Pointless Stats: Number Of Patents Held By Apple, Google And HTC

from the that's-not-how-it-works dept

A bunch of news sites have been playing up a minor item in a Deutsche Bank note to clients about how Apple has a lot more patents than Google or HTC. I have to say, this is one of the most meaningless bits of data out there, and it's getting way too much attention for its import. First of all, it looks like the report counted overall patents -- not even patents just in the spaces where these companies overlap. Second, the number of patents one holds is absolutely meaningless when it comes to actually being able to enforce the patents.

More troubling is the report's conclusion:
"While litigation appears to be an increasingly common cost of doing business," he concludes, "we view Apple's willingness to aggressively defend its patent portfolio favorably and welcome the defense of its IP."
Historically, this is generally not a good sign. It's usually a sign that a company has run into an innovation stumbling block, and doesn't think it can really continue to innovate at the pace the market is expecting, so it seeks to hold back competitors and pump up revenue through litigation, rather than innovation. A smart research report would note that breaking out the offensive patent lawsuits is generally a warning sign. But, then again, this is a research report that thinks the overall number of patents a tech company has is a meaningful metric.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:08am

    Hmmm...

    Peace thru superior firepower?

    Or, to quote that one move "Either you die as a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

    Recall not that long ago when Microsoft was the scrappy underdog, and today they're a reviled corporate bloat-hog. Now it's happening to Apple. This is, in no way, surprising.

    I'm certain there's a metric f***-ton of examples of exactly the same phenomenon.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:14am

    “A bunch of news sites have been playing up a minor item in a Deutsche Bank note to clients about how Apple has a lot more patents than Google or HTC.”

    Yes Google is more innovative than Apple which only goes to show that patents are bad.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:16am

    Re:

    err, yet google is more innovative *

     

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  4.  
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    Guilherme, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:23am

    Hey Apple, thanks for giving me another reason to buy an Android instead of an iPhone as my next mobile.
    You guys suxs hard doing this, lol. Getting nothing but bad press for you.

     

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  5.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:23am

    "Pointless Stats: Number Of Patents Held"

    Agreed, it's pointless to talk about the quantity of patents you have, it's the quality of patents that really matters.

    Which is why my new patent will be the one to rule them all. You've heard of the one-click patent Amazon has. Wait for it...

    The roll-over patent. Why should you have to move your mouse to a portion of a website and go through the trouble of clicking your mouse to buy what you want. My patent gets rid of the burdensome and tiring clicking.

    If you want something, just move your mouse to what your want and we'll ship it to you. It's a simple as that. I'm going to be freaking rich!

     

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  6.  
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    crade (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:29am

    Re:

    I have this great idea for a device that you can put underneath heavy things and it lets them move easier by reducing friction.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:36am

    On one point we clearly agree; to wit: the number of patent applications filed by a person/company and the number of patents (domestic and foreign) held by a person/company is a meaningless statistic.

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re:

    Sorry, I already have a patent covering moving objects and digital representations of such objects. Your patent would only be a minor refinement of mine, so you lose.

     

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  9.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:58am

    Hey ... look Ma future Prior Art !!

    How about drop and drag shopping carts! The shopping cart shows up on every page and you just drop anything you want into it. You can also have multiple baskets a Wish list(future purchases), shopping cart (stuff to buy today but I am going to keep shopping), purchase (just buy it and be done with it), etc. You can also do it in reverse, drag the shopping cart to what you want to purchase and boom its in there.

     

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  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Re: Hey ... look Ma future Prior Art !!

    I like that

    "Future Prior Art" ... have to remember that

     

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  11.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Re: Hey ... look Ma future Prior Art !!

    I'm surprised this hasn't been done yet.

     

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  12.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Hey ... look Ma future Prior Art !!

    Yeah I know its so obvious.

     

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  13.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:06am

    Re: Re: Hey ... look Ma future Prior Art !!

    You a lawyer if so lets patent it .... get mike to give you my e-mail address

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    why are you adressing Apple in TechDirt comments?
    you think anyone from apple reads this junk

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, I think Mike has gotten a number of sales pitches from Apple representatives. It's actually quite amusing that industries think that he would shill for them.

    ...oh, wait. I guess that means they don't actually read anything. You have a point.

     

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  16.  
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    www.eZee.se (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    "While litigation appears to be an increasingly common cost of doing business," he concludes, "we view Apple's willingness to aggressively defend its patent portfolio favorably and welcome the defense of its IP."

    (dismisses it as fanboi talk)

     

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  17.  
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    www.eZee.se (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well yes... after all there is another site that constantly shills for them... i wont say the name but it rhymes with "bars fechnica"

    Here's an example:
    "News flash: Apple already working on mac os x 10.7"

    http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/11/new-flash-apple-already-working-on-mac-os-x-107.a rs

    and as someone commented below (first few comments) :
    "news flash: the sun rose this morning"

     

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  18.  
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    darrenkopp (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:27am

    Google needs to step up to the plate here and pay the money it'll take to fight the court battle. Sure Google and HTC don't have as many patents, but it doesn't mean that the patents Apple has can't be fought, because they are VERY weak patents.

    I'm pretty happy that Microsoft said that basically they will defend legally those who build phones that run their software. But then again Apple won't sue over HTC over windows 7 phone, because if they go after microsoft, they _WILL_ lose. again.

     

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  19.  
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    Alistair, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:30am

    Quantity does matter

    As far as Deutsche Bank are concerned, the relative number of patents held is important. Remember they only care about the short-medium term financial prospect.

    Large electronics companies have so many patents, it's practically impossible to know who is infringing who.

    So it tends to work like this: Company A believes there may be an infringement by Company B. So it gets the lawyers out and says "Stop it." Company B's lawyers say "But we hold 1 million patents to your 100k. You're probably infringing more of ours than we are of yours. Wanna count and check?"

    Of course nobody wants to count. It's an impossible task. So as far as most patent lawyers are concerned, the company with the bigger patent portfolio wins, and gets paid some settlement (or the original suit gets dropped).

    So for DB's purposes, although this has been raised by a case involving one set of patents against one set of companies, Apple's willingness to use their patents to generate income in this way *does* imply a new revenue stream, and it *does* depend on the sheer number of patents they hold.

     

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  20.  
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    Pragmatist, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Prior-art will simply prevail

    I've reviewed the patent filings: This is a desperate move on Apple's part with minimal substance. There are 2-3 UI related patents (out of 20 from the lawsuit) which will require minor behavioral tweaks to accommodate, but most of these patents over-reach into prior-art or obviousness. Apple is risking evisceration of key patent portfolio items due to its panicked attempt to prevent competition rather than pushing forward its innovations.

    See Xerox, Stanford, MIT, Berkley, UIUC, AT&T (Bell Labs), IBM, HP (DEC, OSF), Oracle (Sun), Sony, Motorola, Intel, and Linux for prior art applicable to this portfolio - mostly public domain a few applicable patents.

     

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  21.  
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    Don, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    I sense something here....

    I sense, after reading this post, that the writer is a blatant Apple hater! I mean, common, really, the number of patents one holds means nothing! Really? Who says so? Oh, you do, that's who!

    And of course, if you tried to stop someone from breaking into your home to steal your possessions, then based on your logic, then that would just mean that your just lazy and dirt cheap, because otherwise you could just easily replace those possessions rather than trying to protect them, because, after all, we all know that the world should be free to what ever they want to do to your stuff any old time they want to, right?

    Apparently to you, innovation just means being free to copy anything you want, or dare I say it, just steal it. Also apparent to you is the idea that trying to come up with something different, something original, and completely different than Apple's patents is what defines real innovation, right?

    Based on your own logic, then it should be perfectly ok for Apple to also use any or all of Google's search engine's patents, anytime it wants, to just create its own rival search engine so it can run Google's own into the ground, right?, God forbid that someone actually try to innovate anything different or unique. Just use other people's hard work, sweat and tears and avoid the hassle of your own!

    Honestly, I sense absolutely no common sense in your post, but I do sense a whole lot of nonsense!

     

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  22.  
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    Don, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Prior-art?

    A lot of people have played with multi-touch before the iPhone introduced it to the world, but here's the thing...... prior-art only applies to things that are held in common knowledge and practice - not in some mysterious secretive lab someplace, and it begs the question: if anyone was really serious about multi-touch, why didn't they bother to patent it?

    The common man and women knew little or anything about mulit-touch before the iPhone. When they think multi-touch, they think iPhone!

    And here's a real kicker... most of the original work on multi-touch was done by people such as Jeff Hahn and companies like FingerWorks, which by the way was bought out, lock, stock and barrel by Apple - including all of its pioneering mulit-touch, multi-gesture patents!

    People talk about poor, little Apple and what's going to happen when the big boys, like Google and Microsoft come calling - hah, here's the biggest kicker of them all, Apple has more money then either Google or Microsoft. It is now the fourth largest publicly traded company in America and soon will pass the third, Wal-Mart (it already did, briefly) and is expected to replace Microsoft by the end of this year, or early next, as the second largest, after Exxon!

    In other words: Apple is not only one of the big boys, but one of the biggest of the big!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 10:59am

    Wrong about Apple. Microsoft is still the 800 lb gorilla, see here: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=apple+vs+google+vs+microsoft.

     

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  24.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    The professional agrees with Mike

    I think the biggest problem with IP Lawyers is the way they present their arguments for IP Law. If they would just shift from "We are protecting the rights of content creators and have their best interests in mind," to the more correct "We work for some of the greediest bastards in the world and in order to keep getting a fat check we MUST manipulate an outdated system with every tool we can think of," then I would have more respect for them.

    Mike Masnick is always saying what follows. It's interesting to hear it coming from someone who actually teaches innovation at M.I.T.

    Eric Von Hippel, a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, agrees.

    “It’s a bad scene right now," he told the Times' Bilton. "The social value of patents was supposed to be to encourage innovation — that’s what society gets out of it,” he said. “The net effect is that they decrease innovation, and in the end, the public loses out.”

     

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  25.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:13am

    The professional agrees with Mike

    I think the biggest problem with IP Lawyers is the way they present their arguments for IP Law. If they would just shift from "We are protecting the rights of content creators and have their best interests in mind," to the more correct "We work for some of the greediest bastards in the world and in order to keep getting a fat check we MUST manipulate an outdated system with every tool we can think of," then I would have more respect for them.

    Mike Masnick is always saying what follows. It's interesting to hear it coming from someone who actually teaches innovation at M.I.T.

    Eric Von Hippel, a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, agrees.

    “It’s a bad scene right now," he told the Times' Bilton. "The social value of patents was supposed to be to encourage innovation — that’s what society gets out of it,” he said. “The net effect is that they decrease innovation, and in the end, the public loses out.”

     

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  26.  
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    Big Al, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Obligatory reference

    "While litigation appears to be an increasingly common cost of doing business," he concludes, "we view Apple's willingness to aggressively defend its patent portfolio favorably and welcome the defense of its IP."
    I wonder if they said the same thing about SCO?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Re:

    Wow...talk about a non-sequitur, or at least seriously faulty logic. How does Google being more innovative than Apple (which is simply an assertion and is unproven by any information presented here) "show" that patents are "bad"?

     

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  28.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:10pm

    Re: I sense something here....

    I sense, after reading this post, that the writer is a blatant Apple hater!

    Not at all. Quite the opposite. But I think that going offensive on patents is a sign of a problem, and I'd rather see Apple succeed by innovation, rather than litigation.

    I mean, common, really, the number of patents one holds means nothing! Really? Who says so? Oh, you do, that's who!

    I explained my reasoning.

    And of course, if you tried to stop someone from breaking into your home to steal your possessions, then based on your logic, then that would just mean that your just lazy and dirt cheap, because otherwise you could just easily replace those possessions rather than trying to protect them, because, after all, we all know that the world should be free to what ever they want to do to your stuff any old time they want to, right?

    I said no such thing and you know it. Patents and physical property are two entirely different things. If I take physical property, you no longer have it. If I make something that you've patented, then we compete, which is good for the market, not bad.

    Apparently to you, innovation just means being free to copy anything you want, or dare I say it, just steal it

    You can only say that if you are totally ignorant of the law and what the word "steal" means.

    Also apparent to you is the idea that trying to come up with something different, something original, and completely different than Apple's patents is what defines real innovation, right?

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here.

    Based on your own logic, then it should be perfectly ok for Apple to also use any or all of Google's search engine's patents, anytime it wants, to just create its own rival search engine so it can run Google's own into the ground, right?,

    Sure, why not? It's called competition. And, what we've already learned is just copying doesn't matter. Most objective tests have shown that Yahoo's search and Microsoft's search (soon to be merged) are "as good as" if not "better" than Google's. But Google still dominates. Just copying someone else doesn't give you a lead in the marketplace.

    Instead, you need to leapfrog them and do more. It's the competition that leads to innovation, not the patents.

    God forbid that someone actually try to innovate anything different or unique. Just use other people's hard work, sweat and tears and avoid the hassle of your own!

    Do that and fail. You'll be way behind the leader and you won't understand your product or audience as well.

    There are studies that have proven this. But I find it amusing that you claim I "just said something" without backing it up and the your entire comment is exactly that, and shows ignorance of economics, the law and historical evidence.

    Honestly, I sense absolutely no common sense in your post, but I do sense a whole lot of nonsense!


    Ah, and cap it off with a misguided insult. Well, you've convinced me...

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:01pm

    Re: Re:

    It doesn't prove it with absolute certainty but it does provide evidence for it.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:06pm

    Re: Re:

    If companies with the fewest patents innovate the most I think that's reasonable evidence that patents are bad.

    "which is simply an assertion and is unproven by any information presented here"

    I think the fact that more people use Google and their innovations than Apple is evidence that they are more innovative, or at least it's evidence of the fact that they create more significant innovations that have a stronger impact on society. At least for me, I don't use Apple products, but I do use Google's search engine and E - Mail service, so as far as I can tell Google is more innovative, or at least in terms of innovation that affects me.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    However, there is:

    (a) No objective evidence that Google is more "innovative" than Apple. Just because Google is used more often than Apple is irrelevant to innovation. I use the bathroom more often than I use the kitchen, but that does not prove a bathroom has more value - or more of anything desirable - than a kitchen. Indeed, I place more value on the kitchen even though I use it significantly less frequently.

    (b) If you could prove that companies with the fewest patents innovate the most, you might have a point. However, you have yet to prove that. One example and one comparison is hardly proof. Indeed, Google and Apple are generally not competitors.

    I would like to point out that since Google got its first patents, it has received an average of 46 patents per year. Apple has received an average of 97 patents per year. Roughly 1/4 of Apple's patents are design patents, which is essentially the looks of a product, versus around 5% of Google's, so for utility patents, Google gets an average of 44 per year versus 72 per year for Apple.

    Given that Apple has been around for a lot longer, and given that Apple is a manufacturer, it appears to me that Google not only has more patents than is typical for a non-manufacturer, but in another decade or so, well ahead of Apple's curve, it may easily surpass Apple in patent issuances per year.

    So, if your measure of innovation is "fewest" patents, then Google is hardly more innovative than Apple, and considering it is not a manufacturer, its 321 patents seem ridiculously high.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: I sense something here....

    Insults are okay, then? Only mis-guided insults are bad? I generally think substituting insults for reasoned debate is a sign of a weak mind. Do not call someone a liar, point out that they in fact did lie (though that can be difficult to prove; they may be deluded or misinformed; or they may have a different set of assumptions) and let the facts speak for themselves.

    Certainly you should never accuse anyone of not having common sense, unless it is blatantly obvious (sticking a screwdriver in a powered outlet seems a good indication of a lack of common sense; many of the people on America's Funniest Home Videos seem to have a similar common sense problem). "Common sense" is a relative term in some circumstances.

     

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  33.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: I sense something here....

    Insults are okay, then? Only mis-guided insults are bad? I generally think substituting insults for reasoned debate is a sign of a weak mind

    I agree. I don't understand why he focused on insults, which is why I responded with an explanation.

    Certainly you should never accuse anyone of not having common sense

    Heh. I believe the above statement comes from someone with no common sense.

    Sorry, I am free to give my opinion on things. You have no say in what I "should never" do. Claiming otherwise is a clear sign of someone with no common sense.

     

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  34.  
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    Normal User, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 11:51pm

    From the Apple's point of view
    The idea and innovation are very important to us, we should protect it and avoid other people to use our ideas and innovation to earn money and do something else.

    From other people's point of view
    Apple is trying to stop other people to make the idea's better; they are individualism.

    Remmember "Mac os vs Windows"??

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I sense something here....

    "Certainly you should never accuse anyone of not having common sense

    Heh. I believe the above statement comes from someone with no common sense.

    Sorry, I am free to give my opinion on things. You have no say in what I "should never" do. Claiming otherwise is a clear sign of someone with no common sense."

    The generally accepted definition of "common sense" is what people accept as a common understanding. While you may say someone has "common sense," to say that someone does not have "common sense" may not necessarily be accurate if the comparison point is a minority understanding. I suppose that if that would be the definition, then I could readily say that you have no common sense, but that is strictly a subjective observation without relevant merit and is strictly used in an ad hominem argument.

    So, while your opinion may be useful to you, to me, and to anyone attempting to gain an understanding of the relevant merits of your arguments, it is no more than a piece of dog feces in a field.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    James M, Mar 15th, 2010 @ 12:31am

    You know, I have a funny feeling that this might just be the beginning of a downturn for Apple's branding image (which has been the envy of the advertising world up till now). Why? - because for the first time in my life, I am actually hearing oddly increasing numbers of non-geeks talking about the control-obsessed authoritarian culture of Apple corporation. Maybe it's nothing, but it eerily reminds me of when public opinion started turning on Microsoft....and being on only 3% of the world's computers, Apple isn't entrenched enough to survive a truly serious blow like that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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