Commentary
2/20/2007
02:53 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
Commentary

The iPhone Has Very Little New Technology: So Why Does Apple Need 200 Patents?

Mike Masnick over at Techdirt picks up the old invention vs. innovation debate and how it applies to the iPhone. So, does that mean that Apple's 200 patents surrounding the iPhone are unnecessary? Or even unjustified?



Mike Masnick over at Techdirt picks up the old invention vs. innovation debate and how it applies to the iPhone. So, does that mean that Apple's 200 patents surrounding the iPhone are unnecessary? Or even unjustified?According to Masnick's line of argument, invention is the process of actually developing something novel and completely new. On the other hand, innovation is the process of taking a new (or existing) technology and making it useful for the public.

Apple under the leadership of Steve Jobs has been a leader in innovation. Apple didn't invent the MP3 player; they just innovated it and made it mainstream. Ditto with the Mac and graphical user interfaces. Apple is incredibly good at making technology chic, easy, and, most importantly, fun-to-use.

So what about those 200 patents? Does Apple's success at innovation give it the right to patent all this innovation of existing technology? Critics of the U.S. intellectual property law system would argue no. They claim that the rewards of the market -- i.e. strong product sales -- are incentive enough.

Others would claim that both inventors and innovators need patents to give them a profit incentive to invent or innovate. Without these patents, competitors would quickly copy the new ideas and steal any reward the industrious pioneers might have seized from their hard work.

Going further, some defenders of the current patent process would go so far to argue that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between invention and innovation, at least from the perspective of the market.

What do you think? Even if a piece of technology isn't really new, does a company have the right to patent it?

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