Steve Jobs acclaims Google patent (sort of)

"The communication of the dead," wrote T.S. Eliot, "is tongued with fired beyond the language of the living."

On his FOSS Patents blog, Florian Mueller reports that Google has attempted to turn words attributed to Steve Jobs by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, against Apple, in the course of an adjudication.

Iphone to earThe title of Mueller's post gives the context: "Google quotes Steve Jobs biography in attempt to salvage patent and win iPhone import ban."

Doctrines and phrases-of-art are so attenuated in patent law, they make securities concepts like "general solicitation" and "pre-existing business relationship" seem simple by comparison.

Read Mueller's post for more of the richly strange nuance of patent doctrine in the case, but if I'm following, Google's aim in quoting Isaacson in quoting Jobs is to take advantage of the precedent that acclaim by those knowledgeable in the field is indicia of a patent's non-obviousness ("obvious" being one of the worst things you can say about a patent or alleged patent, as bad as having your thinking described as "random" by Bill Gates at Microsoft in the 1990s).

The patent in dispute - the one Google wants to be valid and the one that Apple is disparaging - is this one, the abstract for which reads as follows:

"A portable communication device (100) that has a processing section (208) to control operation of the portable communication device (100) in response to an input signal (TS_INPUT) and a user interface having a touch sensitive input device (128) for generating the input signal (TS_INPUT), also has a sensor (134). The sensor (134) disables the touch sensitive input device (128) from generating the input signal (TS_INPUT) when the portable communication device (100) is positioned in close proximity to a user and, thereby, preventing inadvertent actuations while the user holds the portable communication device (100) against his or her head to facilitate communication."

In other words, the invention has to do with disabling certain functions of the phone when you raise it to your ear.

Here's part of the quote from a Gooble brief, itself quoting Isaacson's biography of Jobs, that Mueller found:

"Here, the technology of the '862 patent was recognized as a 'breakthrough' by none other than Apple's former CEO (Mr. Steve Jobs). On cross examination, Apple's expert, Mr. Lanning, could not deny that Mr. Jobs himself characterized the incorporation of a proximity sensor into the iPhone as a 'breakthrough' to his biographer, Walter Isaacson:'[a]nother breakthrough was the sensor that figured out when you put the phone to your ear, so that your lobes didn't accidentally activate some function.'"

Photo: UltraSlo1 / Flickr.


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