Monday, February 9, 2009

Running Around Apple's IP Minefield

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Monson Haefel started asking around about the impact of Apple's most recent multitouch patent.

I look forward to the clarification when Microsoft inevitably brings this big boy to court. Can gestures be patented with any meaningful breadth? For a patent to be valid, it needs to be inobvious, yet good gestures are obvious by definition.

This morning, gizmodo dropped an excellent piece on the subject. Check out the teaser below and the link at the bottom.

Dissecting Apple's "Multitouch" Patent: Can It Stop Palm?
By John Mahoney, 1:00 PM on Fri Jan 30 2009, 37,754 views

The iPhone’s multitouch patents are the equivalent of a cold war nuclear arsenal—dormant for now, but Palm’s Pre is looking for a fight. Here’s why we think Apple’s multitouch monopoly won’t last.

To help guide us through, machete in hand, what is one of the more confusing jungles of U.S. law, we talked to R. Polk Wagner, a professor of patents law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He specializes in patents and intellectual property as it relates to technology, and teaches hundreds of Penn Law students every year how to decipher the Enigma-level encrypted language of patent filings. We couldn't have done it without him.

As others have thoroughly and eloquently explained this week, it's impossible to identify a single patent that has a lock on the iPhone's multitouch magic as we know it. That patent probably does not exist. But here's the key—patent wars are intrinsically cold wars. They entail both sides jacking up their arsenals (reams of legalese replacing megaton warheads) with as many patents as possible, with hopes of scaring their adversaries out of even attempting to try something. These cold wars, thankfully, rarely turn hot, but under our legal system, lack of courtroom action means there's almost no way to determine whose armada of patents actually cover what.

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1 comment:

  1. It's about time someone who actually understands patents and how to read them has entered this discussion. (Engadget's recent article by a patent attorney was also good.)

    There's been far too much uninformed blather on this topic, IMHO.