Suing over lack of originality
Quick primer on what a patent really is: A fantastic oxymoron where the government decides you're creative and grants you a dry legal right to sue people with similar ideas. It's a first come first serve system, regardless of who actually created what.
Today Apple sued HTC because Apple has patents that say they're the first company to patent a number of things, even when they obviously weren't the first to do these things. For example
Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, said Tuesday in a statement. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
It's not easy to say where an idea comes from, but we all know that they aren't created in a vacuum. If you come up with something really cool, it doesn't mean that someone else didn't come up with the same idea. "Not steal ours" is insulting to the tech world -- HTC could have independently come up with the same ideas, ideas that Apple obviously didn't come up with independently.
Patents are supposed to make it easier to protect your investment. I may dis Apple regularly, but the iPhone is a great integration of a lot of different ideas, and it's the gestalt of those ideas that makes it king, not the little widgets that they bamboozled the US Patent office into awarding legal "wow" status to.
The reality is innovation slows when you treat little ideas like big ideas and sue people because they have some of the same little ideas -- if Apple had its way, there would be no Microsoft, there would be no Linux. There's a whole universe of ideas that Steve Jobs didn't patent, or maybe he did, and failed to enforce his patents. And the world is a richer place for that.
Eric Weaver: Re: Suing over lack of originality
There is a defense against that kind of thing, known as Showing Prior Art. There was once a co. called Cadtrak that threatened and/or sued everybody who did computer graphics. My employer showed them earlier-dated notebooks from MIT and told them to get lost, which they did. That said, if they do sue, it's a pain in the tuckus.
All "Letters Patent" effectively get one is the right to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit...