To our surprise, the „PatentGate“ story, first revealed by Dan Wineman, ignited a true blogosphere frenzy. The New York Times, TUAW, The Register, TechCrunch, GigaOM, n-tv and heise online are just a few among the many commentators (see below) of the story.

Most of them came to the conclusion that the patent itself wouldn‘t steal any of Where To?’s design or functionality. Nilay Patel over at Engadget explains:

The only operative parts of a patent are the claims. (…) If it’s not in the claims, it’s not in the patent.

Indeed, when looking through the claims 1-21, there’s no evidence of anything close to Where To?‘s functionality. Our patent attorney confirmed this. The claims of this patent application are actually pretty narrow with the core invention being a method that detects the arrival of a traveler based on the itinerary and the fact that the device was turned off and turned back on again, and then sending out some sort of arrival notification.

The confusion arose from Apple’s including a 1:1 copy of the Where To? start screen in the detailed description (which basically sets the context of the invention).

Anand Sethuraman, Senior Patent Counsel at Apple, came back to our enquiry and explains in an email:

As discussed, Apple is contemplating steps to attribute the screenshot in the patent application to FutureTap. The patent application in question does not claim as inventive the pictured user interface nor the general concept of an integrated travel services application.  We appreciate your taking time out to discuss the matter and will keep you updated.

So the use of the Where To? screenshot is not an offense in any way but merely an illustration that apps such as Where To? could make use of the invention. We feel honored over this mention and appreciate that Apple is looking into a proper attribution of the screenshot. In retrospective, I can say we wouldn‘t ever have considered the story alarming had the screenshot included a short attribution notice.

Looking back, I’m thankful for the great support of the community. We received a lot of good advice and many readers sympathized. Only the Apple haters who chimed in with their „Apple is evil“ attitude have been proven wrong now. I also read a few aggressive (mostly anonymous) feedback comments that called to boycott us because of our inability in understanding patent law. It’s true, we had no clue of patent law, the US one in particular. We learned a lot the last few days. Yet, my response to those boycotteurs:

Do you prefer developers who love reading patents over the ones who love to design user interfaces?

Nevertheless, I truly apologize if we stepped on anyone‘s feet. And now, let‘s go back to work.

More sources The Macalope Weekly: An appointment with disappointment Controversy Over Apple Travel Patent Application Apple Submits Software Patent For Other Developer’s App, Including Title And Design Did Apple Slip An Existing Third-Party App Into A Patent Application? Apple Patent Laziness Apple Accused of Ripping Off Third-Party iPhone Apps Apple Knocks Off Existing App For Patent Application No, Apple isn’t patenting developers’ work. But it still has a bigger problem Regarding Apple including 3rd party app screens in 1st party app patent filings Apple plagiarizing others’ work in patent diagrams? Is Apple Trying To Rip-off Another Developer’s App? Apple “steals” iPhone app ideas and patents them (and lightsabers) Regarding the Apple/FutureTap patent Controversy Patently similar — Where To asks Apple how come? Is Apple Evil? Apple Patents Existing Third-Party App Design New Apple Patent, Someone Gets Fired Edition Untitled Whence Apple-Patente: HighTech-Fahrrad und Interface-Klau Apple patentiert App einer anderen Firma Apple illustriert eigene Patentanmeldungen mit existierenden Apps Apple Patentanmeldung mit “Where To?” UI “Wohin?”-Startscreen in Apple-Patentantrag als Beispiel-Interface Apple schützt Apps per Patent Apple – Patentantrag mit geklauten Ideen? Lässt Apple sich von fremden Apps inspirieren? Kurios: Apple will Patent anmelden – doch das Design gibt es schon Patentiert Apple eine App einer anderen Firma? Gar nicht cool: Apple klaut Interface von 3rd Party App App-Entwickler Futuretap: “Apple hat uns bestohlen!” News Mix: MacBook Air, Patente, iPhone CDMA, iPhone-Chef verlässt Apple Apple klaut Skizzen für Patentanmeldung Apple imita le applicazioni presenti in AppStore e ne fa dei brevetti? Il curioso caso del brevetto Apple che copia Dove? Se Apple brevetta le applicazioni altrui Quand Apple copie illégalement une application… Apple: patent troll? Les photocopieuses d’Apple Une photocopieuse aussi chez Apple ? Apple utilise des captures d’applications tierces dans un brevet La photocopieuse d’Apple est très efficace! ガビョ~ン、うちの iPhone アプリがアップルの特許申請に出てしまってる! MACお宝鑑定団 blog(羅針盤 iPhoneアプリのアイディア、アップルが勝手に特許申請? Apple-patent voor iTravel bevat schetsen van bestaande apps Apple umieścił interfejs cudzej aplikacji w swoim patencie Podcast 1: “Apple vs. Where To?” (español) Apple plagió de la AppStore las aplicaciones que patentó sobre viajes y moda Τρεις νέες πατέντες της Apple: Travel, Hotel, High-fashion Shopping Apple stjæler patent fra app-partner


  • Will

    wrote on August 11, 2010 at 5:50pm

    So how much did this whole patent gate help sales?? 😉

  • Ortwin Gentz

    wrote on August 11, 2010 at 6:14pm

    Around 1200-1500 additional copies, I’d say. Have to subtract the lawyer’s bill from that, though.

  • Ian Betteridge

    wrote on August 11, 2010 at 8:14pm

    Ortwin, that’s great news – glad it’s all been cleared up, even if it’s cost you some money in lawyer’s fees! 🙂

  • Marcial

    wrote on August 11, 2010 at 8:51pm

    Great News!

    I still believe that, even when what Apples is trying to patent is not the same as Where To?, the techniques and technology used, apply as what is called prior art, so the patent doesn’t fulfill the innovation requirement, so it’s up to the USTPO to decide.

    Let’s expect. Thank’s for the link-back.

  • Brian

    wrote on August 12, 2010 at 12:25am

    When I first read the story I was a little upset with Futuretap because knowing a little about patents I suspected the image had nothing to do with the patent or little to do with it. Sadly the source where I read it Macnn failed to actually link to the patent so I could look at it myself. Since then I come to realise it was not Futuretap but the media that made it out to be something bigger then it was, and failued to report well or check facts. Im glad everything has worked out and hope the extra media attention helped in sales. I know I never herd of it before all this and plan to download it sometime this week now to check it.

  • kikorb

    wrote on August 12, 2010 at 11:38am

    Great news! I was scared about this whole thing, but it seems that it was a complete mistake.

  • haggis

    wrote on August 12, 2010 at 12:21pm

    @Brian – “the media that made it out to be something bigger then it was, and failed to report well or check facts”.

    Think you hit the nail on the head there. Seems the media never let the facts get in the way of a good story (especially where Apple is concerned). Shame really.

  • I. P.

    wrote on August 15, 2010 at 3:30pm

    the precious thoughts you provided do help our team’s investigation for my corporation, thanks.

Comments are closed.

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