The brains behind Apple, Steve Wozniak, has said that Apple was unlikely to have got off the ground in the current climate because of the obsession companies have with patents.
Apple was founded in Steve Jobs’ parent’s garage, and Woz fears the torrent of intellectual property lawsuits being filed by companies such as Apple, Samsung, Google, HTC and Nokia could prevent future entrepreneurs doing the same thing.
Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, Woz said that most big technology companies are not innovative, and new ideas tend to come from start-ups.
But many of them now have to spend large chunks of their scarce capital on buying up previously unused patents.
Woz said that with this patent situation, there are certain categories that are heavily blocked off because the big companies make sure they own it all.
He said that when he designed the Apple II computer, launched in 1977, he ran up against an RCA patent. He had designed a system to translate letters into dots that could be put on a screen. It was a doddle to work out but RCA had done it already and had the patent.
Woz wound up paying them two dollars for every computer they shipped for that simple idea.
He does not think that the patent system should be scrapped, and still believes it is essential to encourage young inventors who aspire to do something new.
He pointed out that what he was saying was not about Apple. Apple’s record for continued innovation means it is “less guilty” than any of the other large tech firms.
He said that Apple is creating so much and is so successful, it is not just following the formulas of other companies and establishing new markets that didn’t exist before. Ahem.