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.