Woz Completely Changes Tune On Patent Trolling From Just Months Ago

from the is-that-the-same-woz? dept

We were really surprised a few months ago when Steve Wozniak spoke out in support of patent trolling. In particular, he was supporting Paul Allen's decision to sue a bunch of companies over some very questionable patents. At the time, he said:
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.... 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.
Personally, I was a bit surprised that story didn't get more attention. Woz tends to be so beloved in the parts of Silicon Valley that don't like patents that I thought it would generate some discussion. However... now JJ points us to the news that Woz seems to have done a complete about face on Paul Allen's lawsuits and patent trolling in general, coming out pretty strongly against both. Oddly, neither he nor the reporter covering the story seems to note that just months ago, he was saying exactly the opposite. From the coverage at TheRegister:
"That patent-troll thing," Wozniak, said, introducing his first story. "The other night Paul Allen was speaking at the Computer History Museum and I had four tickets. And I decided at the last minute not to go, because I remembered he's suing all these companies like Apple and Google – but he's not suing Microsoft – because he bought all these patents."

From Wozniak's point of view, Allen's lawsuit will not help anyone except Allen and his lawyers. "Well heck," he said, "Paul Allen should be out there investing in companies that are doing something, making products, actually making a new future for the world, and not 'I'm ... going to sue people, and get in bed with the lawyers to make my money.' That's not the right way."
Elsewhere he said: "A lot of patents are pretty much not worth that much... In other words, any fifth-grader could come up with the same approach."

I certainly like this version of Woz better, but I'm sort of at a loss as to how to figure out which is the real Woz. So... what is it? Is Woz happy with patent trolls like Paul Allen, or so upset by them that he won't go see him speak? Will the real Woz please stand up?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ccomp5950 (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    is Woz's opinion for rent? Did someone miss a payment in there?

    Woz is an interesting figure and while I don't find it odd for someone to change their opinion on a subject given better information and I personally think highly enough of him to believe he's the kind of person that could change his opinion given better information, it's highly unlikely that he didn't have the same information now that he had then sitting in front of him.

    The more likely explanation is, who was in the room at the time he said it?

     

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  2.  
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    Jay (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:12am

    A thought

    Maybe he changed his opinion based on how everything was going in regards to the lawsuits?

    I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he recognized patent trolling as a flawed concept. Maybe he feels strongly for original developers, but after seeing what was going on, he thought this way wasn't going to help the situation.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:25am

    The real question..

    The real question is now that he's flipped sides, what does he think of Apple's patent trolling against Nokia and HTC?

     

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  4.  
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    Joseph Kranak (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    Maybe they're consistent

    It's possible his mind hasn't changed and it's just that he makes a distinction between good patent trolling and bad patent trolling. If there are patents on innovations that are really something genuinely new and genuinely non-obvious, then they should be protected. But if it's some ridiculously obvious patent that a five year old could've figured out, then protecting it is destructive. I can't say I agree with him, but I think that's what he might think.

     

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  5.  
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    Wayne Andersen (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:52am

    Maybe the difference is in who is getting sued.

    His initial comment is framed in a small vs. large context.

    The second comment notes that Allen is not suing Microsoft.

    Maybe it is ok to patent troll if you are a little guy fighting a large company (social consciousness), but not just for the sake of suing for money.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:56am

    His first statement, although he says patent troll, seems more like patent hording. With patent hoarding, who cares, you just collecting near meaningless stuff and not bothering anyone. It's like little kids and their _____ collectable cards. Then when you start using your horde of patents to hurt companies and competition and the progress of technology/science, it's patent trolling he doesn't like. It seems a company Woz liked got caught up in some patent extortion.

     

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  7.  
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    Shane Peden, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    iWoz

    If you've read Woz's autobiography (iWoz) you know the guy is really nice and often times, it leads to him getting duped and misquoted by reporters looking to catch someone saying something flagrant and headline worthy.

    I'd almost bet the case of Woz supporting patent trolling was yet another misquote.

     

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  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:58am

    Re: Maybe the difference is in who is getting sued.

    Isn't "getting money" the only reason to sue somebody?

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:59am

    Re: Maybe they're consistent

    It's possible his mind hasn't changed and it's just that he makes a distinction between good patent trolling and bad patent trolling.

    He was discussing the same case.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Maybe the difference is in who is getting sued.

    Isn't patent trolling suing just to get money?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Maybe they're consistent

    "It's possible his mind hasn't changed and it's just that he makes a distinction between good patent trolling and bad patent trolling. "

    and exactly what is this distinction?

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    Re: iWoz

    I'd almost bet the case of Woz supporting patent trolling was yet another misquote.


    It wasn't. That one there's actually video showing him saying what he did. It wasn't a misquote. You can see the video yourself:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/video/62527472/

     

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  13.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    Re: iWoz

    Maybe the getting duped was what caused him to support patent trolls.

    Maybe someone in Silicon Valley had a discussion with him and he genuinely changed his mind.

    Given the opinion he had previously expressed, and the opinion he now holds, and his early bad experience with a bad patent, I'm willing to give him the benefit of any doubt. Maybe nothing sinister has or is going on.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: iWoz

    The Great and Powerful Wizard of Woz is not to be questioned. People will always defend him. If he came out in favor of eating babies someone would defend that.

    I love listening to the guy (he does seem genuinely nice) and feel like the first few posters were probably in the right ballpark. He probably thought about his position, gathered more information after taking a little flack from some friends of his, and changed his mind.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Well it seems to be a case of it was fine while it didn't bother me, but not it's messing with me and I don't like it.

     

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  16.  
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    jason, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Maybe they're consistent

    I'd say that if a patent is for something genuinely new, then defending it is not trolling. We should reserve the "patent trolling" term for the shakedown-type operations that tend to get covered here.

     

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  17.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Maybe the difference is in who is getting sued.

    Most patent trolls are by this definition "the little guy", since they're a company with almost zero assets and nothing to lose (generally designed this way for Max Profitss!) and they always go for the fat wallets.

     

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  18.  
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    Atkray (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    ¿Has anyone?

    Has anyone checked his basement for a pod?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    Ok guys, sometimes I grow a beard and impersonate Woz. Just to make people upset.

     

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  20.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: iWoz

    Some babies need to be ate.

    I'm just sayin...

     

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  21.  
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    Felix Pleșoianu, May 4th, 2011 @ 10:17pm

    I bet he, or someone close to him, was hit by a patent troll lawsuit. Fastest way to change your mind about "intellectual property" (or any bad law for that matter) -- to find yourself on the wrong end of it through no fault of your own.

     

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  22.  
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    staff, May 5th, 2011 @ 6:58am

    restraint of trade

    Wozniak is a fat cat now. Obviously, his principal asset is Apple stock so anything that devalues Apple he is biased against. Apple and their pals have a history of restraint of trade.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/159664/2011/05/apple_google_adobe_intel_pay.html

    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”. This is just dissembling by large infringers to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org.

     

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  23.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, May 5th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Woz

    I very much admire Woz, and admire his new attitude even more; large entity patents, ala Paul Allen, are a real threat to our country. I can understand why he might have felt differently originally; since I am convinced that sometimes IP (and especially patents) are a great good.
    I prefer to believe the real Woz "stood up" in this case. I will be very disappointed if that is not true.
    I will mention, though, that here is another example of "pegging" - only extreme positions allowed! The truth is always somewhere in between (which is why we have so many problems as a nation, IMO).

     

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