Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Can't Believe Anyone Would Think It's Patentable

by Tom Bozzo

A MacNN news item divines a possible merger of calendar and map functions on the iPhone from an Apple patent filing. My marginal propensity to consume Apple-branded electronics is at least as high as the next person's, but nevertheless if Apple is granted this patent then the USPTO is fundamentally broken.

At issue is how the hell can this pass muster for novelty and non-obviousness? Inter-application communication — sending data from application A to application B — is old hat, as is combining the functions of applications A and B into Application C. This post, for instance, is written with an application (Firefox 3) that combines functions of e.g. a Web browser and RSS reader. So there has to be something extra-special about the choice of applications A="calendar" and B="map program." If you tell me that someone with ordinary skill in the art wouldn't envision the combination, then I'd laugh at you and then you'd tell me I'll never make it in patent law.

Regardless, Apple's application seems about as patentable as a Method and Apparatus for Text Entry and Editing on a Digital Computer would have been in recent prehistory. They deserve such copyright protection as is available for their code, and to be exposed to the rigors of competition otherwise.

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