Clearly the legal departments at Apple and Nokia didn’t get the memo that this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” and instead decided now the was the time to sue, counter-sue and basically file some new lawsuits. This began when Nokia filed suit against Apple, claiming that Apple violated 10 patents, which then resulted in an Apple countersuit that alleges Nokia has infringed on 13 Apple patents.
The concern that no one seems to be addressing is what this will mean for innovation in the mobile space. While the inventors and innovators should rightfully get paid for their advancements, some past lawsuits over the years have been over such issues as “predictive” text with QWERTY keyboards. That would be the program that finishes some words whilst you are typing, a feature that seems pretty standard today. Innovative yes, absolutely, but a company actually patented that technology and claimed the problem was when others used it with a QWERTY keyboard. In other words, using it with a different keyboard layout would have been fine – hence why this technology might not seem so innovative after all.
Imagine if someone held the patent on QWERTY and with every keyboard on every computer and mobile device had to be unique! Wow, so much for ever learning to type. In my many travels I’ve encountered non-QWERTY keyboards and it is tricky to hunt and peck, and I’ve personally gone from feature phones to smartphones with QWERTY because I need to send e-mails and text messages and I need to have the standard keyboard layout.
Likewise, another patent that almost killed the BlackBerry a few years back was over push e-mail. In the end this was resolved, but push e-mail? Is that just intuitive? Someone really owns a patent on that technology? And what about touchscreen technology? Surely that hasn’t resulted in lawsuits, oh yes it has. Now it would seem to me that every infant that ever sees a TV or computer monitor wants to touch it! But making a screen in a portable device actually responsive is, well, patented!
Fortunately these lawsuits haven’t derailed innovation. Most of the time these cases are settled, the companies involved exchange some money, licensed deals are drawn up, and sometimes the cases are thrown out. But imagine if every science fiction writer patented their visions? As an inspiring author of fiction (I’ve only published a few short stories over the past 20 years), I once wrote about a character reading a file on a 3D holographic laptop screen while accessing encrypted wireless microwave broadband.
I don’t feel like I’m giving anything away by mentioning it now. The story was published about a decade ago on a now defunct sci-fi Web site. This vision of mine involved a laptop that was nothing more than a pocket-sized folding keyboard that when opened projected a 3D holographic screen. It was meant to be ironic as said character is assassinated and the bullet comes through the screen – talk about stuff popping out at you. While now we’re seeing, thanks to movies and video games, a move to actual 3D. So would I be able to merely patent my idea.