Apple was recently granted an injunction on Galaxy Nexus. The injunction was for infringement of three patents in Nexus. One patent caught my attention – Patent No. 8,074,172 – touch screen word suggestion. From what I have read and understood, for a layman it is the spell check that we use in MS Word, Open Office, various browsers, etc. implemented on a touch screen. Does this sound new or innovative? Certainly not. I have used a Blackberry and it provides with word suggestions for incorrectly typed words. Would copying this feature on a touch screen (from computer softwares or non-touch phones) be worthy of a patent? Patents are supposed to be guardians of Intellectual Properties. Where is intelligence in it? This, I believe, is an important question.
Before I get into patents I would like to ask, “What is an Intellectual Property?” There can not be a proper definition to it but let me try (if you know a better definition then please comment with it.) It can be something that comes to one’s mind, generally (a path breaking) an idea, mixed with hard work and luck. Ideas without implementation are like dreams. See the greatest inventions – the light bulb, electricity, etc. these have revolutionized our lives. But are ideas restricted to a particular individual or group of individuals? I doubt that. There is a saying, “Wise men think alike.” – People generally think alike. Should ideas that are obvious to our mind be deemed fit to be patented? If yes, then LifeHacker would own the most number of patents. :P There should be a line that divides an ‘obvious idea’ from an ‘eureka idea.’
The (online) tech industry is divided into two halves – the ones who sue and the rest of the industry. Apple, Yahoo, Oracle are the ones suing other companies (Android Device Makers, Facebook, and Google respectively) for patent infringements. Now the important question that arises is, “How should the patents be used and protected.” Twitter has said that it would use patents only for defense and not to attack anyone. Facebook and Google have not sued each other in this issue given the fact that they are arch rivals.
Let us take an example. The browser that you are using right now uses tabbed browsing. The patent for tabbed browsing rests with Microsoft. What would have happened if Microsoft would have sued every browser on the web? Imaging reading this post on Internet Explorer. Gives you shudders, right?
Another example. The social networking patent rests with Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn . Not that he registered it he bought it from the original patent recipients. What if Reid would have sued every social networking site? Imagine a world without Facebook and Twitter. Again, it gives you shudders, right?
I am not suggesting anything on the use of patents, it is up to the patent owners to decide sensibly, we are nobody to suggest them. What can be done is making stricter norms for patenting. What should be patented and what should not. Share your views in the comments.
 The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick