Some Thoughts on Apple vs. Samsung

So by now you’ve all heard that the jury awarded Apple a billion dollar win in their patent suit against Samsung. This is big news in the technology world, with all sides weighing in with their opinions, thoughts, and accusations. I figured I might as well join the party.

What upsets me most about the verdict isn’t that Samsung was punished for copying, but rather that this verdict validates that Apple solved common problems. For example, one of the patents was for the ability to recognize phone numbers in text and be able to click on them to call the number. Sorry Apple, but Skype was doing that with their browser plugin, for years before your iPhone came out. This is just one example of several of the patents Apple used in their lawsuit against Samsung. In another patent, they actually claimed to have invented the idea of showing information at the top of the screen of a device (like battery levels or incoming text/email). Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t cell phones doing that well before the iPhone? I remember my Razr doing that well before the iPhone. Or what about their search patents? Samsung had to release updates to “fix” their phones because Apple has a patent on searching across databases found on a device (like search history, contacts, notes, and so on), you’re gonna tell me that searching across different data silos on a device wasn’t obvious or that there wasn’t already prior art for that (Google Desktop Search anyone)?

So while some of what Apple “invented” they have legitimate claims to, some of the things they have patents for are either obvious, or there’s plenty of prior art that the patent shouldn’t even be remotely valid. But, this verdict gives credence to not only these patents but to the broken patent system as a whole, and this is where I have problems with the verdict. And lets not even touch the whole “rectangle with rounded corners” thing that’s suppose to be “trade dress.”

What I want to call every pro-Apple person who’s claiming victory to do is to go and actually look at the patents involved. If you’ve spent anytime in technology for the last 10-15 years, you’ll see that there is, in fact, a lot of patents granted to Apple that have plenty of prior art. Apple is a great integrator. They managed to make a device that does multiple things well, something other companies have failed at for decades. I don’t want people to feel that I’m trying to discredit Apple’s contributions. They did, in fact, completely change mobile computing, can’t deny that. I’m discrediting the patent system which granted them patents where plenty of prior art existed to make some of these things either “already done” or “obvious next steps.”

The verdict is a big win for Apple, but it is a loss to innovation, not because Samsung should have been allowed to so blatantly copy Apple, but because the patents Apple has been awarded means other companies can’t do things that are pretty obvious or have plenty of prior art because Apple’s has patents on it. The verdict has validated a broken patent system, and that, I have problems with.

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11 Responses to Some Thoughts on Apple vs. Samsung

  1. Anonymous says:

    What everyone who cries foul about innovation seems to miss is that Apple offered to license this technology to Saamsung so they can legally use it to innovate on top of it and they refused. They want to take other peoples hard work and profit from it, push Apple out of the market for free. Why is that ok? What does this have anything to do with innovation? This should be a very good day for TRUE innovators who should come up with their own ideas instead of taking other people’s ideas. And Google warned them not to slap this touch wiz crap on the Android operating system but they wanted it to look like Apple’s phones. Well now they pay the price. Geat day.

    • Michael Koby says:

      I’m not arguing for Samsung’s copying. In fact I’m against it.

      What I’m saying is that several of the patents involved in the case that Apple has claim to, are either obvious or have plenty of prior art to invalidate them (including their trade dress patents). The 3 examples I gave are all good examples of this argument.

      What I’m arguing is that the patent system granted patents it shouldn’t have and that this verdict gives credence to those patents, which I think is a bad thing for innovation as people can’t do things that “make sense” or are “obvious” because Apple has been granted a patent on the obvious. The clickable phone numbers thing is a great example of this. Skype was doing that with browser plugins for years before the iPhone came out. This is a patent that Apple applied for, was granted (even though prior art existed), and was able to use as part of a court case. That is why this verdict is bad for innovation, it has nothing to do with the copying Samsung did (they dug their own hole with that).

      The argument against Samsung’s blatant copying is obvious, and Apple actually has a case for that. I never said they didn’t. But that’s just a small piece of the much larger picture which your comment wants to blatantly ignore. The larger picture and the much more important impact is on the validation of the bad patents. And no, not all of the patents Apple used in the case are bad, obvious, or have prior art, but several of them do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why did they refuse the licensing deal with Apple. If a company hires engeneers and spends mony on R&D and goes through all the expense and hard work to get something done, don’t they deserve compensation for that? That is my question here. Apple did not want to hoard these patents ( argument about patent validity or prior art or obviousness aside because if it’s so obvious or prior art how come no one else noticed or successfully made a product out of them ? )
        Once Apple made a final product out of this technology it becomes the same as plagiarism in accedemic and journalistic settings . Same happens in the scientific and medical community. If someone Copies someone else’s work this is considered criminal.

      • Michael Koby says:

        I gave 3 distinct examples of the patents and listed the prior art. That’s what prior art is, it means someone did it before hand.

        Basically you want to have an argument where you remove the actual argument I’m trying to make. Or you want to simply ignore the argument because you don’t believe there’s anything wrong with the patent system.

        Which is interesting to me, because even some of the more crazy Apple fans will still agree the patent system is broken.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you are just fixated on this issue of bad patents. What I am trying to say is. Prior art does not preclude Apple from taking credit for being the first to make it into commercially usable products. And since they were patented ( rightfully or not ) then Apple deserves monetary compensation for other companies using their technology which they invested into transforming from prior art into an iphone in my pocket. Samsung just wanted a free ride like Hyundai and Kia and a host of other SK companies. Just dip your hand in the jar and take it, no permission necessary. There is no way on planet earth that Samsung could have come up with the products they have if it were not for Apple trailblazing first even if that prior art was hung on the walls of their Seoul headquarters, they would not have figured it out. This verdict is their death knell they can’t take a single step without a blueprint from some other company. Just pathetic. This less about supporting Apple than it is about opposing Samsung.

      • Michael Koby says:

        Actually that’s EXACTLY what prior art does. If there’s prior art than you’re not suppose to get a patent for the thing your patenting because others have already done it.

        Just because Apple was the first to file for a patent on something doesn’t mean they’re suppose to get the patent. Especially if prior art exists. Basically, if there’s prior art, you don’t get the patent. At least, that’s how the patent system is suppose to work.

        So yes, I’m focused on the bad patents because this verdict gives them some validation, even though, for some of the patents, prior art exists. And that’s a bad precedence to set.

        We’ll see how it all holds up during the appeals process though.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually I respectfully disagree with you on this point. What was present before as prior art was no where near the finished product that Apple came up with to preclude them from being granted patents for it. There is a big leap of creativity between what was present and what Apple made. This gap is patent worthy in my view. There seems to be this idea that Apple’s designs and technology are inevitable. That it’s the only way things can be done and that is simply not true. And as much as I dislike Microsoft I have to give it to them, their windows phone is different and unique. That’s how things are done. They licensed with Apple and abided by the no cloning agreement, put their minds to it and came up with something good. Now there is innovation for you.

  2. Defish1970 says:

    I would love to see the patent system be better swifter faster. At the same time I have never heard of as big of a deal about the patents until Andriod came along. So my question is, does it not seem like companies like Microsoft, HP, Motorolla, iBM, Intel, Dell, Apple…Etc…..were all playing by the rules of the patent game, spending a lot of time, money, and lawyers fees cross-licensing until Andriod came along as a free OS for all device maker? I am most diffently bias, not just because I like Apple’s integration, but also because if I work my butt off as and programmer, or designer to do something really cool, different, and like nothing else out there, I would want my hard protected. As a company paying for these employees to work they best at putting all the pieces together and figuring how to do it the way they did, you better protect their work if you want them to keep giving 120%.

  3. rforston says:

    extremely simple: Did Samsung copy Apple’s code? Apple uses iOS, Samsung’s uses
    Android. No code was copied. Apple does NOT own hand gestures, or a rectangle
    with rounded corners. This is nothing but the biggest corp in the world
    bullying a competitor who’s winning their game. So no, Apple with try to stifle
    them in court. Was code stolen?, NO! The jury decision was a travesty. This is
    akin to say, Ford is the 1st motor company selling a car. Chevy goes into
    business after them. When Chevy’s start selling, Ford sues Chevy, Stating they
    can’t use 4 wheels, or a steering wheel, or windows and seats, because Ford had
    them first. Ridiculous. If you build the entire thing yourself, using no stolen
    code, in a different operating system, then nothing was stolen. Hand gestures
    and rounded corners to a rectangle cannot be copyrighted. Not by a fair system
    the values innovation.

  4. Chad Hulbert says:

    I think you misunderstand the patents you cite.  

  5. Chad Hulbert says:

    I think you misunderstand the patents you cite.  There is a difference between patenting an entire concept and a novel implementation of an existing concept.  Apple doesn’t have a patent on phone number recognition,  they have a patent on their novel METHOD of recognizing phone numbers (among other things).

    Patents describe many thing things but what’s important is what they CLAIM.

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