Daily Archives: September 11, 2012

In his weekly column for +The Guardian former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée… 2

In his weekly column for +The Guardian former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée makes the case that Apple has never really invented anything, and I'm mostly inclined to agree. Apart from the Apple 1 which was actually the brainchild of the other founding Steve, pretty much every other successful (an not so successful) product to emerge from Cupertino was a refinement of something that had gone before. 

Apple certainly does deserve a great deal of credit for taking technology and making it more usable and appealing to consumers than what had gone before. From the original Macintosh to the iPod to the iPhone and the iPad (along with the Newton, Cube and others) they had all been done.

What Apple designers and engineers did was take parts that worked better than the originals and edit out the parts that didn't. The end result is often a great product that many consumers justifiably love and are willing to pay a premium for. However, that doesn't necessarily make them something that should be patented. 

Apple has followed this process very consistently since the late 1990s but they are by no means alone. 

There are other businesses that nearly gone down this patent warfare path. In my former life as an automotive engineer I experienced this first hand. I worked for Kelsey-Hayes on anti-lock brake systems. The leader in the field was German company Robert Bosch GmbH. Unlike Apple, Bosch has actually truly invented a lot stuff since its founding in 1886. It has rightfully earned a lot of patents for stuff no one had done before. 

However, like Apple Bosch has also earned a lot of dubious patents in the past couple of decades. In the early 1990s as Kelsey-Hayes was making inroads into Bosch's market, there were veiled threats of patent suits. Like the engineers at Google, Samsung and HTC today, we spent a lot of time over several years going back and researching these patents and modifying our code just enough to work around the claims. 

We also ended up filing hundreds, if not thousands of patents of our own for defensive purposes, most of which were of dubious quality such as this one:
http://www.google.com/patents/US5615934 Everyone had known for decades what happened when tires aquaplaned. I just parameterized the characteristic wheel speeds and wrote some equations. 

In the end, the lawyers made a lot of money off Kelsey-Hayes, Bosch, Continental and other auto suppliers for filing all of these patents, Bosch continued on their way, creating traction control, stability control, electrohydraulic brakes and more. At Kelsey-Hayes we developed a bunch of stuff of our own. No one ever sued but we did squander a lot of engineering hours examining patents, writing patents and developing workarounds.

Today Bosch, Continental and TRW (which absorbed Kelsey-Hayes in 1999) all have substantial market shares in the slip control market and are all making money while developing new products. It's time for tech companies led by Apple to do the same and let the lawyers move on. 

Apple haven’t invented anything
The iPad is simply Apple’s variation, its interpretation of a well-known tablet recipe

Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.