Apple, as is the case with many high technology companies, files for hundreds of patents each year, and some of them are bound to confuse the very government career employees who grant or deny such complicated patents.
That means many patents are granted that should not be granted. Patent officials don’t mind because if there is a challenge it is the courts that will be required to settle the issue of a patent’s validity.
Something similar is taking place with Apple vs. F.B.I. In this case, the government wants Apple to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone (and probably a few dozen other iPhones formerly in the hands of terrorists and criminals) by creating a special method which may be used to open this particular iPhone (but could be used by government authorities to open many other iPhones in the future).
The matter is now before a U.S. Magistrate Judge who cannot possibly know the technical implications required to render a fair decision but has asked both sides of the case– Apple and F.B.I.– to provide details on the technology issue, as well as their basic arguments. That means the judge wants to know how the technology works.
On the surface that request seems fair and judicious but it highlights an area where the courts have trouble understanding the technology sufficiently to make a proper ruling, and that in itself mirrors the problems where patent officials have similar trouble understanding a complicated patent, how it may compare with other patents already filed, and the ramifications of granting a patent that later is determined not be valid.
On one side government officials are pushing through and approving complicated patents knowing the courts may be required to decide a patent’s validity later, yet those same courts appear ill equipped to understand the technology and its ramifications upon society at large, specific companies, and the government’s need to protect its citizens by any means necessary, including violating some of the principles they are asked to protect.
What a mess.
I call this the Technology Confusion Syndrome, an issue sufficiently complicated as to polarize those involved, and complex enough to evoke strong emotions within both sides of a partisan divide, neither of which fully understand either the technology ramifications of the issue, or the benefits or drawbacks to government or society.
Worse, too many politicians are free-range cowboys who shoot first and aim later by sensationalizing an issue which they do not fully understand, yet use it as fodder and red meat to incite supporters.
What a mess.