Daniel Eran Dilger
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Apple’s Jailbroken iPhone Patent Outrage: Really?


Daniel Eran Dilger

Various rumor and gadget websites are finding delicious irony in the fact that a recent patent filing by Apple displays a graphic of a jailbroken phone. Are you kidding me, really?
Nilay Patel of Engadget wrote, “Uh oh, Apple — it looks like even your attorneys are dirty, thieving jailbreakers.” Kelly Hodgkins of the Boy Genius Report wrote “Considering that Apple is trying to use copyright infringement and the DMCA to hinder jailbreaking, it is unusual to see such an image in an official Apple document.”

Apple patent application includes mock-up of a jailbroken iPhone : Boy Genius Report
Apple uses a jailbroken iPhone in patent application- Engadget

It Boggles the Mind.

Who exactly is Apple stealing from when it jailbreaks the iPhone itself? Not the jailbreak community, which offers its work for free. So is this a case of Apple stealing from itself? Right.

This is about as ridiculous as the headlines about police charging a teenage girl with child pornography after she published naked pictures of herself.

Is Apple also being hypocritical for using its own logo after it sues others to stop them from using logos that might look like it? It is also ironic or “unusual” to see Apple using the trademark “iPod,” podcasting, and “Podcast Producer” after attempting to stop others from using the name “pod” in their products to protect those same trademarks?


Would it also be devious or immoral or an unfair double-standard for Apple to run its Mac OS X operating system on generic PC hardware internally, as it did during development in the Intel transition? Hello people, Apple can do anything it wants with its own software, trademarks, and licensing, even if it demands other do not do certain things with those bits of intellectual property.

It shouldn’t even be surprising that Apple employees were using jailbreak software within the company when this patent was filed in late 2007, before the official iPhone SDK was released.

Now, if Apple were using Linux in violation of the GPL, or using Microsoft Office without proper licensing, or using cracked Photoshop warez, or using RIAA music without paying the labels, then yes we’d have some ironic hypocrisy given Apple’s willingness to sue over its own rights. But that isn’t happening here, so the cackling from bloggerdom is simply embarrassing to read.

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  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    What? Maybe it’s just because it’s late, but you’ve completely lost me on this one. So you see no irony in the fact that Apple’s using an image of a jailbroken iPhone it its own patent application?

    Would you also see no irony if the front page of the Mac OS X EULA (which states that you cannot run OS X on any non-Apple-branded hardware) featured an image of a generic PC running Leopard? It’s the same difference.

  • lostformars

    I am with daGUY. Your analogy with the police charging the teenage girl with child pornography is a little off. This is more like the police publishing a magazine containing child pornography!

    [Not at all. A crime has victims. A kid taking pics of herself may be victimizing herself in someway, but she’s not criminal. A kiddie porn mag is clearly victimizing children and profiting on that hurtful crime.

    Apple can’t victimize really itself by violating its own licenses, and it’s simply absurd to suggest that it can. I mean, really. Apple can’t crack its own software? You’re worried Apple is stealing its own property? Do you also think the new MacBooks are unfairly copying the MacBook Air that came out almost a year earlier? Wow – Dan]

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Yes it is the same, which is why this is such a puzzle. Apple isn’t breaking a contract with itself by using its own software as it wishes. Apple isn’t licensing itself to use Mac OS X, which is why the company can run its own software on PCs if it likes. It can also defeat its own security to run its own iPhone firmware as it cares to.

    There is nothing in either action that prevents the company from asking other individuals and groups not to use its software *as if it were theirs to do whatever they wanted with it.*

    If I write some original software, it’s only a copywrite/license violation if somebody else makes unauthorized copies and modifies them for distribution. It’s not if I do it: it’s mine!

  • pdwm

    This is so stupid, as to be not worth wasting your good time upon.

  • http://www.ccsgraphic.com CCS

    Okay. But it’s humorous. :-)

  • http://www.systematicabstraction.com/ KA
  • airmanchairman

    There is a trivial sense of irony and humour here, but hypocrisy is pushing it too far. Put yourself in the place of Apple R&D for a moment, and there are several layered reasons for the company to “jailbreak” its own device.

    Primarily, to have a finger on the pulse of the jail-breaking effort itself. It is no secret that several legit apps (as I predicted they would) have made it into the “walled garden” of the official App Store (especially after quantum leaps in iPhone battery life and device response), so as an alternative test-bed for memory and power intensive software, it makes sense.

    Secondly, few will forget the mass outcry and negative publicity that attended the very first firmware upgrade after the first “jail-breaking” effort, which ended up breaking the latter. Few of these impassioned critics appreciated the fact that the jail-breaking software and the firmware upgrades were using the very same memory address space, with predictable results. Hence another use of jailbroken iPhones would be either to mitigate these bad vibes by anticipating conflicts, or to ignore them and cut the jail-breaking effort off at the pass, if other (legal etc) efforts do not yield quick results.

    It is part and parcel of an R&D department’s job description to “think the unthinkable”, people. There’s nothing to see here, move along now…

  • jfatz

    Slow weekend? This was TERRIFICALLY pointless…

    Comments made have either been “that’s odd” or blatantly tongue-in-cheek about it, and it IS odd to see stuff like that showing up in a patent application.

    The tech press manufactures a crapton of “controversies” about Apple, and you do a good job of pimp-slapping them for it. Try to shy away from manufacturing “controversies” of your own, though.

  • hmciv

    Smells like John Fogerty to me.

    From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creedence_Clearwater_Revival
    “With the Centerfield album, Fogerty also found himself entangled in new, tit-for-tat lawsuits with Zaentz over the song “The Old Man Down the Road” which was, according to Zaentz, a blatant re-write of Fogerty’s own 1970 Creedence hit “Run Through the Jungle”. Since Fogerty had traded his rights to Creedence’s songs in 1980 to cancel his remaining contractual obligations, Fantasy now owned the rights to “Run Through the Jungle” and sued Fogerty essentially for plagiarizing himself. While a jury ruled in Fogerty’s favor, he did settle a defamation suit filed by Zaentz over the songs “Mr. Greed” and “Zanz Kant Danz”. Fogerty was forced to edit the recording, changing the “Zanz” reference to “Vanz”.”

  • Joe Sa

    “Smells like John Fogerty to me.”

    except that Apple has not signed any of it’s rights over to anyone. So yeah, it’s not like that at all.

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  • plasticsyntax

    “This is about as ridiculous as the headlines about police charging a teenage girl with child pornography after she published naked pictures of herself.”

    Or, alternatively, the victims of this type of crime also include society in general, in which case it’s entirely appropriate to charge the girl. Agree or not, but that’s the basis for most laws involving standards of decency.