Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smartphone Motion Control Patent: Who Owns It? | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD

The invention, the patent’s authors explain, “facilitates an intuitive motion control of the application by physically manipulating the electronic device…it enables a user to intuitively control the state and/or displayed content of a computing device without the conventional need of pressing button(s), or manipulating a trackpad, trackball, etc. In this regard, the motion control agent represents a new paradigm in user control of computing systems.”

Here is what I don't like about our system in its current mode of operation. It would seem that all it takes to get a patent is to duct tape a compass to a cell phone take it into the patent office and claim you have invented something new.

I could be wrong, but when companies first took component stereo systems and combined them into boom boxes I don't think patent wars ensued, but today it seems they would.

Motion detectors, accelerometers, etc were in game controllers before they were in phones and to me this is just "hey people play games on phones, let's give them the properties of game controllers!" I consider this to be hardly a brilliant idea.

Someone claimed recently (regarding the Apple HTC suit) that you had to allow for this type of patent to encourage innovation. That's certainly true for SOME types of innovation. When the innovation is for something like "the first smartphone" or a personal fold-up briefcase helicopter, then sure, you have to protect new things from the risk that a company will spend millions in development only to find that nobody wants such a thing or that someone else would take the (totally new) concept and implement it ahead of the innovator. But to apply the patent system to creeping incrementalism is another matter. There is hardly any risk for an existing cell phone maker to include one more $9 part in their next generation phone. If the idea is a flop, or if someone else does it too, you still sell a lot of phones.

Someone also said that you have to defend your patent or lose it. I'm not sure that is true. It is true of trademarks, but there must be millions of patents being potentially infringed at any given time and they are not all being litigated. In fact the notion of a patent ambush is well established where you ignore infringement until someone uses "your" idea in a successful way. Nobody is suing for patent violation on money losing products that I know of.

A system that should allow new companies to spring up in an accelerated basis, instead acts as a defoliant, allowing only the biggest companies to remain in the game. Gotta love those mixed metaphors.

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