So, with as much seriousness as the issue warrants, Apple should have patented the fingertip, and since it hasn’t been done yet (my cursory search of the USPTO not withstanding), must do it now before Google, Microsoft, or IBM decides to do it first.
Why patent the fingertip? Think of the royalties Apple could impose upon the 1.7-billion Android smartphone users in the world. Think of the royalties Apple could receive from Microsoft each year as the company’s Window 10 operating system has a touchscreen component that uses… insert drum roll here… a fingertip. It doesn’t matter that Windows 10 customers never use the touchscreen. What’s important here is to patent it and collect royalties.
IBM did exactly half that effort recently by getting the United States Patent and Technology Office to award a patent for an out-of-office email system. You know the kind, right? And it’s likely you’ve used it. It’s a simple to setup automated response to incoming email that tells someone you’re on vacation, in a meeting, and on a business trip.
Yep. IBM has that patent, #9,547,842 to be exact. What was patented? The standard set a start date, set an end date, insert availability information, then send it back to the sender as an email message.
Yep. IBM patented something that’s been around a few decades already, but the USPTO has never worried about prior art before, so why start now? Here’s a look at some of the patent’s legalese:
If an e-mail has not been sent to a receiver since activation and if a current date is prior to the start date, the first system is further adapted to attach the availability indicator metadata to the e-mail, and send the e-mail to the receiver.
That’s Mister Bigshot Fancypants talk for, “I’ll send you a message right away to let you know I’m not around to answer your message.”
So, how is it that a giant technology company could get a patent from the USPTO on something so mundane and obvious as an automated email reply system? First, IBM applied. Second, the USPTO said, “OK.” Ostensibly, there was a search of the USPTO’s records, and since it’s highly unlikely that anyone had ever applied for such an obvious patent, IBM was awarded a patent for #9,547,842. To its credit, IBM has decided not to enforce its newly obtain out-of-office email patent. Hear that noise outside? It’s the tech world breathing a collective sigh of relief. Or, the wind. Or, traffic.
It’s probably true there’s no patent for the chemical composition of air, too.
And, fingertips. Sure, prior art is all over the place, and roughly to the tune of 7.5-billion people times 10, but if there’s not a fingertips patent, Apple should grab it while the USPTO is in a good mood and inclined to award a patent for anything that smacks of a technological marvel.
And what kind of marvel is the fingertip? Look at what it does on every smartphone and tablet on planet earth. It’s the control mechanism that all of us have, and since it’s unlikely we would pay Apple or anyone else for the rights to use it, Apple needs to get the patent filed quickly so it can begin taking away the 5-percent of the smartphone industry’s profits it does not have– thanks to royalties from a fingertip patent.