200 iPhone Patents: Invention vs. Innovation

The fact is, the iPhone features very little in terms of new technology. What makes Apple’s iPhone remarkable, rather, is the way in which already-existing inventions are combined to create a unique, user-friendly experience.

So why is Apple applying for 200 patents on the iPhone, a device which most would argue is an innovation, not an invention? Steven Wellman at InformationWeek points out:

Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player; they just innovated it and made it mainstream. Ditto with the Mac and graphical user interfaces. Apple is incredibly good at making technology chic, easy, and, most importantly, fun-to-use.

Wellman sums up two viewpoints on the issue: while some say that patents on innovations are unneccessary because the “rewards of the market — i.e. strong product sales” are reason enough to innovate, others argue that “both inventors and innovators need patents to give them a profit incentive to invent or innovate.” (emphasis mine)

Do you think companies have a right to patent their innovations, even if the technology isn’t technically new?

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