Back in 2010, Apple was seemingly randomly sued by an eccentric 70-year-old crank who claimed to have “come up with the idea” of the smartphone. That lawsuit has now come to trial, and the crank has lost, but what’s confusing is how torn the jury seems to have been by the decision, even going so far as to call the alleged smartphone creator a “little guy” crushed by big business.
Let’s back up. The patent in question is one owned by NetAirus Technologies LLC, a company owned by an inventor named Richard L. Ditzik, who patented an idea for a handheld device that combines both computer and wireless-communication functions over both Wi-Fi and a cellular network.
Apple argued in its case in federal court that Ditzik’s patent was the “poster child” for spurious patents, and even presented its own Newton Messagepad as an example of prior art. This wasn’t an invention that Ditzik had made, it was just a description of an invention Ditzik was banking on someone else making so he could sue them. And Apple said it went even further, claiming that Ditzik revised his patent to include smartphone features he had read about in magazines.
What’s weird, though, is how torn the jury was. The jurors were so divided that they asked the judge to allow them to file a majority vote. And one of the jurors after the case went as far as to say he “almost felt like we were failing in doing everything we could for the system and for the inventor,” and that there “was an aspect to the case that Apple was this giant crushing the little guy.” He even said he wanted to find “some other way” to reward Ditzik.
There’s likely some aspect of the case I’m missing here, but this seems like textbook spurious patent stuff. Why people should be allowed to patent ideas instead of specific executions makes no sense to me. What do you think?