There’s a lot of patent throwdowns going on in the tech industry lately, and it’s very easy to see them as just a battle of titans, of huge corporations going up against each other for assets and portfolios of arbitrary “features.” But here’s a story that reminds you of the human side of all of this, and of what these patent battles are really supposed to be: Protection for those people who have the creativity and courage to put new ideas forward.
One of the patents involved in the Apple/Samsung battle right now is the so-called “rubber-band” patent, according to Yoni Heisler at NetworkWorld it was one of Steve Jobs’ favorite features. That’s the scrolling effect that occurs when you reach the end of a webpage in Mobile Safari. It was later used for a “pull-to-refresh” effect that quite a few companies have copied since.
The Next Web recounts that this patent was ascribed to a UI designer named Bas Ording, who Steve Jobs reportedly hired after meeting him in the lobby the afternoon after an unsuccessful job interview. Ording supposedly showed him a demo of a feature that would allow users to see more icons in their OS X Dock by pulling up a magnifying glass whenever they hovered over the icons already there. “I said, ‘My God,’ and hired him on the spot,” says Jobs in Walter Isaacon’s biography.
Ording later came up with the scrolling feature and, according to testimony from Scott Forstall in the ongoing Samsung/Apple trial, the role it played in creating the iPhone interface made it one of Jobs’ favorite patents. Forstall said that “rubber banding is one of the sort of key things for the fluidity of the iPhone and – and all of iOS, and so I know it was one of the ones that Steve really cared about.”
In initial talks with Samsung, that patent was one of the items that Jobs specifically laid claim to as Apple’s. That’s one of the main reasons that Apple and Samsung are fighting so vehemently over the patent portfolio. It’s easy to see these as patent battles as two companies fighting over millions of dollars, but it’s also important to remember that there are human achievements to recognize among these patents as well.