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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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  • Re:Bad Idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 21, 2012 @08:42AM (#40722889)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Saturday July 21, 2012 @09:56AM (#40723219) Homepage Journal

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

    Apple claims that all of those Android phones are violating the patents in question, and wants to shut those sales down, which would make Apple a monopoly.

  • by sydneyfong ( 410107 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:35AM (#40723407) Homepage Journal

    The very essence of patent law is that it grants a limited time monopoly to the inventor.

    That's the whole point of having patents. You can dispute whether patents should exist, but arguing that a patent should be revoked just because it grants a "monopoly" is just stupid.

  • Re:implementation (Score:5, Informative)

    by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:40AM (#40723443)

    2) No government entity can be on the board of the standards group.

    So you think patents should be enforced as decided by the categorization of a group of individuals not elected by a democratic process, but chosen by corporations? I'll call Ben Franklin's zombie and he'll be over to slap you momentarily.

  • by Phroggy ( 441 ) <.slashdot3. .at.> 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 Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:00AM (#40723541)

    Many disabled people control their car via a joystick [].

  • 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 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.

  • 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...

  • 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.

  • Re:Bad Idea (Score:2, Informative)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:56AM (#40723821) Homepage
    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.
  • by drstevep ( 2498222 ) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @12:58PM (#40724277)
    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 execution process. Any of a number of intermediaries can be used. Should revealing the source code in C++ mean that a parallel implementation in Fortran is allowed/does not violate the patent? Second, even using the same source code, what is the impact of compiling to a different architecture? No, source code has no value except as A METHOD of explaining the idea. It is not the idea.
  • 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.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller