Monday 27 August 2012

Not over yet

There has been an impressive amount of thoughtful writing over the weekend about the on-going Apple-Samsung patent trials. I haven't seen too many fanboys crowing about it, but that might just be that I've not read the places where they write. And in any case it would be far too early for them to claim that iThis and iThat have conquered all.

Last week we saw both a Solomon-like judgement in South Korea where some phones both Apple and Samsung were banned for infringing each others IP, followed by a curiously one-sided result from the US.

I don't have any doubts that in the early stages of developing their amazing Galaxy line Samsung did indeed copy the lumpen iOS interface. I remember avoiding certain Samsung phones precisely because they did look like iPhones, however the things that are being quoted as being copied clearly have prior art, and that's disturbing.

At least the jury ruled that consumers could tell Galaxy tablets and iPads apart. A small element of common sense in the noise, especially when there are tablets on the market that really are physical copies of the iPad design down to the logo on the back.

What's also interesting is that it would seem that the jury didn't follow the judges instructions properly, and that alone is cause for an appeal if not a retrial. One of them has been quoted as saying he wanted to punish Samsung - not a very balanced sounding comment and demonstrates how the trial, inevitably, turned into a circus.

Apple's blind rage against Android and actual belief could lead it into unexpected trouble. One is that the result has apparently worked as an endorsement of Samsung devices: just as good but much cheaper, seems to be the message. The other one is that, having provisionally established that a rectangle with curved edges can be claimed by one company, that same stick can be used to beat Apple. And the recent Motorola claims are now reinforced.

The real winners are, of course, the lawyers, and the losers are consumers who will probably have to pay more for phones and tablets. More importantly, small companies with good ideas are also losers asit seems them have no protection under the current US patent regime.

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