Re: Gotta love Apple.
@Eddy While true that patent law was amended to require just the description of how the invention worked it was originally required to provide a working model. By the time of the invention of the telephone this had been changed. (Working models were required from 1790 to 1793).
The main problem with patents since they were first around is still one of money. Most people simply cannot afford to file a patent, so we're still down to the fact that Joe Public can have the best idea on the planet but will never see their idea make him rich unless he can find the money to patent it. And certainly in the early days there were plenty of clerks willing to not only "lose" patents for money but also to steal them wholesale on behalf of unscrupulous businesses.