the singular purpose of encouraging more inventions. This bullshit has nothing to do with that. Apple has an utterly bullshit patent that any idiot who has watched any sci-fi in the past half century has seen before. "Multi touch" is not some breath taking innovation. It is a "not shit" next step for touch based devices (which are also "no shit" inventions). Frankly, this just brings to the forefront the glaring flaws in our patent system. The idea that you could patent a broadly defined (and obvious) method of interacting with a device is absurd. Idea should actually have to be novel and non-obvious. When large companies are slinging patents at each other not to protect sunk R&D costs, but just to trip up their competitors in court, you know that this entire system is fucked.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204404)

control+alt+delete is a classic multitouch gesture.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Interesting)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204406)

There is a slight difference between an idea being new and the implementation being new.

Just because Star Trek has used it for years wouldn't make the invention of a real transporter any less patentable, knowing that a transporter would be cool isn't the same thing as knowing how to do it.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204482)

Right, but the thing is that, although that's what the patent is supposed to be for, in fact the way they set it up Apple is claiming patents on multi-touch per-se. This is inherent in the idea of patents on ideas (software / business methods / mathematics). It's very difficult to define good legal boundaries which don't have stupid implictions. For example, software patent advocates actually often claim not to be advocates for software patents. They just care about transformations of matter. Including the change in the output of your screen caused by their software! In other words, the boundary which is supposed to limit software to where it's used as part of a machine process instead becomes a tool in manipulating the debate.

I think the only logical end is a fairly hardline freedom of speech position. Patents, copyrights and trademarks should only be allowed where they demonstrably increase freedom of expression. With trademarks this is easy; if I don't have a proper name for a company which reliably means that company then it's difficult to discuss that company. For copyright, that's quite easy to show, as long as terms are short and DRM (of copyrighted material) is illegal. For normal physical patents, that's likely true as long as the development in the field of interest normally takes place over a term at least a few times as long as the term of the patent. For patents on abstract process that's never going to be true.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (3, Informative)

powerspike (729889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204486)

I think the argument here, isn't that the teleportation is patentable, it's how it's done. They are trying to take control on an idea that has been around for countless years, not the technology that made it possible.
well that's my take on it anyway...

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (2, Informative)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205178)

Especially since the technology was patented by synaptics much before.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (3, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204842)

That depends. The existence of the transporter in Star Trek shows that the platonic ideal, the very concept of a transporter, is not original. However, many patents are so absurdly vague that they indeed give the holder rights over such abstract platonic concepts. A good example of this is the Amazon shopping basket--the one-click patent. It doesn't matter what programming language or technology you use to make your one-click shopping possible. Amazon own the very idea of one-click.

The patent system is not about encouraging innovation. It's about obtaining a wide and far reaching a monopoly as possible, with actually inventing or discovering something being totally beside the point. I wouldn't be surprised if someone already has a patent on the concept of transportation from the USPTO, waiting patiently for someone to actually develop such a device so they can strike and reap in unearned rewards. Because that's what patents are all about.

Novelty and nonobviousness (3, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204432)

Idea should actually have to be novel and non-obvious.

Yes, that's the idea and that's what the law says, but every word gets a different meaning under patent law than it has from a common-sense perspective.

Large parts of what the average person would consider "obvious" is considered "inventive" under patent law. That's why different attempts on both sides of the Atlantic have failed to get those FAT patents revoked [blogspot.com] . People thought that maybe the courts would be more demanding in terms of the inventive step involved than the examiners at the patent offices, but the judges upheld the original decisions to grant.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204492)

While I mostly agree with what you say, it's not that easy.

As you pointed out the idea of multi-touching and gestures is not new, it may even be called age-old. Think of a womans body... reacts very well under multiple touches. It's just a way of interacting. The implementation of that however is another matter. How to detect those touches that's where the patents come in. But patents is not an easy matter.

For a start obviousness: many inventions that are patentable look obvious. This are very simple solutions to problems. But often they are only obvious after someone points it out to you. Novelty is a bit less ambiguous, as there is something like "prior art".

The worst patent fights we see is typically in software; the second bad one is medicine. For the rest the patent system works pretty much as designed, that is for the traditional technical/physical/machine type inventions.

Also in case of these "multi-touch" patents, it is most certainly not on the user-side of multi-touch. It must be on specific implementations of multi-touch, either technical (how to detect those two or more touches on a surface) or software (what to do with it). The first one I think could certainly be patent-worthy, the second not.

There may be multiple ways to implement those touch surfaces: different detection tricks and so. Those may each be patentable, and no problem with that. Use method A, pay for patent A, and you're OK. Invent your own method B, you may patent it yourself, and you can implement multi-touch by yourself using your method. Patents work as they should.

The problem is software-patents where a certain trick which may be implemented in numerous different, innovative ways gets patented. Then your new way to get the same result suddenly falls under an existing patent. And there it goes wrong.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205254)

In response to HTC developing Sense UI for their own smartphones - to also give them a multi-touch like capability, Apple initiates a suit :

TFA :

At the time of the suit, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote, "We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Apple doesn't care that HTC implemented Sense UI all by their lonesomeness - they implemented Steve's idea , and by god - that's enough!

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (4, Funny)

kazade84 (1078337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205468)

Think of a womans body... reacts very well under multiple touches.

YMMV.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205504)

Maybe either you should try more, or ask her what's good and what not :)

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204496)

Patent law has become completely perverted and is no longer even vaguely related to its constitutional form.

I remember in school I was taught that a patent had to lay out information so that you could sit down and read it and learn exactly how to do something new and useful and entirely non-obvious. In return for teaching everyone how to do this, the patent holder got a short term monopoly. Even that system was subject to considerable doubt as to whether the cost was worth it, as the normal thing with inventions was that there were several inventors who hit on the same thing very nearly simultaneously. But at least it made some sense.

Read a patent lately? They usually dont describe anything new or useful, and even when they do, they certainly dont do so in a way that would actually impart the necessary information to do it yourself. The old patent system may have been a bad trade in most or all cases, but it was a trade - now there is no trade at all. Just a pile of impenetrable gibberish filed to get a monopoly.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (0, Offtopic)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205280)

I don't see any hacker's solution a la GPL to get out of this situation (GPLv3 tries a bit but doesn't get the momentum needed. Maybe an LGPL version forbidding patents ?). So the only solution that I see is to do some politics. In US support Lawrence Lessig's efforts against lobbying (Fix Congress First [fixcongressfirst.org] ) anywhere else, get involved in your local pirate party (International Pirate Party [pp-international.net] )

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Insightful)

Wildclaw (15718) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204568)

The way this is done is by granting a temporary monopoly to an inventor for the singular purpose of encouraging more inventions.

And yet, over and over again, people seem to come up with very similar inventions independently. It is almost like inventions happen because the right prerequisites are there, and not because of some monetary incentive.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1, Informative)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204722)

It is almost like inventions happen because the right prerequisites are there, and not because of some monetary incentive.

True most inventions are created to solve a particular problem and not because of some monetary incentive. However, the reason YOU know that the invention exists is because the inventor saw a potential to make some money off of his idea, and acquired a patent to protect his investment.

This is how patents work.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204868)

the inventor saw a potential to make some money off of his idea

The inventors lawyer saw a potential to make some money off the inventor would seem more likely. Most patents never make any money.

The disclosure process would be much more efficiently and appropriately served by simply outright paying for the disclosure. Whether you construct a system as payment on delivery or payment based on usage, any system that doesn't grant a monopoly or result in litigation would be more cost efficient.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205056)

Most patents never make any money.

[citation needed]

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (3, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205412)

The inventors lawyer saw a potential to make some money off the inventor would seem more likely.

I didn't know that lawyers had this psychic ability to discovered undisclosed inventions. I can see them standing outside their offices concentrating as hard as they can and come to the conclusion that Mr Smith two blocks over has just invented a widget. I better run over there and convince him to let me patent it for him before another psychic patent lawyer does...

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

metageek (466836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205732)

I didn't know that lawyers had this psychic ability to discovered undisclosed inventions. I can see them standing outside their offices concentrating as hard as they can and come to the conclusion that Mr Smith two blocks over has just invented a widget. I better run over there and convince him to let me patent it for him before another psychic patent lawyer does...

Wow, you need to get out more. There are IP lawyers going around eg in public universities asking academics what they do telling them that most everything is patentable. They are definitely one force that keeps recruiting patents into the system (and they certainly don't care even if the application succeeds...)

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204914)

Is that still the case? Publicly explaining the invention was of course part of the original idea, but patents tend to be written in a fairly obfuscated style these days, so I'd suspect it's hard to reimplement most patents from the patent document alone.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205380)

I don't think it's impossible to reimplement a patent from the patent document, but I don't think it's easy either.

I also believe the more obfuscated the patent document, the least likely it's really deserves a patent.

Unfortunately, patent lawyers like their obfuscated writing so it's hard to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. I think this is a well tested strategy on the part of the larger patent firms, since the patent office will probably consider the firm's reputation when granting the patent especially when the bureaucrat feels the need to "fake" that he understands the patent (eg. Well the last few hundred valid patents from that firm were written this way, therefore chances are good that this patent is also valid).

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205256)

Also, studies show that contrary to popular belief, the crowd of smart and educated people grows every year. When 5 companies with teams of competent engineers have the same problems, they will logically come up with approximately the same solutions.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (5, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204594)

any idiot who has watched any sci-fi

Sigh. No need to bring that in to it and gloss over the real people involced. HCI researchers have been researching multitouch since the early 80s, or even before.
http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html [billbuxton.com]

They did all the real hard grunt work making it actually work. Now a bunch of companies want to swoop in and claim the inventions as their own simply because they want to market it.

For what it's worth, I do not think that pinch zoom obvious. In 1984. When it was invented. By now, since multitouch is so old, to anyone versed in the HCI world, yeah, this stuff is a mix of pretty obvious and been done before.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204880)

Sigh. No need to bring that in to it and gloss over the real people involced. HCI researchers have been researching multitouch since the early 80s, or even before.

You can't argue with the facts. Prior to FingerWorks in 1998 (which Apple bought), you had multitouch on touch tablets of different shapes and sizes. Most were separate from the display like a traditional keyboard, some had a projector that projected the screen onto the front of the touch pad, and some had the image projected from behind the surface. There even was an early monochromatic LCD phone that had a touch tablet embedded in front of it (I do not believe it was multi-touch).

However using the technology, purchased from FingerWorks, Apple was able to combine a multitouch UI with a color LCD screen on a handheld portable device that was a functional cell phone. At great risk, since other touchscreen PDA and smartphones were suffering from poor sales.

I don't think anyone thinks that Apple created their multitouch phone inside a vacuum, however Apple did see market potential in providing multitouch on a cell phone and patented their implementation of it, as well purchasing the IP of FingerWorks.

So unless you are suggesting that anybody could take academic papers that discusses a single quantity method of using physically large off the shelf parts, and piece all those separate works together into creating a very thin handheld device that can be mass produced inexpensively enough to make it a viable consumer product, I don't know what point you were trying to make.

Incidentally, Bill Buxton does not criticize the iPhone or Apple and just talks about the "long nose of innovation".

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204924)

I don't think you can generally patent an invention that already existed solely because you were the first to mass produce it inexpensively enough to make it a viable consumer product. If, in doing so, you came up with some novel innovation, you can patent that, but the innovation can't be as simple as combining the parts and then making manufacturing improvements to bring down the cost/size.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (3, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205434)

The point wasn't the mass production. The point was the multi-touch smartphone. The previous works are the ingredients but not the actual concept of a multi-touch smartphone. The fact that it's mass producible makes the patent more valuable and therefore relevant.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205450)

Sorry I hit Submit instead of continue editing:

I don't think you can generally patent an invention that already existed solely because you were the first to mass produce it inexpensively enough to make it a viable consumer product.

Actually I believe you can patent an improvement on a previous patent or work.

Re:To promote the USEFUL arts (3, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205140)

This bullshit has nothing to do with that. Apple has an utterly bullshit patent that any idiot who has watched any sci-fi in the past half century has seen before.

Hate to break it to you, but you don't get to patent an idea just because you thought "o hey, wouldn't it be cool if we had XYZ". You actually have to explain *how* you do XYZ, and of note, anyone who can do XYZ in a different way is still free to do so. Just seeing something on sci fi is not good enough, if no one could actually demonstrate how to do it.

You know the drill: patents, claims, prior art (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32204258)

Ready, set, go!

I know these aren't software patents, but this is profoundly stupid, and I'm sure we'd all enjoy watching Apple and MS get fucked over by their own greed.

No it isn't. (2, Insightful)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204270)

The suit brought against HTC by Apple didn't include anything to do with multitouch, AFAIK. The multitouch patents aren't even relevant outside the US for the most part and nothing but the most precise implementation will likely survive any scrutiny with-in the US.

HTC havent actually sued Apple (5, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204324)

They've made a complaint to the FTC.

Apple is suing because it's being eclipsed by it's competitors.

Nokia is suing because it got sick of asking Apple nicely to pay for the patents they were using.

Re:HTC havent actually sued Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32204414)

Apple is doing poorly. Nokia are nice guys. Got it.

Re:HTC havent actually sued Apple (1, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204538)

Apple is suing because it's being eclipsed by it's competitors.

Based on what? Having more android phones sold (how many models on how many carriers)?

They're probably suing because they thought they had an edge with multitouch, having bought fingerworks around 2006ish and having implemented it in their laptops, magic mouse, iPad, and iPhone.

Now sure they're correct on this, but I don't think it's because they've been eclipsed yet.

Re:HTC havent actually sued Apple (-1, Troll)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204846)

Based on what? Having more android phones sold (how many models on how many carriers)?

specifications, sales, increase in ad hits from Android devices (admob metrics).

And Steve's comments. He is definately agitated regarding Android.

They're probably suing because they thought they had an edge with multitouch,

You just provided your own justification, You don't sue other companies when you're in a good position, you don't even threaten to sue as shareholders and stock markets really don't like it (creates uncertainty and stock price drops). The act of suing straight off the bat, as opposed to asking nicely means you are afraid of them. You never sue when you have the edge, you sue when you lose the edge.

Re:HTC havent actually sued Apple (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205228)

You never sue when you have the edge, you sue when you lose the edge.

Or when you see that the good manners cannot be successful and your competitor will never pay for your research unless forced. Just sayin'...

If anyone owns the patents... (5, Insightful)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204342)

...shouldn't it be Synaptics [engadget.com] ? Their touchpads have been multitouch-capable since Apple was still using PowerPC chips and the iPhone was just some obscure Cisco product [cisco.com] .

Re:If anyone owns the patents... (5, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204412)

...shouldn't it be Synaptics? Their touchpads have been multitouch-capable since Apple was still using PowerPC chips and the iPhone was just some obscure Cisco product.

This is what makes it so insidious and wrong. Apple don't have the hardware patents, they have software patents on certain processes (using two fingers to manipulate page size and so forth). Synaptic, IBM, 3M and a few others have the hardware patents so all Android phones with capacitive touch screens are capable of multi-touch in the hardware but it's not implemented in the OS precisely because the screen manufacturers bought the patent rights from Synaptics and so forth but Apple will not license the software patents to an OSS project.

Despite my usual disposition, this is not a rant against Apple specifically but the general uselessness of software patents and their tendency to inhibit innovation and competition. Although Apple, as a main contributor to software patents is far from innocent but they are the symptom, software patents are the disease.

It really is delicious irony (2, Insightful)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204524)

Yes Apple is doing wrong, but they are actually using the patent how a patent is supposed to be used. Not using it for patent trolling or for cross-licensing deals, but for a temporary monopoly on technology. I laugh at it because it is extremely ballsy and goes against the grain of how modern corporations work.

On a side note, has patents ever stopped OSS before? I really do want to figure out how to get my multitouch scrolling working on Linux on this EeePC at some point.

Re:It really is delicious irony (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204620)

Mine just works. You need a 900 or newer, I believe. You might also need to run gsynaptics (GUI) to actually switch the features on. This requires that you have a sufficiently new install of Linux (anbything in the last ear at least) so that it comes with the drivers.

It's not a symaptics it's one of the other vendors, but it works with the synaptics drivers.

If you really want to play, you can use synclient to get a raw list of the (x,y) positions of the individual touches.

Re:It really is delicious irony (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205626)

(anbything in the last ear at least)

I think your multi-touch is a little touchy.

Re:It really is delicious irony (2, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204624)

but they are actually using the patent how a patent is supposed to be used

Well yes, seeing as software patents are artificial monopolies on mathematical functions they are being used to prevent a competitor from releasing a different technology that performs the same function. They haven't patented the specific code (design), rather the function of the code (otherwise you could just change variable names and get around the whole thing)

On a side note, has patents ever stopped OSS before?

They never have, however patents frequently slow down OSS development.

Re:It really is delicious irony (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205214)

Well yes, seeing as software patents are artificial monopolies on mathematical functions they are being used to prevent a competitor from releasing a different technology that performs the same function. They haven't patented the specific code (design), rather the function of the code (otherwise you could just change variable names and get around the whole thing)

Interesting. While I do not agree that all software is patentable, I do see the need for software patents for very complex algorithms or concepts that cost a small fortune to develop. I also think your use of mathematical functions is a stretch. I know you're using math to argue that:

Software is a mathematical function.
Math can not be patented.
Therefore, Software can't be patented. (yawn)

The problem with that argument is software does not fit into what people consider traditional math. To the majority of people, there is a significant difference between f(x) = x^2 + 2*x + 2 and the Windows operating system.

Technically math is involved in all computer programs, since the computer performs work based on the interpretation of instructions whose sequence is based on the current state of variables that are assigned values that correlate to some real world phenomenon. But couldn't the same be said of mechanical gears whose ratios are based on a mathematical function that allows the maximum torque for a given range of rotational speed?

What attribute makes an automatic transmission patentable, and not a computer algorithm that converts speech into text? An even more interesting question is what is the attribute that makes a bi-metal coil that expands and contracts with temperature being used with a mechanical switch to interrupt the flow of current when a preset maximum temperature is reached, and not reading the voltage across a thermistor, converting that voltage to a temperature and using an if statement that will turn off a switch when temperate is greater than max temperature? Disregard that thermometers are old and obvious now... This discussion gets really complicated when FPGAs are considered. Discrete components are patentable but not VHDL code?

Anyway, I think the "attribute" is a hard thing to define but I do believe that there are software algorithms that are complex enough to be patentable.

I know I'm rambling now, but let's get back to Apple since it is the basis of this thread. Apple took a huge risk in entering the already crowded cell phone market. Apple gambled that the money spent to develop a multitouch cellphone would be rewarded by providing a unique and useful phone to the consumer. They took this gamble despite the fact that PDA phones and Windows CE phones were performing poorly in the marketplace. Apple's gamble paid off, and they should be entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Now that Apple demonstrated that money can be made with a touch tablet phone, the other companies are trying to mimic the attributes of the iPhone in hopes of increasing their marketshare. Even Google is trying to get a piece of the action.

Shouldn't Apple get a return on its investments? An investment the other companies did not make or risk? I happen to think that yes Apple should be granted patent protection. If the iPhone turned out to be a flop and consumers showed dislike towards the multitouch phone would people discuss the merits of Apple's patents? Probably not.

Re:If anyone owns the patents... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204840)

The funniest bit would be if IBM revoked its license to Apple.
Apple would remain with the software patents and no hardware to run them on.

Patent Armageddon (2, Funny)

kamaaina (1071006) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204344)

So is this the start of Patent Armageddon we were told was coming.

See Apple, Nokia, and HTC lob patent nukes at each other is pretty interesting. Need to start stockpiling my old POTS phones. Maybe the owner of tone dialing will get into the fray as well.

I wonder if tapping out people's phone number via pulse dialing on my landline still works or did someone patent that too and is requesting royalties.

Re:Patent Armageddon (2, Informative)

lord_mike (567148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204560)

Actually, the rotary phone dialing system was patented, but it was about a 100 years ago. The patent has expired.

how are these touch interfaces new? (2, Interesting)

crazybit (918023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204360)

I remember using touch interfaces at Epcot Center in 1985. The difference here is the size of the device and he applications I can run (not only browse info about pictures), but other than that I see no difference.

Re:how are these touch interfaces new? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204818)

Most touch interfaces until recently activated only one point on the screen.
I can now tap with two fingers for middle-click, with three for right-click, drag two fingers together/apart for zoom in/out, rotate, and so on. Could you do this with the old interfaces?

Re:how are these touch interfaces new? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205080)

yes.
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=317456.317461
1985

Re:how are these touch interfaces new? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205330)

Sounds like a reasonable Prior Art.

Chances of others getting cross-license with Apple (3, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204380)

The Infoworld article makes some good points but the issue is too big to claim that those two pages say all this fight is about.

The emphasis on multitouch (which doesn't rule out that other key patents are held by Apple as well) would be plausible. It's extremely difficult and rare for a patent holder to aim for total annihilation of a competitor. Patents are much more likely to be used against a competitor (i) to maintain a certain premium functionality (ii) or to impose license fees that make it harder for the late entrant to offer his solution at lower prices while increasing your own profitability. Just looking at how two different players deal with HTC, it's pretty clear that Microsoft pursues a licensing approach (which enabled HTC to avoid litigation by agreeing to pay) while it's increasingly probable that Apple actually wants to preclude competitors such as HTC from providing certain functionality (such as multitouch) at all. In that case, litigation (which is now ongoing between Apple and HTC) is rarely avoided because the alleged infringer could only avoid it by reducing the functionality of his product.

The only way for a competitor to get away unscathed, neither having to pay royalties nor having to curtail the functionality of any product, is to strike a cross-licensing deal with the aggressor. So how likely is that to be the solution of the current dispute?

While they are fierce competitors, Apple and Microsoft put a cross-licensing deal in place a long time ago, and Microsoft has such a powerful patent portfolio, especially in connection with operating system and graphical user interface functionality, that it's in a position to do such a deal with Apple. That's good for Microsoft and for its licensees.

But how about everyone else? The camp that would most desperately need a cross-licensing deal with Apple is the whole Android camp, meaning Google and its hardware partners (the vendors who build phones based on Android, be it on the basis of a formal agreement with Google or on open-source terms). As the article explains, Google didn't even try to provide multitouch functionality by default and left it to those hardware partners to tread that dangerous path. When I talk to people, including IT-specialized journalists, about the mobile patent war, there's a very common misconception: "Google can do a cross-license with Apple." However, in recent years Google obtained only about 10% the number of patents that Apple received, and given the areas both companis focus on, it's likely that Google not only has fewer but also has, across its smaller portfolio, a lower percentage of patents that could really pose a threat to Apple. Google isn't a patent powerhouse. I only compared Google's patenting activity to that of Apple, and even Apple isn't extremely big (but some of those patents, especially the ones related to multitouch, may be very critical).

You wanna see a massive patent powerhouse (which however almost certainly won't come to the rescue of Android)? IBM pointed out at a press conference last year that at least at the time it had (and might still have) more patents than Microsoft, HP, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture and Google combined... [blogspot.com]

Re:Chances of others getting cross-license with Ap (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32204728)

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Re:Chances of others getting cross-license with Ap (0, Offtopic)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204824)

The worst way to sell your Chinese Sweatshop tat is to spam completely unrelated newsgroups, Mr Qinglin Chen of 195 Huangpu Road, Guangdong, China. Let's see what that does to your Google pagerank.

Re:Chances of others getting cross-license with Ap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32204904)

Let's see what that does to your Google pagerank.

Nothing, because comments don't get index as per robots.txt?

quick - grab the steering wheel (1)

tpthompson (658704) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204394)

c'mon...can you imagine a car without one?

heres a recommendation: reasonable license fees - with creation credit - aka royalties.

the more ludicrous and innovation destructive the lawsuit, the more seriously revision of intellectual property law becomes a priority

rather than wait for a change in law, vote with your paycheck: buy something else

Cross-licensing only works with the willing (4, Insightful)

danerthomas (1633403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204658)

Nokia and HTC sell licenses for their patents to many competitors. Apple wants to buy licenses from Nokia and HTC on the same terms, but... Nokia and HTC would rather cross-license to get access to multi-touch than sell licenses to Apple, and Apple wants to keep multi-touch exclusively to themselves for now. so... Apple uses Nokia and HTC patents without first getting a deal but is willing to pay for them at the going rate and is hoping that the court will order that settlement. Nokia (and others) use Multi-touch without first getting a deal and are willing to cross-license and/or pay for it, and are hoping that the court/FTC will order Apple to make multi-touch available to others. The question is: Are courts more likely to order Nokia and HTC to offer Apple the same deal that they offer everybody else, or are courts more likely to order Apple to sell something that they have not been willing to sell to anybody?

Re:Cross-licensing only works with the willing (1)

Amanitin (1603983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205126)

I don't think a court can order anybody to give away its property for a set price. If Nokia do not want to give Apple the same deal with cell technology as to anybody else, so what? It's their fucking property.
When I am selling my car and am willing to take a lower offer from a friend then from a stranger will I be dragged to court?

Re:Cross-licensing only works with the willing (3, Informative)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205146)

See, Nokia has sued for money only, not for licensing. I don't get this paranoia about multitouch patents: Nokia does not want them.

MOD PARENT UP (3, Insightful)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205170)

Very succinct description of the state as I understand it too. Note that Nokia are simply suing for backdated licensing fees for their patents whilst Apple are suing to prevent their competitors using multitouch at all, reinforces the point that apple want it to themselves.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205460)

Very succinct description of the state as I understand it too. Note that Nokia are simply suing for backdated licensing fees for their patents whilst Apple are suing to prevent their competitors using multitouch at all, reinforces the point that apple want it to themselves.

Uhm.. if you read the actual filings it is actually a complete misunderstanding of the case, almost the total opposite of what is actually being asked/sued for. As also noted by posters above and below this:

See, Nokia has sued for money only, not for licensing. I don't get this paranoia about multitouch patents: Nokia does not want them.

and..

It's getting tiresome to watch Apple fanboys distorting the facts. Go do the court filings in Nokia vs. Apple and read the statements of facts. Nokia stated they asked 'their standard rate' in cash for the essential patents Apple uses and Apple refused. Then they stated Apple offered some (non-essential, as they have nothing essential to GSM) patents in exchange, but when Nokia judged their value insufficient and asked for more, Apple again refused. Bottomline, Nokia never asked for anything multitouch in the first place. Show me a goddamn court filing where Apple disputes that, as they can twist any lies in their PR but lawyers tend to be much more careful with the truth towards a judge. Otherwise, kindly STFU. The signal-to-noise is bad enough already.

Cross licensing is what Apple don't want. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205190)

Cross licensing is what Apple don't want. Also note that the patents for software (Apple's) are not as prevalent, whereas the hardware patents are universal. So they aren't worth as much even if you class them the same.

All the others who get RAND put their patents in the pool. Apple don't want to pool their patents but they STILL want the RAND.

Isn't that discriminatory if Nokia allow Apple alone to do this?

Irony.

PS the patents aren't of equal value either: Apple without Nokia patents have no iPhone. Nokia without Apple patents still have capacitative multi-touch screens (HW patents belong to IBM among others) and even without that, they still have a phone.

Re:Cross-licensing only works with the willing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205252)

It's getting tiresome to watch Apple fanboys distorting the facts. Go do the court filings in Nokia vs. Apple and read the statements of facts. Nokia stated they asked 'their standard rate' in cash for the essential patents Apple uses and Apple refused. Then they stated Apple offered some (non-essential, as they have nothing essential to GSM) patents in exchange, but when Nokia judged their value insufficient and asked for more, Apple again refused. Bottomline, Nokia never asked for anything multitouch in the first place. Show me a goddamn court filing where Apple disputes that, as they can twist any lies in their PR but lawyers tend to be much more careful with the truth towards a judge. Otherwise, kindly STFU. The signal-to-noise is bad enough already.

Re:Cross-licensing only works with the willing (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205392)

Something inside me says that the patents of Apple are not in par with Nokia's ones. I am surrounded with electrical engineers working on modulation, coding, and other low level radio technologies (antennas etc.) -- it is heavy stuff. While I understand that multitouch is not trivial either, but still not in the same league.

Nokia, iPad, HTC (1)

lemoon (1804748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204736)

well, I don't think this make important means, Nokia is professional in mobile phone, apple then have many lines of business, and HTC got its features, and they are different advantages in their business, just a few blending, but competition is needed I think. Though it seems that iPad is very absorbing now, but just bcz the releasing time. Of cource, there are many folks and developer all around it now, and service for it. such as this one: http://www.ifunia.com/resources.html [ifunia.com] nearly live on with apple!

The problem is the exclusivity (2, Interesting)

peti (95564) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204858)

The real problem with patents is the exclusivity.

Historically the precursor of (western) patent law was called Statute of Monopolies [wikipedia.org] . At that time it was quite common for kings to reward their subject with various monopolies. But monopolies have no place in modern free-market democracies. In this sense patents are going against the basic principles of modern societies.

Since we need inventions, patents should still be rewarded, but not with exclusivity. Instead some kind of royalty system should be put in place, that would grant appropriate compensation to inventors, but not limit others to actually use the invention.

Pust my two .

Peter

Re:The problem is the exclusivity (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205206)

I agree, I think that there should be a way to federalize patent licencing - so all patent licensing was centrally administered and all terms were identical. The way it would work is: you patent something and then anyone who wants to use that tech pays the fee to the patent office. If you think someone is using your patent without paying the fee you bring it to the patent office's attention and they investigate, and if so the perpetrator simply pays backdated fees (plus perhaps the costs of the investigation). Once all the fees are in for, say, a year. The patent office take their cut (to pay for all the admin) and then write you a cheque for the remainder. Basically ensuring all patent terms are RAND.

Re:The problem is the exclusivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205324)

Can we try not to make the money flow through federal government apparatus? Congress already looks at USPTO as a revenue source from the patent fees, sucking money out of it for the general fund. I support RAND and licence disclosure as a good idea, but patent office "investigation" doesn't work well now, and they aren't set up to rule on infringements, the courts do. With money flowing through, its a power nexus that's going to draw lawyers and lobbyists like flies.

Capitalism + Patents (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204934)

see what it does in ultimate end ? companies end up trying to fuck each other, instead of competing for providing cheaper and more quality goods and services.

free market capitalism, patents and copyrights work well only during 'wild west' frontier eras of economies or technologies. just like in the early days of usa, in the early days of scientific age, or in the early days of the internet era.

when the market stabilizes, companies proceed to fuck each other for control, and the winner of the hierarchy of power proceeds to fuck customers.

Re:Capitalism + Patents (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205764)

We need the Patent office to step in and claim prior art and make
it an open patent. No winners or losers....

If we're truly interested in development and not profits we'll....
Oh who am i kidding....they could care less about the tech, it's all about the pentiums....

related info on http://en.swpat.org (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32204992)

It's strange that companies actually went for litigation. Maybe it happened because this new field brought companies into competition with other companies tehy hadn't dealt with before, so the usual deals of paying patent tax to each other couldn't be set up fast enough.

Opposite POV (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205038)

Fuck the multitouch patents! This is about patents over the standard mobile technology and the ability of a newcomer to enter the market!

I don't care whoever wins (though my dislike of Apple is strong) but the outcome will set a precedent for new companies that want to start producing a mobile phone. At the very least they will have to strong arm old players with some unrelated patents. Why do people read everything in this Apple-centric way?

Suieeee? (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205122)

Nokia, Apple, and HTC are all suiing

They've resorted to hog-calling?

Re:Suieeee? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205196)

They're such a boar.

There's a couple of obvious things here (3, Interesting)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205350)

One thing that my fellow Slashdotters aren't paying attention to is that this is an Infoworld story. If you don't know what that means, spend a few minutes at their web site reading stories and it should become apparent to you. If you're going to troll, you should know who you're trolling for.

Once you've done that, observe that it's the major players in the cell phone market all suing each other - this isn't a story about multitouch or GPS or anything like that, it's a story about how patents are used as weapons against competitors. There's a few mouth breathers making this into an "Apple hate" story but it's not - it's a "patent malfunction" story.

Maybe this one will be the one that catches the Patent Office's attention - or maybe not. But making it into anything more than a patent abuse story is intellectually dishonest and not worthy of a Nerd.

Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32205510)

or Power or both.

Next.

speel chekcer (1)

rossjp (688204) | more than 4 years ago | (#32205538)

i don't understand how an editor for a major tech site can write a post without even using a spell checker. it's 2010. just fyi.
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