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
    Freedom, 3 Mar 2010 @ 4:38pm

    Other companies taking advantage of Apple...

    One of the comments I typically hear from Pro-Apple Folks is that other people/companies are stealing their ideas and that is wrong wrong wrong.

    Ironically though, that is actually what is supposed to happen in a free market. XYZ company makes a ton of profit, which signals to others that this is where the market wants the resources allocated. Others in turn come up with their product mixes and in the end the market and consumer are best served.

    Going on the offense with patents, especially in Apple's case, is nothing more than a form protectionism which ultimately does more damage than good.

    IMHO, the reason that Apple is forced to go the patent route is that they continue to make the classic mistake if you want to be a market leader for any length of time in the tech world. Focus on selling/building an OPEN foundation and not selling a gadget. When you control the foundation you can make money off everyone else selling gadgets. Apple has always wanted control over both. In the end though, that means that someone else will come along and find a way to make a better gadget and when a company comes along with a better gadget tied into an open (relatively) platform you are doomed. For my money, that is why Google and even Microsoft are currently better positioned for the long haul than Apple.

    Freedom

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