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Apple Mines App Store Submissions For Patent Ideas

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the or-at-least-it's-fair-to-suspect dept.

Patents 307

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Apple has started filing a bunch of patents on mobile applications. That might not be so interesting in and of itself, but if you look closely at the figures in one of the patents, you can see that it's a copy of the third-party Where To? application, which has been on the App Store since at least 2008. There's also a side-by-side comparison which should make it clear that the diagram was copied directly from their app. Even though it's true that the figures are just illustrations of a possible UI and not a part of the claimed invention, it's hard to see how they didn't get some of their ideas from Where To? It might also be the case that Apple isn't looking through the App Store submissions in order to patent other people's ideas, but it's difficult to explain some of these patents if they're not. And with the other patents listed, it's hard to see how old ideas where 'on the internet' has been replaced with the phrase 'on a mobile device' can promote the progress of science and useful arts. This seems like a good time to use Peer to Patent."

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307 comments

Yup. (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156368)

"Mhm. Yup. You're app has been approved! I'll just... ::yoink:: there we go. Thanks for your submission!" -Jobs

Re:Yup. (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156430)

To be honest, pretty much only an idiot develops for them. Especially given Apple's tendency to steal ideas out of the App store rendering the payware obsolete.

UPDATE: FutureTap Responds (5, Informative)

Xenographic (557057) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157118)

Sorry to hijack the FP, but I wanted to direct everyone's attention to the response from FutureTap [futuretap.com] , the makers of "Where To?"

Here are the relevant parts:

Now some folks argued we might have a deal in place with Apple. I can assure you: we don't. The story was equally surprising for us as for many others.

[...]

I'm not a lawyer. I can't really judge whether the inclusion of a 1:1 copy of our start screen in someone else's patent is legal. I just have to say, it doesn't feel right. (If you can recommend a good, affordable patent lawyer, please let us know.) The perspective of an endless legal battle, however, is not very intriguing for a small company like us that aims to throw all its power into improving existing and developing new apps. So we definitely hope there'll be an easy solution. Perhaps it's just a flaw in the filing that can be fixed easily. If someone from Apple Legal reads these lines, you're welcome to discuss.

In summary, this episode once more reinforces my personal aversion against software patents. In my opinion they discriminate against smaller developers who can't afford building a huge legal department to defend against such patent cases and to research existing patent mine fields.

What do you think about the case? Are we overreacting? Please let us know in the comments, we're glad to hear your thoughts.

Re:UPDATE: FutureTap Responds (4, Informative)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157284)

I don't have an iPhone, and therefore I don't have first hand experience with "Where To?" However, I have read the claims of the Apple patent, and the description of the "Where To?" software, and there is no overlap. The Apple patent is explicitly about notifying a third party of your arrival at some destination after detecting that you have been traveling. "Where To?" doesn't seem to do anything like this. The screen illustration is simply used as an example for what kind of UI the relevant application might have. So with this it is clear that "Where To?" is not prior art to the Apple patent, and Apple didn't steal an idea from FutureTrap.

That leaves the question of whether Apple is guilty of copyright infringement by using an illustration showing a screenshot of an app from another company. This gets pretty technical, but my educated guess is: probably not. The "screenshot" has obviously been redrawn with different fonts and slightly different icons, so it is not a verbatim copy of the original.

That said, using the image without asking for explicit permission from FutureTrap was a pretty stupid move on Apple's part, if only for the negative PR they'll be getting over this.

Re:Yup. (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157260)

gives a different impression depending on if they approve the app or not. I could see bigger issues if they say, denied an app and then patented the idea of the app. But once it's approved, it's publicly available and visible to millions of people, apple just has a few hours head start on it, so I don't see a problem at that point.

Someone that speaks Lawyer needs to read their big SDK eula and appstore license and see if it in any way waives rights or something when you submit an app.

It'll be fun seeing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156400)

how the loyalists try to spin this one as a good thing.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (2, Funny)

jamesdood (468240) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156506)

Well for one thing, once it has been "applefied" it will be safe and warm and fuzzy, not scary like those crazy open source things or locked down in a corporate way like those evil microsoft things.. Taste the soylent green ... mmmmmm.....

Re:It'll be fun seeing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157150)

Not locked down in a corporate way?! WTF Apple are you talking about?! They're worse at that than Microsoft...

Re:It'll be fun seeing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157220)

They're worse at that than Microsoft...

I think you meant to say there are more effective at that.

I can (2, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156570)

You see, this is about protecting the developer and protecting users. See, unlike Microsoft, Apple will patent these ideas so that the developer, who doesn't have the resources that the big benevolent Apple has, and therefore, prevent cheap, buggy, hard to use, crappy knock-offs. The Apple user benefits because they are assured of a quality software product - unlike Microsoft.

So? How did I do?

Re:I can (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157010)

Reading my post after a while....it's pretty sad when you post something that looks like a drunken ramble ....when you're sober.

Re:I can (2, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157100)

So? How did I do?

If it was a little more arrogant and terse, it could be one of Steve's emails.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (4, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156630)

Okay: The app and the patent application have nothing in common. The app is for finding local points of interest. As I read it, the patent is for a method of a phone knowing when you get on an airplane (and then offering services specific to the flight) and get off the airplane (so it can tell your contacts you've landed). The image on the patent is definitely a gaffe, but it's not an example of Apple stealing someone's idea.

And to be fair, I've seen plenty of weird stuff in patent diagrams.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157246)

The image on the patent is definitely a gaffe, but it's not an example of Apple stealing someone's idea.

But you can't patent an idea, you can only patent an implementation. What Apple has stolen is someone's implementation of a UI.

Apple. Love their hardware (and their GUI sucks less than Gnome, KDE and that other one), but hate their business model.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157248)

The image on the patent is definitely a gaffe, but it's not an example of Apple stealing someone's idea.

"Gaffe"? So they stole it accidental-like?

"Geez, boss, I don't know how that dern image from that app store travel app got into the NEW! IMPROVED! travel app that I just wrote and we patented. Maybe the guy who wrote the original travel app also has a time-travel app and went into the future and stole it off my hard drive and put it on his own app after also stealing my future travel app (patent applied for). We oughta sue his ass pronto, boss, because that time-traveling app writer from the past is trying to take our property which is rightly ours because we thought of it first in the future!!! And we better find out who at the App Store approved of a time-travel app in the first place. That guy needs to be fired because the memo clearly stated that the time-travel app is supposed to be in-house only!"

How many big corporations have pissed on so much good will in so short a time? It used to be you could never find anybody who could find anything bad to say about Apple. Even people who didn't use Apple products wished them well because what they were doing was good for personal computing, and they seemed pretty decent. Then the business with licensing Apple OS and then Jobs takes over again and now Apple is a big boy but a lot of people who care about personal computing (and are not fanboys) are starting to admit that Apple's starting to do more and more shitty things. The shit-factor of their behavior has gone up in a remarkably steep curve, and now even some fanboys are starting to say "I love their products, but their choice of strategic partners sucks" and then "Sometimes Apple does some shitty things but not as bad as "X" Corporation who does much shittier things" and then finally "What the fuck is going on at Apple"?

Even a very good looking girl can behave in such a shitty manner that you'd no longer consider banging her. It might be getting to that point here. Apple may be getting too skanky to fuck.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157308)

As I read it, the patent is for a method of a phone knowing when you get on an airplane (and then offering services specific to the flight) and get off the airplane (so it can tell your contacts you've landed).

"Offering services" is a nice euphamism for unsolicited advertising which is also called "spam". Personally, I miss the good old days when advertisers and anyone else who would minutely track your day-to-day whereabouts had no hope of receiving your active assistance. If I want a service specific to a flight, it'll be my own idea and obtain it by consulting the flight attendants. If I don't know that a service exists, it's because I have no need for it. Now get off my lawn!

Really though, maybe Apple is doing us a favor by patenting this practice. For 12 years anyone else who tries this method can expect vigorous legal challenges. If it is only iPhone users who receive in-flight spam, that's not very good but it's a significant improvement over everyone receiving in-flight spam.

It's not a good thing but not the problem stated (1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156780)

Reality 1) Apple is not submitting patents around what the application does. The patent has nothing to do with what the app actually does, even though the illustration is used.

So in fact it's just another annoying software patent.

Reality 2) This is actually the bad thing, that people seem to be overlooking - isn't it copyright infringement on Apple's part to be lifting app screens basically wholesale?

So the summary (and most of the posters here) are totally wrong about what is bad about this.

So you see, Apple users can easily admit when Apple is doing something wrong, and in fact even correct you about why it is wrong - because we are thinking more rationally about the real problem, and not just about how much we hate Apple and hey here's an awesome negative article on something Apple is doing.

Contrast this to people such as yourself, who are pathologically incapable of admitting when Apple does something good.

Re:It's not a good thing but not the problem state (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156832)

Contrast this to people such as yourself, who are pathologically incapable of admitting when Apple does something good.

Yes, it's like ignoring the fact that someone apologizes after pissing on your head.

Re:It's not a good thing but not the problem state (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156868)

So you see, Apple users can easily admit when Apple is doing something wrong, and in fact even correct you about why it is wrong - because we are thinking more rationally about the real problem, and not just about how much we hate Apple and hey here's an awesome negative article on something Apple is doing.

Heh. That reminds me of a sig I saw long ago. "The difference between a fanboy and a hater is the fanboy read the article."

Re:It's not a good thing but not the problem state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157004)

You're both guilty of broad generalizations based on statistically insignificant data. Bravo.

Which generalizations? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157300)

I had two very specific details.

One was that he patents using diagrams were not about what the applications did. Do you dispute that for these specific instances?

The second was that it seems like what is essentially a screen grab from an app is a copyright violation on the part of Apple. Do you disagree? If so, why do you think it fair for Apple to use other people's applications in this context? Were it my app I'd be sending a C&D (and hoping it might torpedo the patent in the process).

Re:It's not a good thing but not the problem state (3, Funny)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157030)

So you see, Apple users can easily admit when Apple is doing something wrong, and in fact even correct you about why it is wrong - because we are thinking more rationally about the real problem, and not just about how much we hate Apple and hey here's an awesome negative article on something Apple is doing.

HAHAHAHAHHAHAHHA. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA. BWHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA....

wipes tears...

Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

Re:It's not a good thing but not the problem state (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157338)

So you see, Apple users can easily admit when Apple is doing something wrong, and in fact even correct you about why it is wrong - because we are thinking more rationally about the real problem, and not just about how much we hate Apple and hey here's an awesome negative article on something Apple is doing.

Contrast this to people such as yourself, who are pathologically incapable of admitting when Apple does something good.

If only you left this part out it'd be incredibly difficult to call your post a "troll". Apparently you have a sore spot and are eager to let everyone know this fact about yourself. In fact when I first read through your post I was wondering how the hell it wasn't moderated "Informative" until I got to that part...

Here's the part I think you are underappreciating. When Apple does something you judge as morally "good", it is good for their customers only. When Apple does something others would judge as morally "bad", it is a patent or other issue capable of affecting many people who have never done business with Apple. Can you see how this reality would naturally tend to constrain the good that they do while spreading the bad that they do?

Re:It'll be fun seeing (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156826)

It'll be fun seeing how the loyalists try to spin this one as a good thing.

They can always look at the Google and Net Neutrality thread for inspiration. :)

Re:It'll be fun seeing (2, Interesting)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157120)

how the loyalists try to spin this one as a good thing.

Thanks! I'll give it a shot. Apple has been applying for software (and hardware) patents for the last 8-10 years or so that they have no intention of actually creating and bringing to market. All one needs to do to verify this is to take a look at some of their patent submissions, then be honest with yourself about what Apple sells, and the quality of product Apple sells. Getting it? Apple is seeking patents on things that they DON'T want brought to market. Once they have the patent, they are assured that it will never get anywhere. Why would they do this? Look to their explanations about Flash on iOS and Adobe's third party dev tools. Same thing. That's why.

Re:It'll be fun seeing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157176)

ah... feints within feints...

Re:It'll be fun seeing (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157374)

ah... feints within feints...

Sounds like the movie Dune and the Bene Gesserit's fixation on "plans within plans".

New Art (1)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156404)

If the ideas are already in published applications, then the patents are junk.

Re: Old Art (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156732)

Well, they ought to be junk.

Until some starving (or greed-crazed) lawyer gets a hold of them.

Re:New Art (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157310)

nope.

A legal battle around a patent costs a lot of money, time and energy. A huge majority of developers cannot afford any of those 3 , let alone all of them. So even an invalid patent can be quite efficient in neutering a market.

Re:New Art (1)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157360)

Lawyers are expensive. Defending patient violations is expensive. Demostraiting prior art is very easy, especially when that art is published worldwide and owned by thousands. Demostraiting that Apple reviewed the prior art is a given.

This wouldn't even require court. Just submit prior art to the patent office if you have it. If they pickup on what Apple is doing, the will be angered.

Re:New Art (2, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157346)

If the ideas are already in published applications, then the patents are junk.

FIG. 6 of the application exists in published apps, but the claims of the patent application aren't "I claim the design in FIG. 6". You have to go to the claims, and the claims don't have anything to do with the Where To? app.

It may be copyright infringement, and may have some problems if the app isn't disclosed to the USPTO, but it doesn't seem to anticipate the claims. Furthermore, it might not be copyright infringement if (as is likely) the app store contract gives Apple a non-exclusive license to use the images in the app. You'd agree to that anyway for marketing purposes (the App Store shows screenshots of the app), but may not realize that they can then use the images anywhere. But this is mere supposition without looking at the contracts involved.

Disclaimer: I am a patent agent. I'm not your agent, nor am I Apple's agent, nor am I involved in any part of this. These are pure speculative opinions, for (my) entertainment purposes only and should not be relied upon.

If you read the agreement... (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156410)

...you'll see that you gave Apple all the rights to your IP

Re:If you read the agreement... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156428)

...you'll see that you gave Apple all the rights to your IP

But still, the developer published his application. Wouldn't that make it prior art or something?

Re:If you read the agreement... (1)

Chrysomite (184965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156654)

IANAL, but I believe the correct term to use is "public disclosure", which is allowed up to one year prior to a patent application in the United States only. In other countries, it would invalidate a patent if the invention was publicly disclosed prior to the patent being filed.

I think prior art is used to argue against infringement, which would typically lead to a number of patent claims being invalidated by the courts (but not necessarily the entire patent). It doesn't invalidate a patent solely based on the existence of prior art; determining what is and isn't prior art and what patent claims are being infringed on is usually a lengthy and expensive process that involves teams of lawyers and the courts.

Then there's also the issue of what constitutes public disclosure. Is publishing the app public disclosure? Or is the invention still protected because the source code or some internal algorithm isn't readily apparent to the end user?

There's a whole mess of things in the way of any independent developer making a claim against Apple. Not the least of which is the developer agreement.

Re:If you read the agreement... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156742)

Then there's also the issue of what constitutes public disclosure. Is publishing the app public disclosure? Or is the invention still protected because the source code or some internal algorithm isn't readily apparent to the end user?

Some Slashdot patent defenders claim that not only is publishing an application using the method not sufficient for public disclosure, but publishing the source isn't either. Only God and the presiding judge for the Eastern District of Texas know what WOULD count.

Re:If you read the agreement... (2, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157392)

Then there's also the issue of what constitutes public disclosure. Is publishing the app public disclosure? Or is the invention still protected because the source code or some internal algorithm isn't readily apparent to the end user?

Some Slashdot patent defenders claim that not only is publishing an application using the method not sufficient for public disclosure, but publishing the source isn't either. Only God and the presiding judge for the Eastern District of Texas know what WOULD count.

It's a shame that the Patent Office doesn't have an equal-and-opposite counterpart office that has the sole purpose of seeking to invalidate every possible patent. Only the ones that survive would remain valid.

Then again, we need a government office that serves no purpose other than to try to find unConstitional or repeal every law on the books. If it succeeds for a particular law, then it should not have been on the books anyway.

False (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156496)

I know a few lawyers and have had them look over the agreement, nothing like that was in there. Can you point to proof?

Re:False (2, Insightful)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156612)

I'd say you're right on that, no-one would develop apps for a platform if you had to give away all your IP rights, particularly large firms with teams of lawyers that vigorously protect anything even resembling IP.

This is Slashdot. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156616)

I know a few lawyers and have had them look over the agreement, nothing like that was in there. Can you point to proof?

This is Slashdot.

You can make baseless claims and get modded up, as long as your words align with groupthink.

Re:False (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156954)

This is "insightful"? "I know a few lawyers?" Funny, the lawyers I know don't give out free legal advice.

I think the poster just made this up.

Re:False (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157148)

Apparently you lack friends.

Re:If you read the agreement... (2, Insightful)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156862)

...you'll see that you gave Apple all the rights to your IP

Being a lying dick gets you Informative?

Every day they make Microsoft look better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156426)

Every day, Apple somehow manages to make Microsoft look more and more reasonable. Even as a longtime NeXT user, if I had to use Mac OS X or Windows, these days I would rather choose Windows, just because I wouldn't want to support Apple in any way.

Re:Every day they make Microsoft look better. (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157086)

They make MS look better than MS did before [in regards to OS, anticompetitive practices, etc], but MS still looks pretty horrible. You have (perhaps) just forgotten why, or become so desensitized regarding MS, you forgot how bad they really are.............

And MS has become much better about carefully hiding any evilness.

Apple is less experienced, so even when their evilness is not as extreme a false appearance of greater evilness comes up.

RTFA (5, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156434)

Even the original article has been updated to say the initial knee jerk reaction was wrong.

And apparently Slashdot's editors, probably for more ad impressions, decided to overlook it and post this anyway.

Re:RTFA (-1, Flamebait)

jamesdood (468240) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156568)

Hmmm did RTFA, and didn't see any kind of update about this.. nice try though..

Re:RTFA (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156636)

http://venomousporridge.com/post/909651311/whereto-patent-followup

jamesdood slashdot fan boy: nice try!

Re:RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156642)

F5 is your friend.

Re:RTFA (1)

jamesdood (468240) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156670)

Since there were like 5 articles linked perhaps being more explicit next time will help those of us who are less wizened than yourself.

i smell backtracking... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156704)

U MAD

Re:RTFA (3, Funny)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157412)

Since there were like 5 articles linked perhaps being more explicit next time will help those of us who are less wizened than yourself.

FYI, "wizened" means "old" or "withered" or "shriveled". It is not in any way a synonym for "wisdom".

No offense intended, but if your idea was to convince people that they did not correctly understand the intended meaning of your post, incorrectly using a word that is easily referenced is not a good way to do so.

What about ignoring article? (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156880)

You know, I can bet 99% of Slashdot readers weren't surprised/amazed by this "false information" and they didn't even bother to comment on it let alone reading article.

People seem to expect such things may happen on app store and guess what? They don't even care anymore. It is iPhone developers and User's concern. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised a bit.

i dare a fanboy to justify this (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156440)

in before the inevitable fanwar...

i don't think even microsoft would seriously consider doing something like this.

but then, a company is a company. they're dicks by nature.

Re:i dare a fanboy to justify this (0, Offtopic)

Imazalil (553163) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156730)

How about niftydude's reply below. But then again why am I even trying to reply to AC troll posts.

God help me, I'm barely 30 and I already remember the good old days of slashdot when there was actual discussion happening by people who actually looked at the source material of posted stories. Not this digg / engadget knee-jerk reactionary garbage based on story titles alone.

Re:i dare a fanboy to justify this (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156772)

God help me, I'm barely 30 and I already remember the good old days of slashdot when there was actual discussion happening by people who actually looked at the source material of posted stories.

Never happened; you're just looking at it through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

Re:i dare a fanboy to justify this (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157426)

God help me, I'm barely 30 and I already remember the good old days of slashdot when there was actual discussion happening by people who actually looked at the source material of posted stories.

Never happened; you're just looking at it through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

I will not go so far as to call "bullshit" because that is not justifiable here. What I will do is to remind you that popularity is one of the worst things that can happen to many good sites and to many good things, and that it has been the downfall of far better places than Slashdot. By that I mean not quite literally "popularity" in itself, but rather the "pop culture" mindset that goes along with that.

No-doubt this is how Steve Jobs gets all ideas. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156452)

There is evidence of Apple getting all it's technology
by reverse-engineering all of it from competitors: stealing.
Just ask Woz.

Me: Hey woz, you know Steve Jobs realy didn't mean to be so heartless as he was to you.  He's just thinking about the future.  Deep down, he's realy a good guy.
Woz: How deep down?
Me: About 6 feet.
Woz: ^v^
Me: :-)

Re:No-doubt this is how Steve Jobs gets all ideas. (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156754)

There is evidence of Apple getting all it's technology by...stealing.

Says the guy stealing his internal grammar checker from Word '97 ;)

And the fact is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156456)

Like most people developing for the iPhone, I wouldn't have the money to fight them patenting ideas from my apps. I would bet the number of app-makers who do have that kind of change is exceedingly rare -- mostly big name corporations, or one or two person developers whose app hit the jackpot.

While I have to check in to this more to see how legit the claims are against Apple, this really comes down to the fact that the patent system is essentially unavailable to small-time developers for anything other than being sued out of the market. Of course, it doesn't really offer software users any benefits either, since all it does it create patent gridlock and dissuade new entries into the market.

Words (5, Insightful)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156576)

but if you look closely at the figures in one of the patents, you can see that it's a copy of the third-party Where To? application

Yes, and if you read those pesky words that are floating around all the pretty pictures, you'll realise that the patent is for a data aggregation service that applications like "Where To?" will be able to use.

Apple seems to be looking at common applications in the app store, and figuring out what infrastructure services might make them better. This isn't evil, it isn't even particularly sneaky - anyone with an itunes account can browse apps and patent the same sort of ideas.

Don't get me wrong - I still think Apple is evil - this just isn't an example of their evil behaviour.

Re: It's only words, and words are all I have (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156706)

Yes it is an example of their evil behavior.

<wishful-thinking>
Unless their entire intent is to lay down defensive patents for the people that put stuff in their app store.
</wishful-thinking>

<sigh/>

Software patents are evil, unless the patent is restricted to a specific implementation (thus, the "diagrams" are the source code), in which case copyright works better anyway.

Re: It's only words, and words are all I have (3, Insightful)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156908)

You've missed my point.
The 'Where To?' app wouldn't infringe this patent if it was granted, apple is not patenting the operation of apps in the app store in the way the article reports.
This is a patent for a type of service that apps like the 'Where To?' app could use if they wanted to, and the image in question is just held up as an example of this.
This patent couldn't be used as a defensive patent for the 'Where To?' app like you sarcastically suggest, because it is patenting a different thing entirely.

I'll agree with you that the US software patent system is evil, but the fact is, it exists, and large corporations can't afford to ignore it.

Re: It's only words, and words are all I have (1, Interesting)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156950)

Once again 2.5 cents, but here we go. Your strongest claim, what we call the "best mode," is usually your first claim. That's the bread and butter. If claim one is a joke, such as obvious claim or prior art or vague, that patent isn't worth the $25 grand it costs to file it. When you file your patent, you'll often get a preliminary search from a patent agent that is often a large list of related patents. A "y" next to them means something related, possibly invalidated, and "x" means 'good-luck-chuck.' Usually this list is limited to post 1978 electronic records, which is probably fine for software patents, butcha' never know

The PTO is way overworked, and the current industry trend is to file as soon as possible, and hope the assigned agent stupidly uses the list generated by your patent agent. This is the main cause for obfuscated and prior art patents getting through.

Now, as far as the patent goes. In order to have that 'best mode,' you have to tell exactly how to do what it is your doing. If it's a composition patent, you need to show how to make it. If it's a device patent, you need to show how it works. If it's a method patent, you need to give your best EXAMPLE of how it works. These three kinds of patents fall under the utility patent, which is the best kind of patent to have. The others, design and plant patents, I won't get into.

In this case, Apple showed their best mode for tracking data and automatically acting on it after the completion of a device OFF to On cycle by using an application from their iStore (or whatever it's called, not an iPod user here). For what it's worth, I don't know squat about software patents, that's not my thing. But, as far as patents go, it seems novel enough from the standpoint of what I do know method patents. So, Apple has a best mode that compromises tracking a person's flight schedule and reporting to preassigned contacts the arrival status of a user whose phone has be turned on. In that sense, it's a valid patent.

I wont get into the quality of this patent, or software patents in general, but I will say this. The industry I'm familiar with just had a big case where a patent whose best mode was anything thicker than a certain amount had the claim strickened, and basically de-teethed that entire patent. Take that for what it's worth.

Re:Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156828)

WTF are you doing bringing "facts" into this discussion? This is the Android and MS fanboi hate-off, 100% fact-free!

Seems wrong without permission from app (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157318)

Apple seems to be looking at common applications in the app store, and figuring out what infrastructure services might make them better. This isn't evil, it isn't even particularly sneaky

I totally agree with that part, and it's a shame so many people are willing to jump on Apple without looking at details.

However, it seems wrong to use other people's work without permission, even (especially?) in a patent application I wonder, has anyone tried to contact one of these application owners and asked them if Apple had permission to use images from the application?

They could have generalized an "ideal app" for demonstration screens using their own imagery.

Re:Words (1)

psithurism (1642461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157362)

Don't get me wrong - I still think Apple is evil - this just isn't an example of their evil behaviour.

I just wanted to point out the hilarity of the fact that you have to add that line to your post, in the likely case someone reads this post and says, "I can't listen to this post, it sounds almost, that for a moment, like apple was not being completely and utterly evil!"

Re:Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157376)

anyone with an itunes account can browse apps and patent the same sort of ideas.

Sure, if you have bags of cash to file and defend the patents.

Completely fair, yes, I see no problem here.

patenting apps.... (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156634)

Im not much of a programmer. I've only got a few java and c++ classes under my belt(oh and COBOL) so i dont know much about these things. Is it even possible to patent an app for iGadgets? Some, if not all of your app will make use of Apple's libraries and other such elements of their closed ecosystem. Doesn't that make a patent irrelevant?

Re:patenting apps.... (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156770)

Actually, a software patent that claimed its dependency on the run-time environment (closed ecosystem) would be about as close to a "good" software patent as is possible.

Of course, software patents that are not too-general tend not to be too valuable, either, which is part of the reason copyright works better for software.

If they are improvements of existing inventions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156640)

Then they are completely within the spirit of good patents.

It's a useless app (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156690)

Here's a picture from TFA [unwiredview.com] . Bottom right corner shows Amsterdam. And if you happen to find yourself in Amsterdam in need of such an app (i.e., you're probably not local), you think ya might want to do something more than dine, lodge, shop, sight see or drink?

I mean, we all know that the iPhone is not the phone for porn [slashdot.org] , but no "coffee shops" either? Geez Steve...far cry from your Reed college days, eh?

WTF? Bad omen. (1)

Pezbian (1641885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156782)

It's almost as if you can't afford not to become a patent troll now. When everyone's done suing each other, only the lawyers will have money and it's like a group of starving opossums stuck at the bottom of a pit at that point.

Galt's Gulch, anyone? *cringe*

App store monkeys deserve all they get (0, Troll)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156804)

Sorry for calling them monkeys but, if you think about it, by ignoring hundred million Symbian handsets, about a billion J2ME handsets and even Google backed Android and relying to App store for their only source of app sales and shipments, they deserve all kinds of such treatments. "Symbian development sucks" is NOT an excuse anymore, especially after there is working Qt frameworks completely backed by Nokia and real life, million download apps exist. There is even an application which is coded entirely in J2ME (Locago) which manages to beat free/pure C+++ multi billion dollar worth Nokia maps. Oh guess what? Nokia doesn't seem to bother, they even advertise it.

There are pretty advanced developers there, highly professional, not known to stand to bullshit until... iPhone shipped. As a person who uses Apple desktop for years (surprise!), I know some of them. If it was 5 years earlier and I told them that some intern will analyze his app symbols and let it ship based on that, I can predict the answer I would get.

Not just that, they (Apple) and their slave developers who can stand to every kind of treatment, including idea stealing/patenting gives some real bad/evil ideas to the rest of industry including Microsoft. That is the part concerning me. Back in 1990s, when old nerds bitched about MS-DOS and Win16, we told them "why would I care? I own a 32bit Amiga" but, that backwards junk managed to kill all competition and transformed the industry so bad that, we are just recovering from it...

Remember this post when something resembling "app store" manages to go live on desktop on OS X 10.7 or Windows 8.

Re:App store monkeys deserve all they get (2, Insightful)

dnaumov (453672) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157316)

God forbid developers actually target a platform, whose users are likely not to only actually give a shit about apps, but are actually prepared to pay money for them.

What makes you think people ignored J2ME? (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157358)

Sorry for calling them monkeys but, if you think about it, by ignoring hundred million Symbian handsets, about a billion J2ME handsets

I write iPhone applications for a living.

I mulled over doing so for many years with J2ME. But frankly, there was just about no path to doing so as an independent - there just was no money in it. And the development (which I did try off and on) was really hell between the different handsets and profiles.

I think if someone has good ideas and is industrious, you can make a decent living these days doing either iPhone or Android development. It doesn't matter if there are a hundred trillion of them if only ten people ever buy applications for them, or the work needed to put out an application will far exceed any return you might get.

Nothing New (-1, Troll)

daveime (1253762) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156844)

Apple have been either buying out or stealing other peoples IP then passing if off as their own "patentable innovations" for years.

Got to read the claims... (5, Informative)

greensoap (566467) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156902)

Prior art is what teaches the invention. The invention is defined by the claims. Does that figure illustrate the invention?
Claim 1:
A method comprising:
  • determining a user is scheduled to travel to a destination on a current date;
  • determining a portable electronic device in possession by the user is powered off;
  • determining the user arrived at the destination by detecting that the portable electronic device has been powered back on; and
  • transmitting an arrival notification of the arrival of the user to at least one third party recipient.

Got to read the story, too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157014)

> Prior art is what teaches the invention. The invention is defined by the claims. Does that figure illustrate the invention?

You could answer that by reading the story summary. You know, the one that says: "Even though it's true that the figures are just illustrations of a possible UI and not a part of the claimed invention, it's hard to see how they didn't get some of their ideas from Where To? It might also be the case that Apple isn't looking through the App Store submissions in order to patent other people's ideas, but it's difficult to explain some of these patents if they're not."

I know. This is Slashdot. I should be surprised you read the title of the story.

been told this by a patent lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33156904)

Posting Anonymously on purpose

I've actually had a patent lawyer tell me this.
Thus, we are patenting all our app IP before app-store submission.

There is only one word for this (0)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33156968)

Fraud

That is, if they are looking at people's application submissions, figuring out their functionality, and submitting patent applications claiming they invented this (thing the app published on their store does).

Then the claim is false, deceptive, harms the person who actually did the work and developed the application, and benefits them.

...in bed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157006)

How to get rich:

1) Troll the app store for ideas
2) Replace "on a mobile device" with "in bed"
3) Patent it
4) ...
5) Make money

Does this apply to me? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33157026)

I'm sexually aroused by kittens and children. Does this mean that apple products are the right choice for me?

Unfortunately, Peer-to-Patent won't help (4, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157104)

Peer-to-patent is only useful when the patent applicant is participating in the process. Most patent applicants are not interested in having the community bust their patent, and don't participate. And if the patent applicant does participate, we end up in a situation where the community folks work to make the patent stronger, which isn't necessarily a good thing either.

Another stupid /. story on patents (4, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157146)

Read the god damned patent application itself. What they are trying to patent has nothing to do with that application.

Slashdot should just stop accepting any patent-related stories until it gets an editor who can grasp the concept that you have to read the claims and specification to know what is covered, not just glance at the pretty pictures.

Re:Another stupid /. story on patents (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157320)

Read the god damned patent application itself. What they are trying to patent has nothing to do with that application.

Slashdot should just stop accepting any patent-related stories until it gets an editor who can grasp the concept that you have to read the claims and specification to know what is covered, not just glance at the pretty pictures.

That is true... However, they still may have issues of copyright infringement and possibly trademark infringement.
Only may... Their contract with Apple may give Apple a license to use the design.

Do you autopost that comment or something? (1)

Xenographic (557057) | more than 3 years ago | (#33157440)

> Slashdot should just stop accepting any patent-related stories until it gets an editor who can grasp the concept that you have to read the claims and specification to know what is covered, not just glance at the pretty pictures.

Did you actually read the Slashdot submission? You know, the one where they wrote: "Even though it's true that the figures are just illustrations of a possible UI and not a part of the claimed invention, [...]" (emphasis added)

Or do you automatically post the same comment to every Slashdot story about patents expecting to be right most of the time?

If not, maybe I should patent that idea. Then I could autopost "Is Google evil now?" to every Google story, "Did the editors even READ the story they linked to?" to every kdawson story, and save us all a lot of time...

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