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Apple, Samsung and a Third Way for Patents

Posted by Andrew at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2012

Samsung LogoWhen I heard the verdict on the Apple v. Samsung case, I was angry. Angry with Samsung for copying, angry with Apple for suing, angry with jurors for naivety, angry with the legal system for letting itself be a pawn.¬†Over the weekend, I’ve mellowed a little but I’m still concerned about the impact it will have on consumers.

Apple is not a great first inventor. It didn’t invent the PC, the GUI, the digital music player, the smartphone or the tablet: I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to educate themselves as to who did. Apple is great at design, marketing, timing and extracting value from suppliers, partners and customers. Absolutely no doubts there and they have the bank balance to prove it.

Android LogoThe word on the street was that Apple was looking for a $30 licensing fee to cover the use of the patents. As a consumer, I think that’s a rip off when compared to the overall price of the device. None of those patents are intrinsic to the device and I would happily have a phone or tablet that doesn’t have those features. Multitouch and pinch-to-zoom is over-rated generally, and as for the bounce-back, it’s a waste of CPU cycles.

Obviously there are two possible outcomes from an Android perspective. Either the patents are circumvented and Android users get an arguably lesser experience or the manufacturers stump up the licensing fees.

But there is a third way…Wouldn’t it be great if, as an Android consumer, one could choose whether to avail of certain patents or not? You could accept the Apple licensing and pay the extra $30 or else decline and get the non-infringing version. How brilliant would that be and it would let the market decide which patents are valuable and which aren’t.

Of course, the chances of it happening are slim but remember Google and Samsung, you read it here first.

6 Comments

  1. From Chris Forstner at 5:27 pm on August 26, 2012

    You forgot another thing is good at, and I think it is something pulled from Gates a long time ago. That is, if they find something to use that noone has exclusively laid claim to and patented then they will do so. It does not matter if it seems the only sane way to do things or if others are already doing it. If the patent doesn’t exist they will file for it. Like their patent for “solar charger on small mobile device” I mean things like that shouldn’t be allowed to be patented. They are only a logical step in the evolution of products. Heck calculators have had it for years. To me this entire case just shows a huge failing in our patent system.

  2. From Andrew at 1:05 am on August 27, 2012

    While Apple may or may not be patenting obvious developments, the point I was trying to get over there was that $30 is the value I’d put on a first inventor patent, not a GUI tweak.

  3. From Don108 at 3:08 am on August 27, 2012

    Apple spent years in R&D and hundreds of millions of dollars developing the iPhone. Samsung just ripped them off in both hardware design and software design. So it wasn’t just a “GUI tweak.”

    Further, contrary to your misinformation, Apple DID create the first PC. Before them you had to go find parts and software and cobble everything together. It was a mish-mosh of non-standardized design. The Apple II was the first complete PC offered to the public and it sold like crazy. Up until next month, all modern computers are Macintoshes: either real ones from Apple or make believe ones with a “Me too!” OS from Microsoft.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, Andrew, but not your devoid of reality facts. As a writer for Geek News Central your blog is just an epic fail.

  4. From Andrew at 4:28 am on August 27, 2012

    Don, I totally agree with you that Samsung copied the look of the iPhone and in the original post I was talking about the patents in the OS not the “trade dress”.

    With regard to the first PC, again I agree with you that the Apple II was phenomenally successful but I believe that the Commodore Pet actually pipped the Apple II by a month or two. (Sorry for the pun). Of course there’s plenty of academic debate as to who first used the term “PC” and for what device.

    Update – I checked with Wikipedia and it looks like the Commodore Pet and the Apple ][ can take equal honours. The Pet was announced first in Jan 1977 but didn't get into customer's hands until October. The Apple ][ was announced later in April of '77 but was "on sale" in June. The TRS-80 was hot on the heels of both of them, announced in August of the same year and on-sale in November. Those were mad times!

  5. From Bob Wilbert at 6:08 am on August 29, 2012

    While your idea of giving the consumer a choice as to whether or not they want the patented items included in their smartphone may sound like a good option, the reality is that the production costs would go up significantly so all consumers would suffer.

    On a point of reference, you stated in the article that Apple wanted $30 per smartphone however, I have read elsewhere that the amount was $24. That’s 20% less than your amount. Not sure which is correct.

    As to Apple not being very good at being a first inventor, I disagree. As you mentioned in your response to another writer, Apple was the first to hit the market with their PC. You want to give co-credit to Commodore but second is not first even if its only by a few months. The point is, Apple was a great first inventor.

  6. From Andrew at 1:37 pm on August 29, 2012

    Bob,

    Maybe costs would go up, maybe they’d go down. Who knows? When you look at the clever patches and widgets that are available, it doesn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that an installable package could enable the disputed features. Either way, I doubt we’ll see it.

    I saw various references as well – I think I saw one for $32 – it’s all hearsay anyway. What I think is ironic is that most apps in the AppStore are $1 or $2!

    It appears that Commodore were the first to demonstrate (January) a working “PC” but weren’t able to deliver to customers immediately but Apple demonstrated later in April but managed to get it on sale faster. Seems to me that you could argue either way as to who was “first”. Both devices were very successful, regardless.

    There’s nothing wrong with not being the first inventor. In fact it’s quite often a benefit as you can see where the first people go wrong and I actually think that is Apple’s strength. It picks up where other people have gone wrong, failed to capitalise on an opportunity or simply need the idea improved. The iPod is great example – the digital music player is not the killer feature, it’s iTunes which makes it brilliantly easy to get your music on the iPod that makes the sale.

    Regards,

    Andrew