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Recent Confusion Over FutureTap's Where To? App UI Appearing In An Apple Patent Ends Peacefully

August 12, 2010

What became an uproar of the masses, stemming from the confusion over an Apple patent containing an image in reference to a released iPhone app, has now ended peacefully. Less than a week ago, FutureTap posted an entry on their blog about some concern over a patent Apple filed last year. The only reason for Ortwin Gentz, FutureTap's founder, to even take interest was because the company's Where To? - GPS points of interest iPhone app's main user interface was exactly depicted in the introduction of the patent documents. Soon after, we at AppAdvice and a number of other news sites reported on this interesting tidbit. The news began to feed some really aggressive backlash through user comments. On the one side, Apple-haters were flaming Steve Jobs and company for possibly looking to steal an app developer's already executed design. The opposite mob, the Apple-fanboys, began verbally lynching FutureTap for their ignorance on United States patent law. Today, FutureTap's blog contains an official follow-up to what some are dubbing "PatentGate." Not only did Ortwin Gentz have some time to further look into the situation but Apple's Senior Patent Counsel, Anand Sethuraman, provided a kind explanation via email.
As discussed, Apple is contemplating steps to attribute the screenshot in the patent application to FutureTap. The patent application in question does not claim as inventive the pictured user interface nor the general concept of an integrated travel services application. We appreciate your taking time out to discuss the matter and will keep you updated.
The final verdict is the image was used as simply an example, and Apple never took ownership or admitted to inventing the depicted app. Looking through the patent claims section confirmed this. Some could certainly point fingers at the poor state of the U.S. patent law system, and where many corrections would prevent this sort of issue, but I digress. Ortwin Gentz goes on to explain how he's honored of the use of FutureTap's app to depict an Apple idea, but also that he's thankful of the support of the community with such an alarming and sensitive topic. The blog entry finishes with a an upbeat moral and a jokingly snip at those who made brash comments towards Ortwin Gentz's approach of the matter.
We learned a lot the last few days. Yet, my response to those boycotteurs: "Do you prefer developers who love reading patents over the ones who love to design user interfaces?" Nevertheless, I truly apologize if we stepped on anyone‘s feet. And now, let‘s go back to work.
To be absolutely fair, for those who don't recall, FutureTap acquired the Where To? app originally from tap tap tap. As I walk out the door, I'll leave you with the mildly amusing Tommy Boy quote, "I'm fine, I'm fine now."

Mentioned apps

Where To? - Discover your next destination using GPS
Where To? - Discover your next destination using GPS
FutureTap GmbH

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