Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Smarter than Smartphones?

iPhone apps

The current round of patent litigation is now focused on technologies related to the convergence of cellphones and computers.

By Mike Lloyd

New technology is untangling the complex network of patents at the centre of a litigation war between smartphone companies.

Mike Lloyd is an IP consultant at Griffith Hack.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Many Australians are now using smartphones, the all-singing all-dancing devices that combine the functions of phone, computer, email, games machine, music player and video screen in a compact device. These remarkable gadgets are helping to spark revolutions overseas, and back in the more settled parts of Australia are changing the way we live, communicate and interact with each other. Smartphones are advancing rapidly as well, with the Apple iPad and other tablets merging the gap between phones and computers, and threatening to replace many of their uses.

But how many of us have thought deeply about the technology behind smartphones? While most of the technology developments have taken place within these highly secretive companies, there is a public record available for those who choose to look.

The vast majority of technological advances in the modern economy are claimed by patent applications. A patent, which can give its inventors a monopoly of up to 20 years, can be regarded as a deal between the inventor and the state. In return for publishing new inventions and therefore spreading new ideas, the state provides the 20-year monopoly for these inventions.

While some critics of the patent system regard the deal as a bit one-sided, there is no doubt that the patent system is effective at encouraging the publication of new ideas. More than 1.9 million...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.