Apple patents get ripped off, other people's patents don't get fairly licensed

Apple patents get ripped off, other people's patents don't get fairly licensed

As the head of a publicly traded company -- THE most publicly traded company -- when asked on the D10 Conference stage about ongoing patent litigation, Apple's Tim Cook went straight into CEO mode.

Cook basically repeated his previous line -- that Apple shouldn't be the developer to the world. Apple wants competition but wants competitors to stop copying Apple and start making their own stuff. That's why Apple has been going after Android original device manufacturers (ODMs) like Samsung, HTC, and (now Google-owned) Motorola. (Apple has cross-licensing deals with Microsoft and has reached settlements with Nokia.)

As to whether or not the current patent system stifled innovation, Cook said Apple can't spend time and effort making a painting just for someone else to come along and sign their name on it. He said that was the worst feeling.

When asked about Apple copying other companies, Cook cast all counter-suits as morally questionable. In patents, there's a concept called FRAND (free, reasonable, and non-discriminatory), which basically means if you want your patent to become part of a standard, like 3G networking, you have to agree to license it to everyone else for roughly the same price, using roughly the same terms. Otherwise things like phones simply wouldn't work.

Cook says Apple has never sued over a FRAND patent, but claims their competition have sued, countersued, or been blocked from suing used FRAND patents (to try and force Apple to license proprietary patents they otherwise would not license.)

While that assertion seems to be true, Cook never got around to addressing the issue of Apple violating and getting sued for non-FRAND patents as well. (Which, for example, is why Apple users in Germany currently have no push email.)

We wouldn't expect Cook to address ongoing litigation in any way that may harm Apple, of course, so it's a question that would never be answered, but it does highlight the ongoing chaos that is the global patent system.

Which Cook himself did categorize rather adeptly -- as a "pain in the ass".

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Apple screens, chipsets proudly made in the U.S.A.

Next up →

Case-Mate Horizontal Hipster for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 only $17.95

Reader comments

Apple patents get ripped off, other people's patents don't get fairly licensed


Of course because apple doesn't do any wrong. Come on cook apple steals just as much as any company if not more.

Funny how people come on here and bash apple. Please.... Google/Motorola are scam artist at the most. For instance the Patent on push email.... Really!? If you are going to sue over something so so so stupid apple has right to do the same.

The "push email" patent suit came after Apple's "slide to unlock" patent suit. So one could argue that Apple deserves to be sued for push email because it is suing over such trivial stuff like slide to unlock or a context menu that comes up if one presses a phone number or email address.
The whole patent system should be thrown out the window in regards to software. It doesn't make sense.

I believe you're back words my friend. I believe they one the email push in December of 2011. While Apple just won the slide lock lawsuit. Im pretty sure there are other ways of turning on and off your phone or locking/unlocking it. An idea how about a good old on and off button? Toooo boring?
If Apple was smart they would of bough Motorola but then I bet that FCC would not allow that. Motorola can suck for all I care. Their Set top boxes suck the big one. Check out this product of Motorola what does this look like? MOTOACTV.... Ill wait

Well the other side of that argument is. There is more than one way to get your email. How about apple suing over using a similar shaped phone. All these patents and suits are stupid. We suffer and lawyers get rich and innovation slows to a crawl.

Nick is correct, it's plain to see that all this Apple hate is posted by illinformed readers that have no clue about business or why things must be protected.
I just love the classic tactic of spinning words, it's not an art form, it's done by posters that have no credible thing to say, it would be much more usefull as a late night comedy routine on a sub B station.
And did I miss the part where Apple was mentioned as a supposed "innocent Victim" .... Oh wait it's just that classic, have nothing intelligent to add but I need to boast about nothing. Bark bark bark.....
Enough already.

How about the blatant ripoff of Notification Center?
I love my iphone and my Android tablet but everybody steals from everybody.

They are all stealing ideas / and talent from each other. When one does something better they try to poach the talent that made it happen and then get them to create a one off. For all the comments from the community about people not knowing anything and having nothing intelligent say, you should all stop underestimating people they have the ability to read all the articles that you do. Plus who knows what they do for a living not everyone is ignorant. Nor are any of us the smartest person on earth.

Things that Apple has ripped off:
1) Notification center
2) Slide camera access in 5.1 (stolen from ICS)
3) Cloud synchronization (MobileMe was psudeo sync, not cloud)
4)OTA Updates
5) Widgets
and the list goes on.
People will agree that Android owes iOS more than Apple owes to Google, but inspiration can go both ways (no pun intended). Its all peaches when Apple takes inspiration from others and makes it better, but when the same is done to them they call up the lawyers.

Exactly, if Palm had been as litigious as Apple then we would probably either not have iPhones as we know them, or Palm would still be around because of they could have probably survived on the licensing fees alone.

Everyone copies everyone especially in the business world. Some copy more blatantly then others (Samsung). But we seen it all the time. It just pisses me off how Apple tries to look all innocent when they are just as guilty.

The moment people realize that all information is serial, meaning that everything is based on prior concepts, we'll drop all patents and start becoming civilized.

Since Apple ramped up this game (and it will get worse now that the US is going to first-to-file), other entities will be snapping up silly broad patents at an exponentially faster rate.
Soon, somebody, be it Google, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, or some non-practicing entity, will get a patent for something as silly as "slide to unlock" or "two fingers to pinch/zoom" and assert them against Apple because they feel it violates their own "painting." It will see if Mr Cook has the same attitude then. It is only a matter of time.
Sure, Apple currently has enough money to pay off just about anybody, but is such a system doing anybody any good, aside from the legal departments?

Personally I think the most obvious is Samsung... they not only copy software but outright copy design. If anyone questions this, they should look around the Internet a little at the comparisons between Apple's products and ads to Samsungs. Its obvious, its just some people aren't willing to admit it.
This is where I think lawsuits are justified. I don't think a person should be able to flat out copy a product, capitalize on it, and get away with it. I think its not just Apple but other companies like Motorola and HTC that should be beating up Samsung because they took over the market based on their copy-cat tactics.
Software.. .meh, different story IMHO. Let it all be licensable. Copying code like Google did with Android = bad... but using ideas I don't see as such a bad thing.
Samsung re-painted Apple's portrait and has thus far pulled the wool over thousands of Fandroids everywhere. It simply amazes me.

The phones are all thin black (and/or white) slabs with a screen on the front and a camera on the back. Just because the market demands they look like that doesn't warrant Apple's lawsuits.

"Copying code like Google did with Android"

As it came out in the courtroom, a grand total of 9 questionable lines, since removed, in one range check function.

Out of a multimillion line code base.

Clearly, wholesale theft. /sarcasm

I'm not a lawyer. Nor do I play one in TV.
But as it has been said, every company steals ideas. Plain and simple. Don't just attack a company simply because you don't use them.
Learn business and you'll see soon that very few modern ideas are 100% original.
And to the person claiming the push email patent is stupid, hush up. A patent is a patent. End of story. If you protect Apple's non-FRAND patents, then Motorola's non-FRAND patent is in the same level of protection.