When Mobile Patents Attack

By atiba|September 02nd, 2012|Patents|No Comments

When patents attack it isn’t pretty. Business owners lose money fighting lawsuits and technology creativity gets stifled. Recently, Apple lost in a patent lawsuit to Samsung in Japan. A judge rules Samsung didn’t infringe on Apple’s invention. A few weeks ago, a judge ruled Samsung did infringe on Apple in California. Apple is even asking the court in California to ban eight Samsung phones from going into the market. Is this a sign of protecting their rights or taking out their competitors?


Parents are suppose to protect “intellectual property” and allow people to exchange ideas and share creativity.  A huge dilemma is the idea of “owning an idea”, can someone own an idea? Before flickr was created, a well-known company named FotoMedia had bought patents from David Rose, who invented photo sharing. Instead of using it to share the technology with others, they sued hundreds of businesses like Flickr, Shutterfly, and Photobucket for the idea of photos being placed online for public view. Patents have certainly done just the opposite of serving the community, putting many businesses out of money and stalling companies from moving quick to producing work. In another known patent attack, a patent for “an online backup system” with other exact same 5,000 other patents registered was used to sue hundreds of companies in Silicon Valley.


Design patents are more subjective in the technology world. The trouble is how general most patents are stated in the document with many patents being similar to one another. Apple received patents of already invented technology like the touch screen or a user interface feature found in related computer course. Mobile devices fall under the same line, but the lines are blurred in the patent world as mobile phones all look the same in the market and every company is finding difficulty in straying away from an already produced patent.


Apple and Samsung’s legal battle is not yet over. Over the course of a few years, they have fought in Canada, Korea, the US, and Japan with many more countries to go. How will mobile design affect future smartphones? Well, here’s the list of patents Apple sued Samsung for.


  • No. 381, 915, and 667. cover touchscreens
  • Patent 381 ability to drag documents, rotate by twisting, and zoom in by pitching
  • Patent 915 covers how we scroll through documents using one finger.
  • patent 163 covers the tap-to-zoom functionality found in Google Maps and other map apps.
  • Patents 667 and 087 cover the exterior of the iPhone


Have mobile patents gone too far? Somehow, if mobile design patents can cover the look and feel of a phone then the future of the mobile market is looking grim. Some could argue the user interface issues could be an Android OS issue and not specifically geared towards Samsung.
The pinch to zoom feature is an interesting one because it is a concept, even the touchscreen patent should not have been given because E.A. Johnson was the first to invent touchscreen in the UK in 1965. It is safe to argue how patent attacks have become a childish competitive game to gain an edge in the mobile market. How do you think patents will affect technology design?



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