Would 2010 Steve Jobs Sue 1996 (Or 1984) Steve Jobs Over Patents?

from the innovation-vs.-litigation dept

One of the things you discover in studying the history of patent use among many companies is that when they're young, they innovate. When they're old, they litigate. That is when they're growing and building cool stuff, they don't worry much about patents, but focus on building the coolest products they can to best serve the market. But when they get older, and entrenched, they don't innovate quite as much, but focus instead on trying to keep competitors out of the market. We highlighted this by showing Microsoft's changing views on patents, from Bill Gates' claim in 1991 that "the industry would be at a complete standstill" if companies had used patents in the PC software space early on, to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith saying in 1997 that "software patents and other intellectual property is essential to maintaining the incentives that encourage and underwrite technological breakthroughs."

Similarly, a year ago, we highlighted how Apple appeared to be going through a similar shift, quoting Steve Wozniak's claim about how the Apple II was "one of the most successful products of all time," in part because they didn't think about patents or copyright, and shared their ideas freely with everyone -- to Apple's Tim Cook's claims that "We will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we will use every weapon at our disposal."

With Apple now going on the offensive against HTC (and, by proxy, Google's Android), it seems others are noticing not just an overall corporate shift, but the change in viewpoints of Steve Jobs. william points us to a Gizmodo post highlighting how Steve Jobs noted how Apple was "shameless about stealing great ideas." But in the announcement about the HTC lawsuit, he has a different perspective: "competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Strong words coming from the guy who admits he blatantly copied the graphical user interface he saw at Xerox PARC many years ago. Now, no one's going to claim that Apple and Jobs haven't been incredibly innovative over the past decade (or more). In fact, they've been amazingly innovative. But during that time, the company has mostly focused on continually innovating, rather than going on the offensive over patents. It seems like this new offensive move might be an early warning sign that the company no longer believes it can keep up its innovative pace.

Filed Under: patents, steve jobs
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2010 @ 9:27pm

    Re: Re: Read the quotes carefully

    "Stealing" ideas is not the same as stealing technology.

    "Technology" is the "application of technical knowledge", so they're the same thing.

    HTC stole the idea of the iPhone,

    So they just got the "idea" from Apple, huh? Kind of like how Jobs just got the "idea" from Xerox, but it wasn't stealing when *he* did it? I really don't see the difference there.

    But didn't you just get through saying that "stealing ideas is not the same as stealing technology" anyway? You're contradicting yourself, which in my book is a sure sign that you don't know what you're talking about.

    HTC stole the idea of the iPhone, the design that makes it usable, the specs - down to the screen size and resolution...

    Oh, so now you're proposing that their choice of screen size was some kind of invention? Seriously?

    and I would bet, reused many of the components.

    I've got news for you, those weren't Apple parts to begin with. Apple used many of the same components others were using. The iPhone is a conglomeration of parts from than 30 companies on 3 continents. In fact, Apple doesn't even have the ability to make those kinds of parts if it wanted to. About the only thing Apple actually makes in the iPhone is the software.

    Let me explain it to you like this: If Chevy and Ford both put buy tires from brand X to put on their new cars, Ford isn't "reusing Chevy parts" or vice versa. The same thing applies to electronic parts. Or do you think Apple invented the transistor too?

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