Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts: Patents in the US

Last year I was planing on writing something about the US patent system – I guess mainly because of all those nonsense trials that started during that time. After one of the biggest trials (Apple vs. Samsung of course) recently ended, I decided to finally write about it.
I'm no expert on patents and especially no expert on the US legal or patent system but I think as a consumer and developer I have my share of thoughts on the things that are currently happening.

Let me start by saying that I don't think that patents are something evil or that there shouldn't be any patents at all. That's not at all what I mean. It's really important to have some system to protect ones ideas and especially if those ideas is some (non trivial) technology never seen before and it took the patent holder/applicant months or even better years to develop it – and of course spend a lot of money (a lot of money compared to the money available to that person).
Okey, that's what the patent system is here for and what I see in Europe, that works quite well (except some courts in Germany) – even though it's not that easy to get a patent if your not a big company with lots of money.

But apparently the whole system doesn't work in the United States (of America). Just look at the trial between Apple and Samsung I mentioned in the beginning: Samsung apparently violates three patents (D618667D593087 and D604305), two of them concerning the rounded shape of edges and backs of the device and the third one concerning the way icons are arranged in a grid. Why are those things even patents?
I think especially the third patent is nonsense. As long as I can remember, Nokia Symbian (Series 60) phones arranged their icons in a grid (or alternatively as a list). And it's also quite trivial, because how else should I arrange something? The only thing natural is the list or a grid (or something unnatural which I have never seen yet).
And what about the design patents? Same trivial thing. Phones have always had rounded edges and some devices even had rounded backs – and even if they had not, it's just a natural way for humans to design things: rectangular but still with rounded edges or whatever. And the worst thing is: those ideas didn't take people long to invent, so it's nothing incredible (maybe for Apple; but for them there is magic all around their products) or expensive.

I think everyone should see how unnecessary those patent claims are (not only by Apple, others too, but Apple has been in the media recently). Companies should invent great new stuff and apply for patents for those things, not for trivial things, babies could and definitely invent.
Maybe it's also the US patent system that's wrong. As far as I read, they accept all patents without even checking if it's already prior art or not – that's different in Europe, which could make a difference (when it comes to unnecessary claims and trials).

Let's come to an end. You know my thoughts now and I hope you agree with me, that there's something wrong with the whole patent system (also because Apple lost with the same claims in other countries) and the only winner is the patent holder. Everyone else is a loser – including the consumer who can't buy the smartphone (or any other technical device) they like because it's banned due to trivial patent claims or because cheap devices don't exist any more because the manufacturers have to pay for licenses for (again trivial) patents.
Many important people in the business already want an overhauled (US) patent system and I think you should too! ;)

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