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.