Originally Posted by zoetmb
I would disagree. Apple gets sued all the time over general concepts and business processes that should not be patentable (IMO).
Absolutely, but many of the patents that they have asserted against opponents fit the same profile, certainly most of the ones they asserted against HTC.
But on the other hand, every other smartphone has copied Apple's design and UI. No one's smartphone (if they had any) looked anything like what Apple eventually developed, but once Apple did, they all looked uncannily like the iPhone and most acted like an iPhone from a UI perspective. And yet Apple hasn't sued anyone over that (yet).
Kinda, sorta, ish. A lot of the UI elements that Android copies from Apple weren't novel. A grid of icons for example was also present on the LG Prada, not to mention being fairly obvious. Single finger touch as metaphor for panning wasn't new, etc. Apple has some functional patents for UI elements, but they are very specific and easily avoided things like the 'rubber-banding' when you pan off the edge of an image. With the other stuff Apple is forced to rely on design patents to protect the non-functional aesthetic choices, such as the slight rounding of their icons - so far it's only asserted those against Samsung afaik.
I do think that the patent system has become absurd. Patents were never supposed to be given for ideas, but for the implementation of ideas. Can I get a patent for "time travel" and "flying cars" merely because I can think of the idea? Can I get a patent for having all devices sync to each other by detecting the presence of another device when I walk into a room? It's just an idea - I have absolutely no specific technology that can accomplish this. Today, I probably could get the patent. But I shouldn't be able to. At the very least, inventors should have to show a working implementation, even if it's not in an actual commercial product.
Absolutely absurd, and the problem is biggest in software. Take your flying car example - you actually can't get a patent on the concept of a flying car, because people already did - for example:http://paleo-future.blogspot.com/200...tent-1991.html
No doubt if we could be bothered to go through the huge list of cited patents in there we'd find some for other surface/air vehicles - likely going back to the 50s or earlier. I remember that Richard Feynman got a patent on a nuclear airplane.http://www.myspace.com/richard_feynman/blog/332428072
People have always been able to patent things without worrying about implementation, but for the most part it was self-correcting, because the patents had expired long before the crazy idea became feasible. So horribly broad patents didn't badly affect old-tech.
Software and Consumer Electronics though advance at such a pace that the impossible to implement today is often trivial to implement in 10 years time. Suddenly we're in a situation were simply crying 'FIRST' is worth millions - as you say - it's absurd