Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

Summary: Patents are by their nature monopolies, granted on limited terms for limited times. Today those terms are overly broad, and those times are longer than the expected life of any market.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Telcos, Apple, Mobility
65

Late Friday Apple filed a pair of lawsuits against Motorola, claiming its Android phones violate six important patents, demanding the products be pulled from the shelves, their profits be given to Apple, and that treble damages and attorney fees be awarded.

If the courts agree such a result would destroy Motorola.

This followed by two weeks Motorola's filing of countersuits against Apple, demanding its patents be invalidated.

All of which means that the very concept of competition within the smart phone marketplace is now before the courts.

Not all the patents being asserted are software patents. One of Apple's cases relates directly to its multi-touch hardware, and how it tracks movements.

But taken together these and the other cases filed against Android in the last few months do beg the question. Is computing competition even legal?

Since the non-decision in Bilski, computer companies have had an open season to file broad patent claims against one another. According to the Roberts court the very concept of mobile e-mail is patented, syncing e-mail is patented, multi-touch is patented, every single computing advance of the last decade is patented.

From a policy perspective this means there can be only one solution to every problem. Software does not work that way. Software asserts many solutions to any problem. Take a look at any application on your PC right now. There are always many different ways of going about a task. And inside the code the situation is the same.

Patents, as I wrote the other day, should cover how things are done, not the act of doing them. They should be about how NTP does mobile e-mail, how Microsoft syncs it, and how Apple implements a multi-touch interface.

If we don't have a way to innovate around patents then patents destroy innovation. Patents are by their nature monopolies, granted on limited terms for limited times. Today those terms are overly broad, and those times are longer than the expected life of any market.

The whole situation has grown so absurd it may be a good thing our political parties have gridlocked judicial nominations for so long that justice can't be done. Because in this case any justice would be a grave injustice.

Topics: Telcos, Apple, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

65 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • How is this Apple's fault?

    I am no Apple fanboy, but how is this Apple's fault? Motorola sued Apple first then Apple counter sued Motorola.
    illegaloperation
    • Fault?

      @day2die It's not Apple's fault. As I noted in the piece, all this was driven by the failure of the Roberts court to provide the clarity it's supposed to provide on the law, in this case on patent law.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        Then why wasn't your headline:

        [b]Motorola seeks monopoly through court action against Apple[/b]?
        msalzberg
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @msalzburg: Motorola's suit did not attempt to put a competitor out of business. Apple's suit does, and quite explicitly.
        DanaBlankenhorn
      • Then why not jump on Motorola?

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        Or Nokia or Kodak or...

        Oh wait, that would not make sense to you. It has little to do with Roberts court as software patents have been around for much longer than Roberts has been Chief Justice. But again, that would defeat your rant as well.

        As for multi-touch? That covers EXACTLY "how you do something" and the act of doing them. How do you zoom on a screen? From your own definition, you should be backing this specific claim.
        Bruizer
      • @Dana: exactly right, the ramifications are different

        @DanaBlankenhorn
        Apple can afford to pay any fine that Motorola may eventually extract. However, Apple's suit could clearly put Motorola out of business. Then Nokia. Then HTC. Etc.

        The rules are different when you are the world's biggest tech company. It might not be fair but tough. At least Apple has billions in profits to ease the suffering. Those who have responded to you, Dana, with their feelings all hurt, get [b]nothing[/b] in return from Apple. It makes me laugh. :)
        NonZealot
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        How would this put Motorola out of business? Selling Android mobile phones is not Motorola's entire business. I'd suggest a little research: [u]http://www.motorola.com/Business/US-EN/Business+Product+and+Services/[/u]

        How would this compare with Nokia's stated intention to drive Apple out of the mobile phone business?

        Just asking.
        msalzberg
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @DanaBlankenhorn This goes back to the point you made in this article and a previous one: "Patents should cover how things are done, not the act of doing them." This statement describes how patents originally worked. I do not understand why the current technology industry thinks it should be allowed (nor why the courts are allowing it) to patent an idea that something a certain process can be performed, without consideration to how it is performed. If this had been allowed within the automotive industry, there would have been only one internal combustion engine - a very unreliable and inefficient one. This way of interpreting patent rights is ludicrous, anti-competitive, and, if allowed to continue, will kill the improvement of a multitude of products.
        Diffie
    • The rules are different when you are the world's biggest tech company

      @day2die
      Apple zealots truly need to get used to the "unfair" attention that is being placed on Apple. The funny thing is that at least Apple has billions in profits to ease the suffering. Apple zealots get nothing. I feel very fortunate that I can take advantage of the 2 products that Apple got right (iPhone 4 and MBP) without feeling any of the emotional scarring that you guys do when a headline like this one singles out Apple. It just makes me laugh. :)
      NonZealot
      • Nothing more than another sky is falling...

        @NonZealot... Chicken Little article.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/">Online Schools </a>
        <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-degree.asp">university degrees</a>
        <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-associate-degree.asp">Associate Degrees</a>
        <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-bachelors-degree.asp">bachelors Degree</a>
        <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-master-degree.asp">Masters Degrees</a>
        IanBell840
    • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

      @day2die Apple sued Motorola first, earlier this year.
      Jimster480
  • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

    Dana, I'm seeing a complaint about the process, but not a offering of how it could be corrected. Should Apple, Microsoft, HTC, etc, spend millions of shareholder dollars driving researching a process/method/function to solve a problem and not have the ability to take their solution to market without some protection from competitors who will simply copy their work with no R&D expenditure of their own?

    Just look at the smart phone market, before Apple, where where the touch screen only non sliding keyboard phones, now how many are there?
    mrgoodall
    • Some early PocketPc type devices had on screen keyboards

      Just because someone added the phone function to such a pre-existing device should not mean that they should hold a patent on "phones with touch screen keyboards".

      Should the first company that adds a keyboard directlly to their televisions have the ability to patent the idea, even though many people have a keyboard attached to their television allready, though by way of a computer?
      :|
      Tim Cook
      • if they do it in some novel way.. yes, they should..

        @Mister Spock - apple is not claiming they own or invented multi-touch.. only that they have a uniquely implemented it.. and are determined to protect their unique implementation...

        just for reference.. this is what android looked like pre-iPhone

        http://static.phonesreview.co.uk/wp-content/phoneimages/2007/11/android-screenshots-pic-2.jpg
        doctorSpoc
    • There was the LG Prada.

      @mrgoodall

      It was announced about 1-2 months before the iPhone. From a physical standpoint it was very similar. A candy bar phone with 3" capacitive non-multi-touch touch screen. A virtual keyboard but having a layout like:

      "abc" "def" "ghi"

      like a typical feature phone. It had no serious web-browser and was reported to be very slow but usable in operation.

      So the iPhone was not the first candy bar fully touch screen based phone, but it was the first well executed unit. It was also the first phone to include multi-touch.

      At the end of the day, I would expect a cross licensing agreement between Apple and what ever company Motorola becomes, Apple will cross license with Nokia (plus Apple will add in a bit of $$$), HTC will pay Apple for Android's use like it does MS.
      Bruizer
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @Bruizer

        I read about the LG Prada. Virtually a tie -- LG posted a note that they intended to release a new phone that December. Apple demo-ed the actual iPhone within two weeks.

        I feel confident it was just a coincidence. Product development takes too long for either to be a copy.
        Jkirk3279
      • RE: Apple seeks monopoly through court action against Motorola

        @Bruizer HTC shouldn't have to pay apple for anything. Apple has not done anything worth paying for. They have taken other peoples technologies, licensed them and released it in devices. The only developing that Apple does is on aesthetics. The only thing apple coders know how to do is google for code and then modify it to be locked down.
        Jimster480
    • The iPhone was a crippled clone of the HTC Touch

      @mrgoodall <br><i>Just look at the smart phone market, before Apple, where where the touch screen only non sliding keyboard phones</i><br><br>The HTC Touch was a full screen touch screen cell phone with a gesture enabled UI and it came out before the iPhone. It even had an app store called Handango InHand. Apple copied so many things from that Windows Mobile smartphone. Over the years, Apple eventually added all the things that were there in that first HTC Touch until they <b>finally</b> reached the iPhone 4, Apple's first good smartphone.
      NonZealot
      • HTC Touch was released in June 2007; how is that "before" iPhone?

        @NonZealot: please do not lie any more; you can do better.
        DDERSSS