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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  1. identicon
    Greogy, 13 Jan 2007 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re: Typical socialist...

    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. You want to make an actual point or you want to just call me stupid in a few more words? If you want to actually argue on the points of my post, I'm more than willing to debate me. Calling me stupid (whether true or not) doesn't support your argument. It just makes me question if you really have one. As if any more proof is needed, notice that I was characterizing your arguments, not you. But you, instead insist that I'm calling you stupid (interesting that you chose to leap to that conclusion) and then claim I'm not making any arguments. (Arguments which you generally ignored or said "I don't understand this") So, while I was in fact, characterizing the nature of your arguments instead of the nature of you, I will now do the latter: Its quite evident that you lack the ability to think logically, or clearly, and that you are simply an automaton with no creative impulse arguing for your right to benefit from your superiors. When presented with a counter argument, all you can do is claim that you've already beaten the counter argument, and call people names-- including the amusing tactic of claiming that I'm calling you a name as a method of disparaging me, while at the VERY SAME TIME quoting me describing your argument rather than your person! The irony here is lost on most readers who won't follow closely, and I'm sure its lost on you-- as I am certain you are too dim to see it. There, I did call you stupid, finally. Satisfied? If you want to get the topic off of how dim you are, try responding to my original arguments, or to the elaboration and hypothetical I have since provided. If you can comprehend them.

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