Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Patent Wars: When IP protection becomes anti-competitive

Posted in Android, Apple, business by commorancy on September 3, 2012

So, who wins when companies like Apple and Samsung battle over intellectual property?  No one.  Here’s why.

Apple doesn’t win

Apple thinks they will win because they think this action will block a rival product based on the fact that they claim they invented it first.  In fact, it’s not that they ‘invented’ it first, it’s because they patented it first.  Whomever gets to the patent office gets exclusivity.  That’s how patent law works.  However, Apple won’t win because of the negative publicity backlash that it is now unfolding onto the Apple brand.  The backlash against Apple is already beginning and it may end up becoming Apple’s downfall.

Seriously, are we to believe that there is any possibility of confusion between a Samsung device running Android and an Apple device running IOS?  The operating systems aren’t even remotely similar.  The sole and only reason to prevent another company from putting something on the market is to avoid brand or product confusion.  I hardly think that anyone would confuse a Samsung Galaxy device clearly labeled with the Samsung brand with an Apple device clearly labeled with the Apple brand.  Heck, the Galaxy devices don’t even resemble the iPhone now.

Clerk: Why are you returning this device today?

Consumer: Oh, I’m bringing this Samsung back because I thought it was an iPhone.

I don’t think so.  This is not a likely scenario at all.  I can’t imagine any consumer could walk into a Samsung retailer and confuse a Galaxy S with an iPhone.  So, why is Apple so adamant that this device is a threat to their survival?  In fact, if anything is a threat to Apple’s survival, it’s Apple.  Playing these legal games is the best way to actually make consumers become aware and interested in the exact devices they hope to prevent being placed onto store shelves.  If Apple had left well enough alone, these devices would have fallen into obscurity on their own and the iPhone would still reign supreme.  Calling undue attention to another device, in just the way Apple is doing, is just ripe to backfire on Apple.  And, backfire it appears to be doing.  Way to go Apple.

Samsung doesn’t win

I’m not going to cheer for Samsung here.  Are they a victim?  Not really.  They’re a large corporation that’s out to make a buck on a design that’s far too similar to one that someone else created.  I won’t say that Apple is in the right here, but Samsung is also not in the right by doing what they did.  I personally don’t like Samsung devices.  They’re too unreliable and don’t last.  I’ve bought many Samsung devices and they just don’t hold up long enough.  The quality is too low for the price they charge.  Making quality products is a whole separate issue from producing a product that cashes in on a look from a competitor.  Samsung, at least have the decency to hire designers that produce original looking devices designs. It’s really not that hard.  There are plenty of good industrial designers who could produce a high quality unique case design that could easily rival Apple’s designs without looking remotely like an Apple product.  More than that, though, why not make products that actually last?

Consumers don’t win

By getting injunctions to prevent products from hitting the store shelves, this is tantamount to legalized anti-competitive practices. Legalized because the courts agree with and, further, set up injunctions to prevent these devices from hitting the shelves or be sold within the US.  This hurts the consumer because now there is less choice.  Apple’s thinking is that with less choice comes more likelihood that the consumer will choose Apple instead.  Unfortunately, Apple didn’t take into account the PR nightmare that’s unfolding here.  Apple, don’t underestimate the consumer’s intelligence. Consumers understand that Apple is taking legalized anti-competitive measures to try to win the consumer choice war.  It is, however, the consumer’s choice as to what phone to buy and use.  It is not Apple’s choice.  Companies, when they get to a certain size and arrogance, tend to forget or choose to ignore consumer choice.  This is capitalism and consumers have freedom of choice.

Consumers will vote with their wallets in the end and that will likely be to Apple’s detriment in the long haul.  Instead, Apple needs to drop this lawsuit now and let these devices onto the market from Samsung. Let the devices hold their own or fail on their own merits.  The consumers will decide what they want to use.  Since there is not a real possibility that consumers could mistake a Galaxy S Android phone for an IOS based iPhone, there is really no damage done here.  It’s only perceived damage.

The real damage being done today, that Apple is doing to itself, is the public relations debacle they face with consumer sentiment.  Consumer sentiment is real and it is tangible and it can make or break a company. The longer these IP issues drag on and the more devices they try to block, the more people will pull away from Apple and leave the company, once again, high and dry.

Apple’s future uncertain

Apple needs to stop, look and listen.  They need to make better, faster and more useful devices instead of pulling out the legal team to fight a losing battle.  Keep the innovation going.  Forget the old wars and move on.  Heck, the whole thing started because Samsung made a phone that resembled the iPhone 3 case style.  They don’t even sell the iPhone 3 case style anymore.  The Galaxy Tab looks nothing remotely like an iPad either.  So, the whole ‘it looks like an IOS device’ issue is now moot.  It’s just being dragged on because of Job’s complete hated of Android.

Unfortunately for Apple, Android is here to stay and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Locking out Samsung does not in any way lock out LG or HTC or any other device that runs Android.  Instead, Apple needs to focus on innovation with IOS and its new devices and drop this PR nightmare that’s now unfolding in the consumer space. If Apple wants to drive a wedge between the consumer and the company, Apple’s current legal strategy is perfect.  If Apple wants to produce high quality easy-t0-use devices, that goal has nothing to do with blocking the sale of similar devices via legal channels.

Apple is now officially full of sour grapes.

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