Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How trashy are Apple's iPhone Patents?

Very excrement-like, since they didn't ask me to do the patentability searches :-) But more seriously, the February 9th issue of Barrons has an article on Apple's iPhone patents, with Apple COO Tim Cook quoting as stating that Apple won't stand for having its IP ripped off (with hints that the intended target is Palm, though Apple doesn't mind ripping off inventors). However the same article quotes San Francisco investment analyst Pablo Perez-Fernandez as raising doubts about the strength of Apple's iPhone patent portfolio, much of which focuses on touchscreen technology:
He asserts that the U.S. Patent Office "may have not observed the requirements of innovation on number of occasions", that the legal owner of key multi-touch technologies may be the University of Delaware, and that "the essential discoveries embedded in Apple's products were the result of the work of academics from the university now employed at Apple."
He goes on:
Apple didn't invent transparent, capacitive multitouch sensors that could be overlaid on screens; "that honor went to ATT's famous Bell Laboratories back in the mid-1980s."
His conclusion: while Apple's patents are probably infringed by competitors, the competitors could strike back on invalidity grounds. And I suspect he is right. Despite all of the bull's shirt from the big companies that complain about crappy patents that issue, they are all notorious for routinely submitting crappy patents with inadequate prior art references.