The US patent office yesterday awarded Apple the patent for the original iPhone which names 14 people credited with the design’s invention.
Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, announced the iPhone in January 2007 to a stunned crowd in San Francisco, California. As with many Apple inventions, Steve Jobs was largely credited with the device’s invention, although it has always been obvious that multiple people must have input into such large projects.
U.S. Patent No. D672769, is title “Electronic Device,” features several illustrations of the first-generation iPhone.
While it’s interesting to look at the original schematics for the iPhone, of more interest is the information about the original iPhone design team inside the patent. As well as Steve Jobs the patents credit lists the following people as “inventors”:
Andre, Bartley K. (Menlo Park, CA, US)
Coster, Daniel J. (San Francisco, CA, US)
De Iuliis, Daniele (San Francisco, CA, US)
Howarth, Richard P. (San Francisco, CA, US)
Ive, Jonathan P. (San Francisco, CA, US)
Jobs, Steve (Palo Alto, CA, US)
Kerr, Duncan Robert (San Francisco, CA, US)
Nishibori, Shin (Portola Valley, CA, US)
Rohrbach, Matthew Dean (San Francisco, CA, US)
Satzger, Douglas B. (Menlo Park, CA, US)
Seid, Calvin Q. (Palo Alto, CA, US)
Stringer, Christopher J. (Woodside, CA, US)
Whang, Eugene Antony (San Francisco, CA, US)
Zorkendorfer, Rico (San Francisco, CA, US)
Scott Forstall, Apple’s former Senior Vice President of iOS Software is not listed as one of the iPhone’s inventors. Scott Forstall recently left Apple following the difficult introduction of a new Apple Maps service. Forstall was reported to have won an internal competition in Apple against a rival engineer called Tony Fadell to create the software for the iOS, using an approach based upon Mac OS X. Forstall’s absence from the patent may be because the patent credits the iPhone hardware, and not software.
At a recent AD&D Design Awards event the Apple design team responsible for creating the iPhone was photographed alongside Sir. Jonathan Ive. That photograph featured a 17[strong design team. Both the naming of “inventors” and the photography of the design team are non-traditional moves by Apple, which historically guards details of its staff as closely as it does future products.
It may be that without Steve Jobs, Apple is becoming looser with allowing its key designers to have a public face; it may be that Apple is trying to slowly reveal some of the individuals behind its key inventions to counter the belief that without Steve Jobs the ship may not have its design focus. Naming numerous individuals responsible for, arguably, Apple’s most inventive product could be a way of reminding investors that Apple still has a strong creative team.
Jony Ive and the iPhone Design team collecting an award
Apple started work on the iPhone in 2004, and it was originally called Project Purple inside Apple. A recently disclosed document from the Apple/Samsung trial described the initial selection process:
Forstall describes that he would begin by bringing “superstars” into his office and tell them “We’re starting a new project. It’s so secret I can’t even tell you what that project is. I can’t tell you who you will work for… What I can tell you is that if you accept this project you… will work nights, you will work weekends, probably for a number of years.”
Jony Ive recently announced in an interview that Apple “nearly shelved” the iPhone on multiple times because they thought there were fundamental problems that they couldn’t solve.
Apple has consistently proven its determination to protect the iPhone and iPad from rivals it sees as copying its designs. While the patent for the original iPhone is quite specific, it is considered unlikely to be used as part of the ongoing legal trial between Apple and Samsung. Since then most smartphones have followed Apple’s lead in some form or other.