And so Apple has won. A Californian court has ordered Samsung to pay no less than $1.05 billion in damages to the US company. It’s good for Apple, bad for Samsung; good for Nokia and Microsoft, bad for Google. But I am not impressed. I am reminded of Toyota and BP, and can’t help but feel that once again the US, with the tacit consent of its citizens, is erecting walls of protectionism.
Be careful next time you are walking in the US. If you start adopting a walking pattern patented by a US firm, you may find you get hit with a writ.
Okay, I exaggerate. But sometimes it feels as if you can patent almost anything. To misquote Jane Austen: “It’s a truth not at all universally acknowledged” that people are often quite similar. When we face a certain set of circumstances, we react in a similar way.
This is true in the world of inventions. That is why when you look at the story of patents, you often discover that scientists working in isolation stumble upon very similar ideas at about the same time.
So, you have an idea for a touch screen computer/tablet. Does that not mean make it inevitable, that certain functions will appear: you zoom in by tapping on the screen, for example?
Apple reckons Samsung was in breach of its patents, and nine Californian jurors agreed. And so that means not only a rather hefty fine being imposed on Samsung, but rather implies that the South Korean company has a something of a big problem marketing its smart phones and tablets.
That is bad news for Google, because Samsung is the most successful user of the Android system, and presumably other Android partners will be getting quite nervous right now. It could leave the Nokia/Microsoft partnership as the only credible opposition to Apple, and indeed Nokia shares have surged in recent weeks, although it must be pointed out they surged from a 16 year low.
Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said Samsung had suffered from a “crisis of design.”
Samsung is not happy. It released a statement saying it was: “Unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.”
The Samsung statement continued: “Today’s verdict should be viewed as a win for Apple, but a loss for the American consumer.”
But, at the risk of sounding like 1970s US TV detective Columbo, what puzzles me is this. If the US court decided so strongly in favour of Apple, how is it that a UK court said the Samsung product was not cool enough for it to be said that Samsung had copied Apple?
How is it that a court in South Korea awarded damages to Samsung, saying Apple was in breach of its patents?
It does appear that somehow, legal objectivity when applied to corporates depends on where in the world you reside.
I am not saying the US court was biased, but let’s face it, the hearing was in California, not far from Silicon Valley, where Steve Jobs was seen to have a halo almost as bright as the Californian sun.
Funnily enough, if a UK court had been asked to preside over a case involving a British company, I would not be surprised if the court decided against the British company. That is the nature of Brits. It is easy to convince Brits that one of their own was the sinner. But the French and the Americans have one thing in common: faith in their own. The result is protectionism via patriotic bias.
Looking at a broader point, global patent laws are one of the biggest threats to future innovation. They need to be radically overhauled.
These views and comments are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Share Centre, its officers and employees