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Apple and Microsoft team up to slow patent reform

Tech giants like Apple and Microsoft have pushed for reform of the US patent system after being involved in a multitude of legal actions over patents, but now they're pushing to slow reform. Apple and Microsoft are teaming up with Ford Motor Company, DuPont, General Electric, Pfizer, and IBM for the Partnership for american Innovation, which aims to convince members of the United States Congress to dial back some of their proposals on patent reform in order to protect their own patents.

Reuters reports that the group is worried that the laws that Congress is considering to handle the patent trolls problem will hurt their own businesses. A quick look at the membership confirms the thought that the companies in question are particularly concerned about moves to make software and biotechnology unpatentable.

The push in Congress to reform the patent system has been growing, often at the behest of these very companies after they've come under fire in multi-million-dollar (and multi-billion-dollar) patent suits from companies that merely hold patents they've acquired from elsewhere, having neither created the patent or produced any products that use it.

Most everybody agrees that reform is needed in the patent system to address modern inventions and business practices, but there's little agreement on how exactly the reforms should look. Hopefully a consensus meet-in-the-middle solution can be found that helps to spur on innovation while protecting the innovators. We're no patent law experts, and we doubt many of you are either, but where do you think patent reform should go?

Source: Reuters


Reader comments

Apple and Microsoft team up to slow patent reform


This isn't an exclusive WP article.  The same article is also posted on the iMore site... although interestingly, over there it uses a different picture.

Is that really necessary? I find it hard to believe that you actually believe that buying an iPhone makes a user less intelligent.

They could be less intelligent about phones...but then again I'm certain there are dumb users for every OS.

Wow, lol. I'm not even sure I've met anybody who actually believes that. Who knew a phone could directly affect a person's IQ.

Well actually, he meant that only a person with low IQ would buy an iPhone. I don't endorse his views completely, but i do find it incredulous, the iphone crazy, knowing that it doesn't have that great things as it appears to have.

yeah atleast amongst my dumb friends , they all think iphones are the best

i dont really hate or love iphones but sadly thats what the 5s has become in my friends circle, a fad

they used to see me rock a 9790 earlier and now a lumia 720 as my main phone and they ask me why i didnt buy an iphone

i prefer being the rebel , someone different who buy a phone which fulfills his needs at a vfm price and one of the more premium phones despite that, the one and only - lumia!! :)

Well I said "buying an iPhone *makes* a person less intelligent" to which he agreed. Anyways, that's how I interpreted it :P
Regardless, while I think iPhones are a bit overhyped and overpriced, they are nice phones and have certainly done a ton for the industry. We absolutely would not be here today without Apple, no matter how much anybody hates to admit it.
Also, competition is good. If Apple, google, or even Microsoft had a monopoly on the smartphone market, there would be significantly less pressure to innovate. Just look at Intel vs AMD if you need an example, and see how rampant Intel's pricing has gotten, then compare it to the all out brawl between AMD and Nvidia with quarterly if not more often price cuts.
Also as my own version of useless anecdotal evidence, I have three friends with 3.6+'s in our third year of electrical engineering with iPhones. Most people wouldn't consider them dumb, and nor do I. (although I have successfully convinced 1 and possibly the other two to buy surface pro's because they're #&$*%#% amazing for class)

I'm still wondering how can companies patent even common sensical stuff, like interactivle bezels (Microsoft holds it), and how companies can copy each other's stuff and patent it themselves (apple did it recently) so yeah reforms are needed. (though that's not exactly their point here i know)

Because there are R&D money spent to invent the concept and UI of interactive bezel.  I don't think there are any products actually use this concept yet but it sucks if Nokia came up with the idea with 0.5 engineer year but some bozo just use the concept without just a few weeks of programmer works. 

Yes, the world is beautiful when everything "appear" to be free but are they really free?  Try compare the revenue generated by Google and Microsoft and the products/services they offer (note: I am not talking about market share of the product/service, just the category of services like desktop OS, mobile OS, search engine, browser, enterprise server products...).  And number of staff they hired.  I am not saying Google is evil, as all they are doing now is exactly what Microsoft did 15 years ago, and IBM did 30 years ago.  Except most consumers have the illusion that everything from Google is free without looking at their income statements.

That's stuff is fine but then you have the podcast case against Adam carolla vs personal audio llc and it just seems insane that you can sue for methods that are just common practice today.

that's everyone agree a reform is needed.  I can see some form of adverse possession can be the answer.  My problem is most people reading news like this will automatically assume Microosft/Apple are evils for the technology innovation but when in fact this is just a normal business practice.  Microsoft/Apple are both victim and offender for patent trolling. 


It's also a false assumption that a company somehow morally *needs* to make products in order to hold a patent. In the modern tech world, the cost to spin up hardware production in order to justify a patent is not feasible. Contrary to popular (and ignorant) opinion, allowing companies to focus on invention and licensing of patents actually *encourages* innovation.

"Yes, we need patent reform!" (assistant whispers it would harm their patents) "No, we do not need patent reform!" This is silly.

How about consumers work with Congress? Companies and lobbyists have already FUBAR'd the copyright system. They will wreck the patent system worse.

...Or how can you hold a patent on a geometrical shape, like a curved square icon that apple holds if im not mistaken?

That's a design patent, very different from IP. Apple's design patent largely refers to the curvatures of the device and configuration of buttons on the front, if memory serves.

In effect, they are protecting their ergonomic research and also trying to reduce market confusion from clones. It's legit.

Yeah, what a load of crap that somebody can spend years creating something, and someone else can immediately rip it off without doing any of the heavy lifting.

Of course, maybe you're actually reasonable, and you're trying to express the idea that the system is broken, and needs to be repaired, but that's not what you typed.

This sucks!!! I understand both sides. Some companies patent everything and it hampers innovation. As a consumer I want a company to tweak and push the limits of tech. It's hard to do when you get sued all the time. I say let companies borrow from each other. Make Top Notch High Quality and people will buy your stuff. Just imagine how great things could be. We'd probably get a cellphone that could last a month on a charge. Even a solar powered cellphone.

Then you'd have "sharks" waiting to steal others' ideas instead of working to innovate themselves, and that discourages innovation. Why spend on R&D instead of spending much less to steal?

Exactly what I was thinking. Why spend money innovating when you can sit back save R&D costs and copy everyone. Cough...Google...Cough..Samsung...

Not exactly... Smartphones were coming, and apple didn't change the game, they just started first. The nokia n series declared the impeding advent of smartphones.
Its wrong to give apple credit for everything. Please stop it.
An year from now, people would say "apple invented nfc", "apple invented the touch keyboard" etc even.. Stop it ;

What??? Apple totally changed the game. Look at the UI on the first iPhone. MS copied with W7. Look at a HTC Pro windows 6.5. Yes MS has a totally different layout but the touch controls were ripped off from Apple. I'm cool with that. MS copied Apple and made a superior UI IMHO. MS pushed innovation.

Okay, touch controls aren't something some super high IQ person had to develop, they're quite common sense stuff (even in those days, when i hadn't even touched an iPhone, i knew it to be common sense). What i said, that crediting apple for smartphone is not 100% correct, smartphones evolved out of the now redundant old nokia feature phones, the n series, and phones other manufacturers were making. The concept of apps came from java phones, most popularly the n series. And touch wasn't new, i had a touch palmtop purchased in 2000 year, though it was black and white :-P
(mentioning again that that i dont say MS didn't copy apple, they did copy to a limited extent, but not something which makes them cheaters).
All this is very vast, and the facts are huge, and our limited knowledge isn't enough to come to a conclusion (which doesn't exist actually), so lets enjoy our day (or whatever time it is), and be happy ! :) we dont own apple/ms ;)
Have a nice day ! :)

You seem to be forgetting both Windows Mobile and Palm. The smartphone grew out of PDAs with phone features added. Heck, Apple's famous home screen is just a re-skinned Palm home screen.

So you're saying that Apple copied the icon-based program manager from Windows 3.1, then? Nothing in the first iPhone was truly innovative. All they did was make a limited smartphone with a set of features that appealed to the consumer instead of businesses. It was a great market success, but not a technological innovation.

Agree, so a balanced code or law must therefore exist. If you spend millions developing something then it's fair to claim a patent to gain returns.

You have a point. On the flip side. Sharks patent stuff and threaten innovation with litigation. There's alot of patent trolls. Like I said earlier my position is from a consumer who wants high tech stuff. With all this litigation it SLOWS down innovation. Imagine if the horse and buggy manufacture patented rectangular shapes, vehicles that go straight, can turn left and right. Can carry people etc... We'd never have gotten automobile's.

Yes patent rolls are a problem but I'm not sure you can make the case they hold back innovation for if you truly have an innvative product, say a battery that can power a cellphone for a week, chances are you arrived to this design at great cost and capital investment which was only possible because you promised your investors you can make great financial returns on a patent.

Patent system was designed to protect the rights of small independent inventors. Now we have multi billion dollar companies arguing changing it will threaten their survival. Something doesn't seem right with that position.

Very good point. Patents are meant to benefit everyone in that when you patent something, you own exclusive rights to it for (x) many years (I think the x should be smaller for tech products) and for that protection you reveal to the public your product and how it works so that after the patent protection has ended, all will benefit freely and build upon it. It seems now that patents are for more trivial things that are mostly obvious on how they work. I think that some of these ideas are valuable, but do not deserve the patent-level protection of the cotton-gin.

Why would Apple want to change anything about the patent system? They'd be belly up if anything changed in such a manner that they weren't able to abuse patents.

This is bad...corporate america should not be running america. That kinda destroys the idea if democracy, blah! Patients are out of control now I swear

Good luck. Google spends more in lobbying than anyone in the tech industry. They even outspend defense contractors.
It seems they would rather buy laws that support their theft than actually compensate the inventors.

Because Android is built off stolen patents as proven by the many companies who signed up for MS patents to actually use Android on their devices. So Google wants to annul all software patents.


Patents are only obvious once they have been in the public hands, many patents can take years from concept to actual execution and delivery by which point it could be obvious.

What needs to be reformed is the actual approval process by a peer group. The current patent process in America is over-burdened which means many patents are just rubber stamped and the inspectors just leave the courts to handle the mess.

If you block companies like MS from patenting concepts in their R&D, and it should be noted MS has one of the largest R&D budgets, then you will kill any incentive for them to improve their business when any competitor (such as Samsung) can come along and rip off your work.

It should be noted most of MS patents that faced public scrutiny are usually specific concepts and ideas, but not all companies do this to keep it overly broad. A lot of commenters usually just read the Patent title and short description but don't actually read the methodology or full patent which usually arises in a misconception about the patent.

I based my comment from a interview with a ex-patent inspector/reviewer, can't remember where the article was maybe on Ars or Techcrunch. However they did clearly say they often approved patents that they didn't always clearly understand the rationale was to let the companies duke it out in court rather so they could clear the backlog, and from what I've read that backlog hasn't shifted.

Backlog is shifting and they are called patent examiners not inspectors/reviewers... It depends on the art this ex-patent examiner dealt with as every art has it's problems... But yeah backlog is moving along and is getting better.

I think that Biotech shouldn't be patentable, simply because people can hold cures for diseases and not market them because other treatment can be more lucrative. I think that patents shouldn't be tradeable. I think that would make the best reform. 

by the same time, nobody will spend billions on biotech research if they cannot be ensured a few years of patent protection. will you with hold an affordable treatment for millions when the patent expires just because you don't want to give biotech companies an incentive? I'm not sure most people are OK dying or enduring conditions on principle of there is a treatment option that was arrived to via research paid for by patent laws.

Quite simply things aren't as black and white as you suggest. Biotech firms, for as much greed as they have, they do perform an essential service by backing up very expensive research which would not take place without the promise of a big payday. Sad but true. Ultimately people win in the end as the drug or whatever will end up becoming generic and treat millions.

Not allowing the selling or licensing of patents would kill small research companies, as then only large companies would have the budget to actually implement their research. Being able to treat an idea like a tangible good and sell/rent/etc it is one of the fundamentally *right* things about our current patent law.

this is why the argument many point to that MSFT makes money from android, therefore marketshare of WP is not critical falls flat on its face: patent reform is coming. Even if delayed, one court could spill disaster for MSFT patent behavior with regards to android. So no surprise they are trying to delay it since a few rulings in the right court could basically cut that revenue stream MSFT has so far enjoyed. Indeed, if you're a shareholder, you're looking for revenue models that aren't tied to a court decision making your revenu dissapear overnight.

It is no wonder WP is basically a freebie. The patent fee on android isn't going to last given the current patent climate and MSFT needs to start making money on services, not OS or patent fees.

The problem imo is you can't patent generic interactions in software. Slide to unlock? Stupid. The ALGORITHMs and structures apple uses to create it? By all means.

There's different type of patents the one Apple and Samsung battle over are more related to design patents and this relates to how something looks hence why the whole "slide to unlock" thing... But the method in which the unlocking is being done is very well patentable and that would be a utility patent which would describe the method/system taken to perform the slide to unlock. So is not more about patenting a generic interaction , is more about how it looks (the whole grid icons and all that good stuff)

I'd rather the consortium of companies take a stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would significantly affect internet privacy, damage environmental protections, and usurp individual country's rights to define their own copyright laws... and extend copyright terms tremendously, and make DRM illegal to break (akin to the DMCA, but on a larger scale). :/

But I guess corporations may actually like all that despite the users they serve not wanting any of it.  Sigh.

Some hormones or stuff our body products (as we can see in the first comments) shouldn't be protected by biomedicine patents, but life saving medicine of course.

The title really should be "Apple and Microsoft team up to try to make patent reform actually work, rather then breaking the entire system as some parties want" -- If you are going to editorialize in the title of your article, at least make it accurate and not flat-out WRONG.