Joël Franusic has an interesting theory that the reason microwaves have so many different UI’s is because patents make it difficult for them to share a similar interface. Like Joël, I’m not totally convinced, however I do suspect this is at least part of the problem. I also think it goes way beyond just microwaves, that particular appliance is just a great example. The end result is the products created, and the users who buy and use them loose out. If you skim through some of these patents, it seems pretty obvious and hardly innovative, even for the times.
Patents will be the downfall of technology and innovation in America if it’s not reformed.