Thursday, August 16, 2012

Apple's and Samsung's ridiculous "copycat" claims

   If you haven't been following the monstrosity that is the Apple vs. Samsung trial, then I'd recommend you catch up. There's a lot to catch up on! This trial highlights the problem with the way the legal system is setup in the United States, as well as the patent system. As I write this article, I'm trying my best to remain impartial, because frankly, both companies have made some ridiculous claims so far and I'm sure they'll continue to make ridiculous claims. Or at least Samsung will continue to after Apple wraps up their side of the story.

 Of course I could write a lengthy post about how the patent system is messed up and yes, the article would be very accurate, but I believe the point has been well made by practically every journalist now, even the Apple apologists. I could also write a lengthy post about how the legal system in the U.S is also messed up, but that point has also been presented quite well. The thing I'm convinced is that both Apple and Samsung have not owned up to what they have done.

 The whole Apple vs. Samsung battle has started more than a year ago now, with Apple suing Samsung over the trade dress of Samsung's Android based smartphones. Essentially, trade dress is the appearance of the phone in both the physical hardware and the UI. And you can't blame Google for the design of Android on Samsung's devices because Samsung puts their own proprietary user interface on their smartphones on top of the Android operating system. So at no point can Samsung nor Apple assign any blame on Google for the alleged trade dress infringement. But the lawsuit quickly evolved and Apple learned some interesting legal tactics that they could take to hurt the Android device manufacturers, and therefore, hurt the Android ecosystem. Apple would quickly start launching patent infringement lawsuits against Android OEMs and this would start Apple's epic war against Google and the Android ecosystem. The Apple versus Samsung trial is certainly the most widely covered one by far and the most interesting to cover.

  My issue with the whole lawsuit is that both Apple and Samsung have performed anti-competitive measures to destroy their opponent. And I'm not just referring to "copying" each other's products. However, the big debate is over whether or not Samsung copied from Apple's design of the iPhone and iPad. This is a huge lawsuit that covers a range of 17 different products including accusations that Samsung was inspired by Apple's iPad, and therefore made the Samsung Galaxy Tab series of tablets (the 7, 7.1 and 10 inch models) as well as the incredibly successful Galaxy S line of devices.

 There have been valid points made by tech pundits that defend both sides, however, the lawsuit isn't black and white. I'm sure that there is a case to be made that Samsung was inspired by Apple, but there's also a point to be made that Apple could be jealous of the success of Samsung and is being inspired by Samsung. I could see a lot of unique features that Samsung developed in their line of phones and tablets that are really unique and that Apple felt inspired enough to mimic the functionality of these unique set of features that Samsung developed. The Samsung S-Pen, which is essentially just a stylus, and the "Tectiles", which are essentially just NFC enabled tags that can be used to perform certain user defined actions.

I will wait with anticipation for Apple to launch their next generation iPhone to see what functionality resembles that of the feature set Samsung originally had in their phones. I would have to imagine that Apple will have been inspired by Samsung to a certain extent to mimic some of the hot features of Samsung's phones. It wouldn't surprise me at all.

I'm sure that Samsung did feel at least partially inspired by Apple to make their own smartphones that would attract existing iPhone lovers. There's no doubt in my mind that Samsung did feel pressure from Apple and decided to target some of the iPhone's features and implement them in their own way, or at least what Samsung would define as "in their own way."

But looking at the big picture, I don't see Apple's case that Samsung mimic'd Apple's iOS bit by bit. Comparing user interfaces on a surface level doesn't make a case for Apple or Samsung. I'm confident that even a typical user wouldn't be confused by the looks and appearances of the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S phones. There are at least a few noticeable differences and that unless a consumer is really not that observational, the differences could probably be distinguished and therefore that would diminish the value of Apple's case.

Overall, Apple's case is ridiculous. Being impartial, I believe both sides are not in the clear, and I feel that both companies have engaged in mimicking behavior to a certain degree, but not to a great degree, as Apple claims. But it all comes down to the judge's ruling. My true desire would be for both companies to stop litigating and to start innovating. Unfortunately, both parties have engaged in legal warfare and now there's no way out of it. We'll just have to sit back and watch. And I hope that the judge makes the right call by not declaring either side of the winner. Send both Apple and Samsung home...neither of them deserve to be called the winner.

No comments:

Post a Comment