August 25, 2011

Apple's fruitless patent fight with Samsung

The media was quick to declare victory for Apple in it's case in Germany to ban the sales of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones:
The patent wars in the handset business intensified Wednesday when a Dutch court banned the shipments of three Samsung smartphones to Europe, based on a lawsuit filed by Apple.
 The judge said the Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones — Samsung's flagship Android handsets — infringed on Apple's photo management patent. The ruling did not apply to the Galaxy tablet, though Apple also included that product in its legal filing.
 There's only one small problem with Apple's "victory", Thom Holwerda explains it best:
The judge has ruled that Android 2.x violates Apple's 868 patent which covers scrolling through photos on a touchscreen. Only this one patent is violated - the complaints about two other patents as well as the design patents has been thrown out. In other words, the judge did not agree with Apple that Samsung is copying Apple's design. The injunction only covers the Galaxy smartphones, since they run Android 2.x; Android 3.0 does not violate the patent in question, and hence, sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can continue.
 In fact, only the Gallery application violates the patent in question, and Samsung has already stated it is going to replace this application on all new Galaxy smartphones from now on - sales won't even be interrupted.
In other words, after all this bluster and litigation, Apple's victory amounts to making Samsung update it's photo viewer software: was it worth it?  Of course all this is likely to end with a cross-licensing deal between Apple and Samsung that may eventually cover the enormous costs of patent litigation.  Just in time for another patent battle over some new emerging technology.

Samsung couldn't have paid for a better publicity campaign than Apple's numerous lawsuits against it.  After all, if Apple is to be believed, the Galaxy tab and phone are just like the iPad and iPhone but wonder Apple is worried!  I'd bet anything that the Galaxy tablet and phones will now sell more than if Apple had never sued, not that we'll ever really know.

I'd also bet that Samsung's Galaxy line doesn't sell anywhere close the number of iPhones or iPads Apple will.  Apple can't seriously expect to maintain its mammoth two-thirds share of smartphone profits and three-fourths of the tablet industry and if Apple somehow managed to do so, would it be because they they sued their Android competitors or made the best product?

Apple will never admit it, but it's a better company and the iPad and iPhone are better products because of the competition from Android.  Instead of fighting fruitless legal battles with Samsung, Motorola, and HTC Apple should focus on making the best product and letting the markets decide, and it often decides in Apple's favor. I know that sounds a little cliché, but it's true, why not focus it's legal efforts fighting Lodsys and Intellectual Ventures instead of Samsung and HTC?

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