Apple Withholds Patent From Widget Standard

from the patents-and-standards dept

The idea of standardization around certain technologies makes some amount of sense. Once a standard is set at a lower level, it opens up plenty of innovation opportunities above that standard. However, in the past few years, we've seen a pretty massive problem with the combination of standards and patents. Basically, everyone starts looking for ways to somehow connect a patent to a standard -- but they often try to hide the details so that, once the standard is set, they can start demanding everyone pay up for patent infringement. This is even more likely when companies come up with an agreement to pool patents in a royalty-free manner for the sake of the patent. Companies try to keep their patents out so they can later demand money. It's way too common these days. The latest to do this appears to be Apple, who withheld a key patent on technology for online "widgets", which has recently been standardized. The standard was set by the W3C, who asked for companies to commit their patents royalty-free in order to move the standard forward so that everyone could benefit. Instead, Apple held out a key patent, and can now start demanding people pay up. On the whole, Apple hasn't been that aggressive in enforcing its patents, and hopefully that doesn't change now -- but it does show once again how important patents have become in the standards setting process, and how much trouble they can cause.


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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:04am

    "On the whole, Apple hasn't been that aggressive in enforcing its patents...."
    Complete nonsense obvioulsy, but it's always amusing to see teh lengths the Masnicks will go to to stay aliigned with the "winners".

     

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      Mike (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 3:18am

      Re:

      Complete nonsense obvioulsy, but it's always amusing to see teh lengths the Masnicks will go to to stay aliigned with the "winners".

      I said "on the whole" and "that aggressive." I would argue that's quite accurate. I never said it wasn't enforcing its patents, but it certainly has not been nearly as aggressive as many other companies.

      Furthermore, it's rather ridiculous to claim that I (and who the hell are "the Masnicks"? there's only one of me here...) "stay aliigned (sic) with the 'winners'". I've never shied away from giving my opinion -- good or bad -- on any company. If I were shilling for Apple, why have I been so negative on the company in so many ways?

      In fact, doing a basic search on Apple seems to show I'm probably negative on the company's actions more than I'm positive.

      But, obviously, facts aren't your strong suit.

       

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        Dave, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 7:48am

        Re: Re:

        It's good to know that Apple is a "winner". Here I was thinking that they have small market share in most of the markets they enter.

        Can I be a Masnick?

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re:

        "I said 'on the whole' and 'that aggressive.'"

        In fairness Mike all those qualifiers are designed to make your statement as meaningless as possible. Its accurate, but mainly becuase it doesnt really say anything.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 8:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Awww! Another little troll! Can I have this one for a pet? I promise to feed it only the choicest posts so we can all benefit from the humor of the clueless.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:07am

        Re: Re:

        "...but it certainly has not been nearly as aggressive as many other companies."
        When Apple launched the iPhone it also made sure to point out how many patents covered it. Even a hurrying moron coudn't miss that message, and even if you did the treatment of potential competitors should clarify things for you.

        "...and who the hell are "the Masnicks"?" I've no idea but most of your articles these days include a pretty narrow specification of whatever it is that "we" think - how would you like to identify this group ?.

        "I've never shied away from giving my opinion -- good or bad.." actually you always do - as one poster has already commented your criticism of Apple s watered down to meaninglessness, but you don't wimp out on you criticisms of those you think are failing,or on your attitude towards those who criticize the successful (such as Apple and Microsoft).

        The main premise of you original article is very silly - you basically say that withholding patents on key technology for standards is reprehensible, if it's Apple doing it it probably OK. But, obviously, facts aren't your strong suit.

         

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          Mike (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 2:04pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          When Apple launched the iPhone it also made sure to point out how many patents covered it. Even a hurrying moron coudn't miss that message, and even if you did the treatment of potential competitors should clarify things for you.


          Yes, and we ragged on them for doing so (what happened to us siding with the winners always?). But, my point was that unlike others, Apple does NOT have a history of SUING very often over patent infringement charges. That's what I meant by being aggressive. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear, but, frankly, given your comments, I think you know quite well that it was clear.

          I've no idea but most of your articles these days include a pretty narrow specification of whatever it is that "we" think - how would you like to identify this group ?.

          There are a bunch of different writers for the site, and about a dozen employees here...

          actually you always do - as one poster has already commented your criticism of Apple s watered down to meaninglessness

          I disagree. I fail to see how it was meaningless at all. I made the point pretty clear, but it's obvious in your rush to toss out an insult without any factual basis that you were going to ignore that.

          but you don't wimp out on you criticisms of those you think are failing,or on your attitude towards those who criticize the successful (such as Apple and Microsoft).

          Honestly? You're clearly reading a different site. I'm pretty clear in my widespread criticism of both Apple and Microsoft, both of whom are companies I think are doing a lot of very dumb things. I've never shied away from criticizing either one.

          The main premise of you original article is very silly - you basically say that withholding patents on key technology for standards is reprehensible, if it's Apple doing it it probably OK.

          Huh? I'm not saying it's ok if Apple does it. I'm saying it's equally reprehensible. I'm very troubled by the fact that Apple did this, but the point of this post was to focus on the mess created by standards and patents for everyone.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 5:04am

      Re:

      This doesn't matter. I understand if you disagree with the ideas on this site. What I never understand is why you guys never argue with the points that are made?

      And by the way, in one sense everyone sides with the winners. If Apple wins, they enjoy economic growth because so many people are buying their product. As a society we all enjoy the benefits of that growth. That's what half the post on this blog are about. Remove patents and let the winners win. Using patents and copyright to enforce monopolies is a weak way to keep an inefficient business from losing.

       

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    TheStupidOne, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Apple

    It is in Apple's best interest to have patents in reserve like this one but to not use them except in a "nuclear stockpiling" strategy. Apple is a huge target for patent lawsuits (not as big as google or M$ but still big) and can always use a few "defensive" patents. Hopefully that is their plan, but I won't hold my breath.

     

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    Talking Head, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 9:23am

    And In Other News

    Patents are approved on "widgets"

    Film at eleven

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    It won't matter. Someone else will claim not only patents on the standards, but patents on apples patents and sue apple.

     

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    Shawn, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Am I the only one the sees

    the irony in getting a patent on something called a "widget"?

     

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    another mike, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    sued for following the standard?

    Can I build a "widget" to the W3C standard? Probably, but my programming skills are a bit rusty.

    Can I release the widget into the wild or use it in another innovation? Absolutely.

    Can I get sued by some troll popping up from the depths saying my widget violates its patent? More than likely. Increasingly likely it seems.

    Can I use the fact I built to the standard and not to the patent as defense? Hmm. Someone needs to run through the first three so we can get a definitive answer on this from the courts.

     

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      nasch, Mar 15th, 2009 @ 10:22pm

      Re: sued for following the standard?

      I'm no lawyer, but I don't see any reason to think adhering to a standard would be a patent infringement defense. If they were to allow that, they might as well abolish patents. Want to use someone else's patent? Come up with a standards body and pass a standard using it, then follow the standard. Unless the standards defense includes a list of legitimate standards bodies, but that would tricky.

       

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        hello, Apr 7th, 2009 @ 3:18am

        Re: Re: sued for following the standard?

        I'm no lawyer, but I don't see any reason to think adhering to a standard would be a patent infringement defense.

        Software patents are a bad idea.

        Further to that, W3C members agree to issue a royalty-free license for technologies used in open standards. Everyone else has allowed that, but Apple has suddenly decided to not allow it for some reason.

        This is not about patent infringement defense. This is about Apple not following the normal open standards route. Apple happens to be a member of the W3C, so your comment seems to be rather misguided.

         

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