Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Root of Apple’s Smartphone Innovation

The fundamental goal of providing certain exclusive rights for a limited time to one’s invention is to create incentives which can maximize social welfare (the difference between the economic benefits and costs) provided by the patent system. As the society changed from industrial economy to knowledge economy, software, which is the fundamental technology for computer and internet, are appeared as the most important building block for the economic development  of our society. Following the society’s need for the development of software technology, the patent system came to provide the exclusive rights to software inventions.

Recently, software patents, however, are blamed as one of the major culprits for the cracks in the current patent system: As the result of low cost for software inventions combined with abstract nature, a large number of low-quality software patents can be produced. A large percent of the produced software patents are end up being litigated more frequently in the courts, especially, exploited by patent trolls. Consequently, there are several measures are discussed to weaken protection of software patents (ref. http://www.slideshare.net/alexglee/software-patents-patent-trolls-understanding-obamas-measures). One of reasons that strong patent protection is not needed for software inventions is the cumulative innovation nature of software. A large number of software inventions are sequential and iterative improvements of preexisting inventive ideas and software codes. Therefore, the incremental improvement characteristic of software invention process can suppress and limit the widespread use of the software inventions without infringing the exclusive rights.

As a case study for the cumulative innovation nature of software, backward citations of Apple’s patent’s for smartphone application - Siri - are studied. Siri is the smart personal assistant application that allows users to place phone calls, send a message, write a memo, open a music, and check schedule by voice command. Recently, Apple accused Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 for infringement of its Siri patents US8086604 US6847959 (ref. http://www.slideshare.net/alexglee/samsung-galaxy-s3-s4-in-patent-lawsuits). The citation analysis reviles that Siri patents US8086604 US6847959 are rooted to Bell Lab’s invention for voice recognition mechanism issued as US2195081 in 1940. Geneology of Apple’s Siri patents are as follows.

US2195081 (Sound printing mechanism: Bell Lab) is referenced by US3742143 (Limited vocabulary speech recognition: Bell Lab). US3742143 is referenced by US4737976 (Hands-free control system for a radiotelephone: Motorola). US4737976 is referenced by US5054082 (Method and apparatus for programming devices to recognize voice commands: Motorola). US5054082 is referenced by US5303148 (Voice actuated volume image controller and display controller: Picker International). US5303148 is referenced by US5729741 (System for storage and retrieval of diverse types of information obtained from different media sources which includes video, audio, and text transcriptions: Golden Enterprises). Finally, US5729741 is referenced by US6847959 (Universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system: Apple).
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1 comment:

mahasiswa teladan said...

hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)