Don’t Be Stupid, Steve Jobs Didn’t Steal iOS Bounce-Back From ‘Pong’

Don’t Be Stupid, Steve Jobs Didn’t Steal iOS Bounce-Back From ‘Pong’

Does this look like an iPhone to you?

In a laughable post over at LawPundit, Andis Kaulins makes an argument that Apple’s landmark $1 billion win against Samsung for patent infringement is at least partially bogus.

Why? Because Apple’s patent for bounce-back scrolling isn’t an original idea, but was, in fact, stolen from Pong, a game first released back in 1972. There are just a few problems with this idea…

For clarity, here’s LawPundit’s argument:

Well, the idea contained in the Apple patent is so simply demonstrated that you can go back to the initial days of PCs for a good demonstration of the principle used, revealing the prior art and obviousness of the invention.

The essential principle of bounce-back scrolling becomes obvious if you play the famed Atari game PONG which was virtually “the first game” in the early days of the computer and you can still play it online here.

Whenever the ball hits the paddle, that is a “bounce-back” and if it does not hit the paddle, there is no “bounce-back”. Apple has essentially stolen this PONG bounce-back invention for the basics of its scrolling patent 7469381, as we see from the court decision in Cupertino, to the tune of $1 Billion.

Now, THAT is professional theft.

It’s hard to believe someone wrote that with a straight face.

a.) First of all, I’m not a patent lawyer, and in fact I’m more or less a bit of a doofus, and even I understand that the specifics count in patent law. A virtual paddle controlled by a joystick from a 1972 video game that bounces when it hits a wall isn’t the same thing as a list on a touchscreen smartphone bouncing when it reaches the end. That’s like saying dribbling a basketball is the same as jumping up and down on a pogo stick. For Pong to be prior art to Apple’s patent, it would need to apply to smartphone interfaces or similar concepts (like, say, a PDA interface), not a video game, plain and simple.

b.) As Tim Worstall over at Forbes points out, even if it was true that Pong was the same as the iPhone’s user interface, Apple’s co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak actually met working at Atari on a single player version of Pong, called Breakout. Since Atari certainly never patented bounce back, it makes it Jobs’s as much as anyone’s. Yeesh.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Anyone who says that the iOS rubber-banding effect and Pong’s hit state are the same thing needs to be fired from whatever job they have. I don’t care if it’s just “cashier”, “fry cook”, or “librarian”. That level of stupidity needs to be punished measurably. They’re wholly different concepts in wholly different situations that respond in wholly different ways.

  • Jason Smith

    i didn’t believe this article, I thought they must have missed the humour or sarcasm in the original post so I headed over to check it out. I think they actually did write it with a straight face. I am simply in shock. It’s saying I can’t copyright my new song because someone else used chords E, A and D before me.

  • ImMansor

    that’s what happens when Samsung hire a “lawyer” for the lawsuit but finds nothing to claim that is copied by Apple from them.

  • joewaylo

    I kind of thought they stole this idea from a pinball machine. You pull on a lever until the spring is compressed and then let go to shoot the ball into the game.

  • thegraphicmac

    A caveman once threw a rock at a mountainside and it bounced back. Prior art?

  • ddevito

    Let’s not forget Steve Jobs worked at Atari…just sayin

  • ZoltanTroll

    The “ball” in pong did not change speed. Period. It ONLY changed direction, this guy is a complete idiot. The rubber-banding effect has negative acceleration as you pull away from the page and positive acceleration once you let go.

  • markrlangston

    Does anyone watch the HBO show “The Newsroom”? One of the office staff (played by the guy from “Slumdog Millionaire”) decides he wants to enter into the underbelly of the internet’s most devious citizens to get leads on stories and other dubious goings on in the world. To do so he must prove himself by trolling a website (or “trollster” if you *patent pending*) to gain their acceptance.

    He says the mark of a true trollster (it’ll catch on) is to go to a website usually visited by critical yet intelligent thinking individuals and make some off-the-wall comment that not only gets them off topic but also enrages them to dizzying degrees.

    I could be wrong (maybe trollster won’t catch on) but I believe this person knows exactly what they’re doing and is just sitting back watching people go ape s*** over their incredibly asinine, insane, irrelevant Pong vs. Apple “rubber banding” feature theory.

  • Tallest_Skil

    …I believe this person knows exactly what they’re doing and is just sitting back watching people go ape s*** over their incredibly asinine, insane, irrelevant Pong vs. Apple “rubber banding” feature theory.

    Except something this phenomenally stupid removes all future credibility from the name that wrote the post and the website that originally posted it. They’d have to build new websites and create entirely new aliases every time they wanted to do this.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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