Say It Ain't So, Woz: Steve Wozniak Says Patent Trolls Are Okay

from the too-bad dept

Via Joe Mullin, we learn the rather unfortunate news that, when asked about Paul Allen's decision to sue lots of big tech companies over questionable patents, Wozniak comes out in favor of "patent trolls" and patent holders suing companies who actually innovate. For someone so beloved by the tech community, these statements seem really unfortunate. He starts out by repeating the myth that patents somehow help out the small guy (ignoring that we're talking about Paul Allen, one of the richest guys on the planet):
I think this lawsuit represents the idea that hey, patents, individual inventors, they don't have the funds to go up against big companies. So he's sorta representing some original investors. And I'm not at all against the idea of patent trolls.
The interviewer, from Bloomberg TV, pushes back pretty quickly, pointing out that Paul Allen is not the inventor and there's no indication that the inventors on these patents would actually get any of the money should Allen succeed. Woz's response is again disappointing, saying that Allen "represents inventors." Nearly everything that Woz talks about comes off as really uninformed about the patent world today. For example, the interviewer notes that dealing with patents has become a "cost of doing business" and Woz seems to think that's a good thing:
Every tech company is very aware that patents are really the heart of our innovation and invention system and (a) that you have to have your own patent position and you gotta be aware that there might be others. And, yes, you might be infringing. It's very awkward, because some patents are so general. It's hard to say how they'll be interpreted. There's a lot of ambiguity in the system.
So, wait, patents are the heart of the system, but there's a ton of ambiguity. Can someone ship Woz a copy of Bessen and Meurer's Patent Failure quickly, so he can learn about the stacks upon stacks of research that have shown that "ambiguity in the system" now costs society a hell of a lot more than any innovation created by it?

Of course, back in Wozniak's autobiography, he talked about how much of a success Apple was without relying patents at the very beginning. Too bad he's now forgotten that.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    interval, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 1:55pm


    Wozniak is an old troll. He hasn't been relevant since the Power PC.

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

  2. icon
    Tor (profile), Aug 31st, 2010 @ 2:40pm

    So I guess he's basically saying that we have a system suffering from a heart disease then ;)

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

  3. identicon
    Tim, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    Just a note.

    Just as you don't ask an artist to do your taxes, you don't ask an engineer about patents. I wouldn't want his opinion on them if he was right or wrong.

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

  4. icon
    crade (profile), Aug 31st, 2010 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Just a note.

    The funny thing is your right. In fact, not just engineers, don't ask anyone who invents or innovates about patents.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Heh

    He's rich, he's popular, and he left behind a hell of a legacy. I doubt he cares about how relevant some random guy who calls himself "interval" thinks he is.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 3:40pm

    I lost a bit of respect for the man right now.

    It must be something to do with his other half(Steve Jobs).

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

  7. icon
    AdamR (profile), Aug 31st, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    Guess life on the D-List not working out for Woz. I knew his mind would turn to cottage cheese when he started banging Kathy Griffin(the comedian)

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

  8. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Just a note.

    And you wouldn’t ask a Tim to do your analogies, either.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    That's disappointing.

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

  10. identicon
    step back, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 1:53am

    Re: Just a note.


    Guess what?

    The Maz, just like the Woz, is no patent attorney either.
    You just posted a comment that basically says you don't want to listen to the Maz's "opinions" about patents.

    But then again, as Tina Turner used to sing, Woz logic got to do with it, got to do with it? It's just Maz's second hand emotion. :-)

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

  11. identicon
    step back, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 2:02am

    Et tu ?

    OMFG !

    Every anti-patents Caesar here must be thinking to himself, this is a true stab in the royal back.
    Et tu Woz ... niak?
    Oh for sooth, how could thou have foresaken us?
    Say it ain't so Woz.
    Say it ain't so.

    (It's so.) ROFLMPPAO

    ((PP= pro patents))

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

  12. identicon
    angry dude, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 6:52am

    Techdirt imbeciles

    Allen does not represent inventors.
    He owns the result of their work for hire via patents
    He paid them pretty decent salaries during the good old days of Interval Research and now he owns their work and can do whatever he wants with it - sell, license or sue
    This is the essence of capitalism

    Simple, idiots ?

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

  13. icon
    Mike42 (profile), Sep 1st, 2010 @ 7:44am

    Re: Techdirt imbeciles

    Wrong dude, you're supposed to sell the fruits of your labor, NOT the ability to produce said fruits.

    You seem to have capitalism confused with imperialism.

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

  14. icon
    interval (profile), Sep 1st, 2010 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Heh

    this random guy is a consumer. That's all the care he needs to invest in.

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

  15. identicon
    staff, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 10:22am

    Call it what you will

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay”.

    For the truth about trolls, please see

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 10:56am

    Re: Call it what you will

    If by "using your invention" you mean "coming up with the the completely obvious solution on our own," then sure.

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

  17. identicon
    burdlaw, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Right On, Wozniak

    A small inventor can't sue on his own. He needs a contingent fee litigator or a Paul Allen to take on the big thieves and stop their "We're using your invention and we're not going to pay" game. Allen sure as hell does represent inventors in this case. Woz is right, so "Right on, Woz." Big guys need to either innovate or pay those who do (directly or indirectly, as here). Otherwise, small inventors never get rewarded for inventing and, by the way, they are the primary ones doing the inventing. What is needed is a more effective way to quickly resolve infringement claims at reduced cost, not to just stomp on the small guys and steal their inventions. Apparently many of you commentators just don't get it!


    ((PP= pro patents)

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

  18. identicon
    step back, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 11:35am

    Re: Right On, Wozniak (bottom line)

    Big Boys sue each other for patent infringement all the time.

    You don't see the Maz crying corporate shill tears when some big oil company sues another for deep water drill technology infringement.

    Yet the Maz has "special" rules for his "special" friends. He insists that they should somehow be immune from the market forces that all other players have to play by.

    The Woz is right.

    That much is plain, simple and inescapable logic.
    A small inventor has a right, just like anybody else, to monetize the value of his patent assets. And if the market is such that the small inventor chooses (with his free market will) to sell to Paul Allen, or whomever, that's just the way the free market cookie crumbles. Why cry about it and the spilled milk now? It is absolute hypocrisy to argue that there should be special rules for special friends. Yet that, dear friends, is the bottom line to Maz's rants here against "software" patents. Special rules for special friends.

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

  19. identicon
    Vic Kley, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 11:51am

    Woz is much, much wiser then Masnick

    Gee here is our choice:

    Believe Woz who has been there and done that more then once or Masnick and some academics and other paid BS slingers whose knowledge of creating new things is apparently nanoscale.

    Why don't you ask Woz your questions? Right like he would even answer your email assuming you could get it in front of him.

    Woz is honest, this is not the response Apple wanted to hear and you can bet Woz will be a witness in the Apple trial if it isn't settled.

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

  20. icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), Sep 5th, 2010 @ 11:08am

    Whoa, when did Wozniak not tow the company line? Just like when he said the iphone had no problems making calls, right?

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

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