I think it's just the customers that lose. Companies are dumping cash into bogus patents (I'm sure you've heard that lots of these are pretty vague and should never have been granted in the first place) either in getting them, defending them, or prosecuting infringements on them, rather than just making stuff.
Bill called it back in 1991. "...complete standstill..." pretty much sums it up when describing a landscape full of software patents.
Of course, Microsoft sings a very different tune now...
At some point they're going to claim to own "squares with rounded corners" and then it's all over for everyone. :X
Even as an Apple fanboy (I don't much like that term though), I agree completely that the patent thing is getting out of hand. It's not just the customers who are losing. It's startups and other innovators who'd love to improve upon elements from previous innovations. Apple, in its fetish of protecting its innovation, is holding on so tight that it is killing the entire process of evolution.
The open approach is something that is considered a virus in Apple's DNA so they avoid it totally. Sure, they end up producing some really good products but at this rate of patent litigation and stuff, we're going to dry up the well somewhere.
If you have done any research into these technical patents you will know that the customer is the big loser. Companies just buy up thousands of patents that nobody really understands. They try to cash in on them with a settlement with the major tech companies who may just be avoiding a major lawsuit and litigation. These are companies that have brought us great products over the years, but when they have to pay for expensive litigation the cost unfortunately gets passed on to the customer.
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I agree that obtaining a patent is very easy. When I inquired about an idea I had and called the Patent Office, the information I was given was very vague and I was told to be as specific as possible (which was ironic). Basically, you pay your fee (which is not as inexpensive as everyone thinks it is) and submit your idea. They wont tell you over the phone if there already is a similar idea already out there (that's what the fee is for). So, I submitted my idea with my fee and waited. It took 6 months, but I was granted a patent.
By that time, I discovered that someone else had already beat me to almost the very same idea. I felt like getting that patent was a rip off. I didn't inquire to see if that person obtained a patent or not. I could have very well inquired and taken my case to court (if they had not). I was glad to see that this idea was already put into action and was prospering. I decided to just drop the whole idea and chalk it up as a learning experience.
So considering what happened to me, yes, I think that innovation is being stifled. I believe the Patent Office should change there policy and be a little more stringent when it comes to the patent process.
Apple and Samsung are suing each other in just about every country where they can find a court who will hear their cases. At issue are patents and designs relating to the popular iPhone.
With so many lawsuits and so many claims against each other in the name of "protecting innovation," do you think at some point that they'll actually stifle innovation out of fear of violating someone's existing patent?
Would love to hear your thoughts on this growing war!
UPDATED: On Friday Aug. 24, 2012, the jury in the California case ruled almost entirely in Apple's favor, awarding them $1.01 Billion in damages and rejecting all of Samsung's counter claims. Apple has already filed to have all Samsung's offending devices pulled from the market. Samsung has vowed to appeal.
With most of the offending phones at the end of their lifespan and no longer on sale in America, is this really a huge win for Apple?
Message was edited by: Moderator_JimF