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, 5 Mar 2010 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents probably should be gotten rid of at this point.

    "Good technique. Totally ignore the question and answer with an irrelevancy. I was talking about all patents, not patents on underwear, tires, or any other specialty. You have not answered the question. Don't bother. You do not have an answer.

    Wow. I did not totally ignore the question, and I did not answer with irrelevancy. I answered from the area that I do know quite a bit about. You seem to be falsely (and obnoxiously) implying that if you don't have a stat, it didn't happen."

    Umm...no, something may still happen or exist even in the absence of statistics. However, it MAY mean that something happens infrequently enough that no one is able to collect meaningful statistics.

    Yes, you did respond regarding an area you were familiar with, but your answer did not answer my question. Since you responded that it was your viewpoint, then my response is that your response was irrelevant from my viewpoint; i.e., you provided an answer to a completely different question.

    And I did not think the response was obnoxious.

    "You're wrong. We keep showing examples of patents that don't clearly disclose, and we hear all the time from individuals and companies who are involved in lawsuits where that's an issue. It's quite rare where patents actually accurately disclose something."

    Oh, bullshit, and disingenous. I have read a few patents that poorly described their invention - or appeared to describe nothing at all, but the majority of patents I have read have indeed disclosed an invention. And yes, I would absolutely LOVE to see your statistics that show the percentage of patents that supposedly do not disclose anything.

    "I have no idea about Eric von Hippel's study, but other studies indicate that plaintiffs lose the vast majority of time until an actual trial. Lose may mean "settle," but it also means that the plaintiff does not get money.

    "Lose"? How do you "lose" in a settlement?"

    You were disingenous before, and you are being even more so now. Let us take a well documented case where one company sued another.

    Toyota sued Ford for patent infringement. Eventually the two settled. How did they settle? Ford got licenses for an undisclosed number of Toyota's patents, and apparently gave nothing to Toyota in return (we know that Ford did not pay Toyota any money for a fact). So you tell me. Toyota sued Ford. Ford fought. Ford got license to a number of Toyota patents and paid nothing in return. Sounds to me like Toyota lost. Of course, if you care to offer a different definition for "lose," I might find it entertaining.

    "Ad hominem attacks do not become you, and your lies will get you no where. I counter with my study, which, interestingly enough, IS YOUR STUDY AND IT DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT; I ask you to look at the chart on page 6 of the STUDY YOU CITED.

    That chart only shows the past few years. The long term trend is that it has increased -- and if you look at the specific part about NPEs (where much of the problems exist) it's growing quite a bit. It's no surprise that there are yearly fluctuations in the small sample size of the past few years -- but if you look at the long term trend it's been increasing."

    No, you are wrong. The "long term trend" did show increases throughout the 1990's to about 2005, where the numbers became somewhat vague, but which now appear to be the top of a curve. The $3 million dollar award per suit is about the amount per suit that was awarded prior to the runup that now seems to be the peak.

    I should also point out that the Price Waterhouse study showed CLEARLY that NPE's are winning much less often than companies that practice, though they are typically awarded higher settlements, but even those settlements are dropping.

    Let us go back and point out these FACTS from the very study you cited...

    Fact 1: The peak year for awards patent suits was 2001, with the award per suit at more than $10 million.
    Fact 2: Only one other year since then, 2005, achieved an award level approaching the 2001 peak.
    Fact 3: The MAXIMUM average award in the four years since 2005 has been less than half the 2005 level, and closer to 1/3 the 2001 level.
    Fact 4: The level in 2008 is about the historical average prior to the spike that occurred in the period from the early 1990's to 2005.

    "Come on back when you have some facts now, 'k?

    I've got the facts. And I put my name on my posts because I know I can back up what I say. Who the hell are you?"

    Ummm...if there are facts, then a name is irrelevant, eh? Facts speak for themselves. You sit there and point to a Price Waterhouse study, you claim it shows one thing, then, when I point out that it says something different, you then try to discount the very study you cited. Please.

    Oh, and you called me a liar. Thanks for that - even though I provided a study and the logic for my statement. I guess you can be called a liar even when you have actual data - and logic - to back you up.

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