Please note: This is not an attack on Apple. This is just the most fitting example!
Lawsuits. They seem to be lurking around every corner these days. Jump onto Twitter and the first thing you see is the news that a mobile OEM has sued another for patent infringement. Patents are their to make sure companies can secure their own IP and make sure that rival companies cannot copy them in order to further their own success. This makes sense, and it is a good system within most markets. However in the technology market, especially the mobile technology market, it is becoming a tourniquet around the arm of technological capitalism and is stifling new technologies.
Without wanting to sound too much like an ageing hippie; money should not be the be all and end all, what about the consumer? Obviously firms such as Apple and HTC cannot, and will not, cease from aiming to make as much money as possible, they are businesses and that is the aim of a business, make as much profit as possible. This cannot change, however the manner in which patents are created, and then subsequently infringed upon can. I am going to use the obvious example of HTC vs. Samsung, and I am going to write this without the stigma of my Android fan boyism.
Apple have got a huge patent portfolio and have innovated in many brilliant ways. However several of the patents they are own are thoroughly ludicrous. Apple are accosting Samsung because their Galaxy S line of phones bear a resemblance to the iphone, and I do not deny that there are obvious similarities. Yet does this mean that Apple has the right to any device with a metal, or metalesque (you cheap skates Samsung…), bezel? The right to any UI with icons placed in a grid on the home screen? The patented materials are astonishingly vague!
If Samsung had made a phone with the intention of cloning the iphone: copying the design and the UI in an attempt to sell it off as an iphone then they deserve to be sued. But they have not done this. Smartphones all look fairly similar nowadays, with the majority sporting a candy bar design with at least one hardware button on the front. It is very difficult to thing of any device that does not share some features with the iphone, it’s rather like trying to design a laptop, it will have a few design similarities with the Macbook/Macbook Pro. Unless you decide to make your smartphone out of sweet cheese then these similarities are inescapable, admittedly the Galaxy S has quite a few similarities, but they are just similarities it is not a “rip off” of the iphone. People are not going to buy the Galaxy S thinking that it is an iphone, just as people are not going to buy the Galaxy S purely because it looks a bit like the iphone. People are buying the phone because it offers them a brilliant Android experience, and this brings us to the very crux of the issue.
Apple are effectively suing Android through Samsung, HTC and all the other OEM’s it is targeting at the moment, and the reason is obvious, these lawsuits are manifestations of Apple’s unease within the smartphone market. Android is on the up and up, dominating over 50% of the US smartphone market and Apple is scared. Simple as that, and rather than innovate and overcome this competition they have decided to hide behind a wall of patents and hope that in the ensuing chaos Android gets a few wounds. An interesting move from the company who claim everyone else fails innovate and just copies them, have you seen IOS5 ?!
All the mobile OEM companies need to stop for a second and think about the consumer. We get nothing out of you brutally and pedantically enforcing, often quasi archaic patents, in order to create some turnover and damage competition. Innovation and fresh thinking generates huge turnovers for companies as well as benefiting the consumers. I know we will never live in a world when we, as the consumer, come purely first, But hey, a guy can dream. And in way of a shield against any IOS fan boys, have a good look at IOS5 and then Android and then try and argue that Apple is the victim of copy cat companies.