Apple May Get To Remove Obvious Features From Android

from the how-does-this-promote-the-progress dept

In one prong of the many-pronged attack that Apple has been making on Android, it's scored a victory at the International Trade Commission, where it's been determined that the idea of making a phone number in an email or on a web-page clickable to dial it is so special and wonderful that only Apple could possibly come have up with it. It's rulings like this that make anyone with a modicum of technology smarts shake their heads and wonder why we let clearly non-technical people make decisions like this. Patents are supposed to protect inventions that are non-obvious to those skilled in the space. If you put a 100 groups of five engineers in rooms, asking them to design various smartphone features and interfaces around things like this, I'd bet 99 would come up with a similar feature. It's just natural.

In the meantime, Apple's statements about the ruling are equally ridiculous, given Apple's history of copying others (including Android):
"We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
Copying an idea and building on it is not "stealing." And if Apple had to build its devices without building on the ideas of others, it wouldn't have very much today. This whole thing is a joke, and it's rulings like this that make engineers have even less respect for the patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    The Truth Beacon, Dec 21st, 2011 @ 10:46pm

    How does Apple think this is original?

    My Blackberry phones did this back when Microsoft was first entering the smartphone space... Apple wasn't even the hundredth guy to do this.

     

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    eMike (profile), Dec 21st, 2011 @ 10:47pm

    Apple has a new patent...

    I'd like to stress this isn't a joke.

    They have a patent now on using an app while on the phone.
    http://www.tuaw.com/2011/12/21/apple-patents-using-apps-during-phone-calls/

    They now have a patent on multitasking in addition to their patent on pattern matching.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2011 @ 11:39pm

      Re: Apple has a new patent...

      Wow, better smartphones have been doing this for years. It's not even a feature you have to code, merely have a phone app and another app on a system with preemptive multitasking. Basically the reason why you can make a Skype call on Linux or Windows without first closing Firefox, Pidgin, and Libre Office. That isn't a feature anyone coded, that's just the system happening not to artificially and specifically break it for you.
      If your underlying software techniques are post-1970ish, it's not even obvious, it literally requires no thought.

       

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      Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 6:08am

      Re: Apple has a new patent...

      Even though Apple didn't use to have multitasking in the iOS? That's just ridiculous!

      Who are these people at the patent office, and how much money do they receive from Apple?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2011 @ 10:49pm

    The ITC is doing such a great job with patents, let's put them in charge of copyrights.

     

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    Jesse Harris, Dec 21st, 2011 @ 10:49pm

    Prior Art

    Maybe Apple would like to explain why it basically stole RFC3966 which describes the tel URI... way back in December of 2004. http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc3966.txt

     

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    Karl Fogel (profile), Dec 21st, 2011 @ 11:41pm

    Disingenuous on Apple's part.

    Amen, Mike. I still remember the first time I saw a phone number in a text file on the screen of my Nexus One, and I thought "I'll bet if I touch the number, it does the Right Thing." It did, of course, and I spent another 1.5 seconds thinking about how one would implement it, which was all it took because it's pretty obvious to any programmer who has heard of "regular expressions".

    So: non-obvious? Clearly not. Novel? No, programmers have been finding the boundaries of numbers in text for ages.

    How on earth did Apple get this ruling?

     

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    WillBest, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 12:12am

    I don't...

    No, I am pretty sure that the ability to click on something like a URL in word 98 and having the operating system open up a web browser to said link is completely different from clicking on a phone number in an email program and having the operating system place a call to that number.

     

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    Swedish Turnip (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 12:30am

    Apple are such dicks... Seriously... All they ever did was improve on others ideas, but god help if anyone does the same to their ideas. Steve Jobs obviously made every feature just so PERFECT that changing it isn't an improvement, it's theft.

     

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      Bogus, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 12:46am

      Re:

      I had the naÔve that Apple's attitude would improve after Jobs' death, but I guess their crooked legal department must have been running the show for a while already.

       

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    Kamen (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 1:19am

    Next Phase?

    I may be wrong but isn't HTC able to now challenge the validity of the patent itself.

     

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    monkyyy, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 1:19am

    i want unix to sue apple into the ground

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 2:58am

    And lo and behold, my HTC Android phone was updated today.
    I bet they have removed that feature.

     

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      Mike C. (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:50am

      Re:

      I would love for the "click on a phone number" feature to now pop up a dialog that says:

      Due to Apple being a bunch of unmitigated dicks, you'll have to dial the phone number on your own instead of us implementing an obvious idea. So sorry - call Apple to complain.


      /Won't happen, but fun to imagine

       

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      Berenerd (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 6:35am

      Re:

      I am willing to bet as soon as its removed someone will make an app that allows you to do it.

       

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    identicon
    Craig, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 3:34am

    Well I guess Apple must be getting scared of the competition, especially with windows 8 next year which looks impressive on tablet and phone. I use a iPhone but slowly losing respect for there products. China will hack apple servers and make a cheaper product of one of their own, would be a great story.

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 4:28am

    What I want.

    Every time a company asserts stupid patents like this, I want a Local police officer to walk into the CEO's office, open his portable cooler, pull out a large trout, and slap the CEO across the face with it.

    Maybe then with the threat of being (Real life) Trout Slapped, these companies will stop litigating and start innovating.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:06am

    Yet another reason why Apple will never get one cent from me.

    The courts and legal system always seems to have a double standard on anything involving Apple. It's just fine when Apple steals someone else's stuff, but if Samsung steals it from Apple then quick pull Samsung off the shelfs! If Android steals it from Apple quick demand Android remove the offending features!

    The day Apple goes out of business will be a good day for us all.

     

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    identicon
    Android 4 Ever, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:32am

    I think the more limits Apple tries to put on us Android users, the more people are going to jailbreak their phones!

     

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    MrWilson, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:35am

    And of course, cyanogenmod will have this feature restored so anyone with root will still have it. Once code or functionality is in the wild, you can't put it back in a cage just because your laws and rulings attempt to defy reality.

     

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    bksmooth, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:44am

    A rotten Apple

    The thing is this....Apple is seeing that Android is beginning to as the saying goes "eat their lunch" !!

     

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    Mr RC (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 5:45am

    Skype?

    I'm pretty sure Skype was doing this a long time ago... converting text based phone numbers to a clickable links that would open skype and call the person in question...

     

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    identicon
    NullOp, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Apple

    Apple has thought of very little over the years. They mostly do "pretty box" things that make that which already exists seem new and shiny. They certainly deserve NO credit for the phone number & web address idea! I'll never forget what one Apple owner told me: "When I got my Apple I was amazed at what it did. Two weeks later I was amazed and what it didn't do."

    Bottom line: too much credit attributed to Apple

     

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    Rod (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 6:50am

    The Apple is Rotten

    I will never buy another Apple product and I will do my best to discourage anyone else from buying anything from this chicken shit company.

    Apple, you guys suck!

     

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      bjupton (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 9:37am

      Re: The Apple is Rotten

      Yep.

      This one is going to be a little harder to unwind than when I stopped bringing Sony shit into my home. My brother in law works there, and their products are things that my wife really likes, as a non-techie.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 7:00am

    Skype even does this.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 7:03am

    cynogen mod to the rescue! :)

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 7:23am

    "Copying an idea and building on it is not "stealing.""

    I think this particular patent is ridiculous and never should have been issued. I applaud your definition of "not stealing", the problem comes in determining what level of "building on it" must be done. Under your definition taking someones idea and simply implementing that idea in a new product is "stealing". Who determines what constitutes innovation - the judges, committee members, expert witnesses?

     

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    crade (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Arg, keep this patent crap out of the real world! People are trying to make shit here.

     

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    Isakill, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 7:45am

    The patent system is on a "first come first served" and "If your idea is slightly different than this one but builds on it" basis. What Samsung needed to do is the second Apple filed their lawsuit (or even thought about it), Stop all shipments of their chips to Apple and grind their manufacturing to a halt. Then send a letter saying "too bad smartass, make your own processors".

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 8:29am

    That's why I'm glad Apple's Dear Leader is gone. I'm not happy he's dead just glad hes not around

     

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      identicon
      ViewRoyal, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 10:11am

      Re:

      "I'm not happy he's dead just glad hes not around"

      In other words, if you were being honest, you're glad he's dead.
      (Let's face reality, if he wasn't dead of cancer he would not be gone now.)

      Just hope that people who know you are not as insensitive as you are now, when you are the one dying of cancer.

       

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    Beefcake (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 10:10am

    Now if they could just...

    ...get the feature to stop treating every 7-digit number as a phone number, that would be another patent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    I wonder: Would a proper court of law have reached the same decision as the ITC? What's the burden of proof for ITC hearings compared to real courts of law?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    This is technology?

    Is anyone but me offended by the usage here:

    "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

    Technology is knowing how to build high temperature jet engine turbine blades. Putting a switch on the airplane's control panel that says "on/off" is a feature, not technology.

    Lawyers like to puff up the importance of features by calling them technology, but it ain't so, no matter how many times they say it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 3:28pm

    FAIL. You can't steal ideas.

     

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    hmm (profile), Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 4:20pm

    apple to die

    Apple basically needs to die at this point.

    It's now a drain on the economy and is maliciously stifling innovation and progress.

    The sooner this company crashes and burns the better for the planet.

     

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    identicon
    Tom Gallagher, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 4:36pm

    Copying and Building

    Actually, the law says (and this applies to both patents and copyrights) copying and building on will get you a paten (or copyright) but it will not void the consequences of the original copying. It's not called stealing. It is called infringement.

     

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    identicon
    Tom Gallagher, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    The Patent in Question

    Was filed by Apple Feb. 1, 1996. The Application issued as a patent on August 31, 1999. It will expire August 31, 2016. The claims are pretty specific and could have been designed around by HTC.

    The patented invention was invented at least as early as the filing date in 1996 and possibly up to several years earlier. Lots of prior patents and journal articles were considered before issuing the patent and these are listed on the first page of the patent. If HTC thought they had better prior art than that already had been considered by the patent office, thy could easily have asked the patent office to reconsider the patent in a proceeding called a re-examination.

    Compare also that a copyright filed in 1996 is good at least until 2096, possibly longer.

     

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    identicon
    Tony Ferrelli, Dec 22nd, 2011 @ 9:20pm

    Wow, I have an old Ericsson R520m from about 2001, and a friend has just sent me an SMS... it has a phone number in the text message that I need to call... I scroll through the message and the ancient phone from a decade ago highlights that phone number on its monochrome screen... I push the 'Yes' button, and it gives me the option to call or SMS that highlighted phone number... QUICK, APPLE! GET THE ERICSSON R520M FROM 2001 BANNED!

     

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      identicon
      Moh, Dec 23rd, 2011 @ 4:27am

      Re:

      As pointed out by Tom, Apple's patent on this dates back to 1996, well before any phone you care to name had anything like this feature. Data Detectors was first incorporated into Mac OS 8 and enabled it to automatically recognise email addresses, phone numbers, URLs, dates and even normal addresses and deal with them appropriately. Apple has had this for nearly two decades.

      Before the iPhone in 2007, there was Symbian, Blackberry and WinMob 6. After 2007, every mobile OS started to look like it in terms of multi-touch icon based displays. Were would you be if Apple hadn't created it first...

       

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        identicon
        Your friendly neighborhood Computer Engineer, Jan 3rd, 2012 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Re:

        "Were would you be if Apple hadn't created it first"

        I just want to let you know that it is a common programming practice (among non lazy programmers) to set up parsing code to categorize things and improve functionality. This is literally the most basic of habits to learn. Apple did not invent it, they just got a patent on it. As a whole the people in the computer industry are extremely frustrated with the way software patents are set up and enforced (we are even lectured on the abusive process and how to try and protect ourselves in just 200 level classes). With the growing resentment towards the big patent bullies and the mafia style methods used to shut down new competitors and innovators I would not be surprised to see a revision of the terms and time limits in the next ten years.

        Think about how cars would work if one company owned the wheel, not a specific wheel design, but the entire concept of round objects used to move things...does that start to sound like it stifles innovation and promotes abusive practice? This is how the software patents are set up right now.

         

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    rafi, Dec 23rd, 2011 @ 1:31am

    Good

    Steve job refused it

     

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    remixedcat (profile), Dec 24th, 2011 @ 12:25am

    skype has that too... if you have the skype addon for firefox, chrome, or IE it will turn phone numbers into calling links....

     

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