I’m not sure I can say that I’m shocked at yesterday’s verdict, but I can say I’m thoroughly outraged. Anyone reading this knows I’m on the Android side of the fence, but that has nothing to do with it. I’ve already stated that if things were reversed, I wouldn’t want to see Samsung win either. I know readers probably won’t believe that, but it’s true. Yes, I want Android to always be the leader, but never at the expense of innovation.
Now with that said, the jury isn’t at fault here. The verdict was correct based on the patents that Apple owns, and there’s no question that Samsung was guilty of infringing on them. In fact Samsung never had a chance to win this case, so I’m not sure why they invested so much trying to fight it. The problem is the patents themselves and the patent system as a whole. Samsung argued that Apple’s patents we are all based on previous innovations and therefore weren’t valid, but it was unlikely the jury would overturn what the United States Patent and Trademark Office already issued. Assuming that’s the case, the jury had no choice but to find that Samsung did in fact infringe on the patents. If anyone is guilty of any wrong-doing it’s the USPTO for issuing the patents in the first place.
In no way should any company own a patent for basic software related items or designs. With this kind of system, everyone is forced to apply for patents for every crazy thing. Apple claims Samsung was a “copycat”, but the only thing Samsung was guilty of was to be inspired by Apple. In every industry that I’m aware of, companies create products and competitors make similar versions that are sometimes better or worse. That’s how things work, but for some reason Apple thinks they are different.
Apple’s argument is that consumers will be confused with like products, but that is an issue in every industry or technology. Let’s take a look at automobiles. So many cars look alike because the manufacturers adopt similar designs. Go up to a few strangers and point out a car and ask them if they know the brand and model. I guarantee you that most of them won’t know. How about TV’s and Laptops? All of them have similar designs. How many people can look at a TV from afar and know the brand of it? The only way to tell is to walk up to it and find the logo of the manufacturer.
As to software, every company takes elements from others and tweaks it in an attempt to improve on it. There’s no question that Samsung and other Android manufacturers have implemented things that Apple invented like pinch to zoom, but Apple is just as guilty for copying the competition. The swipe down for notifications that was introduced in iOS 5 is just one example. How about Apple’s new Maps app? Isn’t that a direct copy of Google Maps?
The patent system as we know it forces everyone to apply for meaningless patents, all at the cost of the consumers. So the only way to win is to apply for a patent for every little code that is written. Look at how many flashlight apps there are for both iOS and Android. I don’t know who actually created the very first app that utilized the camera flash as a flashlight, but whoever it is should probably have a patent so they can screw every other developer that tried to make a better version. Seems crazy, but that’s the system that’s in place. The same goes for hardware. Every little design needs to be patented. Every company now has to live in fear that one little curve on their hardware will infringe on someone else’s patent.
As I mentioned earlier the only thing Samsung was guilty of was inspiration, which is something that happens in every industry. To me a copycat product is a product that is a complete knock-off that is an exact replica down to the logo. These products are designed to fool the consumer. Samsung didn’t do that. Did their products look similar? Yes, but were they trying to fool the consumer? I can’t imagine there were too many consumers that brought their Galaxy S home thinking it was an iPhone. Even if they did, they would know pretty quickly once they realized they didn’t have access to iTunes.
As an Android fan, there’s no sense being frustrated with Apple. The current patent system is what allowed them to win this case, and Apple took full advantage of it. You can’t blame them, but on the other hand, they did say this case was about values, not money. If they were concerned with values, they would have never used these ridiculous patents to destroy innovation.
So where do things go from here? We have the appeals process and all that good stuff, but Samsung won’t be able to get out of this one. The question is how Google and the rest of Android will respond? Unless someone investigates the USPTO’s process, things will never change and will only get worse. How will anyone make cell phones or tablets moving forward without worrying that some little part of it resembles an Apple product (or someone else’s for that matter). Steve Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Android and this is one victory that I’m sure he would have loved to see. It’s a major victory indeed, and Apple fans will be throwing parties this weekend, but you have to wonder if Google and other Android OEM’s are planning a thermonuclear attack of their own. It’s a sad day folks, but far from over.