Thursday, August 12, 2010

Apple patents the work of others

A cautionary tale: Ortwin Gentz is a software developer whose company Futuretap has been extremely successful building apps for iPhone and iPad. Imagine Ortwin's surprise when he discovered that the company that has allowed him to earn a living has actually patented part of his work. A screenshot of Ortwin's 'Whereto' app actually features in Apple's patent claim.

It strikes me that there are two bad things here: i) software patents in themselves, and ii) any one company controlling a lot of the technology we use. If this were ever to happen on the Android platform, consumers would be free to go elsewhere. Not so with Apple.


  1. Apple did no such thing: check the FutureTap website and they clearly say that there was never any attempt to patent someone else's work. There are plenty of real reasons to dislike software patents without making ones up.

  2. Hi Tony. Thanks for your comment. The screenshot above is from Apple's patent application and has the start screen from the Whereto app. I'd say that constitutes an attempt to patent someone else's work. The wider issue is Apple's attempt to begin patenting mobile apps. While it looks as though FutureTap is reluctant to bite the Apple that feeds it (and appears to have buried their difference) if Apple (or another company) patents common functions on mobile phones for things like finding hotels (in this case), buying movie tickets, reading books online, I think the mobile space will be worse for it.

  3. Makes developing for Android look a lot better, doesn't it :-)