We’ve spent a good deal of time talking about the various patent law cases that have sprung up over the smartphone and tablet landscape in recent years. The whole mess is enough to drive you crazy, with companies spatting over licensing deals, throwing around accusations of ripping-off each other’s ideas, and little evidence that the patent system is actually doing anything to reward innovation and encourage creative new works. Apple’s been at the forefront of many of these patent battles, and a recent New York Times article may shed some light on why, depicting Steve Jobs as the force behind much of Apple’s patent enthusiasm.
As the story goes, back in 2006 Apple had just lost a hundred million dollar lawsuit to Creative over the iPod, due to patent issues. That experience reportedly convinced Jobs that Apple needed to go on the patent offensive, filing applications to patent everything it thought up under the sun, even if nothing ultimately came of each idea; better to have an unused patent on the books than be surprised when another company swoops-in to snag it for itself.
That’s why we see so many patents for things that seem like minor, obvious changes to other ideas; Apple doesn’t want to lose another $100M over another company beating it to the punch again.