What the Apple Patent Victories Mean for Consumers
Contributed by Gerard O'Connor, CDAA CEO
CDAA® is an Australian Certified Digital Agency helping customers to benefit from and succeed with their marketing and digital activities. Founded in 1998 the Agency has a long track record of success working with Australia’s most well-respected businesses, governments and brands.
The recent Apple victory over Samsung included patent infringements of three User Interface (UI) techniques: “the bounce back scrolling feature”, “pinch to zoom and one finger scroll”, and “tap to zoom”.
Having been closely involved in the development in user interface development most of my working career, I find the whole Apple “victory” rather disheartening. My heartache is not just for Apple capitalising on these patents, but rather on the whole patent “industry” for allowing these fundamental touch screen techniques to be patented in the first place.
The touch screen was invented in the late 1960s. They were being used in the 80s in Point-of-Sale equipment, as well as Nintendo handheld gaming systems from early 2000. For Apple to be able to register patents in 2008 which I feel are evolutionary, not revolutionary, highlights to me that there is something wrong with the Patent system.
Consider this analogy: A motor vehicle has a specific design that makes sense – a steering wheel directly in front, brake pedal and accelerator on the floor. Although we could come up with other interfaces, this is just logical. It is more broadly referred to as “Anthropometrics”, and enables us to properly size items, including system interfaces, to the "fit" the user.
The touch screen too exhibits both advantages and constraints which need to be considered to deliver a suitable experience, and these have been evolving since it was invented over 40 years ago.
The patent victories set a daunting precedence where ultimately, the consumer is the biggest loser. The IOS interface is now dated, but Apple have fought hard for it, so you can expect to see it remain relatively stagnant for some time yet. On the other hand, other manufacturers are having to find compromised user experiences to circumvent what are just obvious interface interactions. These barriers stifle product innovation and the goal to find the best solution for the consumer.
Maybe it is consumer backlash that will make companies rethink their approach to this litigation.