Judge in Apple/Motorola case doesn't think we need most patents

In June, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the long running patent case between Apple and Motorola (now owned by Google). In his decision, Judge Posner stated in part, " ... it’s because the parties have failed to present enough evidence to create a triable issue."

Now in a new interview for Reuters, Judge Posner says that the tech industry doesn't really need patents. Indeed, he adds, "It's not clear that we really need patents in most industries." One exception is pharmaceuticals patents, which take a long time to develop in that industry. However, that's not the case for software products and Judge Posner believes that the companies that develop them would be helped more by getting them quickly into the marketplace with no patents to hold them back.

Another point about smartphones and other hardware products is that they have tons of parts inside, all of which could be protected legally by patents. Judge Posner states, "You just have this proliferation of patents. It's a problem."

Judge Posner actually volunteered to oversee the patent case between Apple and Motorola but in the end he made the decision to dismiss it, saying, "I didn't think I could have a trial just for fun."

Source: Reuters

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Lumia more searched for than Windows Phone

Next Story

FCC filing from Sony may show future "Super Slim" PS3

19 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

This judge is turning out to be my new hero. He's a one man example that our entire legal system isn't completely blind. I only hope that his rulings, and the precedent they set, help to cultivate big changes in our ridiculous patent laws.

simplezz said,
It's a shame Judge Lucy Koh isn't able to apply the same common sense to Apple's patent trolling vs Samsung.

+<Eleventy Billion>

I love apple products, can say that without the iphone, all phones would still be so boring. But im totally against patents in the software field. You can not patent technology and be protected 20 years for it. 1 year or 2 only to recover the invest, then... not only loose the patent but share the knowledge. that would drive us to a next step in technological and life development.
i think it should be that way for ALL industries.
But im only a fool dreamer.

Another point about smartphones and other hardware products is that they have tons of parts inside, all of which could be protected legally by patents.

I would not want that cell phone. At a few grams, it's enough to carry.

While I can agree that there are software patterns that are ridiculous (e.g., swipe to unlock), there are plenty of non-obvious software algorithms that take many years and resources to research (e.g, Google's search engine). The later usually are vital for a company and dropping software patents altogether would result in companies eventually stopping investments in research and development, stifling innovation, as it would be cheaper to:

1 - Wait for competing company to release a new product;
2 - Buy it;
3 - Reverse Engineer it;
4 - Build your own with some improvements;
5 - Sell cheaper, as there is no research investment to recoup;

sviola said,
While I can agree that there are software patterns that are ridiculous (e.g., swipe to unlock), there are plenty of non-obvious software algorithms that take many years and resources to research (e.g, Google's search engine). The later usually are vital for a company and dropping software patents altogether would result in companies eventually stopping investments in research and development, stifling innovation, as it would be cheaper to:

1 - Wait for competing company to release a new product;
2 - Buy it;
3 - Reverse Engineer it;
4 - Build your own with some improvements;
5 - Sell cheaper, as there is no research investment to recoup;

Except Company B doesn't really understand Company A's design and didn't implement as well. In addition Company B doesn't have A's super retail chain and general customer satisfaction. So your example doesn't really rob A at all.

sviola said,
While I can agree that there are software patterns that are ridiculous (e.g., swipe to unlock), there are plenty of non-obvious software algorithms that take many years and resources to research (e.g, Google's search engine). The later usually are vital for a company and dropping software patents altogether would result in companies eventually stopping investments in research and development, stifling innovation, as it would be cheaper to:

1 - Wait for competing company to release a new product;
2 - Buy it;
3 - Reverse Engineer it;
4 - Build your own with some improvements;
5 - Sell cheaper, as there is no research investment to recoup;

There's actually very little protection in patent law against reverse engineering. Any company who wants to protect highly sensitive ideas/concepts/processes do not patent them because once they do they're open to the public. Also, complex multilayer processes can not be patented - i.e. Google's search algorithm, because it can not be functionally decomposed into a simple enough process to be covered by a patent. Also, why would they, given they'd have to expose its inner-workings to do so? In the case where a company is forced to disclose a product's contents, e.g. pharmaceuticals a patent is there to protect them.

Look at the case law regarding challenges to reverse engineering. Rulings are almost never found in the patent holder's favor.

Edited by ahinson, Jul 5 2012, 6:09pm :

Is today April 1st or Upside Down Day? A judge who sounds like his head is actually attached straight and has proper blood flow to his brain? Sign of the Apocalypse?

I am liking where this judge is thinking. Wouldn't be shocked if both parties involved here put this judge on their do-not-like list LOL.

Depicus said,
A judge with common sense, sadly lacking in some of the comments above.

Ask most software/tech lovers and they'll tell you without patents, "innovation would stop"; as if has been the case for hundreds of years up until they were actually created.

Not to forget that 'Fruit Company' who owns the square with rounded corners and claimed patent rights to the rectangle itself.. How stupid.

I agree with the judge, since most of the patents that exist in some form were most likely stolen from someone else anyway. Patenting something like "slide to unlock" is just ridiculous and was stolen. A poignant example for Apple, but absolutely true.

ahinson said,
I agree with the judge, since most of the patents that exist in some form were most likely stolen from someone else anyway. Patenting something like "slide to unlock" is just ridiculous and was stolen. A poignant example for Apple, but absolutely true.

Tell me about it. Some decades ago the pharmaceutical companies used to come to Brazil, look at the indigenous tribes for their healers, take the herb they used, extract the active ingredient and patent its use. And then if our own pharmaceutical companies did the same, we couldn't produce the meds because they would be too expensive to sell considering the royalties.