USPTO Rolling Back Some Key Apple Patents

A little good news on the patent front as the US Patent and Trademark Office invalidates Apple’s “pinch-to-zoom” patent hot on the heels of a tentative invalidation of Apple’s patent on snapback scrolling.

This is cheering not because I’m an Apple hater, but because patent law in general needs to be massively scaled back and because the smartphone industry is overwhelmingly an example of the fact that “me too” product development is very beneficial. The Android devices Apple is upset about were pretty obviously developed with the intention of making something broadly similar to iOS and its great that they’ve succeeded. Apple has a very particular business model and corporate strategy and good for them, but the proliferation of Android-powered imitators has let the basics of touchscreen smartphone technology exist at a much wider range of price points and form factors than Apple ever would have been inclined to serve. Meanwhile, it’s created a situation where Apple couldn’t just rest on its iPhone 3GS laurels. As Android grew, there was a real chance that Apple would have its lunch eaten. But so far it hasn’t happened. They rolled out the iPhone 4 and 4s and 5 and a bunch of iPads and clearly—and rightly—feel the need to keep innovating to protect their profit margins.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and it’s great for consumers. But the competition ought to play out in the R&D labs and in the marketplace, not in the courtroom.