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EETE SEPTEMBER 2012

UNCOMMON MARKET Apple v. Samsung: rights and wrongs By Rick Merritt BOTH APPLE AND SAMSUNG — are right—and wrong—and Compared to Samsung you don’t do much work on forwarding here’s what I think both sides ought to do to get some sanity the fundamental technologies that give us the LCDs, batteries, back into the mobile industry and the patent process. There’s communications networks and microprocessors we need to enough greatness and pettiness to go around in the cramped make cool gadgets of all kinds. courtroom of Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose Federal Court where That said, you used all those components damn well. So give Apple and Samsung are suing each other for patent infringe- yourself a pat on the back, and take that chip off your shoulder ment. while you are doing it. Apple deserves some kind of acknowledgement for creat- And while you’re getting humble, let’s hear a little more ing something unique with the iPhone, a distinctive looking candor about how the electronics industry uses lowcost labor. It handset that put Web access in your pocket along with a phone didn’t start with you by any means, but maybe you can use your and music wrapped in easy to use software. In its own way, the clout and fat bankroll to bring some meaningful reforms to labor equally distinctive iPad also was different from tablets that went practices. After all, your complex designs that require lots of before in its clear focus on consumer Web browsing with really hand assembly have certainly pushed the edge of this dark side easy-to-use software. of the Industrial Revolution 2.0. But how do you express that in the arcane language of a patent? The patent system is encrusted with obtuse procedures Samsung’s side of the street and stiff, vague language. It needs a course with Strunk and Samsung’s documents (displayed in court) showing feature- White, the masters of crisp writing and thinking. As many have by-feature comparisons of its unreleased S1 handset and the noted, patents have become a quantity game, not a quality iPhone are shameful. Each page makes nearly explicit recom- metric. mendations for aping features on which Apple has patents. Apple did a reasonable job trying to write patents on all the This is aggressive competition gone way overboard. It is neat little ideas it put copying patented into its casings and technology. You did coded into software. it. You gained the But they should not lead in the smart- have been written as phone market in part a few dozen patents, because you did it, rather they should and you deserve have been written as to be reined in with a few dozen claims in some sort of punish- one iPhone patent. ment. Imagine an iPhone We expected to patent with claims see clunky no-name on the shape of the clones of the iPhone device, the metal come out of China bezel, the big screen, a month after the the colorful, well-lit iPhone was released, icons on a black and we did. We background that didn’t expect this bounce back and snap to the screen. Imagine them written in slavish professionalized copying from Samsung. plain English rather than fusty patent-ese. Still, the lights stay on pretty late in Seoul where they develop There would be no problem for a jury of average San Jose some of the world’s finest chip technology, displays, batteries Joes and Janes determining whether or not such a patent was and much more. There are hundreds of hard working engineers violated. in this company and they deserve their due. In becoming one of Excuse me, now, while I proceed to take Apple off its holier- its largest customers, Apple has already paid Samsung a form than-thou pedestal. I am as touched by anyone by the emo- of silent respect. tional language of Steve Jobs that still lives on at Apple and has When this trial is over, Samsung probably owes Apple a been invoked often in Judge Koh’s courtroom, but let’s tell the check, though it may not be for as much as $2.5 billion. Indeed, other side of that story. Samsung showed some pretty compelling evidence of how the The lofty language of Steve Jobs also acts as a drug to dupe iPhone appears to infringe some of pretty broad mobile patents talented Apple employees into overworking and living unbal- it owns. anced lives. It has been used to brainwash Apple employees Speaking of what’s owed in all this, Apple could write one to into believing they are somehow better than other people that the diligent workers at Foxconn who help it amass its “iFortune” put their pants on one leg at a time. along with Apple’s retail staff that reportedly works for an aver- Get real, Apple! You don’t own the rectangle with rounded age of about $12 an hour. corners. You didn’t invent the smartphone, capacitive touch After observing the maneuvering in a San Jose court, one screen displays or browsers on handsets. thing seems clear: It’s time to put an end to this patent mad- You aren’t the only creators of beauty on Planet Earth. ness. 4 Electronic Engineering Times Europe September 2012 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE SEPTEMBER 2012
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