∞ Patents don't equal products

Editor’s note: This article was written by Your Mac Life host Shawn King.

Last week, The Loop had a story titled Apple patent could prevent you from filming in some venues”. I commented on the story, as I have on other web sites and on several mailing lists, that people should relax.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]I said, “Patents don’t equal products. This ‘technology’ is easily circumvented by your average point and shoot camera. Non-issue. Non-story.”

My friend Mike Rose over at TUAW picked up the smoldering embers of this torch and wrote “Apple’s infrared ‘camera kill switch’ patent application hits a nerve”.

But I’ll repeat myself — “patents don’t equal products.” Companies like Apple invent dozens, if not hundreds of things every year. To protect their investment in intellectual property, companies patent those ideas, concepts and inventions. You never know when something might turn into an actual product or even be sold to another company who wants the technology. Patents can equal money in any number of ways.

Most patents are applied for because a company thinks they can get the idea into a product and sell it to consumers. But some patents are there just to protect the idea itself and not necessarily because the patenting company will develop the idea into an actual product in the marketplace.

If you’ve been following Apple for any length of time or even follow a web site like Patently Apple, you’ll notice the volume of patents Apple applies for. You’ll also notice how many of those patents have not yet made it into your Mac or iOS device. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but having a patent doesn’t guarantee they will, either.

The other aspect of this non-story is what the patent actually covers.

Does anyone really believe that Apple would implement this technology? Do you really believe that Apple would risk the ire of hundreds of thousands of concert and show goers by implementing this camera blocking application? Ask yourself some questions: What does Apple gain? Who does the technology benefit? What solution does the patent solve for Apple or its customers?

TUAW tries to extend the “threat” by positing the idea that this technology could be used to quash dissent by democratic activists.

For me, it simply doesn’t pass the Laugh Test. And, even if Apple thought this was a good idea or was being paid by venue owners or third world dictators to implement it, the technology is easily circumvented by pretty much any point and shoot camera sold today.

I firmly believe this is an example of a patent being applied for simply to have the patent, not because Apple believes the technology has any real world possibilities. Time will tell but if you’re a betting man, I’ll take bets that this technology will never see the light of day.