Most mammals hibernate through January and February, but Apple lawyers clearly belong to the reptilian class, for winter finds them at their most productive. They certainly haven't been idle in recent weeks.
We must thank attorney and Apple user John Kheit for uncovering a blizzard of patent activity since the new year that must be quite unprecedented in Apple's history. The computer pioneer has decided, posthumously, to lay claim to lots of stuff that it err, … invented twenty years ago. The desktop Trash Can, window buttons, dialog boxes and a task scheduler have all been claimed as Apple Intellectual Property in a snowstorm of greedy patent filings.
And the paper trail uncovers some delicious ironies.
Apple has finally decided to patent the "Waste Basket" [if you're in the European Basket], also known as the "Trash Can" [if you're in the United States of Trash].
Now, correct us if we're wrong, but the desktop trash icon first appeared in Apple's own Lisa computer in 1983. But this is now, so Apple is duly required to cite prior art. And this particular filing thanks Corel, the Microsoft Windows 3.1 Users Guide and a tome called "OS/2 Unleashed" as prior art. Have a look:
the claim was filed on February 13, 2003. Almost twenty years after the Lisa appeared.
Microsoft has justifiably been blamed for stealing many aspects of the Windows UI from Apple, so it's no small irony to see Apple thanking Microsoft for creating something it invented itself, but never got round to protecting under US patent law. This supposes some amnesia on the part of the reader: in the look and feel litigation that Apple pursued in the late 1980s, the trash can, along with overlapping windows, played a star role.
Vanity plays a large part in these Apple filings. They name the incumbent CEO as "inventor" on items such as the iPod. (Yes, the design of a hard-disk based MP3 player is now an Apple invention, so don't you dare make one.)
Although the incumbent CEO has done much to distract us from the boredom of desktop computing by promoting ergonomics and design sense (very French characteristics, if you ask us), this isn't enough.
Credit for inventions as "iconic", if you pardon the pun, as the desktop trash will forever belong to Apple, and the filings hint that the CEO is even more insecure than we suspected. How insecure? It seems that Apple's unfathomably insecure CEO wishes that he wasn't a member of California's arriviste nouveau riche but that, instead, that he had been born French. There's no other explanation. ®
[Kheit's summary can be found here, at Mac Observer ]