I, Technologist: Patents, where the crap did they go wrong? [RANT]

Disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer, nor have I ever practiced or even studied any kind of law. My rant has a bias because I get most of my patent war news from TWiT.tv’s Tech News Today, iLounge.com and AppAdvice.com.

I’ve complained aboput the immaturity of people with power on the blog before, but the news I read this morning has really got my goat again (actually, that’s another blog post for another time. I better make a note of that.) It appears Apple has won an injunction to stop Samsung from selling their Galaxy smartphones in Europe.

I don’t think it will stick, Samsung has already managed to get sales of their Galaxy Tab relaunched in the EU, and as far as I’m aware there’s no law against buying an unlocked Galaxy S II on eBay. Thing is though, Apple seem to just keep doing this to anyone who could compete against them. They already did it with Nokia, and Motorola and now they’ve set their sites on Samsung, as well as going after Motorola again. What is it that is driving these companies to lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit. What are these companies fighting over?

Patents.

Or morespecifically, the patents on the processes we all go through every day when we use our smartphones or tablets. Processes that seems so natural now, and are so widely used that it seems as if these companies are fighting over the way we use electronic technology itself. Samsung is suing Apple for having similar looking smartphones and tabelts in an effort to get sales of the venerable devices halted in the US, most recently saying Apple could have stolen the idea for the iPad from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odessy. All of this leads me to one question. Instead of litigating, why aren’t these tech companies innovating? Why could all the money Apple is putting into lawsuits not be used to answer their critics and create technologies that are new and different.Why is it possible to sue someone over something like having a large touch screen on the face of your phone? That is a constraint of all smartphones, It’s like one techno producer suing every other artist who makes music in 4/4 time! Why was that even patented in the first place!?

Instinctively I’d have to say for sheer greed.

Why else would you want to set up a system that generated money from something most of the developed world (and a surprising level of the developing world) uses multiple times a day, every day of the week, every week of the year without even thinking about it. Things that shouldn’t even be patentable. It’s a wonder the human respiratory system hasn’t been patented, or the process of walking. I postulate that the patent system needs a serious rethink. Either it needs to be started again from scratch (which will never happen because everyone who is counting on these money-making ideas to generate their income while they do absolutely nothing will have a hernia) or we need to go back to the point when the first of these firvalous patents was approved, and re-start the whole system from there, with proper safeguards against someone patenting the process of swiping your finger from pne point to another on a capacitive touch screen to activate a cellular telephone with extended capabilities.

These lawsuits are just slowing down the process of innovation, so that companies can draw out as much money as possible from the tiniest and most insignificant actions that people do every day. Who knows, maybe if Apple stopped suing all the other smartphone manufacturers and concentrated on innovation maybe we’d have holographic facetime over LTE in next month’s iPhone4S/5 release.

…but then again, who actually uses Facetime?