There is no clear line in the sand between technology and rights to use the technology. The right to use a particular technology, while a right cannot be used to justify the creation of a new technology that infringes upon the rights of others. Thus, a person who infringes on another person’s technology cannot be denied the right to use that technology.
The recent news concerning the recent patent lawsuit involving Apple and Motorola, which involved both companies’ attempts to protect their intellectual property from an illegal competitor, has raised questions as to the proper balance of intellectual property rights with technological innovation. Specifically, we are wondering whether the two should have been able to patent a way for a person to unlock a cell phone or even why a patent should be necessary to prevent someone from using a computer to hack into a computer.
One problem with applying patents to technology is that they are very difficult to obtain, even if one is willing to pay the costs. This is because patents are generally granted only to those companies who are willing to spend millions of dollars and take months before any claims are paid off. Moreover, once a patent is granted, there are no further claims, which means that there is no way to protect a business against infringement, so that it is impossible to file a new patent application in the future.
Because patents are a barrier to invention that hinders all but the richest companies from coming up with new technology, it is important to ask whether technology should be protected by a separate type of law. It is also important to recognize that in some instances, the two may be interwoven together, such as in the case of computer hacking.
Therefore, while a patent can be considered to protect a specific technology, such as the cellular phone technology that Apple and Motorola claimed was their proprietary secret, a patent cannot provide any meaningful protection for the rights of other individuals who use that technology. Therefore, in most cases the protections that a patent provides do not apply.
In the case of cell phones, it has been noted that there is already a substantial body of information available on the internet regarding how to unlock these phones. Therefore, as long as the cell phone owner does not use illegal means to gain access to this information, there is no need to seek protection through a patent. There is also a potential conflict of interest between Apple and Motorola, as both have been notorious for making their handsets very difficult to unlock and therefore preventing competitors from getting their products unlocked.
This could mean that the right to unlock a cell phone that is owned by Apple would in fact infringe on the rights of people who own a Motorola cell phone. The same could be said for software programs that enable users to hack into other people’s devices. A case like this would certainly raise questions as to the protection of technology, which is not a proper use of technology and is in fact a misuse of it.
A balance needs to be found as to whether or not one needs to patent technology in order to protect the right to use technology in the same way. In this case, the answer may be that they both need to. However, it will require a study and analysis of the facts and circumstances surrounding each situation.
It is possible for a cell phone to become extremely popular and in such a situation, the patent protection may not be necessary, especially if the popularity of the cell phone itself is causing the use of the cell phone to flourish. However, as the popularity of the cell phone begins to wane, so will the patent protection that can be found under the law in most states.
For instance, as cell phone users come to recognize that some of the features provided with many of their phones are not useful, these people may wish to develop other technologies that are more functional, but do not infringe on the rights of others. It may be that the right to use these newer technologies, while they are not infringing upon others’ rights, is actually an important right.
It is likely that there are many situations where there is a conflict of interest when it comes to cell phones and technology. However, one must carefully review all aspects of the situation in order to determine whether or not a patent is necessary to protect the right to use technology. While the patent may be necessary to protect the right to use technology, it is likely that it is not needed to protect the right to use a technology that may infringe upon others’ rights.