∞ Apple's hypocritical patent lawsuits

Joe Wilcox writing for BetaNews:

I’ve been fairly critical of Apple’s recent patent bullying — what I call innovation through intimidation/litigation. The Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists defend the company’s patent and other intellectual property claims as protecting its innovations from copying, particularly by Samsung. But who’s copying whom?

I don’t know if I’m part of a fan club, but I do know that none of the companies that have come out with similar products to the iPhone and iPad have added anything significant to the design. These companies radically changed their designs after the iPhone was released to make their products look just like Apple’s products.

There are only two reasons to do that — capitalize on Apple’s success and confuse consumers.



  • daniel

    Do you really believe that these competitors are attempting to confuse consumers? I think the form factor for the iPhone and iPad, large, touch based interfaces, was really a logical evolution of the interface. Touch was used largely in PDAs that existed well before the iPhone and iPad, Apple took this a step further.

    Apple brought more to the table though, they brought superb execution, design, and software to these devices that really makes them shine.

    Saying that Samsung or whomever copied this design is likely true, but ignores the fact that a grid of icons wasn’t exactly a new idea. Just looking at your site you’ve got a bunch of icons, round-rects, all in a grid type arrangment – these are your social networking buttons. I don’t think you stole that from Apple any more than Samsung did.

    In think this is where the “Apple Bloggers” fall down, yes Apple nearly perfected the form factor and user interaction, of course people will copy and improve on that design, but too much credit is given to Apple saying they’re the sole originator.

    All of that said, impost this from my iPad, I could have done so from my MBP,or my wife’s MBA. I love Apple products, but these lawsuits are a distraction, they should just continue killing it with innovation and let the market sort out the rest.

    P.S. Notice I didn’t mention owning an iPhone, as someone who loves technology I jumped to android on my phone when it looked like the differences were interesting enough to warrant some other tradeoffs. Apple Bloggers seem to be missing that curiosity and excitement for anything not built by Apple.

    • Eugene kim

      If you only look at small individual pieces, like the grid of icons or the display taking up most of the device face, or various touch gestures, then yes there are earlier devices that might have incorporated them in some fashion. What Apple did was put all of that together into one cohesive product. Just look at smartphones before and after the iPhone. Nobody had all the elements together before. Maybe bits and pieces but that’s it. After the iPhone, they all have the same elements.

      • daniel

        Exactly, they took all of these available pieces and built an evolutionary product that combined all the best pieces. The same could be said for any number of products. All dumb phones have very similar look and feel, over time they’ve differentiated somewhat, but ultimately you’ve got a tiny screen with a punch of number buttons below it. This evolved from the typical landline phone, which evolved from the rotary phone. Game consoles (for the most part) have all shared similar design over time.

        All I’m trying to say here is that there is a habit for those that love Apple products to fail to see what Apple did as evolutionary. The current form factor, inclusion of an advanced operating system, and focus on touch were all inevitable evolutions eventually, Apple just got there first. I sincerely doubt phones would be as advanced today without Apple, they pushed the industry forward an incredible amount, but I by no means think we would have only windows ce phones either.

    • Hagen Kaye

      Look up the history of Android devices and you’ll see clearly what was copied.  Androids looked like Blackberries, then had slide out keyboards and other nonsense.  Then they noticed iPhone was successful and everyone made a touch screen/soft keyboard phone.

      • daniel

        The point wasn’t that there isn’t copying. Apple has copied from Android, Android has certainly copied from Apple.

        The point IS that those who support Apple seem to think Android is all an attempt to confuse consumers into buying an inferior product. I don’t believe that is the case and to suggest as much is a pretty weak attack.

    • Absolutely Certain

      I’m kind of confused as to how Apple bought more to the table with their iPhone.

      Let’s look at the actual facts.

      There were, before the iPhone, loads of touch screen phones. They generally had a stylus if you wanted to use it, with which you could actually write on the screen and it would generally pick up what you wrote, or you could just peck at an on-screen keyboard.

      Then the iPhone came along and your choices were… to peck on an on-screen keyboard. No stylus for you my boy because no one in their right mind would want to have a choice. 

      Before the iPhone, I could send and received email, search the internet and navigate my way across town all at the same time whilst listening to a tune or two.

      Then the iPhone came along and I could, send and receive email OR search the internet OR etc. etc. So we ended up with the ‘improvement’ of not being able to do several things at once.

      Before the iPhone I could visit one of several application stores online and purchase and download any software I fancied for use on my device. When the iPhone first came along, I could… Oh no I couldn’t actually could I as Steve didn’t think that anyone would need to do that.

      Before the iPhone came along I could connect via Bluetooth to anything and everything and pass any file I fancied to another Bluetooth device. Then the iPhone came along and, ‘Oh it won’t connect with that one, oh or that one etc. etc.’

      I could copy and paste before the iPhone, after? Well that was some time ahead.

      What the iPhone actually brought to the table, was a load of iTouch owners who decided that it might be good to add an extra feature to their phone, that’s about it. Nothing it did, couldn’t be done before it’s appearance. 

      • daniel

        Careful, you extreme bias in the other direction is showing. To discount Apple as a mere imitator doesn’t explain the millions of devices they’re selling. If the previous devices were just as good, why didn’t they achieve similar success?

        • Absolutely Certain

          “To discount Apple as a mere imitator”

          So you didn’t read my post then.

          What your post claimed, was that ‘Apple brought more to the table’

          What my post claimed is that they did not.

          My post points out that several of the things that Smart phones could do BEFORE the appearance of the iPhone, were not possible when USING and iPhone.

          In actual fact, when the iPhone was first released, we were informed by Steve Jobs that several of the features which smart phones of the time had been doing for years were not what was required from a smart phone. Those so called ‘un-required features’ are now, apparently, required as they have been included in Apple’s eco-system.

          That is the knack of Apple, telling the world that they don’t need something, finding out they do and somehow magically managing to convince the iFans that history never existed.

          With regards to copying, it’s really really getting tiresome to have to trot this out again and again, but the ‘Good artists copy…’ statement, which has managed to survive the Apple propaganda factory due to it being filmed, only goes further when taken with the actual physical evidence to prove that Apple has and is quite happy with copying, so long as they are the ones doing it.

          Apple have, and will continue to copy. That’s not to say that they haven’t invented anything or come up with good ideas, but it is to say that they are the UTMOST HYPOCRITE, when it comes to this issue.

          I think everyone would be a whole lot happier if people would actually be prepared to admit that Apple aren’t the Hippies who were there to fight ‘Big Brother’ but have become one of the ‘Big Brother’ style corporations that they so panned. A little reality here, would actually go a long way.

        • Absolutely Certain

          Careful you(sic) exreme bias in the other direction is showing.

          For your information they DID achieve similar success. For your information the smart phones around BEFORE the iPhone were around for many years and sold millions. That’s MILLIONS.

          I notice how you completely brushed over the fact that your statement that ‘Apple brought more to the table’ which as I have pointed out is completely incorrect. I’ll take your continued silence as an admission of how badly wrong you were.

          It is clear that you are arguing your case purely on the basis of the biased iFan for whom the past is a distant country.

          I’m all for a debate, but only when each side bases their arguments in facts, something which your’s seems to be sorely lacking.

          It is pointless for you to reply to this unless you are actually going to a: Use facts, not conjecture. b: Actually read (ALL) of the words I have written.

      • His Shadow

        “Nothing it did, couldn’t be done before it’s appearance.”

        Yet no one did it. No one put all the various ideas in a coherent, affordable, tightly integrated package.

        Yakking about how Apple “did nothing special” with any of their technology pathologically avoid the fact that no one produced anything like Apple’s products before Apple made them.

        Having the ability to download an app from a website that hosted a handful (if that) of apps didn’t make that an App Store of the scale and slickness of Apple’s App Store. Arguing otherwise is to admit you simply do not understand the scope of what Apple has accomplished in less than 10 years.

        Which is fine. You are perfectly within your rights to hold a blinkered view of recent history.

        Just don’t expect anyone to take away a lesson from your post, because you really haven’t one…

        • Absolutely Certain

          ‘Yet no one did it’, ‘You are perfectly within your rights to hold a blinkered view of recent history’.

          Where do I start? I’ll excuse you as you’re obviously too young to remember a time before the iPhone.

          My windows Mobile phone could:

          Send and receive email. Bluetooth with any Bluetooth enabled device, including sending and receiving files. Surf the internet. Make phone calls Send and received texts Send and receive MMS messages Hold and play a vast library of songs. Have it’s battery replaced should it run out. Use sat nav to get me to my destination. Run any appropriate programme from one of the several Application stores on line. Allow me to watch a video. Allow me to tweak the hell out of it to get the set-up to be exactly how I wanted it to be. Design and install any software that I desired on it without having to check with the makers of the O.S. A choice of several data input methods one of which was a very very good natural handwriting system.

          As for your laughable line ‘Having the ability to download an app from a website that hosted a handful (if that) of apps’, Handango was, is still a huge site and was one of many.

          Let me quote yourself back to you. ‘Arguing otherwise is to admit you simply do not understand the scope of what  ’ existed before hand. 

          When you take the list above into account and look at what the iPhone was when it was released, you’ll realise that far from bringing new things to the table it omitted several of the features from the list above, including an App store of any kind whatsoever.

          Argue what you want, but the above list contains a list of cold hard facts of features all around before the iPhone existed.

          And to finish, I think you summed it up perfectly but you really meant the last few lines to be from myself to you.

          ‘Which is fine. You are perfectly within your rights to hold a blinkered view of recent history.Just don’t expect anyone to take away a lesson from your post, because you really haven’t one…’

          • His Shadow

            Your Windows phone was a miserable piece of crap that had a desktop metaphor crammed into a 3″ screen. It was utterly useless to the average user. It also needed a stylus.

            The list of “cold hard facts” about things that phones could do before the iPhone is simply not relevant and never is with regards to Apple’s recent success. 

            Apple’s iPhone changed the landscape and redefined what a smartphone was supposed to be and how it should function. The existence of any of these features in some form on other devices prior to the iPhone is as utterly meaningless as the existence of the mouse before the original Macintosh. No one gives a shit about some halfassed implementation. What people will remember and use and hold up as a standard is the company that made these items useful and seamlessly integrated. No one can fault the average consumer for believing Apple originated many of the these features because they were handled so poorly by the competition that consumers weren’t even aware they could do many of these things. That as well is a “cold hard fact”.

            Apple up ended the entire cellphone industry in 3 years. If these ideas of Apple were so pedestrian and so common, why had no one bothered to make the iPhone before Apple made the iPhone, and why does the competition spend so much time copying Apple?

            Other than the fact that they are lazy.

          • Absolutely Certain

            Unbelievable. You write ‘Yet no one did it. No one put all the various ideas in a coherent, affordable, tightly integrated package.’

            Then when you are proved wrong, write ‘The list of “cold hard facts” about things that phones could do before the iPhone is simply not relevant’

            You also state ‘redefined what a smartphone was supposed to be and how it should function’

            So if that was the case the current iteration of the iPhone would:

            Have no App store. Have no cut and paste. Have very limited capability to no capability Bluetooth. Have no MMS capability

            If what you state was true we would have no jail breaking, no desire for the current gamut of features taken from all the other O.S.’s due to come in iOS5

            You laugh at the fact that the Windows phone had a stylus whilst denying the fact that with the stylus I could write faster than you could hunt and peck.

            What people remember, is an operating system that worked in the home and the office for way longer than a supposed ‘miserable piece of crap’ would have lasted. Indeed it is still used in many offices and is still sold in the corporate world.

            Like I said Fanbois seem to have problems with Facts. You obviously have no grasp of the meaning of the word. I look forward to more fiction from you in the future.

          • Absolutely Certain

            It’s quite clear that you cannot hold a debate without being offensive. Please learn some manners before you next post.

          • http://mangochut.net/ mangochutney

            While I agree that His Shadow was bit rude in his reply, his point are mostly valid. So are some of your arguments.

            I’ve owned my fair share of WinCE and Windows Mobile devices and yes, you could do all the things with these devices that you described, but you ignore the pains of doing certain things on a WinMo PDA or phone. I’m sorry, but ai think you suffer from hindsight bias when it comes to this. I loved my PDAs, I had loads of fun taking them to their limits, but before the iPhone there wasn’t a solution as well thought-out and executed anywhere in the mobile space.

            Just a few examples of PITA situations in WinMo: * Installing apps (.lzh, .cbz, .zip, manually putting files into folders) * Unistalling apps (hidden folders, DLLs, root level protection for useless files) * Having to kill apps, because there was and still is no load management in the system * lack of optimisation for many apps, fragmentation

          • Absolutely Certain

            Thanks for the level headed reply, but I must take issue with at a few of your points. The only installation files I ever had to use for installing on Windows Mobile were .cab files. I never had to kill apps and never had any fragmentation problems. Sure the u.i. got old after a while but it was and is still a fantastic O.S.

            I’m still having problems with the ‘well thought-out and executed’ system that was the original iPhone. Sure it wasn’t differen’t but like I mentioned it left a hell of a lot of stuff out that previous O.S.’s could do, so the claim that ‘it brought more to the table’ the origination of my post still doesn’t stand.

          • Absolutely Certain

            I’m also actually confused by the ‘Manually putting files into folders’ statement. In my years of using Windows Mobile I never had to put any files into folders in order for programmes to work, that just happened in the install.

            I also never had any problems with hidden folders or root level protection when un-installing. I just un-installed and that was that.

            As for lack of optimisation, I’m not actually sure what that means. Every single application that I installed ‘just worked’.

            We must have been using completely different’ O.S.’s as your experience of Windows Mobile isn’t remotely the same as mine. Like I said, .cab files all the way.

    • Anonymous

      The reason you are confused is you don’t understand a thing about design.

      Good design always appears obvious. Especially to those of us who are lying around on our couches using iPads, rather than busting our balls for many years to invent the f’ing thing.

      iPad is not obvious. If it was obvious, Samsung would have made their iPad clone BEFORE Apple shipped iPad. Same with all the other iPad counterfeiters. The fact that they had to wait until after proves iPad is not obvious. The Apple Tablet was hotly anticipated for YEARS. Any company could have stepped in and owned the tablet market. All they had to do was make a tablet PC that was as good a tablet PC as iPhone is a phone and Mac is a notebook or workstation PC. It was hanging right out there, anybody could have taken it. Nobody but Apple did.

      I live in Silicon Valley. The people who made the iPad are my neighbors. You’re saying it’s OK for some cats in Korea to put their work on a desk, measure it with lasers, poop out a KIRF counterfeit copy, MAKING EVERYTHING THAT THEY POSSIBLY COULD EXACTLY THE SAME, even ripping off the icon artwork, the f’ing iTunes icon is on there, the sunflower photo from the iPhone Photos app is on there … and what your’e saying is: the people who sweated over iPad, who missed time with their families, who brought their years of design and engineering and other skills to it, should just shrug and say “go for it Samsung!”

      F ck no. That is insane. What possible reason could Apple have to want to be the design resource for the generic tech industry? What possible right do they have to rip off Apple’s gear? No right at all.

      > In think this is where the “Apple Bloggers” fall down

      I think where you fall down is you think that there is some group of Apple bloggers who is out there falsely promoting Apple products. Apple has the #1 product in every category they sell. It is absolutely non-controversial to say Apple products are the best in their class.

      Anytime you get the urge to pigeon hole or minimize Apple users as some kind of wacky Kool Aid cult, just say to yourself, “75% of Google employees use a Mac,” or “80-90% of Silicon Valley uses Macs,” or “half the home computers in use in the United States are Apple-branded.” Catch up!

      > Just looking at your site you’ve got a > bunch of icons, round-rects, all in a grid > type arrangment – these are your social > networking buttons. I don’t think you stole > that from Apple any more than Samsung did.

      You obviously don’t know anything about design patents. A design patent is like a fingerprint. No 2 devices could have the same one. The reason is that it is a list of many features of the device, which, when taken together, could only describe that one unique device.

      So a screen of round rects is not enough to violate Apple’s design patent for iPad. Mobile hardware inside that is just like iPad’s? By itself, not enough to violate Apple’s design patent for iPad. A black bezel the same size as iPads by itself would not violate Apple’s design patent. Silver trim, that’s OK, too, that doesn’t violate Apple’s design patent. Make a device with the exact same corner radius as iPad? OK. That could happen. It’s a nice corner radius, and there are only hundreds of different options … 2 devices could accidentally have the same corner radius.

      But here’s the thing: if your tablet PC has a grid of round rects, mobile hardware, black iPad-style bezel, silver iPad-style trim, iPad corners, then that violates Apple’s design patent. There is no way you made that device without copying. There is only one reason to copy someone else’s more-popular device, which is to fool consumers into buying it while thinking it is the more-popular device. There is NO OTHER REASON. Your excuses are BS. They are simply BS. You are defending a guy who had 5-of-a-kind in Poker by saying it is a defective deck. No. It really isn’t. It’s the most time-honored and plain way of cheating that is imaginable.

      You also obviously don’t know the details of this case. Samsung did not just copy the simple arrangement of round rects on the iPad screen … Samsung copied the f’ing icons themselves. The iTunes icon is on Galaxy Tabs. The Photos app on Galaxy Tab is a sunflower like the Photos app on iPhone. It is 100% pathetic.

      > Apple Bloggers seem to be missing that > curiosity and excitement for anything not > built by Apple.

      Again, these “Apple bloggers” only exist in your head. Apple is not some niche company.

      The great mass of humanity has no interest in any technology not built by Apple. We are not gadget nerds, but we need to use computers just to listen to music these days. So please forgive us if we don’t want to play with your broken nerd toys. We don’t want to learn I-T, we don’t want to screw around with bits and bytes, we have other work that we do. I’m an artist. Why do I want to screw around with an Android phone? What could possibly be interesting about that?

    • His Shadow

      “Do you really believe that these competitors are attempting to confuse consumers?”

      Yes. There is no other reason. 

  • http://mangochut.net/ mangochutney
    Here’s another-universe hypothetical: Apple owns rights to all the technologies in iPhone and its look and feel. The courts rule that no one else can create a touchscreen phone, use proximity sensors, gestures or other functions. As a result, Apple locks up the market for smartphones, and no one else can compete. What happens? Innovation stops. Without competition, Apple has little incentive to innovate. iPhone prices remain high, and the company seeks to protect its market and sales position rather than develop something new.

    What? With this blanket statement he’s saying that there isn’t another way to build a touchscreen phone other than the way the iPhone was built, there’s no other way to implement a proximity sensor than the way Apple did it, there’s no other forms of gestures than those Apple patented.

    What happens? Innovation stops.

    — No. Besides the fact that he doesn’t understand the difference between innovation and invention, neither stops. A company that really want to innovate, would go “Ok, so we can’t do it this way, let find a way to do this differently, better.” In a company that actually cares about innovation this fact would start invention.

    Without competition, Apple has little incentive to innovate. iPhone prices remain high, and the company seeks to protect its market and sales position rather than develop something new.

    Every company needs some kind of competition, but Apple doesn’t rely on this as its sole incentive to innovate, I don’t even think it’s the most important reason they do. Wilcox has no clue as to how this company works.

    • Anonymous

      Bill Gates defended Windows copying the Mac for years by saying that there is only one way to make a GUI. Then NeXT made a slightly different GUI, and Microsoft copied that, too. Then Microsoft put their GUI into phones that nobody liked, and completely missed the opportunity to do iPhone themselves because, as a company, they took it as gospel that there is only one way to make a GUI. They literally sold phones for like 10 years before Apple showed them that phones are controlled by pressing fingers on buttons … for about 50 years at that point, too.

  • Peter Cohen

    The way the law works, Apple can either defend its patents or risk losing them.

    Also, Joe Wilcox is an ass.

    • http://mangochut.net/ mangochutney

      Yes, he is, but with each article his argument become more stupid. I couldn’t even finish the damn article.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, this one was particularly pathetic. The video of jobs referencing Picasso was also pathetic, because both Jobs and Picasso were talking about IDEAS which are very, very cheap. It is a maxim in Silicon Valley that ideas are worth $0. It’s products that are worth money.

        The difference is that Samsung was always welcome to make their own tablet PC. They were just not welcome to copy every detail of Apple’s product so thoroughly that the average person cannot tell them apart. The idea of iPad is out there to be “stolen” in Picasso’s terms, but the iPad itself is not. The idea of a portrait of a smiling woman is out there to be stolen, but the Mona Lisa itself is not.

  • Lisamacnewton

    If you file a copyright first, you OWN it.  Sorry to whom ever comes next.  Infringement is illegal.  Simple as that.  It’s pretty hard to look at a Samsung phone without shaking your head.  At least it doesn’t perform as well……Eric Schmidt was present (recused my ass) at most of the iPhone dev meetings.  How coincidental……makes the Googlie’s “don’t be evil” a mockery.

  • AppleEnthusiast

    I am an Apple fan, and I admit it. Being very familiar with their products, I went to Best Buy recently, and was honestly surprised to get confused when I was looking at a number of tablets, and I absolutely thought one was an iPad first gen, but it was a Samsung. 

    Also, I just got back from China. There is blatant copying of Apple here, see the picture of fake iPod shuffles. As far as the lawsuits, they haven’t even gotten to this aspect of it. I saw a fake iPhone 4 on the train, but it was a pretty bad copy, considerably wider than the real one and the buttons were not even aligned perfectly. They even copy the logo, etc.

  • His Shadow

    Got to say, fan though I am. It is mega-hypocritical of Apple this suing business. Come on guys, have some dignity. Stop with the suing and make my iPhone 4 work properly please.