Patents are generally held up as an enabler for small startups, but I am not so sure of that. When relatively broad and trivial ideas can be patented they can become an insurpassable barrier to entry against anyone trying to challenge the established players. As is evident in this case, they can also be weapons for use in wars between the large companies. I am working with a company now that has enjoyed a protected market niche for a long time due to patent protection, but during that time they have effectively stopped innovating. Right now I am trying to get them to go back into a mode where they are willing to take risks.
I acknowledge that patent protection is needed, but I think that we need to be much more aggressive about limiting it.
It's impossible to do anything meaningful without infringing on some overly broad (and probably invalid if challenged) patent. Any successful startup is likely to have to deal wtih patent licencing or litigation sooner or later... hopefully later when you have the resources to settle or fight.
The computer industry was rife with examples of patent litigation in its earlier decades until the judiciary got sick of the collosal waste of resources and made the litigants cross-license each others patents. It has had some interesting side effects, like Intel being forced to buy DEC because of the Alpha patents. I look forward to the day when that solution gets applied to phones. Until then everyone on every side is beefing up their patent portfolios for the coming slugfest.
I don't understand why Samsung isn't going on the offensive here, or is this just not being reported?
Speaking of "unlocking." Has anyone seen anything analogous to this in the auto industry? For example, do car companies sue one another because someone at some point "stole" the key fob concept? How many makes of cars out there today don't use key fobs? Or for that matter, windshield washers?
Perhaps this goes on a lot, but it seems too trivial to make the news.
Actually, here is one car-related example. Not a very uplifting story, eh?
@Bert, thanks for the link to the Washington Post story. Man, this was such a depressing story to read.
Speaking of legal entanglements, based on some conversation I had with a lawyer in the Bay area, my understanding is that more mature the industry gets, fewer incidents we see among the industry players getting into legal fights. It's largely because they tend to get into more cross licensing deals.
We have certainly seen that happening among consumer electronics manufacturers. You name it, almost all the who's who in that industry have already entered into some sort of cross licensing agreements.
I am not sure about the automotive industry.
But I bet the mobile industry will sooner or later find themselves much more productive, once they get into cross licensing.
Its amazing to see how lawyers and people who have not engineered these phones debate on technical issues. May be many of these lawyers either have done engineering or would have interest in technical stuff.
@Sheetal: Yes, prominent lawyer are creme de la creme of erudite students. It is common to find people after their professional education in medicine, engineering and other discipline trun to become lawyer. Sometime they also have very good professional experience in their respective technical branch.
It needs very high credential to be a lawyer and these lawyers when were kids are almost like nerds with Gift of Gab.
"Its amazing to see how lawyers and people who have not engineered these phones debate on technical issues."
Not amazing at all. Lawyers can debate on any issue - technical or not. It's what they are paid to do. And unlike engineering - where success is a function of objective facts, real understanding, and logical reasoning - "debate" is primarily about the art of persuasion.