Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Note to Apple: Shut up and Compete

It's time to live up to the 'Less Apple' portion of my blog.

Since 2010, Apple has been suing companies left, right and center for patents. It would be pertinent to mention here that most things claimed to be invented by Apple, are, in fact, NOT invented by Apple. That includes the mouse, the windows-based graphical user interface of a PC, the all-touchscreen phone - in fact pretty much everything you find within Apple products. Voice recognition technology, or 'Siri', is but a version of the same kind of facilities present on the Symbian operating system for years.

Yet, this morning there is a news that US Customs has halted at least some shipments of the HTC One X and EVO 4G LTE (presumably at the Port of Los Angeles), as a result of an earlier ITC order won by Apple over a patent lawsuit for "data tapping" (context-sensitive text-based actions) in the browser and messaging apps on some HTC phones.

Earlier, Apple got various courts in Germany, Australia and the US to actually ban the sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab in those countries. In those countries, Apple has also patented 'big-screen with a single hard button' design and therefore saw fit to make the claim that the Galaxy S2 infringed on its designs. 

I agree that the Galaxy S2 follows some of the same design principles as the iPhone. But Apple itself launched the iPhone after LG Cookie and various other phones which had a large touchscreen up front. No one in their right mind can mistake a Galaxy S2 for an iPhone. The similarities in design claimed to be infringements on patents is like claiming that Audi copies BMW by providing 4 wheels with its cars. Or Sony copies Philips by providing a big screen on its TVs. If you don't believe me just look up the details on the internet. Interestingly, on mainstream tech blogs, no one seems to question the sanity or integrity of these claims. 

This kind of lawsuits are all the rage within the tech industry. However, the difference with Apple is that judges all over the world seem too eager to grant relevant stays and injunctions favoring Apple with such astounding speed that the mind reels. It seems that in the entire world only Apple's claims are worthy of being heard and granted speedy decisions. 

I don't claim to be a legal expert. However, the disturbing frequency with which these patent claims are arising suggests that a conspiracy is at play here. I won't refrain from suggesting that Apple is bribing a host of legal personalities and media outlets to get its way. There is no other explanation. This makes even more sense given how the late Saint Steve Jobs publicly committed to annihilate Google and its Android OS, implying that the vastly superior OS was a copy of its own iOS. 

In a larger context, these lawsuits are making cowards out of rival manufacturers. HTC, Samsung, Motorola etc, are now too anxious not to face legal battles and are removing features or modifying them in their products. In other words, this phenomenon is stifling progress. This is a sorry situation and the biggest losers are consumers like you and I. 

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