back to article Woz snubs Paul Allen, praises pea soup

Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak has no love for the US patent system, and prefers split-pea soup to "that patent-troll thing" as practiced by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen in his current patent-infringment lawsuit against Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, and others. "A lot of patents are pretty much not worth that much," …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Pot Kettle 0x000000

    And Apple is currently suing Samsung for copying their technical breakthrough of rounded corners and a screen on the front?

    1. Glenn Alexander
      Jobs Horns

      Quite true.

      Though my impression is that while Woz is very enthusiastic about Apple's products, he has a bit of a love-hate relationship with their management (even with his long-time friend Jobs). I imagine his comments were directed as much at Apple as any other patent troll.

    2. Charles Manning

      Design patent, not utility patent

      Apple is annoyed because they have a design patent for a particular look and style which Samsung is copying.

      This is not at all the same as a utility patent.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        Well you will confuse people...

        ... if you use the same word for two different things.

        In the US, the equivalent of a Registered Design is a Design Patent. A Utility Patent is what the rest of the world calls a patent. When criticising US "patent" lawsuits, it is important to find out whether you should be criticising patent lawsuits or registered design lawsuits (the latter being effectively a subset of trademark lawsuits).

        1. Oninoshiko

          The problem is...

          the design is utilitarian. What shape other then a "rectangle with rounded corners" would you suggest making a cell phone? Hell, RIM has been using that shape since since the 6210 (2003). if you are willing to count the pages it goes back to 850 (1998).

          That's not even counting all the cellular phones made using that shape since we stopped using bag-phones. Basically everything but the flip-phones. Next they are going to be claiming trademark on the letter 'i'.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Tard Alert!

      Because Woz has not a lot to do with the modern "Apple" Slime-o-corp.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge

        Re: Because Woz has not a lot to do with the modern "Apple"

        Well, he is a shareholder (one of many many) and an honarary employee, however he has not been so much involved since the late 80's. But if that is 'modern' enough for you, I have an 80486 to sell you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Patent trolls don't make things

      Woz attacked companies that buy or sit on conceptual ideas, wait for someone to do the work that makes the idea a reality, and then leech money off them.

      Apple is the polar opposite - they don't just come up with ideas, they come up with real products and take risks to build markets. How many times have you heard people scoffing at Apple's new releases? The original Mac, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and recently the iPad... all of them were panned by critics and pundits across the computer industry.

      Then, when Apple has made a success of the product and turning a good profit, every man and his dog wants to make a knock-off. That's fine to a degree, but Samsung have gone too far. Many of its products look like reproductions of Apple's work. Samsung should get off its backside and hire designers of its own. Plagiarising others' work is just as bad as patent trolling.

      1. Greg J Preece

        Alright then, forget Samsung

        What about their "patent pool" with others to go after WebM?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Filing patents does not make a troll

          @Greg J Preece: "What about their "patent pool" with others to go after WebM?"

          A patent troll is not defined by simply filing patents, or even using them to protect inventions. Patents were designed to allow inventors to reap a reward from their investment - to prevent rip-off merchants from plagiarising their hard work. It's much easier to copy an existing work than it is to design one from nothing, e.g. writing a completely new novel as opposed to simply copying someone else's (I know that's a copyright issue, but the principle is the same).

          Patent trolls, however, do not make any effort to bring ideas to fruition or, in fact, to come up with any ideas of their own. In others words, they do not contribute any creative effort whatsoever. They buy up half-baked or vague ideas, and then attempt to extort money from anything that can be linked to them. "Parasite" would be a more apt name than "Troll".

          The concerns about WebM centre around that fact that it may have ripped off other technologies. A large consortium of companies have invested huge amounts of money developing/promoting H264 and attempting to build defences against patent trolling (possibly some trolls were paid off in the process). If WebM misappropriated some of this work, it will be (quite rightly) challenged in court by the rightful owners. The H264 owners spent the money and did the hard work - they aren't parasites for wanting a return on that investment. However, if WebM was independently designed and developed, the WebM owners have nothing to be concerned about.

      2. Anonymous Coward


        Apple are as bad as the rest of them (if not worse) for coming up with often nonsensical patents which never get transformed into real products!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Jobs Horns

        Re: Patent trolls don't make things

        "Apple is the polar opposite - they don't just come up with ideas, they come up with real products and take risks to build markets."

        Hello?! There were several generations of digital music players before the iPod, and Apple's success owes a lot to the ineptitude of companies like Creative, not to Apple's "design". There were smartphones before the iPhone, and Apple's success owes a lot to the ineptitude of companies like Nokia, although one has to admit that Apple did put the pieces together in a reasonable way. There were even tablet computers and personal media players before the iPad, and Apple's success owes a lot to the ineptitude of companies like Microsoft (and also their greed and stubbornness at wanting to price tablets at a premium and tie it all up with Windows plus Office), although Apple did manage to leverage their iPhone work to get the product out of the door. (Personally, I thought it didn't really live up to the hype.)

        Indeed, for things like the iPad, what Woz has to say is pretty pertinent: you could have speculated about a tablet computer with multi-touch two decades ago - they were probably on Star Trek - and filed a patent for it. Then, you could have just waited for technology to deliver the hard bits before pouncing on the people who did the hard work - not the "in the shower/bath" pontification that led to the patent - and shaking them down for some money.

        So Apple make things, yes, but they also file a lot of patents for exactly the kind of trolling going on in the article. Just read The Register for a bit to see how true that is.

        1. Francis Fish

          Nokia weren't inept

          The carrier controlled what got connected to their networks. They decided we were too stupid for devices like the iPhone. Apple had the cachet to change this - this was a good thing. It's a shame that Nokia and others didn't have the same power - but they didn't.

          Not having some designs waiting ready for the dam to finally break, that *was* inept.

        2. stuff and nonesense

          is a title required?

          "Just read The Register for a bit to see how true that is."


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: is a title required?

            ""Just read The Register for a bit to see how true that is."


            Too hard to type "Apple patent filing" into the search box and read?


            Just because The Register delivers a daily dose of fantasy from certain writers doesn't mean it doesn't keep you clued up about the goings-on at Apple.

    5. JKT

      Not pot, not kettle

      RCA had not sold any product that used the raster character generator. Apple sold 20 million rounded-corner iPhones. If you don't see a difference here, I'm not sure what to say.

  2. jake Silver badge


    Split pea soup!

    Throw a shot of very dry sherry into the bowl tableside and it's even better ... I know what's for dinner tomorrow ... Soup, salad & homemade bread :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Wozy's got his heart (stomach?) in the right place...screw the jackals, lets have lunch!

      Though maybe he's been having too many lunches recently. Cut down on the pies Wozzy!

    2. Thomas_Kent

      Re: Split Pea Soup

      "Don't forget to eat the split pea soup before it eats you!"

  3. VeganVegan

    Respectfully disagree

    In my experience, Anderson's pea soup is much better than any Marie Callender's.

    This article brings back wonderful gustatory memories of day bygone: when driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, stopping in Buellton/Solvang just for the pea soup.

    de gustibus non est disputandum.

    (I'm too young to have encountered London's famous pea soup of the 50's).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Thus neatly proving that ...

      Even vegans love pork products ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I'm a veggie and there is nothing, absolutely nothing on this planet that smells better that frying bacon! I often make it a point to wander past the cafe's in London on my way to work just to get a lung full of that gorgeous smell! I can't square with my conscience about eating the little piggies myself but they don't half smell good when " they're a'fryin' "!!!

        1. Andrew Moore


          bacon has been known to cure a few vegetarians.

          1. Chad H.

            If we were ment to be Vegetarian

            There'd be no pigs. Its that simple really.

            1. JEDIDIAH

              If we were meant to be vegetarian...

              ...then I could just let the grass in the back garden grow long and invite the all the neighbors over for a grazing party.

              Humans are simply not equipped to be vegans. Being a proper vegetarian requires a bit of a clue or you risk damaging your body.

              1. A J Stiles


                Our arboreal ape ancestors, with their fruit-rich diet, lost the ability to manufacture Vitamin C. This genetic mutation wasn't harmful precisely because there was plenty of Vitamin C available, and it eventually stuck.

                In cultures with ready availability of m**t, it's entirely plausible that humans could survive with a genetic mutation which robbed them of the ability to manufacture taurine from other proteins (as happened to the common ancestor of the entire cat family long ago). The mutation would go un-noticed until sufferers turned vegetarian, went blind and eventually died in screaming agony from multiple organ failure.

            2. Anonymous Coward

              From a lovely poet...

              The pig, if I am not mistaken,

              Provides us sausage, ham, and bacon.

              Let others say his heart is big:

              I call it stupid of the pig.

              Ogden Nash

        2. maclovinz



    2. corsair
      Thumb Up

      I have been to both

      Lived in San Jose and drove down to school in Santa Barbara. Nothing better than to pull into Solvang close to the end of a long trip down 101 and get the all you can eat split pea soup and grilled cheese sandwich combo. Yum. Let you know you were almost back to Isla Vista.

      I have also been to that Marie Callender's in Cupertino. But I went for the pies.

  4. wraith404

    how consistent is he really

    Id like to see his opinion of apples obsurd patents in multi touch that a first grader could come up with. They all naturally extend a mouse, even the unlock gesture is as Wozniak puts it, the way everyone would do it.

    1. Conner_36

      the truth is

      in this day and age you have to use the patent system or you will lose out.

      what I took from Wos's opinion is that the system is easy to abuse and people who do and are only about the money suck.

    2. SuccessCase

      Re: They all naturally extend a mouse

      It's fine to criticize software patents. There are plenty of bad examples. But to say "they all naturally extend a mouse" as a criticism of multi-touch patents is just imbecillic. Mouse input is by definition through a single point. Multi-touch is, well, multi-touch.

      Leonardo Da Vinci, pah, bit of a troll. That unoriginal flying machine tosh, I mean he only extended what birds do didn't he?

    3. Sean Baggaley 1


      I can understand your sentiments—and I have little time for patent trolling myself. But Apple is a *big* company and Jobs probably doesn't hang around the legal department that much; I suspect Apple's patent-sueing binges are triggered whenever someone with "Vice President" in their job title starts wondering aloud why they're paying all these very highly-paid lawyers to sit around in their offices doing stuff that doesn't actually make Apple a profit. (Steve Jobs, for all his faults, is very old school when it comes to running a company: if it's not going to make Apple a profit, he's not interested.)

      However, I disagree with the "unlock" gesture issue: The iOS "unlock" gesture is modelled on a traditional sliding bolt. However, most common locking mechanisms—think 'keys'—use a rotating motion to operate. It's hardly a big leap to imagine using a circular motion to unlock a touch-screen device, with an animating key graphic. I also share Apple's frustration with the "App Store" knock-offs. Granted, I don't think even Apple expect to win that one, but "store" has many, many synonyms—"App Bazaar" is a blindingly obvious choice for the Linux-derived Android, for example. Off the top of my head, I can think of: "Application Station", "App Market", "Software Supermarket", "Program Emporium"...

      So why is everyone and his dog insisting on using "App Store"?

      Sure, it may have some short-term business sense—it certainly saves a bit on marketing as Apple have already done it for them—but, seriously, is it really a good long-term plan to rely on Apple's marketing machine to sell a feature of your rival product for you? Apple aren't strangers to changing their product branding—iTools begat .Mac, which begat MobileMe, and which is, in its turn, looking likely to begat "iCloud" or some such this year or early next. (And Apple's various Stores could probably do with being brought under a single umbrella name. I wouldn't be surprised to see them rebranded as "iStores".)

      I think my real whinge is that Apple seem to be doing most of the heavy lifting of late, while their rivals seem content to hang onto Apple's coattails. The only company that seems to be trying to beat their own drum is Microsoft. If I were a FOSS fan, I'd be f*cking *embarrassed* by that.

      1. stratofish


        "I also share Apple's frustration with the "App Store" knock-offs. Granted, I don't think even Apple expect to win that one, but "store" has many, many synonyms—"App Bazaar" is a blindingly obvious choice for the Linux-derived Android, for example. Off the top of my head, I can think of: "Application Station", "App Market", "Software Supermarket", "Program Emporium"...

        So why is everyone and his dog insisting on using "App Store"?"

        Are they? The Android one is already called just "Market"...

  5. Mostor Astrakan

    He's a Hacker.

    Now I haven't read much about his other utterances, but going by this, he's a Hacker. A Tinkerer. A guy who will actually come up with useful ideas. He knows full well that people will independently come up with the same idea sometimes, and he doesn't mind. Perhaps someone else will get the details better, in which case he'll probably give them a nod and maybe do it the same way.

    Geniuses are constantly feeding off each other's ideas - in music, in technology, in painting, sculpting. They're not ashamed of it and are happy to acknowledge each other's input. It's the idea that counts, not who came up with it first. That is one of the great things about Open Source.

    And that is why the patent system must die. You simply cannot come up with the great ideas if at every turn you have to worry if someone out there is going to charge you huge sums of money because they wrote a few shoddy pieces of paper on something very tangentially to do with what you're trying to achieve.

    1. Gav Silver badge

      Patent idea, yes, Current system, no.

      The current system must die, yes. But the concept is still sound. If you want companies to invest in research, they need the incentive of a protected period in which to exploit their research. A period of time when they know they'll not have to compete with some other company under-cutting them with the same product, but without the research costs to re-coup.

      But the idea that you can come up with a vague idea, patent a lot of generalities, sit on it until someone else has the same idea and actually does something with it, then bring in the lawyers; that's clearly not helping innovation or society. The current system is broken, it should be replaced.

      The details of patent should be required to be a lot tighter and concrete, no more airy-fairy unspecified methods. The time that a company gets to utilise the the patent should limited. After, say, 5 years, if they can't demonstrate that they're doing something with it, then they don't get to sue someone else unless they can prove something like industrial espionage or theft of research.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Patent idea, yes, Current system, no.

        "If you want companies to invest in research, they need the incentive of a protected period in which to exploit their research. A period of time when they know they'll not have to compete with some other company under-cutting them with the same product, but without the research costs to re-coup."

        You have to be very careful arguing like this: it's like saying that the guy who won the last race should expect his competitors to have their feet tied together for the next one. If the guy is the better innovator, his competitors should be beaten fairly in the next race, too, without him getting some special assistance.

        Sure, if something is easily copied, people might claim to have done lots of hard and expensive work and the per-unit cost of duplicating the end result might undermine the investment in that work (in that competitors can then only be bothered to take the cheaper option), but then you have to go back and see if that work really deserves the draconian measure of monopoly protection if it is so easily copied. If it was the accumulation of insights into a particular area of research that was the hard and expensive activity, one can argue that the organisation is doing research for the public good - the stuff you usually share with other people - and you don't want this under monopoly protection.

        Competing with large corporations with significant technical resources at their disposal is extremely difficult as it is. Thus, patents do little more than exclude other companies with similar technological capabilities - the people who could actually realise any patented work - from certain markets. Those who tout patents but have no way of realising their work ("I've got a great invention but I can't build it, so I'm writing it down!") are the kind of people mentioned in the article.

        Really, it should be difficult to make the case for patents, ethically or economically.

        1. Ari 1

          no innovation

          The problem is that if there is no protection of inventions/patents then most companies would be content to wait until someone else spends a fortune on research, then have a small team of engineers take one device apart and clone it. Thereby they can sell the same device for half price because their R&D was two guys for a week, while the company that invented the technology spent two years and a lot of people on the tech.

          Innovation CAN BE very expensive, and there has to be an opportunity to recoup costs. The chance of failure when innovating is already very high, and the costs of failure are also high. For every innovative product that makes back the R&D budget there are many, many that fail or don't even reach production. The people sinking money into risky ideas have to see a chance for profit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: no innovation

            "The problem is that if there is no protection of inventions/patents then most companies would be content to wait until someone else spends a fortune on research, then have a small team of engineers take one device apart and clone it."

            So, Mr Jenkins of Portsmouth is going to undercut Intel because he's just reverse-engineered Itanium? OK, a bit unfair, that. So, Jenkins Corporation of Ohio is going to undercut Intel because it has just reverse-engineered Itanium and is now going to ramp up fabrication of the Jenktanium? Not really. Might there be a connection between the expensive research and the investment in the capability to do and make use of the research?

            The only source of worry in this regard is in competitors of similar technological standing taking a look at someone's kit and reproducing the effects, but although they might be tempted to take short-cuts in order to keep up, it's not really that likely that an organisation which has invested in such expensive technological capabilities is going to be sitting around waiting for stuff to copy and make do with the last iteration of their competitor's innovations that are already coming to market. They'll have their own research people, after all, to make sure they can be first to market or deliver the best products in the market. One doesn't invest in cutting-edge technology and then seek to be a minor player with a marginal return on that investment.

            "Innovation CAN BE very expensive, and there has to be an opportunity to recoup costs."

            Yes, it "CAN BE" very expensive, but just repeating this doesn't offer any additional insight.

            "The chance of failure when innovating is already very high, and the costs of failure are also high."

            Yes, but this is a mere statement about risk management, and it doesn't mean that the rewards of success should be amplified by a public monopoly: if you bring an innovation to market, this may well pay off substantially already. How much money has Apple made while other large companies waited to see if the tablet market was worth investing in?

            "The people sinking money into risky ideas have to see a chance for profit."

            There are plenty of instruments available for investors to manage their exposure to risk. I don't see why Exceptionally Risky Ventures Inc. (any similarity to real corporations with similar names is purely coincidental) should be considered a "dead cert" because even if their R&D brings nothing to market, they can still shake other companies down who managed to do what they couldn't do themselves.

            And if the competitors of such a company had already worked on bringing the same innovations to market, why should such a company be able to charge those competitors a tax on the work those companies have already done independently just because someone has filed some paperwork with the Patent Office? Patents actually expose companies to substantial risk, as I'm sure most of us are aware. I'm not sure investors would be too thrilled by their investments being devalued by unforeseen patent exposure, but that's what we're seeing increasingly (as noted in the article, of course).

            "Best not invest in that radical product; stick to proven markets!" That's also the effect of the patent system.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why did I have to read this while crash-dieting? Why?

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Has anyone patented split peas yet?

    And if not, where do I apply?

    1. maclovinz

      Beat to the punch....

      I think Apple's already got that one....them or MS....


  8. Philippe

    Re:Pot Kettle 0x000000

    Anon, you might want to review the details of the lawsuit.

    Apple are mainly suing for breach of copyright. There are very few patents being mentioned in the lawsuit. (bouncing list springs to mind)

    Copyright is about creation/design etc. not invention. Only a fool would say that the Galaxy isn't a copy of the iPhone 3G and that the Galaxy SII isnt a copy of the iPhone4.

    Sammy was sad enough to copy the Album icon on it. Come on

    At least HTC doesn't need to copy in order to be successful.

  9. Your Retarded


    He would be the first apple founder to orbit the earth then, I suppose?

  10. MinionZero

    Patents are totally broken

    Its very good to hear someone as high profile as Steve Wozniak hates the way patents are being used. We need more people like him.

    @"big companies can afford to assign engineers to projects that simply develop patents, then sit on them until some other, often entrepreneurial, company uses the patented techniques."

    That very clearly shows how patents hold back progress. All talk of patents helping progress is coming from the patent trolls who seek to use patents to exploit people. By sitting back doing nothing the patent trolls let others spend time and money creating the products then the trolls move in to bully the product designers out of their income. The trolls delight in having that condescending power over others to force others to give in to them. They are not interested in creating something, they are interested in controlling others.

    (The way patents are used by patent trolls shows clear warning signs of a Narcissistic pattern of behaviour. They need to have power over others. They need to be and feel superior to others. Patent trolls get this from using patents over others. They are not interested in creating they are interested in control and through control they get ever richer and more powerful and as always, they want and seek power over others).

    We have to end the patent system the way it currently is, but the rich and powerful do not want that. Patents don't help the little guy inventor. As soon as a little guy scraps enough money together to buy one patent, the trolls move in with hundreds more patents based on that one patent, so the original patent holder can do little without having to infringe on all the other new patents. Also the corporations already control so many other patents, its hard to move without stepping on their other patent areas of control. Morally and in principle the little guy should be able to win as they have that key patent, but in practice they don't because they don't have anywhere nearly enough money to fight corporations who will happily throw millions at a patent case and delay that case for years which pushes the little guy out of business.

    The way corporations use patents these days is very much like Nuclear weapon style warfare. Its literally M.A.D. as in, Mutual Assured Destruction. The corporations sit back with their arsenals of patents waiting until a competitor creates a product that threatens their market dominance or their market plans, then they seek to hold back that new product until they can also release a similar product, so in the mean time, they launch a first strike against their opponent corporation, who invariably launches a counter strike against them. Each strike is a patent infringement case but its all horse trading as they say, its all bargaining chips on a table to delay and hold back competitors until they are ready to move forward as well. Its all moves to control the other companies, then they come to some negotiated deal on sharing the patents but in that time they have had time to create similar products. Its all tactical and a little guy can't play that game.

    There is no way at all a little guy inventor can play the patent legal games the way it is. They simply do not have the time, money and manpower to fight this kind of battle. Therefore patents are not at all working as originally intended.

    Its like I said the other day about how it sickens me how the corporations keep seeking ways to game the legal system, to undermine it, to find ever more ways around it. Ways to cheat, ways to extend what they are allowed to do and all the time they do, we all loose, bit by bit more of our ability to stop them abusing us for their gain. The corporations have played the patent side of the legal system to the point where patents now only work for the corporations. They have destroyed any chance of little guys having a hope of using patents the way the corporations now play the patent legal games. The corporations play a different game and a game only they can play with millions spent, so their only opponents who can spend millions are other corporations. The corporations don't want that lone inventor to suddenly come up with a new idea that would overthrow their established market dominance. The have changed the game. Patents no longer hold them back its all negotiated corporate deals now.

    So often the only thing a little guy can do is sell up their one patent to a corporation, but the corporation knows they hold most of the power so the little guy will only get a small amount compared with how much the corporations earn from the inventor's work.

    Its going to take everyone, as many little guy inventors as possible, all standing together against the way patent law now works to have any hope of changing the law, but even then the corporations won't rest they will continue to find ways to game the legal system. So its very good to hear Steve Wozniak hates the way patents are being used. We need high profile people like him helping to spread the word about how the whole patent law games are so badly messed up and broken.

  11. big_D Silver badge

    Paul Allen...

    Looking at the patents he is suing over, I've often wondered if the whole point of this case is to point out how disastrously broken the US Patent system is.

    Does he really expect to win, or is he trying to use the case to leverage a ground change in the way patents are done in the USA?

  12. Mark C Casey



    "patent-infringment" should be "patent-infringement".

    "When asked about patent-trolling, Wozniak had two personal stoies to tell:" should be "When asked about patent-trolling, Wozniak had two personal stories to tell:"

    "As his keynote audience appladed, Woznik said:" should be "As his keynote audience applauded, Woznik said:"

    ""It's not really special what they come up with,." he said, referring to patent-seeking teams of engineeers." should be ""It's not really special what they come up with.." he said, referring to patent-seeking teams of engineers."

    Must try harder.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: (untitled)

      '"It's not really special what they come up with,." he said, referring to patent-seeking teams of engineeers." should be ""It's not really special what they come up with.."…' That should either be a single comma (,), full stop (.) *or* an ellipsis (…) depending on the context, never 2 full stops.

      'Must try harder.' Ditto.

      Smart-arse out smart-arsed icon?

  13. DZ-Jay

    Oh my...

    How the mighty have fallen. I think age is affecting Mr. Wozniak's judgement, and this nicks at my respect for him as of late.

    Character generators may seem like a simple thing. However, someone had to come up with the idea and invent the mechanism. Sure, it may seem like an obvious device to an electronics engineer building a computer, but that's only because that engineer grew up in the age of television; where modulating or compositing the input signal of a video display was somewhat of a solved problem. Many players in the industry participated in advancing the state of the art and science of video technology. RCA was once such a player.

    Mr. Wozniak seems to understand this point at least at an intuitive level, for he says, "I'm going to put characters on my TV set, and there's this trick called a character generator..." Well, does he claim to have invented such "trick"? He doesn't seem to. So, where does he think this "trick" came from, nature?

    I understand Mr. Wozniak's passion for engineering and implementing nifty ideas, and extending the state of the art. However, it doesn't seem to be the case the he invented or developed a new method to generate characters. Instead, he decided to use the one that was known by and available to him. It just happens that that method was invented by RCA. It also happens to be patented.

    I admire Mr. Wozniak for many of the things he has done, past and present, and I think he is a wonderful person. However, sometimes I just wish he just shut up and stop trying so hard to remain relevant. His star shined very brightly once before, and deservedly so, and now it's time to let it go and move on. The world already has.


    1. Oninoshiko


      "Sure, it may seem like an obvious device to an electronics engineer building a computer"

      To put it another way, "Obvious to a person have ordinary skill in the art." Strangely enough, that just so happens to be the definition of what you are not supposed to be able to patent. Seems like Woz isn't the only one who needs to shut up.

      1. DZ-Jay

        Re: hrm...

        You didn't get my point, then. The rest of the sentence explains the "obviousness": that said electronics engineer had experience with the inventions of the industry--inventions that were patented. He thought it was a common and normal thing, but they were inventions that required a mind to think of them.

        I've used any number of inventions in my lifetime, things like microwave ovens, refrigerators, cars, toasters, computer, etc. All of them to me seem obvious, sure, after permeating my consciousness for an entire lifetime. That doesn't give me the right to start using such inventions without regard to the inventors. That's a very silly argument to make even if you're anti-patents.

        Character Generators were non-obvious when they were invented, just as video manipulation in general was non-obvious. It just so happens that it seemed natural and obvious to Mr. Wozniak (and others) to add a Character Generator to a computer in order to connect it to a television set. That's only because connecting an analog signal to a video display is essentially the same as what a television studio does, and that was a problem that was solved with the invention of the Character Generator, among others a long time ago by the television industry.

        Using a Character Generator to connect a computer to a TV set *is* a clever application of the technology, to be sure, but still uses devices invented by someone else.


    2. doperative

      re: Oh my... #

      "The district court found that the Cole claims in suit read on a system disclosed in German, French, and British patents issued to Dirks between 1948 and 1957, none of which were considered by the examiner during the prosecution of the Cole patent application.

      The district court agreed with HLA's assertion that "The Dirks system ... is the Cole system implemented in 1940's technology, and, since the Cole claims are drawn to cover all digital systems generically, as opposed to a new implementation, they are anticipated by [the] foreign Dirks' patents."

      The principal issue in Appeal No. 83-782 is whether the district court correctly found that claims 1, 2, and 3 of RCA's patent, covering a digital video character generator, are anticipated by the disclosure in the "Dirks" patents. We reverse the holding of invalidity in view of Dirks alone.

      "Data General also contends that the Cole patent was anticipated by the prior art and by a printed publication stored at the Stanford Research Institute"

      "The following stuff is from Electronics magazine, Jan. 3rd 1958 issue .. Generating Characters: Summary Although may plans have been devised in the past for scribing numeric and alphabetic characters on a scope face by spot deflection"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      character generator

      The problem as I read it was that the generator was pateneted but not used. The questions that come to mind are:

      When did RCA invent the device?

      Did they market it in any way, was a CG device available to buy?

      Woz spoke of the method, did he design a similar device?

      Hardware patents have a shelf life. Surely if a patent is not exploited by the inventor within a finite (read short) period of time the shelf life should be cut down massively.

      We need patents to encorage the development of new and novel ideas. We need companies to be honest and not knowingly infringe patents (Due diligence during the design phase). If part of a design infringes a (genuine (not trolled)) patent said company morally ought to cough up the license fee.

      Contesting a genuine patent in order to overturn it seems to be the way things are done though. Only trolls and lawyers seem to gain.

      1. DZ-Jay

        Re: character generator

        The CG invention *was* used. Woz is wrong in that regard. It just was not used in the context of a digital computer, but it was used in video signal manipulation since at least the 1940s.



  14. NoneSuch Silver badge

    They could never patent the Woz.

    He is a one of the kind and could never be replicated. If only M$, Apple and the rest were run by innovative and sensible guys like him the world would be a happy place filled with poor lawyers.

    I cannot stand the corporation he helped build, but I do respect the man.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I have said it before

    and I will say it again...

    A patent should only be granted when documentation is produced alongside an ACTUAL WORKING PROTOTYPE. .

    only when you have proven the technical ability to actually bring your product from a concept to a working product then reap the rewards.

  16. staffer

    restraint of trade

    Wozniak is a fat cat now. Obviously, his principal asset is Apple stock so anything that devalues Apple he is biased against. Apple and their pals have a history of restraint of trade.

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay”. This is just dissembling by large infringers to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see


    On character generators and PVRs...

    Some things are self-evident the moment you are exposed to the concept.

    You don't need to be told the underlying details because those are obvious to any competent practitioner. You can "re-invent" in total isolation because the original thing is infact not that patent-worthy.

    That is why it helps to have the opinions of genuine creative types (including engineers) in these discussions and not just a bunch of slack jawed laymen that are ready to let Bill Gates patent the wheel.

    Not every stupid little thing that some fluff chick engineer can come up with deserves a patent (I know of such a creature that has 2 such patents). Creating artificial barriers around every trivial little thing simply isn't productive for the entire industry. Everyone gets mired in patents for trivial things and ultimately no one can create the really interesting inventions.

    Patents are for things that would not otherwise come to light if not for the fact that there was some artificial monetary incentive to make it so. Something that everyone in the industry can re-invent should not qualify.

  18. patent litigation

    NPE vs. PAE

    One thing I find interesting in a recent FTC report is the FTC's distinction between "good" NPEs and patent trolls (which it refers to as "PAEs"). Many have long noted that there is a need to differentiate between NPEs such as universities and those other entities who abuse the system through arguably-excessive patent litigation. Distinguishing between those bad actors and other NPEs may be helpful in narrowing the focus and the terms of the debate over patent trolls.

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