Apple May Get To Remove Obvious Features From Android

from the how-does-this-promote-the-progress dept

In one prong of the many-pronged attack that Apple has been making on Android, it’s scored a victory at the International Trade Commission, where it’s been determined that the idea of making a phone number in an email or on a web-page clickable to dial it is so special and wonderful that only Apple could possibly come have up with it. It’s rulings like this that make anyone with a modicum of technology smarts shake their heads and wonder why we let clearly non-technical people make decisions like this. Patents are supposed to protect inventions that are non-obvious to those skilled in the space. If you put a 100 groups of five engineers in rooms, asking them to design various smartphone features and interfaces around things like this, I’d bet 99 would come up with a similar feature. It’s just natural.

In the meantime, Apple’s statements about the ruling are equally ridiculous, given Apple’s history of copying others (including Android):

“We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

Copying an idea and building on it is not “stealing.” And if Apple had to build its devices without building on the ideas of others, it wouldn’t have very much today. This whole thing is a joke, and it’s rulings like this that make engineers have even less respect for the patent system.

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Companies: apple, google, htc

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Comments on “Apple May Get To Remove Obvious Features From Android”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Apple has a new patent...

Wow, better smartphones have been doing this for years. It’s not even a feature you have to code, merely have a phone app and another app on a system with preemptive multitasking. Basically the reason why you can make a Skype call on Linux or Windows without first closing Firefox, Pidgin, and Libre Office. That isn’t a feature anyone coded, that’s just the system happening not to artificially and specifically break it for you.
If your underlying software techniques are post-1970ish, it’s not even obvious, it literally requires no thought.

Karl Fogel (profile) says:

Disingenuous on Apple's part.

Amen, Mike. I still remember the first time I saw a phone number in a text file on the screen of my Nexus One, and I thought “I’ll bet if I touch the number, it does the Right Thing.” It did, of course, and I spent another 1.5 seconds thinking about how one would implement it, which was all it took because it’s pretty obvious to any programmer who has heard of “regular expressions”.

So: non-obvious? Clearly not. Novel? No, programmers have been finding the boundaries of numbers in text for ages.

How on earth did Apple get this ruling?

Anonymous Coward says:

Yet another reason why Apple will never get one cent from me.

The courts and legal system always seems to have a double standard on anything involving Apple. It’s just fine when Apple steals someone else’s stuff, but if Samsung steals it from Apple then quick pull Samsung off the shelfs! If Android steals it from Apple quick demand Android remove the offending features!

The day Apple goes out of business will be a good day for us all.

NullOp says:


Apple has thought of very little over the years. They mostly do “pretty box” things that make that which already exists seem new and shiny. They certainly deserve NO credit for the phone number & web address idea! I’ll never forget what one Apple owner told me: “When I got my Apple I was amazed at what it did. Two weeks later I was amazed and what it didn’t do.”

Bottom line: too much credit attributed to Apple

Anonymous Coward says:

“Copying an idea and building on it is not “stealing.””

I think this particular patent is ridiculous and never should have been issued. I applaud your definition of “not stealing”, the problem comes in determining what level of “building on it” must be done. Under your definition taking someones idea and simply implementing that idea in a new product is “stealing”. Who determines what constitutes innovation – the judges, committee members, expert witnesses?

Isakill says:

The patent system is on a “first come first served” and “If your idea is slightly different than this one but builds on it” basis. What Samsung needed to do is the second Apple filed their lawsuit (or even thought about it), Stop all shipments of their chips to Apple and grind their manufacturing to a halt. Then send a letter saying “too bad smartass, make your own processors”.

ViewRoyal says:

Re: Re:

“I’m not happy he’s dead just glad hes not around”

In other words, if you were being honest, you’re glad he’s dead.
(Let’s face reality, if he wasn’t dead of cancer he would not be gone now.)

Just hope that people who know you are not as insensitive as you are now, when you are the one dying of cancer.

Rather_Notsay (profile) says:

This is technology?

Is anyone but me offended by the usage here:

“We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

Technology is knowing how to build high temperature jet engine turbine blades. Putting a switch on the airplane’s control panel that says “on/off” is a feature, not technology.

Lawyers like to puff up the importance of features by calling them technology, but it ain’t so, no matter how many times they say it.

Tom Gallagher (user link) says:

The Patent in Question

Was filed by Apple Feb. 1, 1996. The Application issued as a patent on August 31, 1999. It will expire August 31, 2016. The claims are pretty specific and could have been designed around by HTC.

The patented invention was invented at least as early as the filing date in 1996 and possibly up to several years earlier. Lots of prior patents and journal articles were considered before issuing the patent and these are listed on the first page of the patent. If HTC thought they had better prior art than that already had been considered by the patent office, thy could easily have asked the patent office to reconsider the patent in a proceeding called a re-examination.

Compare also that a copyright filed in 1996 is good at least until 2096, possibly longer.

Tony Ferrelli says:

Wow, I have an old Ericsson R520m from about 2001, and a friend has just sent me an SMS… it has a phone number in the text message that I need to call… I scroll through the message and the ancient phone from a decade ago highlights that phone number on its monochrome screen… I push the ‘Yes’ button, and it gives me the option to call or SMS that highlighted phone number… QUICK, APPLE! GET THE ERICSSON R520M FROM 2001 BANNED!

Moh says:

Re: Re:

As pointed out by Tom, Apple’s patent on this dates back to 1996, well before any phone you care to name had anything like this feature. Data Detectors was first incorporated into Mac OS 8 and enabled it to automatically recognise email addresses, phone numbers, URLs, dates and even normal addresses and deal with them appropriately. Apple has had this for nearly two decades.

Before the iPhone in 2007, there was Symbian, Blackberry and WinMob 6. After 2007, every mobile OS started to look like it in terms of multi-touch icon based displays. Were would you be if Apple hadn’t created it first…

Your friendly neighborhood Computer Engineer says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Were would you be if Apple hadn’t created it first”

I just want to let you know that it is a common programming practice (among non lazy programmers) to set up parsing code to categorize things and improve functionality. This is literally the most basic of habits to learn. Apple did not invent it, they just got a patent on it. As a whole the people in the computer industry are extremely frustrated with the way software patents are set up and enforced (we are even lectured on the abusive process and how to try and protect ourselves in just 200 level classes). With the growing resentment towards the big patent bullies and the mafia style methods used to shut down new competitors and innovators I would not be surprised to see a revision of the terms and time limits in the next ten years.

Think about how cars would work if one company owned the wheel, not a specific wheel design, but the entire concept of round objects used to move things…does that start to sound like it stifles innovation and promotes abusive practice? This is how the software patents are set up right now.

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