If you haven’t heard the news, the patent jury decided that Samsung did infringe upon six of seven Apple patents with many devices (not tablets, however), amounting to an award of 1.05 billion dollars. The judge could actually increase that amount, as the infringement was willful and not accidental.
You can’t escape it: Samsung copied Apple. In fact, they just opened a store in Australia that looks just like an Apple Store. They use app icons that look very similar to Apple icons. And they use gestures and other operating system features that use Apple’s patented gestures. Steve Jobs said these patents existed when he introduced the iPhone in 2007, when only the iPhone looked and worked like the iPhone. Remember: people used to make fun of the iPhone, and now nearly every phone looks like an iPhone.
Most rational people are at peace with the jury’s decision. If high school students copied homework like Samsung copied Apple, they would fail out of high school. At the same time, there are a number of people that are stating that this ruins innovation, increases prices, and fewer choices (including Samsung in their press release today). It must be made clear that Apple offered Samsung the opportunity to legally use their patents, somewhere in the area of $550 million (http://mashable.com/2012/08/12/apple-samsung-patents/). Samsung refused. And the penalty is (at least) twice as harsh. Yes, this might make your Android phone slightly more expensive (if you’re paying the $299 for the phone on a two year contract). At the same time, your phone company is likely getting at least $90 a month out of you for having a smart phone, and could probably absorb that $45 over two years. And that’s if you even paid $299 for that phone. And for goodness sake, it was documented that Google themselves told Samsung that it was making products too close to Apple products. Samsung chose to copy, ignore Google, and turn down Apple. Now they have to pay for that arrogance. Boo hoo.
Most importantly, copying isn’t innovation. It’s hard to innovate, and when you find something that works, it really stinks if someone takes your idea and makes money off of it. When people say this ruling will stifle innovation, what they are really saying is that they don’t want to have to pay to copy someone else’s work.
There are innovators out there. Windows has always taken a different approach to its phones, including the upcoming Windows 8. Some people really like the upcoming Windows phone. WebOS was unique. There will be other operating systems that innovate. Even Samsung’s new tablet (announced the other day) is different than the iPad (it comes with a stylus). This is all good. If these devices aren’t as good as the iPhone because they haven’t licensed Apple’s patents, well, too bad. Go innovate instead.
Without a doubt, this is going to cause changes in the world of Android. The next step of the Samsung/Apple battle is for the judge to decide if infringing Samsung products should be banned in the US. It might happen. Samsung is going to appeal the decision. It is all part of the game.
And as for fewer options for Android–that is a good thing, too. There are so many Android phones on the market that consumers can’t keep them straight. The average consumer has a hard time knowing that Jelly Bean is the latest OS for Android, and that any particular model is the latest version from Samsung, Motorola, or the like. There is actually too much choice (for buyers and developers). So a little thinning of the herd might be a good thing, especially if the oldest and most out of date devices disappear from the market.
So, it’s a good day for Apple, overall, and Steve Jobs, who promised to hound Android until they spent every cent (“going thermonuclear”), would be very proud. Writers pointed out that today (August 24) is the anniversary of Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO in 2011, shortly before his death in October.
Two final thoughts: I’ve always found it interesting that Apple is going against the manufacturers versus the creators of the OS (Although each manufacturer puts their own skins, shapes, icons, and behaviors to each device). It’s as if Apple respects Google’s right to make software (undeniably ripped off in concept by Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google who used to sit on Apple’s Board)), but once Android is on a device, if that device acts like an Apple product, they’ll take it to court.
Maybe some things are overly tedious in regards to patents…for example, if an icon is a rectangle with round corners, does that eventually become a “public standard”? Or that a specific phone shape becomes standard because it works best? There’s a point at which patents have to lose some of their power. But when a company goes out of their way to copy…willfully…it’s nice to see the legal system work.