Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Justice for All: Samsung must pay Apple money probably eventually

Who made what when is a debate as old as time. Thomas Edison quietly partnered with a man who had been installing light bulbs in England for years so they guy wouldn’t sue him down to his folksy charm. But he is still seen as the father of most inventions of the modern age. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates raced each other at blinding speed to be the first to officially come out with the personal home computer. One stealing from the other every chance that they could get away with. The difference now is that for many the great tech summits have already been climbed. So companies spend their time to squabbling over who gets to say that they bravely died for the team or if they were just lunch for the rest of the hikers after they ran out of mountain goat.

This is what makes patent lawyers wake up with wet underwear. Companies ready to spend millions to prove that the other guy stole the idea. In the beginning of the tech race, between Apple and Microsoft, accusing the other guy of stealing would only slow your company down and it would drain the companies coffers to even try.  The engine of progress has ground to a comfortable some would say sluggish pace. So now it’s time for the claws to come out. One of the biggest catfights has just finished, kind of. Apple vs. Samsung.

Apple is known for being almost George Lucasian in it’s love of crushing people and companies under their birkenstocks. And when they sized up Samsung they knew that this was gonna be a goodun. In essence Apple claimed that Samsung had stolen ideas from their products to create their own. Samsung argues that everyone was headed in the same direction, and Apple put patents on things that they had no right to patent. The jury in the case believed Apple and awarded them $1.05 billion. Which is a pretty big number, if it meant anything.

But this number is actually not real, because the judge will decide what Samsung are actually going to pay and even then they may not have to pay it if they appeal. Which they totally will. The point of all this has nothing to do with patents, it has to do with Apple wanted to break the stranglehold Samsung has on the smartphone industry. Android (Samsung’s operating system) is overtaking Apple in the last bastion of innovation, smartphone software.  Apple was hoping that this judgement would cause Samsung to have to rip apart their phones and go back to the drawing board. Isn’t going to happen.

As innovation real estate becomes more and more scarce this maybe the future of how companies try to get ahead. They will no longer try to overtake with new ideas but break apart other companies for the tech they believe they created first and/or patented first. This is not only life-shatteringly boring for people but it is also underwhelming as a way to stay ahead in the tech race. Judgements can take years to be put into effect and even then lawyers will find a way around it if the fee is high enough. So this as a way to overtake the other guys is a bit of a no go.

But this isn’t the end, unfortunately, but it was bit of a blow to both teams. Apple will never admit it, but they had hoped to solidify their patents but it wasn’t the body blow they were hoping for. Samsung may never have to pay a dime but their innovation will now be hedged by their fear. So in the end, no one really won, but they didn’t expect to. Cause any other way is just silly, apparently.