August 25, 2012
If you own a smart phone, chances are you own one with either the Apple iOS operating system or Google's Android operating system. Friday's jury ruling that multiple Samsung devices infringed on Apple patents was long overdue in my book.
It's no secret that I'm a really big fan of Apple's products. Ever since the company lured me in with an iPod shuffle and the iTunes Music Store some seven or eight years ago, I have been drawn to its brilliant products. I'm obviously not the only one considering the fact that Apple is now the wealthiest company ever.
This trial between Apple and Samsung centered on how the phone market changed after the introduction of the iPhone. Before the iPhone, you had a culture of people who used Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices for wireless email and Internet. But it was mainly business professionals, and the BlackBerry was certainly a small class of devices compared to the overall market.
The iPhone started a revolution toward smart phones that is still ongoing today. Apple made the thing darn easy to use. I waited nearly a year before buying my first one because they started out at $499. It was that time when nearly everybody had a Motorola Razr flip phone that probably set them back a penny. But the "Internet in your pocket" phone, as Steve Jobs called it, was as close to putting a full computer into a phone as anybody had ever seen.
With Apple starting to eat into a huge chunk of this hot market, companies started going crazy trying to compete. BlackBerry gave it a go with phones like the Storm, which was the most similar to an iPhone I had seen at the time. It got a ton of press and advertising at the time, but you likely haven't seen two together outside of a phone store. It was maybe a step in the right direction, but it was no iPhone.
But this changed when Google decided to throw its massive weight into the arena. Jobs was extremely livid at this because of the partnership between Apple and Google in the early iPhones. They were a natural fit since Apple made hardware and operating systems and Google made search software and had the Google Maps platform.
There is plenty of well-intentioned debate on who did what first and whether patents on certain things are too generic, such as the D '305 patent Apple holds on a grid of rounded square icons against a black background. But apparently the jury didn't think these patents were generic and were part of Apple's R&D into a highly popular device that helped turn the company into the giant it is today.
The above photo and other similar ones are what led me to side totally on Apple's side, despite the fact that I know zilch about patent laws. If Apple holds a patent for the phone design on the right, the Samsung phone on the left is just a darn copy. The music player icon is almost identical to previous iTunes icons used before Apple did away with the CD in it.
Samsung tried to argue in this trial that the patents were so basic that their validation would hinder the market's competition. The problem I found with this is the fact that so many technological products use licenses of other technologies. If you have a computer that can read a CD, DVD or Blu-ray Disc, the maker pays a small royalty fee to use that feature.
Microsoft, a company that has a history with Apple in the realm of acting like a copycat, ironically probably helped Apple in this case. Microsoft has a deal with Apple for phone patents, and Microsoft has also created something unique with its upcoming Windows 8 phone design. It's similar to the iPhone just as any phone with icons will be. But it's very distinguished and looks like it was a geniune Microsoft creation.
As an Xbox owner, I saw this "Metro" theme starting to come into Microsoft's products with the third-generation Xbox operating software. I'm not the biggest fan of it, but it's usable and is definitely unique.
I welcome your thoughts on this. I have had a few debates with friends over this. It has actually been a refreshing change of pace from the same political bickering we've been going through for the past 200 years. Or maybe it just seems like this election has gone on for 200 years. And Mitt Romney hasn't even been technically nominated yet. Oh my.
Samsung argued after the $1.05 billion verdict that the ruling would stifle competition. I completely disagree. I think it will make electronics developers go their own routes in making different devices and it will protect those who create revolutionary ideas and products. As someone in a creative realm, I can totally identify with that. When I write this little entries, I do my darndest to formulate my own thoughts or tell you whose thoughts I agree with, as I did recently while reading a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Hopefully this ruling will send a message to the Android community of developers that you can't copy something and then sell it on the cheap to gain market share over a revolutionary device. You can take your own path, but you've got to abide by patent laws just as your competitors do.
Michael Buckelew is a contributing writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post.