In the wake of the court battle between Samsung and Apple regarding iPhone design patent infringements, I can’t help but wonder where Apple is heading with this. While it is clear that most phone manufacturers have followed Apple’s lead with the introduction of capacitive touch screens and software keypads. The big question I am wondering is why Apple would go after Seemingly subtle design patents from Samsung instead of tackling Google’s Android Platform. I personally feel that the biggest infringement on Apple technology has been with respect to the user interface which has been driven predominately by Android. After all, It is the requirements of Android that drive very much of the design of these phones to begin with.
While many of these court cases seem to be just a strategy to delay one another from going into production, this court battle holds a bit more weight. The battle is very reminiscent of Apple’s early days and the fight with Microsoft over whether or not Microsoft ripped off Apple’s GUI Look and Feel. Unfortunately for Apple, Microsoft won that battle. A victory that helped Microsoft dominate the computer industry leaving Apple somewhat behind. As history inevitably repeats itself, Apple finds itself in the same situation with Android. While Samsung is most likely just a stepping stone, if victorious , Apple has more ground to go after other manufacturers. The ultimate goal I believe is shutting down Android.
While the Microsoft Victory over Apple was not the best thing that could have happened to Apple, It was much more beneficial for the end user. Giving Microsoft freedom to continue doing what they had been doing ultimately gave the Consumer more choices. I believe the same rings true for Android. With Android, Many manufacturers can make smartphones without worrying about the software. This gives users a choice. We can either get variety in hardware and suffer the glitches that come with it, or we can settle with one piece of hardware and enjoy the software benefits of that.
For Android users and iPhone users alike, a Samsung victory is probably best. A win for Apple would be one step toward locking out other companies from creating phones that could even compete. Without competition, Apple could get away with minimal upgrades to the iPhone and we would all be stuck due to lack of a better options. Competition forces Apple to push the envelope and pushes competitors to keep up. I do think there needs to be a balance however.
Certain things like the general shape of a phone and the option of having a software keyboard are fairly obvious conclusions that many designers could come up with without much outside inspiration. Other things like pinch to zoom and inertial scrolling I would call purely an Apple creation. There were other ways Android could have handled zooming and scrolling but hey chose not too.
So here we have it, there needs to be a balance with the patenting process that both encourages innovation and encourages good competition. If any company can just copy every good idea another company creates, then there really isn’t much point in spending money on invention.Joe Hoffman
Hooper, William. A Short History of the GUI and the Microsoft vs Apple Debate. retrieved Aug 7, 2012, from http://theoligarch.com/microsoft_vs_apple_history.htm
Lee, Timothy B. Yes, Google “Stole” From Apple, And That’s A Good Thing . retrieved Aug 7, 2012 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/timothylee/2011/10/25/yes-google-stole-from-apple-and-thats-a-good-thing/