Malcolm Gladwell has a homerun piece in this week’s New Yorker, looking into the lesser-known facts of the Silicon Valley tall-tale of how Steve Jobs “stole” the idea for the computer mouse from PARC Xerox.
Painting the Apple exec as a thief is a misnomer, and unfair in many ways, Gladwell attests. Jobs was merely doing what Jobs does best: identifying a great concept and making it even better. The article explains how in the days following his meeting at Xerox PARC, Jobs enlisted Dean Hovey, one of the founders of a design firm that would become IDEO to draft concepts for the first personal computer and mouse, while the engineers at Xerox PARC, some years later, went on to make their own revolutionary product, the laser printer.
After reading Gladwell’s story, I started digging into the intellectual property history of Apple and Xerox PARC , specifically looking into the patent landscape around the time the companies were hashing out the personal computer and the first mouse in the early 80s. And in a strange way, the chronology of patent filings in the years following the now-historic meeting compliments the personality difference Gladwell paints between first movers and fast followers.