Apple starts Patenting mobile APP ideas? Holy schiznick Batman!

Posted on August 16, 2010

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Hmmm... Do these two things look familiar? You better watch out for the Apple train might run you over.

Does the above look familiar? Well the folks at Future Tap think so. The one on the left is the APP that Future tap put together and the one on the right is the newly applied for Apple patent.

What is this all about?

In a blog post, Ortwin Gentz, the founder of FutureTap, the company behind the app called Where To writes:

Recently, we stumbled across a patent application that pricked up our ears. Apparently, Apple starts patenting mobile app ideas—and one of those ideas is (partly) ours.

Now some folks argued we might have a deal in place with Apple. I can assure you: we don’t. The story was equally surprising for us as for many others.

At first, we couldn’t believe what we saw and felt it can’t be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that “someone else” would be really an exterior “someone else”. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

We’re faced with a situation where we’ve to fear that our primary business partner is trying to “steal” our idea and design. So how to deal with that? — As some of you know, we’ve always been more than grateful for the platform Apple created. And, in fact, still are. However, we can’t ignore it if the #1 recognition value of our (currently) only app potentially is under fire.

Where To? 1.0 with its characteristic home screen has been launched on day 1 of the App Store. The patent has been filed in December 2009. And clearly, the number of details with all the icons, their ordering and the actual app name “Where To?” in the title bar (which, as a sidenote, doesn’t make a lot of sense as a module in a potential iTravel app) can’t be randomly invented the same way by someone else.

I’m not a lawyer. I can’t really judge whether the inclusion of a 1:1 copy of our start screen in someone else’s patent is legal. I just have to say, it doesn’t feel right.The perspective of an endless legal battle, however, is not very intriguing for a small company like us that aims to throw all its power into improving existing and developing new apps. So we definitely hope there’ll be an easy solution. Perhaps it’s just a flaw in the filing that can be fixed easily.

In summary, this episode once more reinforces my personal aversion against software patents. In my opinion they discriminate against smaller developers who can’t afford building a huge legal department to defend against such patent cases and to research existing patent mine fields.

Unwiredview writes:

By now most of must us have heard about the problems U.S. patent system is facing. With software and businessmodel patents, patent trolls and lawsuits, and patented things like one-click buying online.

Well, if Apple has it’s way, things are about to get much worse.

The problem? Three Apple patent applications that just became public on USPTO website. From the looks of them, it seems that Apple is now trying to patent mobile app ideas. For now Apple is seeking to get a patent for 3 apps – travel, hotel and high fashion shopping.

In mobile travel app patent application, Apple describes things like sending travel promotions, making reservations through mobile app,  guide/assistance with airport services, using mobile boarding pass, remote check-in, access to in-flight services, sending automatic arrival notifications to your spouse, travel guide services/promotions at the destination site.

Apple’s Hotel app patent application talks about hotel promotions/reservations/service pre-order through app, early/remote check-ins, access to hotel and in-room services, operating room equipment, personal concierge services, check-out, post-trip promotion/questionnaires/info.

High fashion shopping app patent application describes an iPhone app from high fashion houses like Ralph Lauren. With this app  the user can receive invitations to special events, info/catalog of available products, use store locator,  find popular picks, gift guides, create wish lists/look books, see product reviews, engage in social networking activities, see enhanced adverts/promotions, use personal shopping services, product comparisons, suggestions for additional items, provide feedback via post-sales questionnaires, use virtual closet, etc;

Damn, but this is one scary development. Imagine if back in 1994-96 someone decided to sit back, think about what kind of web services can be provided via the internet, and then decided to patent them. You know, things like – shopping for books online, buying plane tickets, reserving a hotel, providing shopping comparison services, online auctions, online e-mail services, etc;

Now this is why I work on the mobile web. Our search portals (like Hotelsonyoumobile work without the need for a downloadable APP and work cross platform).

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Posted in: Apple