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Do Patents Stop Companies From Creating 'Perfect' Products? 292

Posted by Zonk
from the would-have-gotten-away-with-it-if-it-wasn't-for-those-darn-patents dept.
Chris M writes "In a recent CNET article, the mobile phone editor writes about what he thinks would make a perfect phone. Unfortunately, as someone in the comments section points out, much of the technology that is used in this concept phone belongs to separate companies. 'I'm sorry to be the Devil's Advocate here, but most of those feautres are patented to separate companies. It would require almost all the major manufacturers [working together] to do this, which is highly unlikely.' Do you think patents are stopping companies from creating 'perfect' devices, or are there other factors at work?"
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Do Patents Stop Companies From Creating 'Perfect' Products?

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  • Not Really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MontyApollo (849862) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:34PM (#19569151)
    I did not RTFA (glanced at first page), but first off, I doubt there is a perfect phone that is perfect for everybody. Every product has tradeoffs, and certain product directions appeal to some people but not others, especially when they affect price. Sometimes it is just plane personal preference.

    I think in certain respects patents spur competition and make every phone better. Each company tries to come up with something that their competitor hasn't thought of to help differentiate their product. They would be less likely to invest the time and effort to develop innovations if they knew their competitor would just immediately copy it. The really perfect phone would not be possible to begin with without all these previous innovations. One could argue that patents made the author's ideal phone possible, but it is more a business issue whether it ever comes to market.

    During WWII, the British and Germans both independently and secretly discovered chaff as a radar countermeasure. Neither side used it in the beginning because they were more afraid of the enemy copying them and gaining a bigger advantage than they themselves would receive.

    (I do think software patents need to be drastically reformed or completely done away with altogether)

    • What would be cool (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Would be a piece of software on your computer that has every possible feature anyone could want for their cell phone.
      Then you could drag and drop the desired features onto the phone that is plugged into your computer via USB.

      That would be the perfect phone.

      You can improve a patent and then get a different patent for it. So it seems to me that someone saying that it's patents holding this back only show their ignorance of the patent system.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by EvanED (569694)
        Then you could drag and drop the desired features onto the phone that is plugged into your computer via USB.

        That would be the perfect phone.


        Can you drag and drop different form factors, so that Bob can have a big, rich iPhone-like interface with a camera and touchscreen and whatnot, while Mary can have one of those really tiny flip phones that's not much bigger than your thumb and has physical buttons?

        There's still a LOT of difference between what I consider a perfect phone and what you consider a perfect p
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Your exactly right. Personally, the design and durability of a phone is far more important than the software bells and whistles.

          I want something small enough to fit in my pocket that won't die on me when it's in my shirt pocket and lean over the pool or toilet (both have happened) and it falls in.

          Other than that, I really don't care. Sure, the camera feature is neat and I do find myself spending time playing sudoko on my phone to kill time, but I don't text message, I've never seen the need to read email
      • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:48PM (#19570427)
        What if every feature I could want on a cellphone isn't softmoddable? I might want more RAM, or a faster CPU, or an advanced GPU. I might want a bigger screen or a different form factor. I might even want it to make me eggs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by geekoid (135745)


          I might want more RAM, or a faster CPU, or an advanced GPU

          golly, gee. I'm thinking you would need to get a new goddamn phone.
          The article is about certain features, Clearly certian things would upgrade. Of course if it is perfect at the time you get it, you wouldn't need to change any of that crap, would you. What everyone but you and one other poster know is they mean 'perfect at the moment of purchase.'

          See, what you want is a fucking magic phone pixie.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zaydana (729943)
        That may be the case for geeks, but there are many folks out there for who the perfect phone is one that they take out of the package, and it works. It calls people when they dial numbers, it rings when somebody calls them, and thats it. Configurability isn't always perfect.
    • Re:Not Really (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:54PM (#19569507)
      I agree with the first part. His perfect phone certainly looks very different from my perfect phone.

      Currently, I own the Samsung i607 (blackjack) which earns about an 8/10 from me, which no other phone ever did. It's very thin, light, durable, and has an easy-to-care-for matte finish. It has a full QWERTY keyboard, and a very nice screen, fast processor, 3G, etc... If it had a 4-day battery life instead of 1.5-2 day, and a standard bluetooth stack that would let me sync and tether with ease from my Ubuntu laptop, it would match my dream phone... Not so hard, really...
    • Yes, not just phones (Score:5, Informative)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:56PM (#19569557)
      This problem is nothing new to phones, electronics and software.

      Company A patents technology X, but has no interest in making a product that has technology X plus feature Y. Company B would like to make a product with technology X and feature Y, but is stumped by the patent. Result: the world never gets an X+Y product.

      This is not just theoretical. I work in a field knee deep in patents and I see this sort of nonsense all the time.

      • by Geof (153857) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @06:51PM (#19572133) Homepage

        This is a well known phenomenon, referred to as the Tragedy of the Anticommons [wikipedia.org]. Yochai Benkler describes how multiple patent holders delayed the development of radio [jus.uio.no] until the U.S. government intervened:

        By 1916, the ideal transmitter based on technology available at the time required licenses of patents held by Marconi, AT&T, General Electric (GE), and a few individuals. No licenses were in fact granted. The industry had reached stalemate. When the United States joined the war, however, the navy moved quickly to break the stalemate, effectively creating a compulsory cross-licensing scheme for war production . . .

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by salec (791463)
          When I read the topic, it was exactly what I thought government should do - step in to give it a push forward. Well, not exactly force cross-licensing, but to cover royalties for a very useful or obstacle patent for everyone who needs it for further progress, if it is essentially important for everybody: i.e. patents that are needed to make environment-friendly mass produced products. I mean, there is similar reason behind that as it is behind spending for national defense or fundamental scientific research
    • by rbanffy (584143)
      Well... His phone is certainly not my perfect phone.

      My Sony Ericsson P-800 came close to it but lacked a decent QWERTY keyboard and the camera was really bad. The 910 QWERTY keyboard was bad and I did not try hard enough to like the 990. My Nokia E62 has a decent keyboard, combined with a screen big-enough for doing SSH (saved my day a couple weeks ago when I could log-on and fix a problem on a server while my laptop batteries were dead), but no camera and no WiFi. It is also a little bit too large.

      My perfe
    • I don't think you can have a "perfect phone" that doesn't have a keyboard at least as good as the Sidekick.

      A "perfect phone" should take into account that text messaging and IMing are at least as important if not more so than actual audio calls.
       
    • "They would be less likely to invest the time and effort to develop innovations if they knew their competitor would just immediately copy it." I think could eaily be rewritten to
      "They would be less likely to invest the time and effort to develop innovations when they could just copy them from their competitors."

      Companies are lazy and risk adverse.
    • cnet.com news is owned by Microsoft I believe. I don't trust anything from them, no matter what, because they always have some ulterior motive.
    • Re:Not Really (Score:4, Interesting)

      by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @06:31PM (#19571899)
      I ain't sure about them phones, and I am just a casual observer, but I can't help but notice that about 20-30 companies released "electronic cash" systems in Japan in the past two years or so. There has been talk about using e-cash in Japan for a decade, and the technology has been there ... only we didn't have much in terms of actual implementation.

      Now, using this kind of "e-cash" is extremely convenient -- you can use it on teh train, in teh shop, etc. etc. There are some kinds that have your name on it, there are some that are (nearly) anonymous. Pretty neat, really. But, we didn't have it until like yesterday. So, why did this boom come _now_?

      It seems that most of the e-cash/e-money/e-payment patents taken out by a few small and innovative companies in the late 80s (which innovative companies AFAIK have traditionally requested egregious licensing fees) expired just around the time the e-cash boom started. So now we have the implementations built on those ideas popping up, as it is finally feasible, sans the patent fees.

      Since the implementations and the features are now largely non-exlusive, companies have to compete hard on the service; and since there are no licensing fees and no risks now from using _that_ technology, people concentrate resources on the solution instead on risk avoidance and litigation.

      Finally, I can't see how the patent holders have profited from the patent-- noone licensed them then, noone's paying fees now. So, the patents in this case seem to have stopped inovative product development that benefits the society for what -- a decade?

      I bet enough research into the way patents are used will show it results only in preventing competition and raising the price of the service, countering the intent of the patent in the first place.
  • 1) I'm sure that to some extent this is true and could create a case of "I'm going to go home and take all my toys with me."

    however

    2)A bad idea is still a bad idea.

  • Once you get all these teams together and you get everyone to agree and sign off on something the patents are damn near expired and the advancement isn't worth anything from a patent rights aspect.
    • We should try to seperate patents from their application. Too often the patent holders want to be the only people creating the product. Well patents & IP generally is a protection afforded by the state so the state can set some limits. Why not have it so that every year there is an anonomyous open market bidding for usage of every patent that allows multiple people to buy in at highest price ? (and to stop the holder firm bidding a gidzillion dollars attach a profit tax of say 5% to it).
      • It's their patent. What's the problem with them doing as they see fit with it? Actually, not giving the producer of a patent control is going to stifle innovation more then your system would benefit the open market. I know I wouldn't gamble money on R&D into a product if I knew some random company could bid control of it from under me.
  • Sometimes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:38PM (#19569233) Journal
    Patents are a big problem, when someone patents the equvalent of a hammer, and you're stuck without a really basic tool.

    Other times, someone patents "the way it's done" and the result is, when you try and find another way to do it, you actually find a better way.

    The problem is, you never know which one you're going to get when you're just starting. I definitely thing innovation can overcome most patents, but a lot of time that's a real pain in the ass, when all you want to build is a slightly better breadbox.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Yeha, but you put tongs on the back of that "hammer" and you can patent that.
      And so it goes. You want a hammer? licenses it or make it better. And the patent will expire.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Husgaard (858362)

      Other times, someone patents "the way it's done" and the result is, when you try and find another way to do it, you actually find a better way.

      Yes, like when ogg-vorbis was created as a free replacement for the patented mp3. The problem, however, is that those who have the patents for mp3 are still saying that ogg-vorbis is violating some (unspecified) of their patents, so almost no commercial entity has dared support this new and better format.

      Originally I was only against patents on software and business methods. But after spending years learning more about patents and how they work in the so-called free market, I now think that it is time

      • by Vancorps (746090)

        Imagine a world where companies compete on service because all companies provide the same basic products. It would be amazing, exactly like the online bidding world, a thousand companies offering real-time streaming and basically the same product but they compete on quality of service and speed of delivery or some balance between to two. That sounds like a terrible place doesn't?

        Course then you go and look at Apple copying the MP3 player which took lots and lots of R&D and then make tons in profit. Do

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ricree (969643)

        And if you look at patent infringement cases, you will see that most cases are used to shut down new and innovative competitors in the market. So the current state of patents today is that they stiffle both the free market and new innovation.

        If there is any one type of IP law that I would not want abolished, it is patents. Far from stifling innovation, they actually require it. Because the patent system requires that all patents are fully documented, and since the patents themselves expire relatively

    • at least you can patent your "slightly better breadbox"
    • by IgLou (732042)
      Oh let's not forget when someone patents something vague like 1-click; seriously, how much money and time was wasted in the courts to defend a patent that should never have been given. I digress. Sometimes, a patent just makes sense to protect innovation (I have the patent on the car that runs on flamebait comments on slashdot so I have time to develop it before anyone else does). The intent of patents is to protect inventors so they can make money off their ideas before anyone else can. IIRC patents, c
  • by radarjd (931774) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:43PM (#19569301)
    At worst, in twenty years we'll get the perfect phone. I suppose I can wait that long for perfection...
    • In 20 years you can get "The Perfect Phone of 2007."

      In 20 years, there will be a host of new technologies around, all encumbered with patents, that people will want to have in a 'perfect phone.' The stuff that's under patent now will be like pulse-dial rotary POTS equipment. If you're lucky it's still use-able, in the most basic sense, but it doesn't do much of what people want.

      The problem is that innovation is now moving so much faster than it was when the patent term was set at two decades -- by the time something works its way out of patent protection now, it's generally pretty obsolete. And this will only get worse as the pace of innovation continues to quicken.
    • by interiot (50685) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:10PM (#19569781) Homepage

      That's the way the patent system is supposed to work. The patent system is a tradeoff... we slow down progress slightly (by making people wait at most 20 years to build the perfect device), but hope that we speed it up more by giving people extra incentives to innovate.

      Unfortunately, that's not the way the system actually works. When the patent office lets you patent things that were obvious 10 or 20 years ago (eg. patenting xor, or patenting the idea of VoIP/POTS integration when the idea was an integral part of the design of various VoIP standards released years ago), then the patent system doesn't just slow things down 20 years, it's actually 30 or 40 years instead. And when there aren't realistically sufficient checks to prevent obvious things being patented, it means that a bad patent examiner can slow things down for 50 or 60 years in a few cases where they really screw it up.

      Also, in the modern world, clearly companies already have a huge incentive to innovate. Was the dot-com boom driven by the fact that companies could patent things, and monopolize the area for 20 years? Or was it instead driven mostly by VC's hoping to profit from first mover advantage [wikipedia.org]? In my mind, it was clearly the latter.

      • by Husgaard (858362)

        You have a really good point here.

        There is an economic incentive for patent offices to issue as many patents as possible. And there is an economic incentive for patent lawyers to have as many patents as possible issued and for the patent case law to be as complicated as possible.

        And today the patent system is so complicated that very few people except those who work professionally with it (patent offices and patent lawyers) actually understand it. This means that patent offices can extrend patentable s

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:43PM (#19569307)
    Perfect Devices are bad for business because it leaves no room for failure, improvements, and other features which companies rely on. If your computer was always easily upgraded, and you never needed that new Video Card, what good would it be for the companies?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deblau (68023)

      Perfect Devices are bad for business because it leaves no room for failure, improvements, and other features which companies rely on. If your computer was always easily upgraded, and you never needed that new Video Card, what good would it be for the companies?
      It would force them to innovate in wholly new areas of technology. Which is a primary purpose of the patent system.
  • pfft... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:44PM (#19569323)
    "Do you think patents are stopping companies from creating 'perfect' devices, or are there other factors at work?"

    No -- Yes.

    I say that because the patent system, good, bad or otherwise, has been around long enough that if there was genuine smothering of genius going on, it would have been a major topic long since, and because everyone has a different interpretation of 'perfect' devices. (left handed versus right - textured vs. smoothed...)

    For those that need a concept to wrap their heads around, read the book 'The Difference Engine' ...twice, if you have to.
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      And just because something is patented, doesn't mean you can't use it. All it means is that the holder of the patent is entitled to compensation if you use their patented idea/technology in your gizmo. The only way a patent can truly stifle development is if a patent-holder charges too much for the right to use the idea/technology outlined in the patent. Most aren't going to do that however, as the patent represents a source of cash.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        And just because something is patented, doesn't mean you can't use it. All it means is that the holder of the patent is entitled to compensation if you use their patented idea/technology in your gizmo. The only way a patent can truly stifle development is if a patent-holder charges too much for the right to use the idea/technology outlined in the patent. Most aren't going to do that however, as the patent represents a source of cash.

        You are truly naive.

        There are any number of reasons to charge exorbitant

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alchemar (720449)
      It has been a major topic long since. At least since the creation of an affordable autombile.

      http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aacarsse ldona.htm [about.com]
      • by djupedal (584558)
        At least since the creation of an affordable autombile.

        I think the Veyron is the perfect automobile. And with a price of USD$1.16 million (and Bugatti losing $2 million), I consider it affordable. How about you? Didn't think so.

        The key word in this thread is 'perfect' - not affordable. The day I go shopping for a car and tell the sales person it must be affordable is the day I stop driving. Thanks for taking a run at the conversation and proving both my points, but you may want to try again if you wa
        • I vaguely remember someone mentioning that 'perfect' is subjective, which means that some people would consider price one of the factors affecting it. Also, you seem to be missing the AC's point, which is that the smothering of genius caused by patents has been a major topic long since, contrary to what some parties claim.
    • Worked so far... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:15PM (#19570823)

      I say that because the patent system, good, bad or otherwise, has been around long enough that if there was genuine smothering of genius going on, it would have been a major topic long since
      Except the world changes...

      Communication is now essentially instantaneous. Bob in New York patents a better belt buckle in 1850, Jim in San Francisco designs something similar. It'll be a minumum of a few months before someone who's seen one happens to see the other and he almost certainly won't care about whether it is or isn't patented and Bob isn't going to go to the expense of sending his lawyer across country for several months to find out. Even if there is a clash, the markets are so separate, it's not worth pursuing getting both sides in a single courtroom.

      The pace of invention has continued to dramatically increase. Modern machinery turned up with the industrial revolution. Electricity only became a common power source in the last century. Computers are 60 or so years old. Home computers are less than 30 years old and only common in the last 15. The internet has only really spread in the last 10. And, right now, 3D prototyping tools are becoming available for the first time. Combine those increases in the power of tools for realizing ideas with the increase in population and you're comparing a patent system designed for one level of patenting with one that's being asked to handle exponentially more.

      What can be patented has changed. The criteria of "That a reasonable person couldn't come up with on their own" sure as hell doesn't apply to One Click shopping (Wow, really, people would prefer less hassle? Rocket science!) nor does it apply to, Creative's "I have a large collection of music, I'd like to divide it up somehow, perhaps some kind of a folder analogy." which Apple got sued over for daring to copy from the desktop where it was common to MP3 players where somehow Creative were the only people who could ever think of it. Add in being able to patent everything from genes to ways of doing business and you've got a system that is in no way representative of the past.

      In the scheme of things, 25 years isn't that long to wait. In a world where computing of 10 years ago is utterly different to the computing of today, a 25 year patent means "a means for using a casette player to store data" would just be coming out of patent protection. So, yes, in terms of digital technology and gene research where 25 years is the entire lifetime of the field, it absolutely stifles things and makes a great case for those mediums to have a 10, or ideally 5 year patent term limit - enough to benefit from your invention, not enough to stifle the whole industry for as long as it's been around again.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:47PM (#19569373)
    This guy's "perfect" phone sucks for me, why?

    No QWERTY keyboard. I use my phone more often for email than actually using it as a phone. A QWERTY keyboard is a necessity - there is nothing more frustrating than trying to type an email on a standard phone keypad. Predictive typing software mostly sucks.

    If a company could create the "perfect" phone, the financial rewards of such a device would make either patent licensing, or litigation acceptable costs.

    The problem is, no one knows what the "perfect" phone should look like, or how it should operate. For every person that wants a QWERTY keyboard there are those that don't.

    The whole argument reminds me of the "cancer cure" conspiracy theorists that say the cure for cancer is not available since it would hurt the profits of those companies that provide treatments. Baloney! The cure would be worth 10 times the entire treatment regimen of the patient.

    The perfect phone doesn't exist because it can not be defined.

    -ted
    • It's a phone, as in something you call with.

      For email, you'd be wanting a portable computer with some form of wireless connectivity %-)
      • by Cadallin (863437)
        True, but that's still a problem with ultraportables. Below a certain size, keyboards start to become unusable. Voice recognition is slow, as is handwriting recognition. One answer I can think of is the use of laser projection to project keyboards on any random flat surface, that also scans to allow typing. These do exist, they sell them at thinkgeek.
        • Yeah, the keyboards do suck on small devices. I've tried loads of things - Palm III, Zodiac II, HTC Pocket PC (the iPaq style device) but honestly nothing beats task-specific devices.

          It's really only battery life and charging capabilities which let mobile tech down now..
    • How about a phone that morphs like the Terminator from T2? Has a keyboard when you need it and turns into a non-descript piece of metal when you don't.

      Just because it's not possible now doesn't mean it's impossible.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Only if I can stab someone in the face with it at some point.

        The flip out keyboard on the Nokia E70 works pretty well for me. So does the built in wifi and sip client -- When I'm at home the phone is a handset on my asterisk phone system. Calls made out go out over the landline (T-Mobile reception at my house sucks.) When I'm not at home calls go out over cellular. That has the added benefit that my phone system "knows" when I'm not home since there are no extensions to ring when I'm not there. I'm not su

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tknd (979052)

      Qwerty is all you need? You make it too easy. My perfect phone would:

      • Be so tiny I didn't have to carry it around. They'd just attach it to my forehead or something.
      • When I needed to check my voicemail, the thing would fricken start playing the first message, not go off about how I've got 5 messages in archive that I should delete.
      • Would never need to be recharged because it would run off of my awesomness.
      • It would automatically get girl's phone numbers for me just by being in the general vicinity of a "
  • Do you think patents are stopping companies from creating 'perfect' devices, or are there other factors at work?"

    No, of course, it's only patents! If only it weren't for those pesky patents, we would achieve perfection and transcend the physical plane.

    Obviously patents prevent people from making spiffy devices. you have to license the patents, and it's not hard to imagine patent licensing agreements that prohibit the inclusion of other (competing) technologies. It would actually go a long way towards expl

    • Actually, this is extremely simple. How many OGG files are there on the average Joe's computer? Zero. How many web sites sell downloadable music files in OGG format? A few, probably. How many popular software products do anything at all with OGG format files? Zero, I believe.

      So we have a pretty unpopular format with a niche following.

      Now we have the decision between a 64K chip and a 128K chip in a given device. Or some similar trade-off on ROM space and maybe RAM space. Is it worth the expense of mo
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        Is there a device with enough ROM space available to fit OGG in at the supposed near-zero cost the parent claims? Maybe. But there isn't any real interest. Certainly not on a feature-to-feature comparison chart. They are going to use that ROM space to add features that count to the Average Joe, not the niche OGG market.

        There's plenty of devices with unused space in ROM. And do you know how visionaries become recognized as such? They spot opportunities before others do - perhaps even before the market is aw

  • by Gabrill (556503) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @03:51PM (#19569463)
    To me, a layman, it does seam like basic tools have most of their "methods" and "apparatus" patented, so that startups have no hope of making anything more complex than a wheelbarrow without stepping at least one patent or another. Maybe it would be a good idea to farm recently outdated patents for business ideas. Anything made to those patents' specifications should be immune to newer patents, and a good way to invalidate copycat patents.
  • About 10 years ago I dimly remember reading in one of the Mac magazines -- Macworld or Macuser, I think -- their take on the perfect PDA/Phone. They had photos of a mockup, though I can't remember if it was real or photoshopery. I seem to remember that Frog Design was involved.

    Does anyone else recall this? I'd like to read the article again -- I bet it would be pretty interesting.

        - AJ
  • of the "perfect" device of any sort and it would require appropriate licensing (or wrongful patent lawsuits is some unfortunate cases) to develop. That is true.

    It does allow the little guy to get credit where it is due though and it requires true innovation in the field and not plagiarism of an idea. I do agree that it is relatively ridiculous that 20 year patents are allowed in technological fields where the idea itself will be obsolete in 5, but a lot of the Slashdot community tends to overlook the good
  • A small, rectangular object capable of making and receiving voice communications, perhaps using some type of numerical input pad.

    That said, I haven't seen anything like that for sale in years. You know, a simple, cellular phone?

    Our patent system, as broken as it is, doesn't incumber products nearly as much as incompetent companies and mindless consumers.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      FWIW Motorola is making a GSM phone like that for the Indian market. e-Ink display, has like four built-in ringtones, and it's styled more or less like a RAZR (but non-flip). I've often thought that a phone like that plus EDGE GPRS and bluetooth communication (to use it with your PC/PDA/whatever) would be a gigantic seller in the USA for people who don't want a phone with a fancy interface. Especially since it has literally weeks of standby time. (Well, over a week IIRC. And many hours of talk time.)
  • Not a problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:00PM (#19569645) Journal
    This is not a big problem - for a big company. A Big company could easily license the IP from their competitors to build the 'perfect' phone.

    Of course, that elimenates all the little guys from competing because they can't afford to license the technology.

    On the other hand, companies prefer to purposefully 'differentiate' their products so the customer is presented with a choice - which the company is banking on. You will probably never see the 'perfect' phone, as a result. It is the nature of the beast.
  • not the idea itself.

    The main issue I have with the patent system is that it is not functioning to protect the process of implementation. One cannot patent the idea of a "water tight connector" for example, but one could patent the process / design for creating one. This would then protect the patent holder for a *period of time.* Once that period of time is over, its wide open for cheap knock offs.

    Based on both concepts above (the idea can't be patented; the process will eventually be available) I don't thi
  • by moankey (142715)
    Of course patents and companies prevent the perfect product. This can be said about anything. As long as there is economy, profit, governments, and corporations a synergy of technology and science will never be made.
    A perfect anything is idealistic at best.
  • Can anyone explain what the advantage of dual batteries is? TFA describes this "feature", but not what the benefits are.

    LS
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by geek2718 (990232)
      I assumed it was so that you can run out of "feature battery life" without disabling your phone for that important phone call? Seems a bit tenuous to me, as presumably you get less lifetime per oz. of battery with dual batteries unless you happen to use both batteries at exactly the same rate and you could accomplish the same thing with software...but, perhaps the power needed to transmit a cell phone call is higher than that needed by music or camera features. So for one application you need high power s
  • This might work -- in Europe, but not the US. And it's not the patents that are stopping something like this, it's the telcos. The Gillette analogy is that a company will sell you or even give you the razor handle -- as long as they can tie you into buying their proprietary and presumably more expensive blades, insuring a long term profit to cover the giveaway.

    Add the ability to use this theoretical phone on ANY network, forcing Verizon, ATT, Sprint/Nextel, etc. into a world where if I get screwed by a ven

    • Your comment has reminded me of a long-standing question that's been floating around in my head for a while and I've never seen an answer to.

      Why is it that you don't see generic knockoffs of expensive razor blades? Is it that the razor blade companies change the form factors fast enough that patents protect the properly-fitting blades until they're irrelevant? Is it that razor blades actually are expensive enough to produce that generics can't make money? Is there something else I'm missing?
      • by hankwang (413283) *

        Is it that the razor blade companies change the form factors fast enough that patents protect the properly-fitting blades until they're irrelevant?

        Exactly. A patent can be extended for some 17 years, and a couple of patents on the system which clicks the blades to the holder will ensure that competitors can't legally make compatible blades.

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      The problem in the US is partly the wireless providers wanting specific features on "their" phones and partly the systems they have implemented. Verizon didn't (and may still not) sell Nokia phones because they don't work with Verizon's network equipment very well. On the other hand, if you bring a CDMA tri-band phone into a Verizon store it can be activated in almost all cases. It may not work very well if it is a Nokia. There are some other problems I am sure.

      But the idea of the phone being tied to th
  • ...not even if you think you're mixing the best features from each.

    If only you could combine a Big Mac and a Hershey bar...

    If only you could combine Fred Astaire and Rudolf Nuruyev...

    If only Gary Trudeau could draw like Albert Dürer... ...it wouldn't be perfection.
  • Consumer devices aren't designed in a vacuum. There has to be a place to sell them. If someone came up with the idea for a really wonderful music player 10 years ago and it took 10 years to have the device produced in all its perfection, it would be a flop. iPod owns the market. So we have had a succession of modestly successful devices that weren't perfect but made it to market.

    Software is often the same thing. You sell a distributor on a product and they want it for Christmas. Come October, you are
  • I think what should be done is a fixed-percent "patent tax". All devices pay a fixed percent of sales, say 10%, to a quasi-government organization that distributes the royalties to the various patent holders. Disputes over patent applicability are to be taken up between patent holders, NOT patent users. That way you can make whatever the heck you want and let the patent holders fight out any disputes instead.
  • I miss the perfect phone, the base Bell System model. Something fundamental has been lost: The experience of hanging up. You could hang up a Bell System phone as violently or as delicately as you liked. It was indestructible. There were few things more satisfying that slamming the phone down on the hook, pounding the receiver against your desk or hurling it at the wall.
  • You know, just because something is patented doesn't mean you aren't allowed to use it. If you can't work around a patent, you can always license it. Most patent-owners will not impose ridiculous terms since it means the patent won't generate money. So you can probably license the technology and use it to create your so-called "perfect" invention.
  • if you require patent X to make the "perfect" product, it would be worth licensing that patent. It's the same thing with any product, if it's worth the licensing fee, then it will come to pass. If not, then it probably would not be that "perfect" of a product after all, or else the business forecasts for sales would capture that value and require that patent purchase/license. Henry Ford licensed the freaking engine from some guy for the original Ford cars... a patent on the internal combustion engine cau
  • Do you think patents are stopping companies from creating 'perfect' devices, or are there other factors at work?

    Of course there are. Companies are (if they are any good) motived to make the most money with the least effort. The 80-20 Rule [wikipedia.org] speaks directly to this motivation. The "perfect" product is almost in direct opposition to it.
  • Ownership can limit what knowledge or technologies you put into a potential product, so of course it is limiting. While not all of us may agree on the "perfect" product, we all agree that "more perfect" products exist, which is why we pick one (Linux) over another (-1 Troll).

    Mandatory licensing, although it sounds fascist, could be a good idea. If you own a technology that others can use, you could be forced to license it at a fair market rate so as not to restrict innovation. Innovation benefits everyone i
  • by rhizome (115711) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @06:00PM (#19571499) Homepage Journal
    But isn't this what the patent system is designed to do, to slow down adoption and reuse?
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:17PM (#19572417)
    I believe Chris Rock said it best:

    Why the hell would drug companies want to find a cure for AIDS? There's no money for a cure. The real money's in the treatment!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)
      But here are far more patents that have helped. Many times more. I know many people who have used the patent system to protect themselves, and rely on it to make a living while they innovate new stuff.

      There isn't much the Patent office can do about a petty son of a bitch.

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