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Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research calls Steve Jobs' patents a lesson for CEOs

Steve Jobs' name wasn't just slapped on a variety of Apple patents, but rather the depth of his contributions as chief executive of Apple offers a lesson for other leaders.

Writing for Fortune, Bill Buxton, a pioneer in human–computer interaction and former researcher at Xerox PARC who is now a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, observed that Steve Jobs is listed as an inventor on 313 patents, and the lead inventor of more than 30.

But Jobs' credits as an inventor or co-inventor among Apple's patents were not just honorific, Buxton wrote. "Based on my own experience, I find Steve's participation entirely credible."

He added, "Apple would be stupid to put anyone's name on a patent, much less a high profile name like Steve's, if that person hadn't made a legitimate contribution. Doing so would not only invalidate the patent, it would expose the company and its brand to serious damage when revealed. Apple is many things; stupid is not one of them."

Buxton noted that while collaborating with Jonathan Ive on over 200 design patents, Jobs still left Ive in charge of design, which he said reinforces the lesson that "you must have a senior design executive, and they must engage at the highest level."

Following Jobs' example, Buxton wrote, "executives need to know their own weaknesses as well as their strengths in order to make sure that all of the requisite ground is covered", offering the recommendation "study how he managed the delegation of those other aspects of the business while he was working with Jonathan and the design team. Then emulate that in managing the things that fall outside of your own personal comfort zone — such as design, for example."

Buxton concluded, "Steve Jobs was not, and is not, a designer. Nor, I suspect, would he ever describe himself as such. He spoke about Apple's success in terms of curating the customer's experience. I think that is a great way to put it. And so, while I don't consider him a designer, I do believe that he is certainly one of the greatest curators that I have ever met, or know of. And for that, he has always had my respect."

Buxton describes himself as "a relentless advocate for innovation, design, and - especially - the appropriate consideration of human values, capacity, and culture in the conception, implementation, and use of new products and technologies."