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Google Says Some Apple Inventions Are So Great They Should Be Shared 347

An anonymous reader writes "In attempting to fend off Apple's suit against Motorola Mobility and advancing its own patent litigation against Apple, Google, which is facing a lot of regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad over what some allege is abuse of standard essential patents, has been arguing that proprietary non-standardized technologies that become ubiquitous due to their popularity with consumers should be considered de facto standards."
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Google Says Some Apple Inventions Are So Great They Should Be Shared

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  • Google's desires (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:33AM (#40722849) Homepage
    Google wishes to embrace and exploit.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, as long as they don't embrace, extend, extinguish...

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:25AM (#40723077) Homepage

      That's kind of why there is a patent system.

      Patents aren't supposed to be a virtual land grab. They're supposed to be a means for companies to disclose useful trade secrets.

      All human progress is based on "embrace and exploit". This includes just the fact that you even exist as well as your cushy lifestyle. It also includes this forum.

      All of that is dependent on centuries of what modern corporate shills would call "theft".

      • Re:Google's desires (Score:4, Informative)

        by swalve ( 1980968 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:36AM (#40723725)

        Patents aren't supposed to be a virtual land grab.

        No, that's exactly what they are. You get property rights to an idea for a limited time, in exchange for disclosing the idea. Others can embrace and extend when the patent expires.

        All human progress is based on "embrace and exploit". This includes just the fact that you even exist as well as your cushy lifestyle. It also includes this forum.

        All of that is dependent on centuries of what modern corporate shills would call "theft".

        The problem is that things happen at faster speeds now. Farmer Joe couldn't work more than an acre or two with his fancy new plow invention no matter what, so what does he care if someone copies it? The law didn't recognize intellectual property as something that it is possible to steal ONLY because there was no need for it at the time. That doesn't mean that it isn't relevant or necessary now.

        • Almost.

          You can't patent an idea. You explain the rest correctly.

          • by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @12:42PM (#40724169) Homepage

            You can't patent an idea.

            Now you have to explain how software patents without full source code included are different from an idea.

            • Software patents work without source code "work" (please note that I'm using quotes to denote the process, not the validity of the process) because the patent discloses the technique. Having the source code in a particular language is irrelevant. The source code is not the invention. The method behind the source code is the invention. Beside, what relationship does the source code have with the invention? I'll postulate: None. First, the source code is an intermediary between the idea and the executio
              • by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @01:25PM (#40724473) Homepage

                No, source code has no value except as A METHOD of explaining the idea. It is not the idea.

                Well, that was my point. A patent is supposed to protect not an idea, but a concrete implementation, like a steam engine. You can't patent the concept of accelerating a car by heating some gas, you have to actually show how it is supposed to work (by using diagrams and text). However, you can patent the idea of clicking on a button to buy something in an online store, or using a shopping cart to represent the items you're about to buy there.

                The only way to perfectly specify how a software idea is supposed to work is by showing the code. Everything else is vague and could be written by just about anyone. Patents were supposed to protect the inventor, not somebody with a typewriter/word processor and some vague idea. Originally, patents were required to include a working physical model of the implementation. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case.

                In addition to that, actually implementing software is the hard part, not coming up with ideas for software. However, that's a holly different topic and not covered by current IP laws at all.

                • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:30PM (#40727215) Homepage

                  The comparison is false. There is no new idea. The intent of computers is to replicate manual or analogue methods of doing things in a digital computerised format, using computer hardware and software, that is a straight up logical process. As computers take a greater part in the interaction between people and the activities they conduct, so more of those interactions are 'digitised'. Putting more devices in one space is a simple direct product if miniaturisation and making use of existing hardware with the minor addition of new hardware. Whilst the hardware itself should certainly be patentable if it requires new manufacturing techniques, the software should not ie it is simply the logical algorithms, the formulas inherent in making the hardware function.

                  The whole idea of falsity of patenting every shift of known existing method and idea from analogue or manual use to digital is simply a US greed based lie. Nothing new, no new idea, no creation, just lawyers, lobbyists, corrupt politicians, greed and bullshit. You can shove rounded corners on rectangles where the sun don't shine along with slide to lock and any other kind of anticompetitive profit jacking up bullshit.

              • by oxdas ( 2447598 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @01:40PM (#40724573)

                Good job. I think you make a strong argument against software patents. If software patents are indeed the patenting of ideas rather than concrete implementations, then they should not be issued.

        • by jmactacular ( 1755734 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @01:17PM (#40724415)

          "Others can embrace and extend when the patent expires."

          The problem with that line of thinking, is not realizing that all that is created is evolutionary. Everything we build is done in small incremental steps, building on what was just built. No one goes from a horse and buggy to a Ferrari. You go from a horse, to a horse and buggy, to a motorized carriage and so on. Everything that Apple or anyone else has built, was done standing on the shoulders of giants.

    • Google wishes to embrace and exploit.

      Who doesn't?

  • It's getting scary out there, kids...

    • Hear, hear! He would correctly point out that to use force (government) to seize the intellectual property of others is, well, evil. That's what's at stake in something like this. There are technologies that are so popular, and the originators of same technologies so successful in getting market adoption, that those without the where-with-all to achieve similarly should be able to simply take what they couldn't produce.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @12:40PM (#40724149)

        I believe that it is the government which sets up the laws which protect private intellectual property. Without these government patent laws, there would be no way to protect intellectual property. Anarchy would allow the free flow of ideas without these artificial barriers to embrace and extend.
        Not sure how John Galt would resolve the conflict between "government is evil" and "government must protect my private property" since it has been 50 years since I read those polemics.

        • by claytongulick ( 725397 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @01:44PM (#40724615) Homepage

          I'll take a rough stab at answering this.

          In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand took the (for lack of better terms) "collectivist" (liberal, etc...) and "individualist" (libertarian, fiscal conservative, Austrian school, etc...) schools of thought to their logical extremes. Liberalism, of course failed miserably in her example, but it is also quite telling that in order for her fictitious libertarian paradise to succeed it required technological/science fiction props (free energy, projected holograms, infinite broadcast power, etc...).

          Ayn Rand demonstrated a clear assumption that intellectual property rights would be respected by both "sides" of the conflict. This is demonstrated with the subplot of the government using dirty tricks and manipulation to force Hank Reardon to sign over rights to Reardon Metal to the government. This was considered a fundamental attribute of the United States, as compared with other countries (note the nationalization of Francisco D'Antonio's assets). So, she clearly demonstrates that she believes in IP protections. John Galt, the character, would also share in these beliefs, since he's represented as the embodiment of her highest ideals.

          As to the internal consistency of this, I agree that on the surface there is some conflict. Especially given Rand's discussion of force as being the antithesis of reason, but to rely on force to protect that which reason creates could be considered inconsistent. There is an exception to Rand's disavowal of force, however. She absolutely recognizes force as necessary to protect one's self and property. She also recognizes the military as one of the few legitimate functions of the government. This is made clear by the following excerpt from The Virtue of Selfishness:

          "The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality"

          Ayn Rand makes it clear that she supports the court systems and police force as a legitimate function of government to protect property and, by extension, ideas (patents/copyright).

          I'm frequently surprised at comments I see that conflate Ayn Rand/objectivism/libertarianism with anarchy. It is simply not true, and is mostly only done by those who have little education or understanding of those philosophies.

          There's no evidence, that I'm aware of, that Ayn Rand ever considered government to be "evil". What she considered "evil" or immoral, was a government that exceeded it's bounds and participated in activities outside of which those that she considered to be legitimate functions.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by siddesu ( 698447 )

            Let's not overdo it. First, "Atlas Shrugged" is poor sci-fi, not a serious work of philosophy, although it is as lengthy and as boring as the swan song of your typical bad philosopher. I have no idea why it is treated as some sort of eminent philosophical work, it isn't.

            Second, Rand does not "take collectivism to extremes" to build a believable "collectivist" society. That is what Huxley, Orwell and, well, Zamyatin (a Russian guy who wrote probably the greatest dystopian novel, "We") do. Hell, even Asimov

  • Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:36AM (#40722865) Journal

    That strategy might work in the media to get people angry at Apple, but it's a bad idea in a court. You are basically admitting that Apple is right, but then saying it doesn't matter because it "oughta be" a standard. At that point the judge will say: thanks for admitting Apple is right to save me the bother of the trial. Not a smart move.

          Considering what Apple's patents tend to be about (swip to unlock anyone?) they may be annoying but they aren't what I would call "standards" in the way that 802.11 is a standard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What makes you think it's exclusively about swipe to unlock?

      Apple have claimed ownership of, amongst other things, the concept of a rectangular portable touch screen. Microsoft meanwhile extract patent royalties from FAT, a filesystem so atrocious the only reason anyone uses it at all is because it's very old and therefore ubiquitous.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Please show us a source where Apple claims to have patented the concept of a 'rectangular portable touch screen'.

        [Citation Needed]

        • Go take a look at all the arguments in various courts where Apple attempts to convince a judge that Samsungs tablets are too similar to the iPad (obviously, with them switched off - if they were on the differences would be immediately obvious to anyone). Apples arguments boiled down to, they are both rectangular, "look simple" and have big screens on the front.
          • Re:Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @12:02PM (#40723845)

            Actually, if you actually read those arguments, and the patents that back them up, they include things like the arrangement of the home screen, etc.

            But if you get all your information from Slashdot and various bloggers in the form of sound bites, then yes, black rectangle.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Incorrect. The exact and whole design of the ipad design is patented. The patent is not for a rectangular tablet. Otherwise they could sue every single tablet maker but they don't. It just happens, whether people want to admit it or not, the tab 10 copied a lot of stuff and went out of its way to look like an ipad.
    • Re:Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:27AM (#40723093)

      true... swipe to unlock is nothing like, say, GSM radio communications.

      that's why the GSM patent is licensed at 1p per device and swipe to unlock licensed at $1m (if not an entire country's worth of imports of that device).

      The reason we have so many shite patents is because of the financial shakedown they attract. Making them 'de facto' and thus next-to-worthless would be a start in fixing the software patent problem.

      • I can't build a cell phone without licensing (or infringing) every single cell phone FRAND patent. I have to use them -- those specific patents -- as part of the standard. I can, however, build a cell phone without swipe to unlock. I can build a cell phone with something better than swipe to unlock.
    • Not really. What they are saying is "Yes, Apple was granted a patent on something we were already doing, but they shouldn't have been because it is a standard element which many many people have been using, and Apple just decided they were cool enough to patent everyone's work for themselves."

    • Exactly. But likewise it can be argued Google should then give up their serach patents and everyone else's mobile patents should be a free for all.
  • I decree that... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:38AM (#40722877)
    Translation: Steve's gone, mind if we drive?
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:40AM (#40722883) Journal

    I mean, technically you COULD direct a car (or almost any vehicle, they're so ubiquitous) without it but they're so useful it seems almost mandatory. (I think, maybe, the first Wright brother's planes didn't use them but last I checked they're actually two of them in every cockpit). I'm not a patent attorney or IP expert so this is just my guess as to what the issues are.

    However, that's a pretty high "standard". What should be the standard? Should it be determined by a popularity contest? User interface designer's testimony? Shouldn't Apple be entitled to something (I mean they spent time and money coming up with their ideas, not to mention that "utility" patents which are essential, are not free).

    Yet another issue to be debated during possible patent reform.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Last time I checked the F15 had a joystick and I wish my car had one. Who needs a big wheel up front? It's high time to embrace some new tech. I'd like a HUD display too. Every car should have one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        A joystick in a car would be stupid. Cars are not fly by wire systems; they are mechanical (with some hydraulic support via "power steering", but even when the power steering fails the car can be controlled via the mechanical wheel). Can you imagine the force required to control a car via a joystick if you had to keep it mechanical? If you then made it a completely drive by wire system, you just added a bunch of complexity and failure modes to what should be a ubiquitous and (fairly) inexpensive object. You
      • F-15, F-16, F-18, probably the F-22 too but I haven't sat in one of those cockpits the joystick isn't used for 75% of the flight. Those planes are so sensitive to the control stick that the pilots fly using adjustment wheels. (think mouse wheel style) where two or three wheel clicks is enough to turn the plane.

        • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:06AM (#40723571) Journal
          You're thinking of the trimmers, there's a subtly different function. Trim wheels are used because the central position on the joystick is the "neutral" position for the ailerons and rudder, which is different to the "fly straight" position, which changes depending on airspeed, engine RPM, altitude and so on. The neutral position may make the plane fly straight and level at 300kts at 1000ft, but won't at 400kts. The trim wheels are used to offset the control surfaces so the neutral position on the joystick is flat and level. They can also be used, as you mention, to control the aircraft to a certain extent if the primary control (joystick) fails for any reason, planes have been landed using trim wheels only, but it's not recommended unless you have no other option.

          In a car the equivalent would be a trim wheel to correct for a camber in the road or crosswind so you're not always steering slightly to one side.
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            "In a car the equivalent would be a trim wheel to correct for a camber in the road or crosswind so you're not always steering slightly to one side."

            Which would be awesome. My sea kayak has one of those, why doesn't my car? I heard once that truckers sometimes let a bit of air out of their left tires so that when they're driving on highways that are raised in the middle (so rain runs off), they don't have to constantly pull the wheel to the left.

            • The drift to the verge caused by camber is probably quite useful, if a driver falls asleep they'll hit the stationary stuff off the road rather than drifting into the opposing lane, reducing collision speeds, vehicles involved and overall casualties.
      • by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:35AM (#40723403)

        I'd like a HUD display too. Every car should have one.

        Having been peripherally involved in the design of HUD systems for some american car companies, no you do not want a HUD system designed by a committee and managed by a US car company exec who still thinks more and bigger is better. Just look at some of the Windows based touchscreens in recent models and imagine a similar quality of design popping up in front of your face while you're trying to drive.

  • by khipu ( 2511498 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:50AM (#40722925)

    Interface standards are not about "great technology", they are about convention and usability. There's little that's ever been innovative about how steering wheels look or work, where the hand brake goes in a car, how you turn on a TV or a light, etc.; many of those are just arbitrary choices. But there is a huge benefit to having these items standardized so that consumers can easily move from one car to another. The same is even more true for user interfaces: user interfaces benefit tremendously from standardization. Apple's user interface elements aren't "great" or innovative, they simply set the standard because Apple is first.

    (And most of Apple's user interface elements aren't even Apple's inventions; sliding switches on touch screens, for example, were not invented by Apple, Apple just copied them and then patented their application to unlocking.)

    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      I agree. And the law should be changed to allow for patenting branding elements but not functionality. The problem is that isn't the law right now.

      As for Apple's not being great or innovative I disagree. I think the decade of other competitors like RIM, the earlier versions of Android, Palm, Windows Phone... show how innovative Apple's ideas were.

      • by khipu ( 2511498 )

        Pretty much everything that iPhone did years later was already available on Palm, Nokia and Windows Mobile, sometimes as part of the OS, more often from third party vendors.

        The reason the iPhone took off because all that wonderful functionality was too hard to use on those other platforms: things were hard to install, the OS couldn't deal with large apps, the touch screen hardware was worse, syncing was unreliable, etc.

        Apple did a better job at engineering the hardware and operating system than those other

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Truedat ( 2545458 )
      I see a lot of these verbose types of argument that fails to get to the point. Yes Apple patents a lot of stuff that shouldn't be patentable. So does google by the way and so does Microsoft and everyone else. A lot of those inventions don't even originate in house either, just look at googles buyout of Swallow for example. However given these shitty rules that they play by are the same for all of them.

      All you have done is go off on a hateful rant with nothing to back up those rantings, you have to explain

    • Right. The title of the summary and article should instead read "Google says some Apple inventions are so obvious they should be shared". Apple's insistence that designs should differ vastly goes against the long tradition of artistic emulation and imitation. How many can really tell the difference beween Raphael and Michelangelo?
    • by drerwk ( 695572 )
      Never driven a Citroën? The steering wheel is subtly different with a single attachment to the wheel so that it never gets in your way while steering. If I recall, Citroën invented damped power steering with the SM in 1972 - so that steering stiffened with increased speed, oh and the suspension lowered as well. I don't know which company moved all the controls to within reach of the wheel but it is standard now to be able operate the radio and horn with out moving one's hands from the wheel. And
    • I'd say you're wrong. in a very vague sense car interiors haven't changed much but then if you actually compare the interior of a brand new car to a car from the 50's you can see a lot of though and yes innovation has gone into improving cars interiors.
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:56AM (#40722947)
    What's mine is mine, and what's yours is ours.
  • By offering as reason that certain patent becomes crucial before it expires as a reason for being shared, Google is basically shooting down their own argument. Barring patent-trolling, this is exactly what the patent system was designed to do: Grant a limited monopoly--a short-term disadvantage to everyone else but a high-risk/potentially large-returns investment--to spur constant innovation, which is a long-term benefit to society. Sure, the owner of the patent can choose to share (for a fee of their ch
  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:04AM (#40722985)

    I didn't see that being a a shot against apple per se - much more microsoft and the exchange activesync suits.

    "when one firm publishes information about an otherwise proprietary standard and other firms then independently decide (whether by choice or of necessity) to make complementary investments to support that standard in their products. Because proprietary or de facto standards can have just as important effects on consumer welfare, the Committee’s concern regarding the abuse of SEPs should encompass them as well."

    Microsoft has patented exchange activesync, and then licences those patents to companies that want to talk to an exchange server. That's what has most android makers coughing up money to microsoft for - the ability to talk to exchange as an email/calendar client. Note, android developers, like all exchange activesync licencees, have to write their own code against the standard, which changes whenever MS update Exchange server.

    Now, Exchange is pretty much ubiquitous in business. Therefore talking to Exchange is a necessary defacto standard, but everybody does it a bit differently as they write their own code. Should the patents covering exchange activesync, as a defacto essential standard, be under scrutiny for abuse by the same body that's investigating FRAND patent holders for abuse of their essential nature?

    That seems to be Google's argument, anyway.

  • Spin doctors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slasho81 ( 455509 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:07AM (#40723009)
    Apple's PR is doing a great job. Way to spin something into a provocative flamebait. Google didn't say what the title says it did, but timothy just couldn't resist.
  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dell623 ( 2021586 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:11AM (#40723019)

    The summary is misleading. What Google is saying is that if certain patents are considered standard essential for communication (3G, WiFi etc.), then parents on touch screens, scrolling etc. should also be considered the same. Apple would not be forced to share them, they would be forced to license them at a fair cost. Right now, Google-Motorola cannot use their patents the way Apple uses theirs because they are classified as FRAND, whereas Apple can use their patents to force import bans on Motorola and HTC products, for example. Apple would still be paid for the licenses to those patents, but would not be able to refuse to license them or charge an exorbitant fee.

    The alternative would be to, you know, not issue broad patents for scrolling and slide to unlock etc.

    • by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:34AM (#40723127)

      "Right now, Google-Motorola cannot use their patents the way Apple uses theirs because they are classified as FRAND, "

      They were not "classified" as FRAND by some random group of people. Motorola chose to submit their patents to a standard body and agreed to license them under FRAND so they would be part of the standard.

      • They were not "classified" as FRAND by some random group of people. Motorola chose to submit their patents to a standard body and agreed to license them under FRAND so they would be part of the standard.

        And therein lies the problem with the current patent mess. If the value of licensing your patent under FRAND is less than the value of licensing it yourself, then nobody will license their patents under FRAND anymore. You're going to have dozens of companies in each industry reinventing the wheel a dozen

    • by vakuona ( 788200 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:39AM (#40723143)

      Google-Motorola should not have gotten their patents included in a standard if they intended to use them to beat other competitors over the heads with.

      FRAND standards are about interoperability. If you can't implement the 3G standard, you cannot make a smartphone, and the market breaks down.

      If you can't use slide to unlock, you can do something different. Annoying as it might be, the very fact that people think slide to unlock is trivial means it shouldn't matter. You could use a combination of the physical button and a soft button to unlock the screen, or may ask the user to touch four points in order. There are way to work around that patent.

      However, you cannot work around a patent essential for 3G, therefore it is right that limitations (FRAND) be put if you want a guaranteed return on your investment, which is what being in a standard gives you.

    • Hold the phone! Is PageRank a technology essential for web search? It's certainly as essential as a slide-to-unlock or a force-accelerating scrolling view-- as in, it isn't, unless you're trying to make a workalike alternative. Maybe Google should be licensing PageRank out on FRAND terms to competitors.

      Either that, or they invent new modes of user interaction, instead of maintaining that Apple's way is basically the only way it can be done-- this was never true and it's disingenuous to claim. Their motive

  • Monopoly vs patent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:12AM (#40723035)
    Google's argument actually makes sense. As I read it, they're saying that a company which holds a patent on technology that is essential to meet an industry standard must license it in a Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) way. But a company that has such a strong market position (i.e. a monopoly) can use patents to exclude competition. So Google is saying that FRAND should apply whether the technology is required because of an industry standard or because the patent holder has a monopoly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This could be extended to anything. You could say that Coca Cola's trademark is so strong that competitors have to charge uneconomically low prices to compete with it - hence they are unable to compete because they are not named Coca Cola. Therefore, the brand name is simply required to compete, and Coca Cola should be forced to allow people to sell under their brand in a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory manner.

      • by vakuona ( 788200 )

        And why has he been modded down? No, the GP's argument does not make sense. Apple is not a monopoly, not even a de facto one.

        Apple sells very expensive smartphone (I know, I own one) and if competitors are finding it hard to compete, they should lower their prices.

        Google can't complain that it's unfair that they can't create a complete iPhone work-a-like.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      I could definitely see why Apple would shoudl that down. They are a big fat Microsoft-wannabe. When the Justice Departments of the nations of the world finally wake up to what's going on, they don't want to be forced to FRAND license all of their vendor-lock inducing technologies.

      Nevermind making a connector that looks like an Apple dock connector, Samsung should be able to replicate it completely so that you don't have n+1 stupid proprietary standards. A big part of industrialization was moving away from

    • by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:37AM (#40723133)

      "But a company that has such a strong market position (i.e. a monopoly) can use patents to exclude competition. So Google is saying that FRAND should apply whether the technology is required because of an industry standard or because the patent holder has a monopoly."

      So does that mean that Google is willing to release the implementations of their search algorithms?

      And how is Apple "a monopoly" when Android supposedly outsells iOS 2-1?

    • by Phroggy ( 441 ) <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:58AM (#40723529) Homepage

      This is stupid. The WHOLE POINT of a patent is that you get to control the use of your invention, for a limited time. That means you can charge a license fee to let others use your invention, you can let others use it for free, or you can just say NO and not allow anyone else to use your invention. The promise of this control is what incentivizes people to invent cool stuff and then show the world how it was done. If your idea becomes wildly popular, you stand to make buckets of money, and that's a GOOD THING for all of us.

      The notion that you should lose patent protection if your idea becomes too popular completely ignores the purpose of having patents.

      In order to submit your patented idea to a standards body, you have to agree to FRAND licensing as a condition for consideration. That's a good idea. Without it, we couldn't establish standards that people could actually use, and then nobody wins. Participating companies agree to do this because they WANT other companies to use their technology, for a fee. It's voluntary. Don't want competitors using your ideas, don't submit them to a standards body.

      The real problem here is NOT that Apple's slide-to-unlock idea has become so popular that they should be forced to allow other companies to license the patent. The real problem here is that Apple's slide-to-unlock idea should not have been patentable in the first place. Apple was the first to implement the idea, so they got a head start in the market, and that should have been enough. Granting Apple exclusive rights to this idea does not benefit society in any way, because Apple still would have come up with the idea even if they knew everybody else could copy it. Patents are supposed to benefit society by documenting how a technology works, to make it easier for people to copy after the patent expires, and the slide-to-unlock patent does not do that: how the technology works is perfectly obvious to anyone skilled in the art, so the patent itself is useless to us. This patent benefits no one but Apple, and that's not fair.

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:26AM (#40723677)

      You seem to have forgotten that FRAND is opt-in. A company chooses for their patent to be a part of the spec, and they agree to license it under FRAND terms in exchange for it being part of the spec. None of them were ever compelled to contribute their patents to the standard, nor were they forced to agree to offer FRAND terms. They agreed to the terms of their own free will.

      In contrast, Google is suggesting that Apple should not have a say in the matter, and that they should be compelled to offer their patents under something resembling FRAND terms. Big difference.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        You seem to have forgotten that FRAND is opt-in.

        No, I didn't forget that. If it's a standard that requires the use of patented technology then FRAND applies; yes that requires opt-in but that's not the point. The point is that once it's a standard you have to follow the rules. Google's point (as I read it) is that if competing in the market requires use of patented technology then the technology should be available whether the requirement is because of a codified standard or a de facto standard. Apple still makes money off their patent, they just can't

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      While that may be a reasonable argument, Apple is less than 50% of the smartphone market. Actually, doesn't Android have more market share than Apple does? So is Google arguing that all their smartphone patents should be FRAND, not just the standards ones?

  • by perrin ( 891 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:33AM (#40723117)

    Samsung, Motorola and other old players in the telecoms game have a huge problem today because for many years they have been playing reasonably nice with each other. It used to be that the players came together in standards organizations, agreed on standards, promised to license them to each other on FRAND terms, and then competed on implementation. Then a new kid comes to town who wants everyone to license it their FRAND patents without giving any back.

    Apple, like Microsoft, hates to offer their own patents as FRAND, and only ever tries to create formal standards when they need to subvert another standard. They are the masters of de facto standards. Since the old players are now desperately abusing their FRAND patents as leverage in patent negotiations, they have a difficulty in calling Apple out on the hypocrisy of this.

    However, the big loser in all of this is us. Since FRAND patents are so weak in aggressive patent wars, and antitrust bodies are now looking to make them even weaker, companies will stop making FRAND promises. The result will be less standardization and more lawsuits, leading to less capable and more expensive products. Hence Google's point is actually a very good one.

    • How about this as a solution? In determining the Fair and Reasonable terms for licensing a FRAND patent, reciprocity (including that of non-FRAND patents) may be considered.

      What this means, is that Apple's own terms for licensing Apple's patents may be considered when creating a definition for what is "Fair", when FRAND terms are demanded from other players.

  • by kervin ( 64171 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:49AM (#40723191) Homepage

    The article's title isn't correct. Google is really arguing that most patents should be treated like SEPs so it's harder to get injunctions. As the patent war heated up Google bought Motorola largely to quickly built it's defensive patent portfolio. A strategy that has largely worked except Motorola has a lot of SEPs.

    So now Apple is suing Google and its hardware partners like crazy all over the world, but they're coming back with SEPs in the counter suites. HTC took Apple to court in retaliation using 2 SEPs it got from HP, IIRC. Google is also beginning to play a more aggressive role defending its hardware partners. Google is even beginning to ask the courts to name them as defendants even though they weren't sued. And guess what type of patents they're bringing to the party?

    Motorola recently announced that it was leaving long standing patent agreements with Qualcomm. Guess with litigious company relies on Qualcomm for protection against SEPs?

    Now add the fact that the US government is actively re-evaluating how litigation around SEPs are handled ( there are hearings going on right now ), and you can see why Google is saying what they are.

    Google largely wants to be able to use its SEPs defensively in a fight they really didn't start. But of course, once that cat is out the bag and fast forward a decade when Google maybe on the ropes, then it's likely we would see SEPs used more agressively. '

    The other solution is to not loosen restrictions on SEPs but to go the other route. Make it harder to get injunctions using non-SEPs by treating them like SEPs. Personally, I believe that's the way to go. Currently Apple has an injunction on the import of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 over a flimsy design patent. Samsung can't just pay a reasonable fee, they have been banned from importing the product at all. Even if these flimsy patents are not tossed out of court, they should not be used to outright ban products, but competitors should be allowed to license them on a FRAND basis.

  • Punishing success (Score:3, Insightful)

    by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:13AM (#40723299) Homepage

    The term for this is "punishing success." Create a technology that's too successful and pretty soon people will call to have it stolen from you for the "public good." And naturally they will mask their naked desire for such theft with terms like "sharing."

    Note that I don't support software patents---I don't support the idea of patents, or "intellectual property" [], at all. But so long as we're going to have the government pointing its guns around at people, protecting businesses' intellectual assets as if they're real property, the idea of selective enforcement of patents, especially based on criteria like this, is even more repugnant than "IP" itself.

    So! I hope Google will be equally as cheerful when the government comes in and wrenches all of their technologies away from them because they've become so ubiquitous! I mean, if there's anything "everyone" uses on the Internet nowadays that ought to be "shared," it's Google search, right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think you are missing the point. Its already happened via FRAND to the players that built cellular. Sure, they could have refused FRAND but then we wouldn't have robust wireless standards we can all use.

      Now Apple can swoop in with trivial "slide to unlock" type of patents and charge an arm and a leg to license. They can then turn around and pay pennies for patents that took years and years and billions of dollars to develop.

      And if its allowed to work this way - future wireless innovators are going to r

    • Re:Punishing success (Score:4, Informative)

      by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:32AM (#40723703) Journal

      Well, I don't like software patents either. However, Google will indeed have the government coming to take their IP when the PageRank patent expires. It probably won't mean much by then, since we've had time to realize that getting 1,254,562 results in 0.12 seconds isn't really that useful. Also, it's a system that can be gamed and you have to fight that. Nevertheless, the patent will become public domain much sooner than anything copyrighted. That's probably the ONLY thing to like about software patents. I actually got to see the GIF patent expire in my lifetime. Wow! And I also got to see it encourage progress; but not in the way that patents allegedly do that. It motivated the creation of PNG, which has alpha channels. BTW, did the IE team ever get alpha channels right? I was able to do that in a Windows app back in the 90s, and I never understood why MS couldn't master their own technology... but I digress...

  • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:42AM (#40723753)
    Let's apply it to search algorithms!
    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      Google hasn't patented the very idea of having a search algorithm. Anyone can make their own algorithm to try to compete with Google.

      Apple has patented several core concepts of smart phones. Not implementations, but the very idea. If they get their way, no one will be allowed to compete with them, at all.

      Can you really not see the difference?

  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @12:35PM (#40724097)

    Lets throw out the old model.

    Instead lets have panels approve needed inventions for fields. The patent would sort of then be the x prize for the invention.

    Then the panel would decide the relative reward for winning the patent. It could be a fixed amount. And it can also be longer than 18 years. It could be x amount per produced item for x years. Or a set licence fee per organization per year. Payments could also be structured to match inflation.

    This way some things such a medical treatment for rare disorders could have a low enough corporate "tax" to be affordable but still produce money a hundred years from now.

    Also lets throw out that patents are a contract and can't be reevaluated.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith