Being a follower of the ‘patent war’ between mobile/tablet manufacturers recently I’m disappointed at today’s news that Samsung has been ordered to pay £1.5bn in damages to Apple. I’ve long been of the opinion that the patent system, especially in America, is fundamentally flawed and this case is another example of why.
First thing to make clear is that I’m not surprised at the verdict. On paper, Samsung have violated the patents and the reports I’ve read clearly showed, to me, Samsung had a not-so-strong case.
What gets me is that the case ever happened at all.
In June a US judge through out a case brought by Apple whilst calling the US patent system “chaos”. There are numerous examples of ridiculous patents, such as this one from Apple that patents software updates, and companies like Microsoft and Apple are openly setting up companies to act as ‘patent trolls‘ whose sole purpose is to destroy competitors through expensive litigation.
Apple is abusing the patent system in order to maintain its dominance in a blatantly anti-competitive move. Far from going to trial, the cases (all of them, including the ones brought by Samsung, Google, Motorola et al) should have been thrown out and the companies investigated under competition law.
Verdicts like that against Samsung will only serve to harm consumers in the end.
Apple created great products that consumers wanted to buy, making it the most valuable company in the world. Apple executives are now seemingly abandoning that philosophy in favour of a protectionist offensive. The rapid growth of Samsung into the smartphone market and the rise of Android, now the most popular smartphone OS, has them scared and so they’re fighting back.
One reason given for Samsung’s success is it’s wide range of phones, compared to Apple’s limited range of one (current model) very expensive phone. Apple also ignore industry standards on connectors, instead choosing to force consumers into using their own connector, a hidden cost to them. Instead, the likes of Samsung use the industry standard connections which, for example, allow me to connect my SGS3 to my HDTV for as little as £10 rather than the extortionate £35 Apple charge. Consumers are wise to this price difference and recognise they can get a similar or much better phone than an iPhone for a much more reasonable price.
Far from protecting consumers against ‘confusion’ this verdict will strengthen Apple’s position in the market and allow them to keep pushing out the same overpriced products (errm, hello, £25 for a 10in cable anyone?!) instead of responding to consumers who have quite clearly demonstrated they want the choice on offer from Samsung.