updated 11:35 am EDT, Wed May 4, 2011
Wozniak chastises Paul Allen for Interval suits
Frequent public speaker and Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak in a speech at the Embedded System Conference openly chastised former Microsoft pioneer Paul Allen for his anti-Internet patent lawsuits. Allen's Interval Licensing case was frankly described as "that patent troll thing" and something Wozniak wanted to discourage. Patents themselves were "not worth that much," he said, and Allen was simply hoping to profit from destructive lawsuits rather than be creative and produce something meaningful.
"Paul Allen should be out there investing in companies that are doing something, making products, actually making a new future for the world," Wozniak said in the Register account of events. "not 'I'm... going to sue people, and get in bed with the lawyers to make my money.' That's not the right way."
He also implied that Interval only developed what technology it had because of Allen's billionaire financing and could only try for patents, not develop a real product. Complaints have been leveled against Apple as well as Facebook, Netflix, and others, many of whom developed their services completely independently of Interval and intended it for actual use.
Apple in its early days encountered a similar problem, Wozniak said. It was forced to pay a $5 royalty to RCA for a character generator that the TV maker had developed at a time when it was technically impossible to make. The patent was not just used for trolling but was an obvious technology that shouldn't have been patented at all.
In modern days, Apple has large numbers of patents and has been using them to slow down Android-using competitors like HTC. Unlike Interval, however, Apple normally creates patents with an aim to use them in future products.
The distaste for strategies like those of Interval and RCA led Wozniak to skip a presentation by Allen at the Computer History Museum, especially since Allen was conveniently avoiding lawsuits against his old employer Microsoft. "I had dinner with friends rather than go see Paul Allen," he said.