Over the weekend I wrote, "What If Steve Jobs Is Right?" As the title implies, the post was a hypothetical look at the possibility that Steve Jobs' assertion that Android is a "stolen product" is true.
Many of the comments I have received on the article itself, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ seem to be based on emotion and the personal opinion the commenter holds of Apple and Steve Jobs. Those things have nothing to do, though, with patent law or the realities of whether or not Android infringes on Apple patents.
Let's take a closer look at some of the arguments being thrown about as evidence that Steve Jobs is wrong about Android:
Android Existed Before iOS Was Conceived
I have no idea when Jobs or Apple actually conceived iOS, but Android--the company--was founded in 2003, and bought by Google in 2005. Based on that simple chronology, many Android loyalists and Apple bashers jump to the conclusion that Android couldn't possibly infringe on Apple patents for iOS that wasn't made available until 2007.
There are a couple of flaws in this logic. First, he who patents first, wins. There are steps in the patent-granting process designed to identify similar technologies that already exist--or "prior art". Whatever concepts and technologies Apple owns patents for made it through that process and were awarded to Apple. Even if the developers at Android thought something up first--or something identical to what Apple came up with--Apple appears to have won the patent race.
The second flaw in this argument is that Android as it was released by Google, and as we see it today, is different than the Android OS that Google bought in 2005. Just because there was an Android operating system prior to iOS doesn’t preclude Google from going back and dramatically retooling it to mimic iOS.
Android Isn’t an Exact Copy of iOS
Nobody is claiming that it is. Apple (and Microsoft) assert that key portions of Android infringe on technologies and concepts it owns patents for. If Android were an exact replica of iOS, it would make the whole court battle thing much easier, but Android doesn't have to look anything like iOS in order to violate specific patents.
Apple Stole Its Ideas In the First Place
Perhaps. The problem with this line of attack against Apple is that it is irrelevant to the ongoing patent litigation. Whether Apple invented the graphical interface, touchscreen, mouse, or anything else has no bearing on the fact that Apple holds hundreds of patents in countries around the world for various technologies and concepts, and it is those patents which Android--or the device manufacturers who rely on Android--are accused of violating.
If Xerox, Palm, or any other entity believes that Apple has infringed on its patents, it's incumbent upon them to defend those patents and take that up with Apple.