Originally Posted by esummers
Stealing code, firmware, chemical formulas, etc. is wrong. Stealing ideas is different. That shouldn't be illegal in my opinion. It is not a race to the bottom. There is a huge difference between a product created by an innovative company and one that just blindly copies everything. The quality and experience is definitely not the same. The companies who implement those ideas the best and stay ahead of everyone else will come out ahead. This is actually the first time I know of that Apple has sued another company in a cast-the-first-stone situation. I hope they return to the defensive stance they have always taken in the past on these matters.
There is a vague line between an idea and a formula or a recipe or an implementation. Very vague and nonobvious. Thought cases:
1. RIM, the smiling thumb board company, believes they own the keyboard layout of the Blackberry keyboard and the fact that it has a curve to it. They also have a patent on a keyboard that has a "V" shape as well as the smile shape. They sued Handspring for it and Handspring had to settle and license. If you haven't noticed, RIM is the only company sells a thumb board with a curve to it. The Treos used to have them since Palm hand a license through Handspring, but now with the Treo retired, no other phone has the feature.
Is the curved thumb board an invention or an idea? Is it patentable?
If you say yes, you have no choice but to grant Apple its unlock screen implementation patent even though it's a GUI design, software, not hardware. Really what's the difference? The design is unique, not obvious, and there are a gazillion other ways to unlock a screen.
If you say no, well I'll try to think of another thought case to see where your boundary is.
2. Xerox successfully sued Palm in the unistroke versus Graffiti case. Xerox says they invented single stroke block character recognition for entering character input on a touchscreen. Palm implemented unistroke style block character recognition with Graffiti 1. They lost the case and implemented multiple stroke block character recognition with Graffiti 2. Some say Palm jumped the shark after this as people had to switch and it wasn't comfortable.
Is it patentable? The idea is character recognition. It was implementable in multiple ways. It just so happens unistroke was just a little bit easier.
If you say yes, you have to allow for Apple's rubber banding scroll and fixed axis scroll patents. Both are just implementations for scrolling.
If you say no, I'll think up another test case to see where your boundary is.
3. In the above, which is the idea and which is the implementation? Thumb board is the idea. Thumb board layout is also an idea. So is a layout (key location and board geometry) of a keyboard patentable since it is just an idea? Extend it to software. Would different touchscreen keyboards be patentable? Is Apple's iPhone word correction patentable? What about the popup keys? They are just ideas too. They also happen to be implementations.