Wednesday 3 March 2010
This Apple patent attack on HTC is very bad news. Like Microsoft's attack on Tomtom, it's a offensive lawsuit based largely on software patents. Unlike Microsoft's attack, it seems to be not about licensing deals but about shutting down the competition, and many of the patents involved are for obvious, fundamental and very general software techniques. LWN has a good article with links to the specific patents involved.
Consider the first claim of patent 7,362,331:
1. A method for moving an object in a graphical user interface, comprising the steps of:
a) determining a path of movement for the object along at least one axis, and a period of time for the movement along said path;
b) establishing a non-constant velocity function along said axis for said period of time;
c) calculating an instantaneous position for the object along said path in accordance with said function and the relationship of a current time value to said period of time;
d) displaying said object at said calculated position; and
e) iteratively repeating steps (c) and (d) during said period of time.
It was filed in 2001 and issued in 2008. (The other claims are mostly restatements of the same idea.) So when Jobs says
"We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
not only does he believe that in 2000 Apple was the first company to invent the idea of time-based animation of objects with non-constant velocity, but he also believes that they deserve a monopoly on use of that idea until 2021, and that anyone else using the idea until then is stealing from Apple. All three beliefs are ludicrous and shameful.
It's worth noting that any implementation of CSS transitions would infringe patent 7,362,331. I hope Apple isn't planning to sue implementers of CSS transitions for "stealing" their "technology".
That patent was just the first one in LWN's list. Some of the others look worse.
I'm very glad I don't work for Apple.