By Richi Jennings
. August 6 2010. Oh goody! Another Apple PR screwup. Yet again, the boys and girls in Cupertino have given the blogosphere juicy something to get upset about. This time, Apple stands accused of stealing ideas from its 3rd-party apps and patenting them. For example, FutureTap is not amused to find its WhereTo? app depicted in an Apple patent without permission. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers get all high and mighty.
Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention lightsaber ignitions...
(AAPL) FutureTap's Ortwin Gentz bids us guten Tag:
Apparently, Apple starts patenting mobile app ideasand one of those ideas is (partly) ours. ... We couldnt believe what we saw and felt it cant be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. ... Were faced with a situation where weve to fear that our primary business partner is trying to steal our idea and design. Charles Starrett explains further:
Im not a lawyer. I cant really judge whether ... [this] is legal. I just have to say, it doesnt feel right. ... This episode once more reinforces my personal aversion against software patents. ... We actually read the patent application. ... Paragraph  sounds like a claim that describes Where To?s functionality pretty exactly.
The patent application, titled Systems And Methods For Accessing Travel Services Using A Portable Electronic Device, ... contains an illustration of a screen virtually identical to the main interface of WhereTo? from FutureTap. Nick Farrell employs British slang, thuswise:
While the text of the patent application doesnt completely overlap with the idea and purpose of the WhereTo? app, its very appearance in an Apple patent application without prior notice or warning is cause for concern.
Steve Jobs is channelling the ghost of Alexander Graeme Bell who nicked the idea for the telephone ... from Elisha Gray. ... If Apple gets its patents and the mobile internet can do what the landline based net does, then Apple will be in total control and be the mobile internet troll of all time. But Rosa Golijan asks the all-important question:
Steve Jobs will stand up at one of his Nuremberg Rally style press conferences and receive a standing ovation ... for inventing the "new technology". It is not clear if the US Patent Office will work out what Apple is doing.
Is this some sort of cruel joke or just an innocent misunderstanding? ... Odd compliment or not though, somehow the whole thing is a bit awkward and ... I'd love to hear some patent lawyers chime in on the whole situation. Dan Wineman would prefer "good developer relations" and "common decency":
This isn't the first or only odd similarity between an existing app and an illustration in an Apple patent application.
For prior art to come into play, the actual claims of the patent would have to cover one or more functions of Where To ... [but they dont: the patent is entirely concerned with automatic location-based travel notifications. The diagram is just part of an example. Who ya gonna call? Brian Ford crosses the streams: [groan -Ed.]
Its more likely that the people involved in drawing up this patent simply didnt think about the message it would send to developers. ... But there remains a conflict of interest in Apple acting as the sole steward of the iOS software universe while also filing patents in areas that have long been staked out by third-party developers.
I deal with patent applications a lot at work because theyre often used as evidence in trials that I work on. ... My suspicion ... is basically much ado about nothing, but I suppose its always possible that Apple ripped off someones exact design and is now trying to patent it, thinking that no one would notice. ... (A bit of sarcasm there.) Meanwhile, Rene Ritchie calls Apple "inconsiderate":
The real problem, as I see it, is that no one thought to approach FutureTap. ... Thats Apples fault. ... Ill be interested to see how Apple responds.
The image is chilling for developers, especially since it doesnt appear like Apple contacted them to let them know they were using it. ... That Apple would use an exact rendering of an existing app ... is curious. And Finally... Every Lightsaber Ignition & Retraction [hat tip: ROFLrazzi]
Apple is the giant in their forest and sometimes ... theyll step on the far, far smaller villagers who inhabit it. If enough villagers ... make enough noise, the Apple giant might pause, shrug, say my bad ... but it will always be the giant in their own forest.
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| || ||Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: firstname.lastname@example.org. |