I recently read an article (reposted on Facebook by a friend) entitled "Apple to Make Billions on Google's Android" and I'm troubled at the way Apple is vigorously pursuing litigation all over the planet.
Consider what Apple is doing to other smartphone makers (such as Samsung), and developers of smartphone operating systems (such as Google). What it ultimately amounts to, I think, is the stifling of competition and innovation. Although swipe to unlock is a clever solution, does it really make sense to patent it? Or proximity detectors, so that the phone doesn't get mixed instructions when your face is near the touchscreen?
Probably my biggest gripe is the Apple patent on the use of a touchscreen. When you look at how the patent is written, it covers almost everything we want to do on a smartphone or tablet with a touchscreen display. It looks like Apple wants to be the only one to make touchscreen devices, or get all the royalties for touchscreens. (Remember the way Apple fans have been painting IBM and Microsoft in the past? Ironic, isn't it?)
At issue, of course, is what exactly is patentable, and how long patent protection should last.
The idea behind patents is to give inventors some time to get some return on their effort, and not to give a permanent monopoly. For example, medicine is patented and the discoverer has the right to restrict who can manufacture a drug so that the money spent on research and clinical trials will be recovered, and some profit is made as a reward for taking the risk of developing new technology.
The years of protection allotted to inventors (20 years) reflect a different age, when there weren't that many people, and the rate of advancement of technology was slow. When consumer devices last only for two to three years, the number of consumers much much larger (7 Billion?) , and product development cycles much shorter, the old twenty year lifespan doesn't seem to make much sense anymore. I think copyright and patent law during our times needs an overhaul.
Given the stakes, I'll be keeping an eye on how the patent battles play out. And I do plan not to buy Apple.