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Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Computers, Mobile, TG Roundup

Apple Vs. Samsung Patent War

The case is coming to a close! I think the verdict in this will decide quite a bit about copyrights, patents and IP (intellectual property) rights in this century. As much as we want to see competition, that doesn’t mean we can allow some one stealing your hard work overnight. To me in this case Samsung’s arguments are looking lame. Look at the timeline of the phones that are developed by both the companies. Apple came up with iPhone in 2007. Look at the form factor, look and feel of Samsung since 2009-2010! Who is aping who?

 

If we leave the ethical part of it, for pure business reasons it is right thing for Apple to pursue this, since Samsung’s designs are damaging the uniqueness of apple products and confusing the users. In my view Samsung should have bought the patents from Apple and either used them as it is or improvised on them. In stead it decided to outright copy! Here I want to mention what Japanese companies like Sony or Panasonic did way back in the 60s and 70s. They bought the patents and improvised on them to beat the originators. In stead of taking this honorable approach Samsung chose to copy. It is kind of ironic(and amusing) that one of Samsung designers claimed they could come up with the new design within 3 months after they had an internal memo which said ‘the iPhone threw a crisis of design’ within Samsung’s phone department! Apple had to toil from 2003 to 2007 (4 years) to be able to come up with thier product for which they  long produced evidence and then comes along companies like Samsung (there are others too like HTC too. Also Google’s android copied many of the iOS features outright which will be another battle that will come up soon).

Having said all this, I believe there are few (wireless related) patents probably infringed by apple too for which they need to pay too. But the sum total of damage seems more to Apple products. Here is an article about the closing arguments on this case.

http://www.informationweek.com/mobility/smart-phones/apple-closes-urging-big-damages-for-sams/240005973

 

3 Comments

  1. Sri,

    I agree it is naive to think apple would readily sell their patents to invite competition. 🙂 But once something is patented, there is an obligation on the originator to sell it at whatever is deemed the right price. This price is not just decided by the originator alone. It is because of this.

    Once an idea or design is patented there are few things that take place. Apart from who the inventors are and who owns it, it also records how the idea or design is implemented, in reasonable detail. Why ?
    1. If this is not explained the author(s) of patent cannot justify how this is really done.

    2. It allows others who buy it to implement it.

    Anyone can obtain a copy of this patent and read. And if they see it fit to their product they can buy it. Here the originator cannot completely dictate what the price should be. The patent experts can be used to bargain on it. In fact if the originator is using to make it a monopoly, the anti-trust laws of U.S. can be used to sue the originating company for stifling competition. I agree they can try to make it difficult to get it by delaying it or other means but if they come to an agreement they should provide all the help to whoever buying it. In all buying the patent and implementing it will perhaps be a long process and as you pointed out current market demands will defeat the purpose.

    That doesn’t mean you can steal the design and implement it fast and be competitive and at lesser price. To prevent that precisely it is patented! You tell why I have to work my butt off for years and then ‘happily’ see that is taken for free and use it within months? Once the patent is granted, you cannot counter sue the guy who got the patent saying it is not patentable. You go and question the patenting authority for doing a bad job and prove that what they did is wrong and get the patent cancelled and then copy it. It again takes time and that is why people patent.

    The other aspect of fighting for one’s patents is that, when something is copied, most likely it bound to be inferior. For example if we take the ‘bounce back effect at the end of the page’, it looks silly that this is even a patent. But it is not just like some one is bouncing a ball on floor, it requires lot of smoothing and moving the image with minimal distortion and so on. I am sure few man-months have gone to develop that. Suppose if the guy who copied it implemented it but with crude algorithm which made it bounce with some jerks and some blurs it is like butchering the original idea. Patents to some extent will protect the quality of the products.

    There are two types of marketing. One is to offer cheap but sub-standard product (because most likely it is copied). The other is to provide a great product but at higher price(because lot of hours, sweat and blood went into it). Which one appeals is a personal choice, but which one makes one more productive with lesser failures that is the one which makes customer win, in my opinion.

    Sorry for long perhaps boring reply. 🙂

    • Hi Ramana,

      Thanks for trying to explain in detail on how the patents work. Although I am not a patent lawyer, it doesn’t seem correct when you say “… once something is patented, there is an obligation on the originator to sell it at whatever is deemed the right price. This price is not just decided by the originator alone…”.

      Anyway, without going off track on the topic, Samsung’s product is not considered a sub-standard either my millions of users or by the experts who reviewed its products. It might have copied some ‘ideas’ like bounce back but implemented it by its own algorithim rather than steal Apple’s code. But unfortunately, in court of law, the burden of proof is on the defendant and it is hard to prove that idea was not copied. I think this is where Samsung lost.

  2. While I respect Apple’s ingenuity, it is naive to think that apple ‘sells’ its patents to improve upon. Your comparision to 60s is also wrong. Companies have big bigger, bolder and self. They are seeing the potential of their innovations and prefer a public issue than sell the patents and make some money.

    Samsung also is great prestigious company that has its own innovations and aggressive pricing that ultimately helps the customer. They are hadworking people in number of applications.

    But it all boils down to how the court arguments are presented. For sure, their approach of ‘patent law itself is wrong…..’ attitude doesn’t help them in court of law atleast in short run.

    Hope the customer wins.