Does The iPhone Need Patents?

from the questions,-questions dept

A bunch of folks have noted that Steve Jobs seemed mighty excited about the 200 or so patents Apple has filed around some of the technology involved in the iPhone (or whatever it’s going to be called). A few have asked my opinion on the patents — but not knowing what the patents are on, it’s tough to have that much of an opinion on them specifically. However, Tim Lee points us to a blog post from someone who claims that the iPhone shows why patents are necessary, since “The investment necessary to develop a radically new interface like Multi-touch requires that Apple have a way to protect that investment. If Nokia, Sony, and Motorola could all simply copy it in their new phones, why would Apple even bother?” A few others have suggested the same sort of thing, but those two statements together actually seem to contradict each other. If it was so expensive to develop the multi-touch technology (which isn’t new at all and similar technology has been demonstrated publicly in the past), then how would those other companies be able to just copy it? If it’s so easy to copy, then it shouldn’t have cost that much to develop.


Either way, Tim’s response at the Tech Liberation Front is well worth reading, as he points out how silly that argument really is, noting that if the technology works as well as the demo, then Apple is going to make a ton of money with or without patents — because people will buy the phone. In other words, the market is what gives Apple the incentives to develop these technologies, not patents. As Tim says: “Blafkin seems to believe that Nokia, Sony, and Motorola have a magical technology copying machine that can instantaneously duplicate Apple’s innovations. But cloning a breakthrough new user interface is actually quite difficult. Just ask Microsoft, which spent six years trying to clone the Macintosh interface in the late 1980s…. Even if Nokia does a lot better than Microsoft and manages to clone the iPhone interface in, say, 2 years, that still means that they’ll be perpetually 2 years behind. Why would consumers buy a knockoff of the 2007 iPhone from Nokia when they can buy the 2009 version from Apple?” That last point is key. The way to compete isn’t by catching up and “copying” someone else, but to continuously innovate. Then, even if someone else catches up, you’re still ahead — and, if anyone can keep on coming up with new innovations, it appears to be Apple. So, even without patent protection, Apple would make more than enough money to recoup their development costs. But, the downside is that Apple doesn’t need to keep up the same pace of innovation now. Others won’t be able to compete and push Apple to innovate as fast because Apple can block them with patents. At the same time, those who don’t want to live by Apple’s rules (Cingular-only, 2 year contracts, no 3G, no ability to develop additional apps, no VoIP, etc.) but want a phone with a similar design will be out of luck. That’s bad for innovation and bad for the economy.


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Comments on “Does The iPhone Need Patents?”

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68 Comments
innerdaemon (user link) says:

200 Patents

Watching Steve Jobs’ keynote, its clear that he was making a joke when he saud “Boy, have we patented it”. I believe he was referring to the fact that Apple doesn’t have to pay the likes of Creative or the lawyer who sued them for the iTunes interface. This is the state of techology today – defense against frivolous IP lawsuits.

Tyshaun says:

200 is a bit excessive...

I see nothing wrong with having patents, but 20 of them for a phone? I have to get one just to see how revolutionary this thing must be.

As per reverse engineering the technology, I used to work for a firm that did this, oddly enough, to aid attorneys in patent litigation (prove that some new product is infringing on an existing product). Believe it or not, it’s not as difficult as you think and although you don’t normally reverse engineer an exact copy of a “widget”, you can usually figure out more than enough of it to extrapolate the the functionality you don’t have.

jay Glass says:

Re: 200 is a bit excessive...

Apple has cut its own throat over and over again, beginning in the late 70’s when they propritirized their hardware and limmitted software and hardware access. Locking out developers cost them competative advantage for 35 years. It is quite amazing that the starving deal they made for the music publishing business actually flew. Better deals are out there to be made and hungry lawyers are anxious to feed the ignorant public with better musical hambergers.

Kevin (profile) says:

R&D Costs

Mike, I usually agree with you, but you are wrong on this one.

“If it’s so easy to copy, then it shouldn’t have cost that much to develop.”

Researching and developing this technology is much more expensive than drawing on the patent applications to copy them. Using your logic, Apple should instead use trade secrets to stop copying instead of patents. Trade secrets are even more restrictive (no term restriction and not public).

If I test a new, say, rake. After numerous iterations, I decide clear plastic is the best material (for whatever reason) and I then implement it to much fanfare, my competitors have little barrier to entry to the clear-plastic rake market.

Just because some forms of intellectual property is bad, don’t think all of it is.

I had posted initial thoughts after watching the keynote: http://copyrightings.blogspot.com/2007/01/worthy-of-patent.html

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

RIM Again

I would like to suggest the case of RIM, again, for illustrative purposes.

In 1999 I got a Blackberry 957, which did a fantastic job of mobilizing my Exchange email, in push format, in seeming real-time.

Then, sometime in 2006, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, Good, Palm, and some others finally caught up with competitive products. It’s always baffled me that with such a perfect example right in front of them, none of these competitors could offer a product that held a candle to the Blackberry for 6 years.

No, copying isn’t that easy.

the silent one says:

does no one remember nextel, with their exclusive “push to talk” walkie-talkie feature? that was copyrighted and patented. however, the copyright was only for so long and then the technology became public domain. hence how you now see, boost mobile and their slogan, “where you at?” along with cingular’s version coupled with verizon, who was about to introduce their own radio cell phone before the nextel/verizon merger.

additionally, the iphone is going to be a highly desireable item simply because of that one little lowerc case “i” in front of the phone. as soon as i saw the phone, i was entranced, and said to myself, that is my next phone. the thing is just cool, and is an uber-geeks wet dream.

i’m glad that steve got a ton of patents for it, that way it will be a long while before cheap imitators come out with their versions but, adversely, it will also be a long time before prices come down to a respectable norm.

my two cents.

Andrew says:

Re: Nextel and Boost

Firstly, if it was copyright and then dropped into public domain, that would mean that Nextel (and that feature speccifically) would be at least 70 years old 🙂

No, Boost is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). They essentially “rent” space on Nextel’s network and sell their own plans and offer handsets Nextel doesn’t. Nextel is much more business oriented, Boost is for the kids.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“does no one remember nextel, with their exclusive “push to talk” walkie-talkie feature? that was copyrighted and patented. however, the copyright was only for so long and then the technology became public domain. hence how you now see, boost mobile and their slogan, “where you at?” along with cingular’s version coupled with verizon, who was about to introduce their own radio cell phone before the nextel/verizon merger.”
-the silent one

The problem w/ the Nextel patent is that Cingular, Verizon, AT&T (they were still around at the start of Nextel, right?), Sprint, et al, could have been innovating on the concept of PTT cell phones from the start and Nextel would have been improving on their “invention” as well. Think of how much more improved and advanced it would have been by now. But no. Nextel had their little rest period where they did nothing. I had Nextel for a long time… my first cell phone, actually… and I never saw any improvement over that initial “neat little PTT feature”.

BTW, didn’t Nextel merge w/ Sprint? I have Verizon and I don’t know anything about Nextel coming in.

“additionally, the iphone is going to be a highly desireable item simply because of that one little lowerc case “i” in front of the phone. as soon as i saw the phone, i was entranced, and said to myself, that is my next phone. the thing is just cool, and is an uber-geeks wet dream.”
-the silent one

You’re comment about the desirability of the i-Phone is right though. Read Mike’s comments about why simply copying won’t automatically beat out the original innovator. There is a lot of brand recognition and brand loyalty that would beat out any competition… if there actually was any. But instead, there will be almost no competition because of the artificial monopoly. And all because Apple was the first to put a few existing widgets together. (See my previous statement about what Apple hasn’t actually done here.)

Yeah, they innovated, but they also put an artificial barrier to keep anyone from innovating further behind them.

“i’m glad that steve got a ton of patents for it, that way it will be a long while before cheap imitators come out with their versions but, adversely, it will also be a long time before prices come down to a respectable norm.

my two cents.”
-the silent one

You’re glad they got the patents? And your reason is “that way it will be a long while before cheap imitators come out with their versions”? That’s bad. That’s why there will be very little innovation. I see what you’re saying about cheap imitations that truly pale in comparison… but why would anyone buy those anyway? That’s not a threat to Apple’s competitiveness. No one will by a piece of crap simply because it’s cheaper than a piece of gold.

Your comment about the price is also right on. If Apple didn’t have their artificial monopoly and had to compete in a truly free market, they would have to be very careful about how they price. I’m not saying that Apple is gouging here, but how much of that price could be shaved off if they had to worry about being undercut by a truly worth-while competitor… which they might…

Keep an eye on LG’s new phone. That’s going to be the only competition for the i-Phone for a while. It’ll also probably be the first new major patent war for the year. However, LG will probably say “Well, since Apple priced here, we’ll price just below them” instead of pricing for competition (which could be a lot lower).

I don’t want to sound like I’m attacking you here, so please don’t feel that I think you’re stupid or anything. I’ve just read through all of the comments back and forth between Mike and a few other posters and I realized your comment illustrated some of those contested points quite clearly.

Cheers.

The only one you need to know. says:

It seems to me that no matter the state of Apple’s iPhone, Apple’s product will come out, make millions and/or billions, and in the end go down as another Apple success. Why such the big deal? I do not know. But from my viewpoint, Apple can only win. They get free PR, such as stuff like this, and they have another i-product, and you all know there i-products, whether there good or bad, always make mucho-money. It’s really simple as that. At least as far as I see.

Minshi says:

@Danno – I can see that, if you do not have the patents (and since prior art tends to be unaccounted for) some of these patent hoarding and stockpiles may just go and fetch as much patents on the phone as possible.

I mean, yes, they filed patents, but, if they didn’t, I just bet someone (like creative perhaps, or more likely one of the patent companies) would figure out and try and patent the tech, then sue. And with it cheeper to settle…

M Chamber says:

Flaw in the argument

“If it’s so easy to copy, then it shouldn’t have cost that much to develop”. You might hesitate before advancing your argument on such a debatable premise . The revolutionary ideas are of course the simplest ones, their reception often following a similar path: 1. the idea is absurd and runs counter to science, logic, and common sense; 2. some of it might be interesting in a provocative way but how innovative can it be if it is intended only and ever to shock?; 3: not a bad extrapolation from existing theory and practice but there is little in it that is really new; 3. interesting no doubt but have you seen my article, “the blah of blah viewed blahly?” I thought of it first. 4. It’s so obvious one has to ask why they even bothered. Embarrassing really, shouldn’t have published/designed/manufactured it.

Granted, the little iPhone (lawsuit pending) probably doesn ‘t rank up there with the Big New Things historians of technology try to understand. But your argument reminds me of the vulgar marxist (I’m a refined marxist, so I should know) approach to new technology, seen occasionally in Europe today: property is theft, intellectual property is theft of a higher order, it’s the man-hours and social implications that count. Granted, patents often get in the way of new ideas, and they’re a nightmare for anyone trying something “new” at the lower end of the scale where little is startling. But might we ask: do we respond to innovation as a bureaucracy would or do we stop worrying and try something different?

Georgy says:

Typical socialist...

This is the thinking of someone who just wants to steal what others create– the primary argument against patents.

For if innovation is so easy that people odn’t need it to be protected, then why is there market value in it?

This article is a prime example of the fundamental inability to think that is taught in the american school system. A regurgitation of ideology while attempting to convince himself, and us, that he’s demolishing arguments.

The bottom line is– people who oppose patents are people who just want to steal technology.

Its the invention of something that takes time– figuring out what works. Once this is done, it is relatively easy to copy (as anyone can tell that a painting could take many hours to paint, but copied in a millisecond via a digital camera– source code is the same way)

Patents are imperfect, but they serve their purpose and they create innovation.

The innovation the author things is being stifled is simply theft. “IF others can steal apples technology, they will force apple to invent faster!”

This is the battle cry of the one who wants something for nothing. The mooch, the looter, the socialist. The man who wants the intelligent (those with ability )to create, and then to not be allowed to profit from their creations as their works are copied and stolen and elivered to everybidy (to those who “need”.)

Michael Long says:

Ignoring the point...

“It’s not just about copying the technology, but the overall look, feel, quality and perception of the device.”

You’re missing the point. Two things will happen when you “clone” a device with the same look and feel. First, you now have a product you can’t differentiate in the marketplace. Second, the original companies’ lawyers are now going to swarm you over trademark and copyright issues.

Pete (profile) says:

How can they even file a patent??

I’m not much for patent laws. I don’t get it. But what really irks me is the fact that Mr. Jobs over at Apple is claiming credit for developing this technology. NONE of it is new. It’s a cell pone with a large screen, gps, and music capabilities. Been there before. Not even the multitouch is new. That technology has been around for at least two years that I have been aware of. Most likely before that.
But as has been stated before, Apple is the first to come up with a design that incorporates these features in a device that people will actually want to use. Just wait for the next microsoft product to rip off Apple. But they have been playing that game back and forth since the original Apple computers.

EdFrench (user link) says:

Filed patent != Granted patent

I don’t think many of Apple’s patent applications on the iPhone is going to be close to grant, so I’d expect them to be boiled down to some fairly narrow claims on specific features of the multitouch interface by the time they’re through- that shouldn’t provide too much in the way of barriers to other companies copying the bulk of the functionality or interface.
The biggest real piece of IP in this product may be related to how they’re achieving adequate battery life with that screen, the phone chipset and Wifi running together! …If they are;-)

Tom says:

Uhh, no.

Wow what a ridiculous argument, which is actually an argument against ALL patents.

There are a couple ways to protect your inventions, one being patents, where you document it completely but then get legal protection for a set period of time, and the other is basically trying to keep it secret, trade secrets.

The problem with trade secrets and technology such as Apple’s is that these days it’s pretty easy to reverse engineer a lot of. Thus patents are the only way to protect their investment in R&D. And believe me, Apple has put a lot into R&D for the iPhone.

And no, it’s absolutely not true that if something was expensive to research and develop it should be hard to copy. A lot of research that costs a lot of money can be spent on developing a technology, but once that technology is figured out it could be something trivial to copy.

So, say the iPhone really is as great as it seems and Apple does make a buttload of money off of it, why should Apple have to do research for Motorola, Nokia, etc. These are competing for-profit companies we’re talking about, they have no obligation to each other.

If anything, Apple is doing a HUGE service to the consumer by forcing all these other companies to finally innovate, which will hopefully lead to even better technology. I, for one, would like to see other cell phone companies create some technology of their own, rather than just clone everything in the iPhone (I know we’ll see some of that though too…)

The only ones hurt by the iPhone will be the other phone manufacturers if they don’t get off their asses and do some serious innovation, especially in their interfaces… THANK GOD for that. I mean look at some of these (non-iPHone) cell phone interfaces!

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

What has Apple done that's new here?

I just wanted to throw that question out here… everyone seems to be talking about Apple protecting “everything it’s worked for here”. What have they done that’s new?

From what I can tell (unless I missed something in the article), Apple has done nothing more than take a lot of existing concepts, thingies, and widgets and put them into a single box.

1) Phone
2) mp3 Player
3) PDA
4) Large touch screen
5) multi-touch interface (which is not new)

If that’s the case, why should they be the only one’s allowed to do so? Why should they be the only ones who are allowed to take “other peoples works” and put them underneath their own logo?

FancyPants (user link) says:

Reality

If it’s so easy to copy, then it shouldn’t have cost that much to develop.

This statement makes it clear that you’ve never been involved in real development. The hard work of R&D is to make it look easy.
I just finished a project that involved 3 years of interviews, testing and refinement for an interface. Now someone could come along and copy that interface without doing all the research for WHY it works that way. And under our current copyright/patent systems they would be justifiably in the wrong.

In most projects, part of the business analysis is “barrier to entry.” The cost of someone coming along and following you into a market. That is a business thing – not a legal or ethical thing. And it has nothing to do with patents or other rights.

It’s easy to make Aspirin. Was the original process not worthy of a patent?

codingace says:

WAAHHHHHHHHHHH

Apple is the only one in the industry that seems to consistently inovate and give customers decent product for their money. Let them have their patents. Others should have to do the work too in order to reap the benefits. Hurt the economy, hardly. Maybe Nokia and Motorola will work harder to keep business. The customer should win in the end either way!!!

Jesse Calderon says:

are patents needed?

Mike,

I think we can all agree that the patent system has some serious flaws. However, I think that you place too much emphasis on letting a free market decide on which products/companies are winners or losers.

IMO the patent system is needed to protect individuals and smaller companies from getting their ideas copied by large companies that have the manufacturing and market size to take a great idea to market more successfully than the individual or smaller company.

You may be right that Apple doesn’t need protection. They are a huge company that can get rapid adoption of a new product and can maintain market share while they continue to innovate to stay ahead of the market.

However, IMO that has nothing to do with whether or not a patent system has any validity. Just because the patent system is being abused by patent trolls and the patent office doesn’t seem to have anyone who understands the meaning of “non-obvious” doesn’t mean the patent system isn’t necessary.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

counterexample

Just ask Microsoft, which spent six years trying to clone the Macintosh interface in the late 1980s.

Actually, one reason Apple was able to keep rivals to the Mac GUI from being serious competitors was precisely because of a patent it held on QuickDraw regions. These were the most efficient known way of doing drawing and clipping with non-rectangular shapes, but because of the patent, nobody else was allowed to use them.

Georgy says:

Mikes Degree is in Socialism!

What is “Industrial and Labor Relations” if it isn’t training to be a union shop steward?!

I was right, you were taught to be a socialist in school. A shame, that.

Since you have absoluately no experience as an engineer, and no training in a skill that involves innovation, its not surprising that you hold engineering with such disdain.

Sorry, those who can’t sure have a lot of opinions about those of us who can.

You shouldn’t be so upset that we price your opinions on the market at essentially zero.

I see now this is a blog for ignorant MBA types to spread buzzword complient ignorance to other MBAs. It seems that MBA programs are one of the worst educational values out there— I haven’t met one yet who had a fucking clue. But they all seem to think they were born to be masters of the universe.

One thing about engineering is, it teaches you that you don’t know it all.

Stu Charlton (user link) says:

Continuous innovation is absolutely necessary, but it isn’t sufficient. One requires a functioning marketplace in order to cover the costs of innovation today & tomorrow (through entrepreneurial profit)… which is the whole idea behind competition through innovation, or Schumpeter’s view of the economy being one of dynamic disequilibrium, or monopolistic competition.

There’s a whole body of theory emerging from economic New Growth Theory, starting with Paul Romer around 1990, with his paper “Endogenous Technological Change” about how technological change leads to growth.

According to Romer, “growth is driven fundamentally by the accumulation of a partially excludable, nonrival input”. Non-rival goods are goods where more than one person can posses it, e.g. an idea, a copy of a MP3, software, etc. Goods that are partially excludable imply the creator of the good can prevent people from using it or re-producing it to a certain degree. This isn’t just about law, by the way, it’s about the theoretical ability for something to be excluded (whether through physical, technological, legal, or other means).

Knowledge — one of several inputs into successful innovation — is non-rival and at best partially excludable (it will eventually leak out). Intellectual property law is one way to enact this, as are things like DRM, etc.

A fully non-rival, non-excludable good is a public good, and exchange of such goods really isn’t governable by a marketplace. Excludability is the death knell: If I can’t prevent somone from using or reproducing something, I can’t really exchange it in a market as there’s no demand incentive. That means I can’t cover my costs of today, and I can’t cover my costs of tomorrow through profit, leading to no supply incentive.

The environment, for example, could be considered a public good. Any restrictions on the use of the environment can’t really be settled well through a market, they have to be through legal means.

So, the point is this — if we feel that human capital & knowledge capital is valuable & scarce, or perhaps that we feel that time is scarce and time is significant big factor in how much knowledge is generated in a new technology, we have two choices:
– have a public or private body invest in knowledge-intensive goods and fund it via taxes, retained profits from other goods, or donations
– subject knowledge-intensive goods to a market of monopolistic competition. It’s “monopolistic” because there is no standard equilibrium price-taking competition when exchanging non-rival goods.

The former has the benefit of working when the investment is directed at something that can create new customers, new markets and avenues for growth. Examples include the TCP/IP protocol suite and many open source projects. But it also has the potential of squandering tremendous resources because it’s not directly subject to market demand. (Witness the explosion of duplicate projects out there that all “scratch that itch” just a bit differently…)

The latter works too, is more efficient at allocating resources at opportunities in demand, but by nature will lead to onerous temporary restrictions on freedom of use.

My view: Both approaches can work in certain circumstances, but i caution people from having delusions of one system being clearly superior to the other.

In a market system, the trick is to find the balance between utility and restriction. Patents make sense to me. Does the patent system need reform to get rid of trivial or obvious patents? Yes. Does it make sense to reduce the number of years a patent is valid? Yes — innovation cycles are quicker, markets respond faster, etc. Should Apple avoid patents and let the innovation in the iPhone become more of a ‘public good’? Probably not in the short run. It’s not in the interests of their employees, shareholders, or customers, who want Apple to continue to invest in technological change as a way of increasing its capacity for creating wealth. Sometimes it’s better for all to ‘spread the wealth’ rather than keep it localized, but it’s not clear that this is such a case.

Anonymous Coward says:

“If it was so expensive to develop xxxx, then how would those other companies be able to just copy it? If it’s so easy to copy, then it shouldn’t have cost that much to develop.”

Mike, you have to be kidding!

How much time and money do you think went into producing the star wars movies? How much does it cost to hit record on your VCR and have an exact copy of the resulting work?

The innovator ALWAYS incurs the additional cost to develop a product:

Cost of product = development cost + manufacturing cost + profit

But, the copy-cat only has the “manufacturing cost” to deal with:

Cost of product = manufacturing cost + profit

So, if the innovator had to spend $1 million to develop a product, and wants to make $1 profit on each sale, then they may need to sell the product for $1.50, where 50 cents of that serves to reimburse their investment into the R&D of the product.

But, for the copy-cat, then never spent any money on R&D, so there’s no need to add a surcharge, thus they can sell the product for only $1.00 and still make the same $1 profit per sale as the innovator.

So, why would any consumer buy the product from the innovator, when they can buy the exact same thing from the copy-cat for 33% cheaper ($1.00 instead of $1.50)? Answer: They wouldn’t.

So, why would any company bother to spend any money on R&D (to innovate) when they could never get that money back because if they tried to recoup their R&D expense within the product price, it will most certainly set the product’s price above it’s copy-cat competitors? They wouldn’t, thus without patents, innovation would suffer because it wouldn’t make much business sense to spend money to innovate a new product without a high chance to recoup that expense back in addition to making a profit.

Patents help the innovator by giving them a reasonable amount of time to recoup their R&D expense by keeping the copy-cats out of the market, thus making “innovating” a worthwhile activity – which encourages innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike,

First, my main point here is that I think the “exclusivity” protection of a patent is a good thing. Yes, there are other issues with patents such as what is obvious or not. But, from what I understand from all of your posts, it seems like you are against this “exclusivity” power of a patent and instead think that every idea should be up for grabs to whoever can bring it to the market the best. This is the only ONLY point of what I am debating here, so please do not bring up any other issue:

“First, you are assuming a static market”

My “Static” example, as you call it, is perfectly valid and allows for a clear and easy illustration of how a patent’s exclusivity actually creates an “incentive to innovate” as oppose to a world where patents didn’t exist and the most common thought after an idea is initially conceived would then be “why bother spending time to persue/develop my idea if some big company can just come along and steal the final outcome of my research/development and use their larger resources to out market me?”.

There are two main steps in bringing an innovation to the market.

1) Thinking up the innovation
2) Having the resources to successfully bring the innovation to market

A patent is an acknowledgment of the first step.

Many inventors may not have all the resources/skills needed for the second step and require time to develop them – here lies your misguided opinion that the exclusivity of a patent prevents innovations from reaching the market.

A patent is published for the whole public to see, including many companies that have the resources to successfully bring it to market. So, even if an inventor doesn’t have the resources to bring his idea to market, whats to stop a company from licensing the idea from the inventor and bringing it to the market themselves? Thus, if a company can license the technology from an inventor and bring it to market, how is the “exclusivity” of a patent preventing that innovation from reaching the market?

In addition, there are probably ton’s of innovations documented in patents that companies would have probably never thought up on their own! So, the patent system actually increases the chances of an innovation reaching the market, by exposure/disclosure.

However, in your world (where the patent system didn’t exist) the only innovations that would ever reach the market would be the ones that only came from the companies themselfves. All of the ideas from independant inventors that may not have the resources to bring it to market would be lost. So, in your patent-less world, many innovations would never be realized. Howver, luckily in the current patent-world, the only potential hurdle in bringing an innovation to market is the possibility of having to share the profits with the innovation’s creator.

So, in which world do you think an innovation has the best chance to be known and reach the market?

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike,

You did a bunch of rambling on of how my simplistic breakdown is inaccurate. But, after all your rambling, it seems your only argument against the exclusivity of a patent is that whatever money has to be shared with the inventor could have been money spent to further innovating the invention. But, with invention royalties typically being less then 5% of the invention’s price, I’m sure you will agree that your argument is really insignificant.

So, which of the two below situations do you feel will give an idea the best chance to leap from just a thought to a marketable innovation?

A) When an idea is initially conceived, I should patent it so I can develop and market it without the fear of a big company coming along and just stealing it from me.

B) When my idea is initially conceived, I say to myself “why bother spending time to persue/develop my idea when some big company can just come along and steal the final outcome of my research/development and use their larger resources to out market me?”

So, can’t you CLEARLY see that the exclusivity part of a patent serves as a serious incentive to take the idea a step forward as oppose to just abandoning it?

Anonymous Coward says:

“Most actual patents do not explain an actual product or procedure to the point that it can actually be used to recreate that product. They’re filed to be as broad as possible for economic reasons.”

Thats a bunch of B.S.!

Yes, patents are “filed” to be a broad as possible. But, filed patent applications should be irrelevant to any conversation about the patent system because most applications are rejected if they are bogus and never see the light of day. So, it’s irrelevant what gets filed – only issues with approved patents should be of concern.

So, I challenge you to back your statement or retract it…..out of the tens of thousands of *issued* patents, show me just a few samples of patents that don’t accurately describe an invention enough so someone in that field can not reproduce it.

If you can’t come up with some samples, then please stop mentioning such false “facts” because it’s confusing readers into believing that your views are valid, when in reality they are not.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I take choice C: When my idea is conceived work to take it to market where I’ll be rewarded for it. If it needs capital, I find capital markets that will provide me the necessary capital. I am confident in my own ability to understand the idea and the market to conclude that I can do a better job of selling it to the market than others. If I don’t understand the product or market that well, then I should be in a different business. The fact that you don’t see choice C as an option is a little scary.”

Actually, everything of your choice “C” can still be done even if you choose A or B, so it really doesn’t qualify as a third choice. Each choice of a multiple-choice question should typically be mutually-exclusive. Regardless, your comments of a choice C seem to imply that your real choice would be B (that you don’t wish to seek patent protection).

Yeah, there are resources to help with financing and other hurdles in bringing a new product to market, but those hurdles/resources exists for every other company. And with 9 out of 10 new businesses failing each year, your method of not seeking the help of a patent puts the chance of success for that product at the same 10% that every other new business has. Fortunately, the exclusivity protection of a patent helps raise that percentage significantly
because the “competition” factor is eliminated from all of the other typical challenges of running a new business (management, financing, marketing, etc).

Yeah, if the inventor is good at financing, marketing, management, etc, he could have a good chance of success without a patent. The simple truth is that the exclusivity of a patent can only help to increase the chances of success for that product. Period.

So, since the exclusivity of a patent serves are the primary “incentive to innovate” of a patent, what other arguments do you have against this exclusivity besides your insignificant 5% royalty argument?

Anonymous Coward says:

“Have you read the NTP patents? Have you read the “iTunes interface” patent? Have you read the Acacia patents?”

Yeah, I read those, and they actually do describe the invention sufficiently to reproduce it. However, they are broad, and that is probably the real issue you have with them.

So, to say “Most actual patents do not explain an actual product or procedure to the point that it can actually be used to recreate that product.”, especially when you use the word “most” as if more then 50% of issued patents do not describe the invention sufficient, is clearly a false “fact” of yours.

Your real gripe seems to be that many of these patents have broad descriptions, making it difficult for someone else to create a similar/better product, thus (in your mind) it stifles innovation. Is this a more accurate assessment of your argument with regard to the descriptions in those patents?

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