Sunday, February 24, 2008

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp : Patents for Human Motion? The Proprietary Pinch : Apple Filing Multitouch Patent and Trademark Applications

Patents for Human Motion !! ??

The idea of controlling an object by waving a magic wand or snapping one's fingers has been around for ages. As a judge - we think we would call that a priori prior art from the Stone Ages and veritably enshrined since antiquity in the best tales about wizards, sorcerers and magicians. Was it not Aladdin who "rubbed" the magic lamp? A patentable act?

To us, the very idea that anyone could patent any God-given human motion for whatever purpose appears to be absurd, but our views are probably old-fashioned.

We currently live in an age of economic gouging in which the actual state of affairs in the prevailing patent system has reached a plateau, where, it seems, just about anything can be patented, regardless of its lack of novelty.

We think that this happens because the patent system in part functions primarily as a means to maintain or improve the status of vested interests in our society, who work mightily to stay on the receiving end of the benefits - and successfully so, as wealth accumulation in the hands of the few has increased greatly in the modern era, partly because of patent monopolies, thus leaving a poverty-stricken trail behind the ever-increasing numbers of globe-spanning rights being granted to the chosen few.

Especially emboldened by the faltering Bush Administration's ill-advised current blockage of the Patent Reform Act, the mania of patent filings for just about anything that comes to mind is continuing unabated under the motto that the best "get rich quick scheme" on this Planet Earth is a monopoly - any monopoly - granted by the USPTO.

Indeed, one sometimes gets the impression that far less real time is being invested in this world to discover inventions which might actually benefit mankind and more and more "inventive time" is being spent figuring out just what can or can not be patented for gigantic windfall profits.

Not content with merely selling its own iPhone and similar products to consumers in the economic system, Apple has now filed a bunch of "mutlitouch" patents - and also a trademark registration for "multi-touch" in Asia - to try to control as much of the "finger-control" and "human motion" world as possible.

As written at WIRED by Bryan Gardiner at Can Apple Patent the Pinch? Experts Say It's Possible:

""It seems that Apple could win patent claims where they are directed toward a touchscreen user device," says Chad Peterman, an expert on patent and antitrust litigation and an attorney at Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler. While a gesture like "the pinch" in and of itself is not patentable, if you connect that motion to a specific function on a popular device, it is possible to argue that other devices using the same technique are infringing, Peterman says." [law firm link added by LawPundit]

As a result, we can probably expect in the not too distant future that raising one's finger to make a point in a discussion or to catch the attention of a waiter, or even a proverbial "pinch" of salt at the dining table may easily be confounded in coming eras as patent infringement if the pinching is done too close to a technological device not bearing the Apple brand.

So easily is money made, if the patent system is behind you. There is no longer any need to "pinch" pennies to make a dollar. Rather, one avails of the motto:

"In a Pinch, Give this a Go, File a Patent with the USPTO."

Of course, this has engendered a panoply of commentary, for example at:

digg

Quintin Smith comments at ITP.net:

"Raj Abhyanker, a patent lawyer who used to write patent applications for Apple told the magazine: "If Apple's patents are granted, the company could absolutely stop others from using similar technology. They'd also be in an especially good position to stop others from including certain features. Apple could stop [their use] not only on mobile devices but also desktops."" [link added by LawPundit]

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