I was reading this article just minutes ago. Actually, I was scrolling down the page looking at the titles throughout the article. (It was a really long and rather old article, btw.) Then, I got to my favorite part: the comments. I find the comments to be more informational than most articles I read. I also find them to be simultaneously frustrating and hilarious. First you get the “professional’s” point of view, and then you get view points from people who actually know what they are talking about (for the most part). These are people who have been using the products for years. They have been in the fox hole. They have taken hits and won battles. The war is far from over, and the fun continues through web-news article comments.
Now, every so often I read a comment I do not like. Why? You would probably guess that I am a conservative know-it-all who thinks I know more than you because I went to Harvard, have two Ph. D’s , and have studied civics for the last 25 years. Well, 25 years ago I was 3. So, no, I have not been studying civics since I was 3 years old. And if you know me you know I did not go to Harvard. (Who would want to anyway?) To top it off, I don’t even know what civics is. Here is the comment, for reference:
“And yet another OS that has mimicked webOS “cards”. How could palm and hp drop the ball so bad.”
– J McDouche
The reason I did not like his comment is the fact that pattents and copyrights have all but staggered the development of some pretty cool technology over the last few years. Don’t believe me? I don’t care. And I’m not gonna waste my time explaining it because it’s just too difficult for the average person to understand.
So here’s the lowdown: Apple makes something. Tech ‘r Us makes something that is similar to Apple’s. Apple sues Tech ‘r Us for stealing their intelectual information (because heaven forbid someone else use icons to signify applications). Apple usually wins because
they are paying off the courts they have more money than the little companies they pick on. So, this technology which usually isn’t being used in any sort of phenominal way, just sits on Apple’s devices with no further development. This technology does not enjoy the fruits of innovation. Sure, maybe Apple ripped everything off of Palm is the first to put this all together, and we count that as innovation, but let’s be honest: Apple, and companies like them, stiffel innovation by taking “intellectual property” too seriously.
For example: Apple sues HTC, Samsung, and a few other smartphone companies for, among other reasons, arranging icons in columns and rows… W…T…F…?!? Are you kidding me? Now, watching things like this happen how can anyone say Apple is legally and logically protecting property? I saw a cell phone company arrange their icons differently. Besides being confusing, it was utterly disgusting to look at. And I’m not even going to mention how Apple is a big, giant chicken; sueing the cell phone hardware manufacturers who just so happen to be running the Android OS, instead of sueing the developers of the Android OS which supposedly infringes on their intellectual property. (oops, did I mention that?) Why would they do such a thing? Oh ya, because Google is the developer of Android and sueing them could be bad for business, cost a lot of money, and it’s not really certain just how things will turn out. At least Apple is pretty sure they can beat a smaller company like HTC into submission (although, they only won a handfull of the suits they brought towards HTC, Samsung, etc.).
I was thinking about this “intellectual property” nonsense and began to develope my own plan for fixing the world of patents, copyright, and intangible property. I began thinking about my computer class.
Let’s say a teacher from another school visits my computer class. She’s heard good things about my computer lab, the curriculum, my games, the technology I use, and the innovating way I use technology. There’s obviously someone talking me up out there, ’cause I don’t do anything terribly interesting. Even still, this teacher wants to see what’s up. Her school could use some new ideas. So she visits my classroom and sees some contingencies she likes, some projects she thinks her kids would enjoy, and some technology (she actually has) being used in new ways. After she has watched my classes all day, taken her notes, and liked what she saw, she asks if she can borrow some of my ideas…
If, at this point in time, I tell her “no way” unless she wants to pay me for them, her computer classes will continue to be bland, uninteresting, uninformative, and not the least bit educational. Her students will become bored, and tire her into letting them play games on the Internet, when they should be learning about Internet safety instead.
However, if I let her use some of my ideas, it’s possible her class will be come more educational, informative, and fun for her students. They will learn more about technology, be more excited about technology and using it properly. The students may even want to learn more, and play games less. All I would ask for is credit for my ideas and credit for showing her other readily available lessons.
But this would never work with patents and copyright. This would require companies like Apple to allow others to use their techniques and simply give them credit (not payment). You would put certain limitations on this:
- Point one: certain items would be considered common sense (such as the representation of apps with icons, and the sorting of apps and files in lists, and columns and rows). Companies would just have to get over it. Once something has permeated the landscape as much as pinch-to-zoom it’s just too common place for a company to assume control of it’s placement in devices. Everything does pinch-to-zoom and similar gestures and if you can figure out how to do it on your device, then go ahead, you don’t owe anyone anything.
- This takes us to the second part: The true innovators get the credit for developing the technology or software. Everyone else gets to copy them if they can figure it out for themselves. You can’t tell me Apple and Microsoft have teams which would never come to the same conclusions or create the same technology without ever knowing what the other company is doing. That’s just stupid. Now tell me that HTC, Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Nokia, and Palm/HP (who all have separate developer teams) would never end up with similar technologies as each other and that’s just insane. It may be a form of copying, but if I develop a program, and someone else develops a similar program all on their own, who am I to say their hard work should be for nothing. And if this new guy creates a better program than me? That pushes me to innovate. Sueing him because I’m jealous causes his better tech to suffer and fall wayside.
- The third point: the true innovators are writers of sci-fi. Apple didn’t develop the iPad, Star Trek developed the iPad. Apple didn’t make a lot of the product you buy. They made a lot of the products you buy shinier. And somehow that means they are innovators in the mobile space? I don’t think so. Just about every technology we have and wish to have in the future is already a real item in sci-fi somewhere. The bad dude from the original Tron movie had screens and a keyboard in his desk. Years later, Microsoft builds the Surface. Microsoft cannot be credited with the concept, but they can be credited with the device they produced, and the software which makes it work.
- Last Point: Give credit where credit is due. Even though a company might not be the one to come up with the technology, if they are the first to make it real, then they get credit for doing so. No stealing. If two companies are working on the same tech and one comes out with it first, they get credit. However, if one company shows off their tech in a ridiculous, unfinished form, and another company then releases a finished product, this second company would obviously get the credit for having a useable product first.
Now, I know some people are thinking, “the only way to know who had it first is to show it to someone and have them record the date and time and we already have something like that it’s called the patent office.”
My response: STFU, fool! Patents for physical devices or parts thereof are fine as long as something is to be done about it. Then, if I spend my own time and money making something from scratch that you just so happen to have patented recently, I should be able to go on with my device. Why? I’m not copying you. I did my own research. I did my own work. You’re not telling people what you’re doing so how am I supposed to know? Why should I suffer because you got their first? Everyone knows you got to it first, so why can’t I have a go at it now? You think because you built it and patented it you own the idea forever? Like no one else on the planet could have thought about what you did? You’re the only original thinker on the planet?
If people worked together more, we’d probably have flying cars by now. Or at least cars which run above 50mpg… oh wait, we had those once. I wonder what happened to those?