Pinch to zoom

If you have a smart phone, can you pinch your fingers together while touching the screen to make the images smaller?  And move your fingers apart to make the images bigger?

Well, that so-called “pinch to zoom” technology was invented by Apple for its iPhones, even though other cell phone makers are now also including the feature.  But this was one of the patents upheld by that recent court ruling in Apple’s suit against Samsung.

Some people are indignant that Apple is able to patent a gesture, saying that pinching the screen to change the image is so “natural” that everyone should be able to do that, complaining further that Apple is harming consumers by limiting their choices, and that sort of thing.

I say that Apple is entitled to their patents and to the fruits of their creativity.  Some years ago, Apple lost a patent lawsuit against Microsoft, which copied Apple’s point-and-click device known as a “mouse.”  Microsoft also lifted Apple’s graphic interface, that is, the use of icons, which simply have to be clicked by said mouse, as a way of accessing software and all that a computer can do.  Apple deserves to win this patent dispute, at least.

All Samsung or other cell phone manufacturers have to do if they want to include this feature is to pay Apple a licensing fee, as they do for other patent holders.

Is there any argument–based on justice and equity–why Apple should give away their intellectual property?  Other than someone wanting them to or the desire to have iPhone features without having to pay for an iPhone?  But those arguments lack justice and equity.

Post-‘pinch’? Apple patent-case win could point to new digital age for smartphones – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Perhaps. But patents are also government protected monopolies, so there is a countervailing interest in making sure that any patents awarded are limited in scope and, most especially, duration. Limiting patent duration would help to spur innovation – in fact, all the while that Samsung, or really Google, was out wreaking havoc upon Apple by misappropriating Apple technology, Apple made itself into the largest company in the world by market capitalization.

    Hardly an argument for serious harm. Unless you’re a firm that has begun to run out of new ideas and needs to protect a revenue stream as long as possible until something new does develop.

    Moreover, Apple was on fairly shaky ground against Microsoft having itself stolen the idea of a mouse and icons from researchers working at Xerox’s PARC. Remember Xerox? Anyone? Anyone?

  • SKPeterson

    Perhaps. But patents are also government protected monopolies, so there is a countervailing interest in making sure that any patents awarded are limited in scope and, most especially, duration. Limiting patent duration would help to spur innovation – in fact, all the while that Samsung, or really Google, was out wreaking havoc upon Apple by misappropriating Apple technology, Apple made itself into the largest company in the world by market capitalization.

    Hardly an argument for serious harm. Unless you’re a firm that has begun to run out of new ideas and needs to protect a revenue stream as long as possible until something new does develop.

    Moreover, Apple was on fairly shaky ground against Microsoft having itself stolen the idea of a mouse and icons from researchers working at Xerox’s PARC. Remember Xerox? Anyone? Anyone?

  • Philip Larson

    Thank you, SKPeterson.

  • Philip Larson

    Thank you, SKPeterson.

  • Random Lutheran

    Actually, Xerox came out quite nicely — Apple paid to see what the lab was up to, and Xerox got a nice chunk of pre-IPO stock in the deal. They sued later, once Apple was worth much, much, more, but the judge pretty much said, “you made a deal…deal with it.”

    As for this case: the interesting part is that Apple wasn’t focusing so much on the particular action patents (pinch, etc.) as they were trade dress, stressing over and over that there are other ways to do the same thing. They used the new Microsoft phone interface as an example — they have cross-liciencing agreements with MS that allow the use of Apple patents (& vice-versa) so long as they don’t copy the interface. “Don’t ride our work” seems to be the message they were sending, and that makes sense to me.

  • Random Lutheran

    Actually, Xerox came out quite nicely — Apple paid to see what the lab was up to, and Xerox got a nice chunk of pre-IPO stock in the deal. They sued later, once Apple was worth much, much, more, but the judge pretty much said, “you made a deal…deal with it.”

    As for this case: the interesting part is that Apple wasn’t focusing so much on the particular action patents (pinch, etc.) as they were trade dress, stressing over and over that there are other ways to do the same thing. They used the new Microsoft phone interface as an example — they have cross-liciencing agreements with MS that allow the use of Apple patents (& vice-versa) so long as they don’t copy the interface. “Don’t ride our work” seems to be the message they were sending, and that makes sense to me.

  • Michael B.

    SKPeterson , +1

    A patent or invention has to meet certain standards of being both novel and original. Part of this standard is that it be “non-obvious”. Patents are often anti-competitive, and are to the detriment of everyone except the corporation and its lobbyists.

  • Michael B.

    SKPeterson , +1

    A patent or invention has to meet certain standards of being both novel and original. Part of this standard is that it be “non-obvious”. Patents are often anti-competitive, and are to the detriment of everyone except the corporation and its lobbyists.

  • WebMonk

    I haven’t had time since the case’s decision came out, but I dearly want to track down some analysis of the arguments provided by Apple and Samsung about the pinch gesture. I can’t imagine how Samsung could have lost that argument.

    In early 2006 I was working on table-sized systems that were gesture-enabled to display large maps. We used the pinch and spread hand gestures to zoom in and out of maps back then. And the gesture had been in use years before that (though only the two-handed version) on tables that used old overhead projection systems to display maps on tabletops.

    That was on GOTS software. The pinch-to-zoom has been around a lot longer than the iPhone. Maybe the patent was on using the pinch-to-zoom on a handheld device.

    People and companies are granted patents on things that can’t be patented all the time. The Patent Office is FAR from perfect, and it’s a regular occurrence for judges or the Patent Office itself to revoke patents because a patent was granted for something that couldn’t be patented for a variety of reasons.

    The pinch-zoom patent is one of those patents that should be made null and void – the gesture was already in use and it is a gesture that is in common use.

    If it were a thing that could be validly patented, then certainly Apple should have the rights to its intellectual property. The pinch-zoom isn’t something that can be patented by Apple, though.

  • WebMonk

    I haven’t had time since the case’s decision came out, but I dearly want to track down some analysis of the arguments provided by Apple and Samsung about the pinch gesture. I can’t imagine how Samsung could have lost that argument.

    In early 2006 I was working on table-sized systems that were gesture-enabled to display large maps. We used the pinch and spread hand gestures to zoom in and out of maps back then. And the gesture had been in use years before that (though only the two-handed version) on tables that used old overhead projection systems to display maps on tabletops.

    That was on GOTS software. The pinch-to-zoom has been around a lot longer than the iPhone. Maybe the patent was on using the pinch-to-zoom on a handheld device.

    People and companies are granted patents on things that can’t be patented all the time. The Patent Office is FAR from perfect, and it’s a regular occurrence for judges or the Patent Office itself to revoke patents because a patent was granted for something that couldn’t be patented for a variety of reasons.

    The pinch-zoom patent is one of those patents that should be made null and void – the gesture was already in use and it is a gesture that is in common use.

    If it were a thing that could be validly patented, then certainly Apple should have the rights to its intellectual property. The pinch-zoom isn’t something that can be patented by Apple, though.

  • michael

    nice to knoe they “invented” a concept that been used in scifi movrs as early as the 80s

  • michael

    nice to knoe they “invented” a concept that been used in scifi movrs as early as the 80s

  • michael

    when you can not innovate you litigate.

  • michael

    when you can not innovate you litigate.

  • http://songstofilltheair.blogspot.com Steven Mitchell

    I’ll pile on to SKPeterson’s post above. One of the things to remember with intellectual property is that it’s largely a legal fiction. It’s rather hard to make an argument from natural law, for example, that justifies this sort of protection for intellectual property. Thus, an appeal to ‘justice and equity’ must operate within the confines of the rule of law. This is one of the few areas where I think positivism should prevail.

    The reason I mention this is because one might argue that if the law protects this sort of thing, then the law should be changed, for policy reasons. Against this policy argument, I don’t think an argument can be made for ‘justice and equity’ upholding the current law. The ‘justice and equity’ is found in the patent law itself, not something to which the patent law is subject.

    In other words, I would not argue that if the law actually protects Apple that the courts should ignore the law. But I would argue that if the law actually protects Apple that the legislature should amend the law.

  • http://songstofilltheair.blogspot.com Steven Mitchell

    I’ll pile on to SKPeterson’s post above. One of the things to remember with intellectual property is that it’s largely a legal fiction. It’s rather hard to make an argument from natural law, for example, that justifies this sort of protection for intellectual property. Thus, an appeal to ‘justice and equity’ must operate within the confines of the rule of law. This is one of the few areas where I think positivism should prevail.

    The reason I mention this is because one might argue that if the law protects this sort of thing, then the law should be changed, for policy reasons. Against this policy argument, I don’t think an argument can be made for ‘justice and equity’ upholding the current law. The ‘justice and equity’ is found in the patent law itself, not something to which the patent law is subject.

    In other words, I would not argue that if the law actually protects Apple that the courts should ignore the law. But I would argue that if the law actually protects Apple that the legislature should amend the law.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is a difference between the idea of pinch zoom and the tech that makes it happen. I mean, I could say it was my idea to have remote controlled stereo systems because I thought of it before I ever saw one offered for sale, but I didn’t do anything to actually make it happen. Whoever actually did the work to make the thing a reality deserves to be able to patent it. The person who just says it would be cool to do it, doesn’t deserve a patent. So, no you can’t patent the idea of pinch zoom, but whatever tech (code?) is needed to make it actually happen could be patented.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is a difference between the idea of pinch zoom and the tech that makes it happen. I mean, I could say it was my idea to have remote controlled stereo systems because I thought of it before I ever saw one offered for sale, but I didn’t do anything to actually make it happen. Whoever actually did the work to make the thing a reality deserves to be able to patent it. The person who just says it would be cool to do it, doesn’t deserve a patent. So, no you can’t patent the idea of pinch zoom, but whatever tech (code?) is needed to make it actually happen could be patented.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I’m not sure how the patent law works in the US, but in Canada the definition of a patent is “any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter”. Quoting from “Practical Law of Architecture, Engineering, and Geoscience”, Samuels and Sanders, 2nd Canadian Edition:

    In order to qualify for patent protection, an invention must be new, such that it is not generally known to the public; it must be useful, such that it must have a commercial application and actually do what it claims to do; ant it must be inventive.
    ….
    The principle rights protected are the exclusive right to make, sell, and use the invention. In return, the invention must be sufficiently described to permit others to make the invention after the term of protection expires. This means that an individual or organization must take significant measures to protect a patentable invention from public disclosure prior to filing the patent application.
    ….
    The term of protection for any new patent is 20 years from the date that the application is filed”.

    It is clear from the above that this could be an area of very tricky legalities and trying to ascertain the intent and origin of ideas. It is not uncommon that various people in various places come up with the same idea, sometimes near-simultaneously. To imply patent infringement or even theft is thus not always going to be easy. The reliance on independent experts is going to be important in such cases, but it would also require extensive experience in these matters from the bench.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I’m not sure how the patent law works in the US, but in Canada the definition of a patent is “any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter”. Quoting from “Practical Law of Architecture, Engineering, and Geoscience”, Samuels and Sanders, 2nd Canadian Edition:

    In order to qualify for patent protection, an invention must be new, such that it is not generally known to the public; it must be useful, such that it must have a commercial application and actually do what it claims to do; ant it must be inventive.
    ….
    The principle rights protected are the exclusive right to make, sell, and use the invention. In return, the invention must be sufficiently described to permit others to make the invention after the term of protection expires. This means that an individual or organization must take significant measures to protect a patentable invention from public disclosure prior to filing the patent application.
    ….
    The term of protection for any new patent is 20 years from the date that the application is filed”.

    It is clear from the above that this could be an area of very tricky legalities and trying to ascertain the intent and origin of ideas. It is not uncommon that various people in various places come up with the same idea, sometimes near-simultaneously. To imply patent infringement or even theft is thus not always going to be easy. The reliance on independent experts is going to be important in such cases, but it would also require extensive experience in these matters from the bench.

  • fws

    i am with both skp and webmonk on this.

    in an earlier age that was not so litigious things like transmissions, the standard configuration of driveshaft and transaxle and the way to communicate and redirect force, shift sticks on stearing wheel shaft, near standard layout of dashboards etc etc..

    Imagine if that were all evolving in todays environment.

    Patents are a right granted in order to push companies to be creative.
    back in those days the product cycle was longer because things were done manually without computers or even xerox machines or faxes…. now all things can be copied nearly instantly. and the old patent laws have not really caught up.

    and might i suggest there is another thing at play. in the past laws were consciously based upon some general principle, and the test of whether or not that general principle was correct was if it could be still applied objectively even and especially, if it was YOUR ox being gored.

    Now even christians seeks any means at all to win a desired policy goal even if that means , justified by a righeous end, is corrosive to the ultimate goal of the rule of Law in the form of those general principles that we used to put in things like constitutions. We have caved into the european idea that constitutions need to enumerate the details . General principles are just not sufficient safeguards in a post modern relativistic pluralistic society….

    I disagree.

    Disney has pushed copyright/patent general principles beyond all recognition for example by extending, reextending, and reextending the legal limit to patent/copyright mickey mouse etc. No one has said boo. or even boohoo at this sort of thing

  • fws

    i am with both skp and webmonk on this.

    in an earlier age that was not so litigious things like transmissions, the standard configuration of driveshaft and transaxle and the way to communicate and redirect force, shift sticks on stearing wheel shaft, near standard layout of dashboards etc etc..

    Imagine if that were all evolving in todays environment.

    Patents are a right granted in order to push companies to be creative.
    back in those days the product cycle was longer because things were done manually without computers or even xerox machines or faxes…. now all things can be copied nearly instantly. and the old patent laws have not really caught up.

    and might i suggest there is another thing at play. in the past laws were consciously based upon some general principle, and the test of whether or not that general principle was correct was if it could be still applied objectively even and especially, if it was YOUR ox being gored.

    Now even christians seeks any means at all to win a desired policy goal even if that means , justified by a righeous end, is corrosive to the ultimate goal of the rule of Law in the form of those general principles that we used to put in things like constitutions. We have caved into the european idea that constitutions need to enumerate the details . General principles are just not sufficient safeguards in a post modern relativistic pluralistic society….

    I disagree.

    Disney has pushed copyright/patent general principles beyond all recognition for example by extending, reextending, and reextending the legal limit to patent/copyright mickey mouse etc. No one has said boo. or even boohoo at this sort of thing

  • fws

    there is a general idea here that is right.

    it would be hard to prove that Apple was damaged by samsung. and at the same time, it could be shown that the public benefited by more and cheaper choices.

    I am not so sure that a judge needs to be technically savy to judge upon the basic reasons copyright laws are granted. it is not really to protect the inventor at all.

    the purpose of copyright/patent law is to protect the public interest, which is to have the motivation for an inventor to continue to invent protected.

    We have come to consider patent/copyright and intellectual property the same as the rights for real property and things.

    They are not even close to being the same. And that is the problem I think. the issue is not one of theft, although that could be a part, the issue is that public interest that there is just enough, reward for innovation that it continue, and that goal is actually to NOT allow that innovation to turn into a property right that is perpetual. why? that too would stifle creativity!

    we are allowing corporations to trump the very intention of the law in many, not all, cases here. I would be more persuaded if the winning plaintiff were a small company without resources against a large firm that could be proven to have stolen the idea and made a fortune from that idea. that is how the law is supposed to work.

  • fws

    there is a general idea here that is right.

    it would be hard to prove that Apple was damaged by samsung. and at the same time, it could be shown that the public benefited by more and cheaper choices.

    I am not so sure that a judge needs to be technically savy to judge upon the basic reasons copyright laws are granted. it is not really to protect the inventor at all.

    the purpose of copyright/patent law is to protect the public interest, which is to have the motivation for an inventor to continue to invent protected.

    We have come to consider patent/copyright and intellectual property the same as the rights for real property and things.

    They are not even close to being the same. And that is the problem I think. the issue is not one of theft, although that could be a part, the issue is that public interest that there is just enough, reward for innovation that it continue, and that goal is actually to NOT allow that innovation to turn into a property right that is perpetual. why? that too would stifle creativity!

    we are allowing corporations to trump the very intention of the law in many, not all, cases here. I would be more persuaded if the winning plaintiff were a small company without resources against a large firm that could be proven to have stolen the idea and made a fortune from that idea. that is how the law is supposed to work.

  • fws

    in the old days, apple would have had 2-3 years with the pinch thangy to itself. then others would have copied, and apple would have had to come up with more and better each new model year…

    I am thinking about the wonderful explosion of innovation during the golden age of the development of the auto from around 1920 till 1960 or so…. and it is true that some of the better stuff got crowded out by better marketing. cf studebaker.

    I suggest that copyright law, like the uniform commercial code and manual signatures required for contracts et etc etc a) have simply not been able to catch up and b) probably with no sight towards discovering that broad one-size-fits-all-situations principle, c) we will devolve as a society towards rule by decree from rule of Law. we will increasingly depend upon some bureaucrat or judge to need to decide on each particular and case law and precident will become increasingly useless because it will be conflicting. this is where the supremes, especially the so called conservatives, are taking things….

  • fws

    in the old days, apple would have had 2-3 years with the pinch thangy to itself. then others would have copied, and apple would have had to come up with more and better each new model year…

    I am thinking about the wonderful explosion of innovation during the golden age of the development of the auto from around 1920 till 1960 or so…. and it is true that some of the better stuff got crowded out by better marketing. cf studebaker.

    I suggest that copyright law, like the uniform commercial code and manual signatures required for contracts et etc etc a) have simply not been able to catch up and b) probably with no sight towards discovering that broad one-size-fits-all-situations principle, c) we will devolve as a society towards rule by decree from rule of Law. we will increasingly depend upon some bureaucrat or judge to need to decide on each particular and case law and precident will become increasingly useless because it will be conflicting. this is where the supremes, especially the so called conservatives, are taking things….

  • L. H. Kevil

    Just time for two very quick comments.

    Intellectual property law has become too complex and sometimes ridiculous. Patents are granted even when the subject of the patent has been known before the patent application or is obvious.

    An example is the mouse, which was devised by Xerox researchers at PARC and lifted by Apple.

  • L. H. Kevil

    Just time for two very quick comments.

    Intellectual property law has become too complex and sometimes ridiculous. Patents are granted even when the subject of the patent has been known before the patent application or is obvious.

    An example is the mouse, which was devised by Xerox researchers at PARC and lifted by Apple.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    fws, I generally agree with you, but a minor technical quibble: There is significant difference between patent, copyright and trademark.

    I outlined the definition of patent above. Quoting from the same source:

    …copyright protects the expression of words and data in original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, and must be in written form, or preformed, recorded or communicated in a form such as radio or television.

    The protection is not unlimited, the copyright must be clear, and it ceases 50 years after the author / last living author dies (in Canada).

    Trademarks:

    ..trademarks protect marks used to distinguish goods or services

    – these expire after 15 years, but renewal can occur indefintely.

    Industrial design:

    The Industrial Design Act protects the shape, configuration and general look of mass produced items.

    Think the shape of a glass Coke bottle. Term – 10 years.

    There are also Integrated Circuits, which could be relevant here:

    The Integrated Circuits Topography Act protects the design of integrated circuits. An integrated circuit is a series of layers of semi-conductors, metal, insulators, and other materials, and topography refers to the configuration of these layers.

    Term: 10 years.

    In terms of the case above (which I did not follow extensively), the alleged infringement could be relevant in terms of copyright (software), Integrated Circuit (hardware) and/or patent (hardware).

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    fws, I generally agree with you, but a minor technical quibble: There is significant difference between patent, copyright and trademark.

    I outlined the definition of patent above. Quoting from the same source:

    …copyright protects the expression of words and data in original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, and must be in written form, or preformed, recorded or communicated in a form such as radio or television.

    The protection is not unlimited, the copyright must be clear, and it ceases 50 years after the author / last living author dies (in Canada).

    Trademarks:

    ..trademarks protect marks used to distinguish goods or services

    – these expire after 15 years, but renewal can occur indefintely.

    Industrial design:

    The Industrial Design Act protects the shape, configuration and general look of mass produced items.

    Think the shape of a glass Coke bottle. Term – 10 years.

    There are also Integrated Circuits, which could be relevant here:

    The Integrated Circuits Topography Act protects the design of integrated circuits. An integrated circuit is a series of layers of semi-conductors, metal, insulators, and other materials, and topography refers to the configuration of these layers.

    Term: 10 years.

    In terms of the case above (which I did not follow extensively), the alleged infringement could be relevant in terms of copyright (software), Integrated Circuit (hardware) and/or patent (hardware).

  • fws

    KK

    of course there is a difference between patents copyrights etc.
    Granted. or there would be simply one law governing all that.
    There are practical considerations requiring different rules here.

    But I was focussing on the general overall policy goal and raison d´etre of all intellectual property law.
    it is important to see that those are really more like exclusive licencing by the government rather than a property right .

    property rights are considered to be something more indelible , basic, and in the category of a natural right or human right under our english based system of laws, which I really do agree with.

    as opposed to the socialist idea, which is really evolution from the idea of the monarch owning all and so….. under european law is the idea that the state (in former times the monarch ) granting license for the populace to use stuff much like copyright law. ALL rights are to the state/monarch and so constitutions are not about enumerating the rights of the state but rather the rights of the populace.

    at the risk of going off topic, that is the error of DOMA. and it is the error of many otherwise sincere and well meaning proposed legal remedies to end abortions.

  • fws

    KK

    of course there is a difference between patents copyrights etc.
    Granted. or there would be simply one law governing all that.
    There are practical considerations requiring different rules here.

    But I was focussing on the general overall policy goal and raison d´etre of all intellectual property law.
    it is important to see that those are really more like exclusive licencing by the government rather than a property right .

    property rights are considered to be something more indelible , basic, and in the category of a natural right or human right under our english based system of laws, which I really do agree with.

    as opposed to the socialist idea, which is really evolution from the idea of the monarch owning all and so….. under european law is the idea that the state (in former times the monarch ) granting license for the populace to use stuff much like copyright law. ALL rights are to the state/monarch and so constitutions are not about enumerating the rights of the state but rather the rights of the populace.

    at the risk of going off topic, that is the error of DOMA. and it is the error of many otherwise sincere and well meaning proposed legal remedies to end abortions.

  • George Carstensen

    I tend to agree.

    The patent system was designed to (in my understanding) expedite especially good or helpful ideas into production. Companies without small armies doing R&D can license these for a small fee and make great things while rewarding the filer. (of course that in many regards has gone of the rails.)

    To that end – most of the clever things that seem so natural that they require little or no instruction are even more-so entitled. In this case – it seems like such a gesture should have always been that way – but it wasn’t until Apple did it.

    (BTW: Apple essentially *lifted* their GUI “idea” from IBM.)

  • George Carstensen

    I tend to agree.

    The patent system was designed to (in my understanding) expedite especially good or helpful ideas into production. Companies without small armies doing R&D can license these for a small fee and make great things while rewarding the filer. (of course that in many regards has gone of the rails.)

    To that end – most of the clever things that seem so natural that they require little or no instruction are even more-so entitled. In this case – it seems like such a gesture should have always been that way – but it wasn’t until Apple did it.

    (BTW: Apple essentially *lifted* their GUI “idea” from IBM.)

  • fws

    george @ 17

    what about webmonk @ 5

    what sg says @ 9 also pertains to this I think. She makes an excellent point.
    But then one would have to prove that someone actually stole the technical documents and details I would think… so then a judge would not need to have lots of technical savy at all! It would be a simple case of theft or not.

  • fws

    george @ 17

    what about webmonk @ 5

    what sg says @ 9 also pertains to this I think. She makes an excellent point.
    But then one would have to prove that someone actually stole the technical documents and details I would think… so then a judge would not need to have lots of technical savy at all! It would be a simple case of theft or not.

  • fws

    just had a thought based upon sg @ 9

    maybe it is not so much the idea that should be patented. maybe it should be the process/mechanical-technical-software stuff that turns the idea into a reality that should be alone patentable?

    where would that notion run into difficulties defined as not realizing the over arching goal of patent law which is to reward creativity in a way that makes it continue?

  • fws

    just had a thought based upon sg @ 9

    maybe it is not so much the idea that should be patented. maybe it should be the process/mechanical-technical-software stuff that turns the idea into a reality that should be alone patentable?

    where would that notion run into difficulties defined as not realizing the over arching goal of patent law which is to reward creativity in a way that makes it continue?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Well, it is all property law. You get real property (land/ buildings/ fixtures/ mineral rights), and personal property (chattels, and intangible property). The latter refers to either licences & royalty rights, or intellectual property (copyright, patents etc.) However, intellectual property does not protect ideas, but just the expression thereof (which comes back to Frank’s comment at #19).

    The anti-intangible property people miss the fact that the creation of these properties often take considerable investment / time /effort. A couple of lines of code could take a very long term to develop and perfect. But at the same time, what is rewarded is not the work/effort (That would be Marxist economics), but the Result. That is why the Canadian patent law emphasize the word “useful”. Of course, wrt to copyright in art and literature, this does not apply.

    Basically, there is no reason why $2500 000 spent in deriving lines of code, which are used in some useful way, and $2 500 000 spent in creating a new useful object, or $2 500 000 spent in buying tangible assets, should be treated any differently. Thus the law makes sense. It is not rewarding creativity, it is protecting property.

    I would guess that the problem is more often in the application….

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Well, it is all property law. You get real property (land/ buildings/ fixtures/ mineral rights), and personal property (chattels, and intangible property). The latter refers to either licences & royalty rights, or intellectual property (copyright, patents etc.) However, intellectual property does not protect ideas, but just the expression thereof (which comes back to Frank’s comment at #19).

    The anti-intangible property people miss the fact that the creation of these properties often take considerable investment / time /effort. A couple of lines of code could take a very long term to develop and perfect. But at the same time, what is rewarded is not the work/effort (That would be Marxist economics), but the Result. That is why the Canadian patent law emphasize the word “useful”. Of course, wrt to copyright in art and literature, this does not apply.

    Basically, there is no reason why $2500 000 spent in deriving lines of code, which are used in some useful way, and $2 500 000 spent in creating a new useful object, or $2 500 000 spent in buying tangible assets, should be treated any differently. Thus the law makes sense. It is not rewarding creativity, it is protecting property.

    I would guess that the problem is more often in the application….

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Groklaw has an interesting article asserting that the judgment against Samsung was based on a misunderstanding of what constitutes “prior art,” and if anyone bothers to bring that to the attention of the judge, it’ll probably be thrown out.

    Beyond that, I think software patents are a bad idea. Software is just a list of instructions for a machine to do. Instructions on how to do something aren’t patentable in any other field that I’m aware if. Sure , the list of instructions could be copyrighted, but that’s not the same as a patent, and at any rate, it wasn’t a list of instructions that was copied.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Groklaw has an interesting article asserting that the judgment against Samsung was based on a misunderstanding of what constitutes “prior art,” and if anyone bothers to bring that to the attention of the judge, it’ll probably be thrown out.

    Beyond that, I think software patents are a bad idea. Software is just a list of instructions for a machine to do. Instructions on how to do something aren’t patentable in any other field that I’m aware if. Sure , the list of instructions could be copyrighted, but that’s not the same as a patent, and at any rate, it wasn’t a list of instructions that was copied.

  • Cincinnatus

    In case it isn’t abundantly clear already from the comments, the intellectual patent/property system in the United States is seriously screwed up. Immorally so. That Apple patented a gesture–which is what they did here; Samsung didn’t “steal” the technology necessary to operationalize a bodily gesture into electronic signals–is not even the beginning of the story.

    How about the fact that Apple patented the shape of the iPad? Apparently thin rectangular computers with a touch screen are a brand new, non-obvious idea that Steve Jobs’ slaves invented all by themselves ex nihilo.

    Or how about the RCAA suing a teenager thousands and thousands of dollars for sharing a song he purchased with his friends over the internet?

    But patenting the shape of our toys and entertainment is trivial. How about the fact that, thanks to a 1980′s SCOTUS case, Monsanto–and maybe two or three other companies–have patented the genetic structure of certain species of corn and soybean? They have a large legal team of investigators and lawyers that travels the country suing farmers whose heirloom seeds are inadvertently cross-pollinated by the Monsanto(TM) corn next door. At the same time, they’re contributing to mass starvation in the Third World by ensuring that subsistence farmers can’t afford the patented seeds they need to survive.

    You know why the Native Americans sold Manhattan for a handfull of clamshells (or whatever pittance it was)? They thought they were ripping off the colonists because they regarded the idea of “owning” land as absurd. Apparently it wasn’t so absurd after all, but today ordinary Americans and small businesses are finding themselves in the same position vis-a-vis a savvy, unscrupulous conglomerate of corporations who, with the help of the State, want to hoodwink us all.

    It’s absurd that one could “own” a shape, a gesture, or a genome in a natural organism. Yet here we are.

  • Cincinnatus

    In case it isn’t abundantly clear already from the comments, the intellectual patent/property system in the United States is seriously screwed up. Immorally so. That Apple patented a gesture–which is what they did here; Samsung didn’t “steal” the technology necessary to operationalize a bodily gesture into electronic signals–is not even the beginning of the story.

    How about the fact that Apple patented the shape of the iPad? Apparently thin rectangular computers with a touch screen are a brand new, non-obvious idea that Steve Jobs’ slaves invented all by themselves ex nihilo.

    Or how about the RCAA suing a teenager thousands and thousands of dollars for sharing a song he purchased with his friends over the internet?

    But patenting the shape of our toys and entertainment is trivial. How about the fact that, thanks to a 1980′s SCOTUS case, Monsanto–and maybe two or three other companies–have patented the genetic structure of certain species of corn and soybean? They have a large legal team of investigators and lawyers that travels the country suing farmers whose heirloom seeds are inadvertently cross-pollinated by the Monsanto(TM) corn next door. At the same time, they’re contributing to mass starvation in the Third World by ensuring that subsistence farmers can’t afford the patented seeds they need to survive.

    You know why the Native Americans sold Manhattan for a handfull of clamshells (or whatever pittance it was)? They thought they were ripping off the colonists because they regarded the idea of “owning” land as absurd. Apparently it wasn’t so absurd after all, but today ordinary Americans and small businesses are finding themselves in the same position vis-a-vis a savvy, unscrupulous conglomerate of corporations who, with the help of the State, want to hoodwink us all.

    It’s absurd that one could “own” a shape, a gesture, or a genome in a natural organism. Yet here we are.

  • fws

    cincinatus

    what is the most difficult to see is what is right before our nose.
    +1 cinn.

    amazing.

  • fws

    cincinatus

    what is the most difficult to see is what is right before our nose.
    +1 cinn.

    amazing.

  • Chris Mansbridge

    Let’s not forget that Apple stole the mouse from Xerox, and the Microsoft table had many of the ‘finger’ style image manipulation many years ago before the iPhone.

    I for one think that ‘gestures’ should be in the public domain if they are beneficial and natural to all.

    Maybe apple would like to patent how we speak into phones, oh sorry, no one does that anymore!

    Also as for patenting ‘glass to the edge’ does that mean no one can make a glass front that covers a whole front that is just crazy! Mind you it has only been a US court that granted the win, as far as I know it was thrown out of other international courts, if that’s true says it all really.

    Steve Jobs was always a leader on innovation, and maybe a bit of stealing ideas along the way (mouse), I do wonder if the new apple regime is more interested in making as much money before the Apple bubble bursts (Nexus 6 comes to mind) and not moving forward and taking up a challenge to make their products better, like maybe the iPhone actually working properly and not have signal issues!

    I may take a simple view on this, and my information is from articles I have read or reviews of products I have seen, I am not a lawyer , just a simple user.

    Whatever I or you may feel or say about this, the damage is done and will never consider an apple product now as I see their bid on patenting gestures as monopolising.
    .

  • Chris Mansbridge

    Let’s not forget that Apple stole the mouse from Xerox, and the Microsoft table had many of the ‘finger’ style image manipulation many years ago before the iPhone.

    I for one think that ‘gestures’ should be in the public domain if they are beneficial and natural to all.

    Maybe apple would like to patent how we speak into phones, oh sorry, no one does that anymore!

    Also as for patenting ‘glass to the edge’ does that mean no one can make a glass front that covers a whole front that is just crazy! Mind you it has only been a US court that granted the win, as far as I know it was thrown out of other international courts, if that’s true says it all really.

    Steve Jobs was always a leader on innovation, and maybe a bit of stealing ideas along the way (mouse), I do wonder if the new apple regime is more interested in making as much money before the Apple bubble bursts (Nexus 6 comes to mind) and not moving forward and taking up a challenge to make their products better, like maybe the iPhone actually working properly and not have signal issues!

    I may take a simple view on this, and my information is from articles I have read or reviews of products I have seen, I am not a lawyer , just a simple user.

    Whatever I or you may feel or say about this, the damage is done and will never consider an apple product now as I see their bid on patenting gestures as monopolising.
    .


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