For most of you regular readers, you know that I am far from being an Apple Fan Boy and while I have been following the Apple vs. Samsung Case that recently ruled in favor of Apple has caused me even further trepidation about the current state of Patent Law. The $1.05 Billion in damages is not only a blow to Samsung and to the Android ecosystem it is a real blow to innovation and competition.
I am not disputing the verdict and the deliberations of the jury. They were presented the facts and the reality is…Samsung did copy many Apple Products but the reality is, Competitive Intelligence is an axiom in business that is not only common practice…it is the only smart thing to do (blatant copying is still not cool).
I find parts of the jury’s verdict to be more than just a little disheartening though. Giving credence to the concept that Apple OWNS the bar phone form factor…really…in a quick check on www.gsmarena.com when I use the PHONE FINDER feature, and set the refinement of Form Factor to Bar Phone…there are 2983 results, and when the refinements also take us down to just devices with a 3.4-3.6 inch screen there are still 224. Pulling out just the Android Devices in this size leaves us with 133.
I get the why for this lawsuit as there have been some really blatant acts of design theft that were revealed in this case…most notably the Samsung Galaxy Ace vs. the iPhone 4. Was Samsung in the wrong…absolutely but have they also built upon and improved the Smart Phone ecosystem? I would say yes and despite having to pay out over $1 Billion (which is less than half of what Apple was seeking) they will continue to plow ahead but this may just change the way we see new phones enter the market in the future.
When we go to a Best Buy, Future Shop or other major retailer…will there be hundreds of selections available to choose from? Will there be only 1 rounded cornered rectangle to choose from? Will this mean an increase in market share for Apple? I really don’t think so. The only real winner here was not even Apple itself. Their army of Patent Lawyers sharpened their pencils and presented a case of consumer deceit on the par of Samsung and this gives them a precedence to not continue to win exclusively on the merits of their great product lines that everyone wants to own…but on fear, uncertainty and doubt.
We do how ever live in a MAD world…and in this world of Mutually Assured Destruction, this verdict on Friday will fuel the collective fires of all Android manufacturers to rally behind the upcoming case of Motorola/Google vs. Apple. The first shot across the bow for Apple is the violation of US Patent # 6,246,862 which is actually a Hardware Patent not a goofy “finger pinch” or “Icon” patent that well in all reality is not a FREAKING PATENT!
So will there be ANY iPhones or iPads available around Christmas? With the upcoming release of the new iPhone 5 this is proof that playing dirty and in the courtroom can have lasting effects. Apple may be one of the wealthiest corporations in history…but when you paint yourself with a target…you had better be prepared for a taste of your own medicine. Trade and import bans, long drawn out court cases…you know what…there are very few products that are 100% new. Microsoft is well noted for making more money off of Android makers than even Google is because of Patent Licensing.
I again state that there needs to be a real focus on Patent Law Reform…the only people who really lose here…are us…the Consumer!
Cheers and have a great weekend.
Chris J Powell