"We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours." This is the boilerplate statement that Apple makes in every patent case they are involved in. It is a message that the company claims time and time again. Even Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, says this about Apple. However, the statement is probably one of the biggest myths that the company perpetrates on the consumer and one that is finally coming to light as more and more consumers and even the media are starting to report on the number of times Apple has patented technology AFTER someone else invented it.
Someone needs to send some of the Apple lawyers back to preschool where they find shapes that are the same and get to pick out colors as well. We are frankly getting sick of Judges bowing to Apple’s request for outright bans on products because they claim that they “look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging”. It simply does not hold up under even the most cursory examination. The latest after a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for possibly infringing on a SINGLE PATNET is they have been awarded one for on the Galaxy Nexus.
We have often written that the continuous stream of patent lawsuits and injunctions that are pushed around the globe are costly, dangerous and anti-consumer, but now someone has actually gone out and done the math to find out just how much damage they do per year. The study performed by James E. Bessen and Michael E Meurer both from the Boston University School of Law states that in 2011 more than $29 Billion (with a B) in direct costs were incurred all because of what are called Non-Practicing Entities (most call them patent trolls). This $29 Billion also came during a down economy and affected small to medium sized businesses the most.
Smartphones have evolved over time, in almost every aspect, except for the battery life. Moreover, this aspect is one of the few in which most smart phones seem to keep going backwards as the rest of their technology gets faster.
We have talked about Apple’s business model and their corporate ethics before so when we found out that they are suing Eastman Kodak while they are in the midst of declaring bankruptcy we were not shocked or surprised. In fact if you look at Apple’s history they spend more time in court accusing other companies of breaking the laws than AMD did trying to fight Intel.
Apple has been having a blast dropping patents for vague concepts and even an entire device type (with their pending Pico Projector patent) regardless of prior art and at times regardless of if the patent is actual technology or not (the look and feel of something). Then they take these patents and wave them in the face of judges that have no real idea of what the patent is (or is not) covering asking for injunctions and outright bans on products from companies that are relatively underfunded in the legal department. If you ask Apple about this they will stand and say that they are protecting their Intellectual Property (which in many cases was “borrowed” from another company that cannot afford a legal fight with Apple like S3). This abuse of the patent and copyright system is detestable, but is an article for another day.
The question I am wondering is, why has Apple not gone after Microsoft? Windows 7 on a tablet has Pinch to Zoom, finger gestures and even the same “look and feel” when you scroll with your finger. Now, I could be wrong, but if Apple is trying to protect their IP you would think they would be going after Microsoft in a big way. I am also pretty sure they would be adding Asus (who has one of the best-selling Windows Based Tablets on the market right now) to their legal wish list as well. So, why do they leave these two obvious copy cats out of the litigation arena?
Well, here are a few reasons that we were able to come up with based on research. Microsoft is safe simply because they have bailed out Apple multiple times in the past and also have several patents and items that Apple needs to survive (Office for Mac is still a huge seller). Whether the Apple faithful and Steve Jobs want to admit it or not Apple owes it very existence to their rival; without Bill Gates and Microsoft we would be talking about Apple in the past tense. Right now Adobe is wishing they had dropped money into that bailout instead of just spending time and money making their products work on Apple’s RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) based systems (the PowerPC days). If they had, they perhaps they would have some leverage in the whole HTML5 Vs. Flash competition. This also applies to Microsoft’s net generation operating system Windows 8. In fact is applies even more as Microsoft is writing it to work on ARM based CPUs. The previews that we have seen also make it very tablet friendly and an obvious threat to Apple’s weakening hold on the tablet market. Yet, we have heard no call to arms from the Apple legal team over this.
So, what about Asus and their tablets? Asus is also untouchable right now because they also have something that Apple wants; A manufacturing facility. Apple has been looking for alternatives to Foxconn due to the bad press surrounding the company’s many suicides. The world now knows that the iPhone, iPod and many other Apple products are assembled there and with the many deaths over working conditions at these plants the eyes are turning to look at Apple. The question has already been raised by many humanitarian groups “why has Apple done nothing about this?” You would think that a company that claims to be so “Green” and Earth Friendly would be appalled by what is happening over there. However, other than a few press releases (which usually tame the faithful) Apple has done nothing. At least on the surface, we have heard rumors that Apple is courting Pegatron as an alternative manufacturing site for the next generation of iToys. If this is true (and as of now we have no evidence to the contrary) then Apple would not want to get Asus upset. After all Asus owns Pegatron. It is their manufacturing company.
So then next time you hear an Apple press representative standing on the soapbox and loudly declaiming how they are protecting their Intellectual Property from the masses of thieves and copy-cats out there, just remember that they are only throwing this around at the companies they feel they can bully into submission. In the end no one likes a bully, and bullies usually reap what they sow in the long run.
While Apple is cuddled and watched over by the American courts, in other parts of the world situation is quite the opposite of that. They are losing lawsuits against, now we can safely say - their greatest enemy - Samsung. According to a new decision from the British court on Friday, the company must pay court costs to Samsung for the lawsuit that Apple started and lost, in which they sued the Korean company for allegedly copying.
Google and Samsung are doing something very interesting in regards to the ban that Jude Lucy Koh imposed at the request of Apple. As I am sure you all know Apple is claiming that Google and Samsung are violating their patent on universal search and are requesting that the phone be removed from stores in the US to prevent Apple from being irrevocably harmed (which is a very dubious claim). Originally Judge Koh had denied the request, but then did a complete 180 after an appeals court asked her to review the case again.
We called this one in the early stages of the trial as Samsung’s legal team began laying the ground for a rolling ambush on Judge Lucy Koh and her favoritism of Apple. Now Samsung has filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and a new trial as an alternative. Samsung’s filing is asking for this under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50 and 59. Their grounds for this motion are fairly straight forward; they were treated unfairly during the proceedings. The actions of Judge Koh during the trial became so extreme that they were almost comical. Samsung’s team caught on to this early and started pushing Judge Koh to see just how far she would take it.
Apple appears to have had a little bit of a set back in court yesterday as Judge Richard Posner (the same one that threw Apple’s complaint about a week ago) told Apple quite simply that imposing a sales ban on Motorola’s products would have catastrophic effects. This type of decision is happening more and more where one company demands a ban on the other. What the legal system is waking up to is that the ban on imports and sales are hurting businesses and the economy. They are also beginning to understand that the threat of a ban is not being used to protect IP, but to limit competition.