Patent Law Fights Are Killing Innovation

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by Lagosian

 Patent laws as currently structured is killing innovation. Whilst this might be a subjective opinion, one should look no further than the current battle going on between Apple and Samsung, two titans of the tech industry to see that if more companies begin to follow in their footsteps, there can only be disaster ahead.

Just going by market value, both these companies are worth upwards of 300 billion dollars, yet instead of keeping their battles strictly on the products they churn out, they have in recent years been involved in a nasty legal spat that will have terrible repercussions for business and the tech. industry.

Here is a timeline of the case and what has been happening.

Interestingly, both companies have worked together in the past, and still do so but to a lesser degree. Samsung was responsible for creating some of the processors that have run in the Iphones.

Apple believes Samsung copied the design of its IPhone for its flagship phone the Galaxy series. Samsung denies that, and claimed Apple was infringing on its software patents. From there on, it’s been one side claiming the other side is infringing on its patents, whilst the other side counteracts by claiming the same.

Apple was awarded more than one billion dollars in damages, a fee that was later reduced to 450 million dollars. Samsung appealed the decision, and both sides are still embroiled in court(s) all over the world trying to one-up the other. As an outsider, I can’t help but feel disappointed that these two companies continue to resort to such strategy, spending both money and time in what many view as a needless battle.

For those who might be wondering what a patent is, below is a brief definition of what it is and why it differs from copyright law.

WHAT IS A PATENT?

A patent protects inventions or discoveries. One can say it’s a form of copyright, but unlike copyright, in other to use said invention, the permission or authorization of the patent holder is required.

Also there are companies like Microsoft and Rockstar, who buy a ton of patents and then license it out to technology firms. They have no interest in creating products with some of the patents they own; rather they see them as investments that can be used to bring back money for their respective owners through procedures such as licensing.

Congress in making new copyright laws for this digital age has to think long and hard about the role of industries and corporations in deciding what’s beneficial for them and the public. One should note that just because it helps the corporation doesn’t mean it helps the public.

I have provided examples of tech giants like Apple, Samsung and even Microsoft who have used the court room and patents to generate billions instead of using the marketplace. It is very disturbing how companies now actively go out and purchase patents like we would groceries, but not because they intend on using said patents to create products that would get out into the public, but to arm themselves and prepare for any litigation and in some cases, be the ones doing the litigating. I believe when the first patent and copyright laws were created, this was not what the creators had in mind. In fact one could say this is detrimental to the economy because instead of companies and corporations duking it out in the marketplace, tossing out ideas that the public gets to decide on and benefit from, said companies and corporations would rather hoard such innovations and sue others.

A lot of the technology we rely on is only possible because of patents but if these big companies have their way, the progress that has been made in that realm is going to come to a grinding halt, as innovators will be too concerned with not getting sued rather than churning out the products required to improve the industry.

 

 

 

References

Why are Apple and Samsung throwing down? A timeline of the biggest fight in tech. (n.d.). Digital Trends. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/apple-vs-samsung-patent-war-timeline/#!ZuJRK

Samsung confirmed to be manufacturer of Apple’s new A7 chip in iPhone 5s. (n.d.). Samsung confirmed to be manufacturer of Apple’s new A7 chip in iPhone 5s. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/09/20/samsung-confirmed-to-be-manufacturer-of-apples-new-a7-chip-in-iphone-5s

Pepitone, J. (2013, August 8). Apple vs. Samsung scorecard: a timeline of the patent battle. CNNMoney. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/08/technology/mobile/apple-samsung-timeline/

TechRadar. (n.d.). Computing reviews, news. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.techradar.com/us/news/computing/how-microsoft-makes-money-from

Backed by Apple and Microsoft, Patent Troll Makes Money Off Android | Business | WIRED. (0014, January 21). Wired.com. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.wired.com/2014/01/huawei/

How much is that patent lawsuit going to cost you? – CNET. (n.d.). CNET. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.cnet.com/news/how-much-is-that-patent-lawsuit-going-to-cost-you

 

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4 thoughts on “Patent Law Fights Are Killing Innovation

  1. I see your point in condemning the negative behavior that many companies have in buying tons of patents to hypothetically protect themselves in the future. On the other hand I consider patents as a high costly, (especially if you want to have protection in every country of the planet), useful instrument that brilliant mind have to protect their inventions and make money thanks to their genius. And this is even more true if you think about that smart people all over the world, developing an own idea, are able to create start up companies. This is why I think that patents as structured as they are are still a useful and necessary instrument to protect new or small companies.

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  2. Patents have always been seemingly interesting to me. I believe that we definitely do need patents in order for our creative drive to be protected. In some instances it is taken to the extreme, however, if we do not protect ourselves, people can come right behind us with he right investment and still what we have spent much time working on. It’s almost having a lawyer in the form of a piece of paper.

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  3. This makes me think of an analogous issue concerning law stifling creativity. Digital content creators always run-up against artist copyright laws and the challenge of working around them. On the one hand we promote new content creation (for instance YouTube promoting you to share your home-made videos), but on the other hand it is fairly easy to have your content removed or blocked by copyright law. Yes, copyright laws are important, and so is creating a more flourishing digital space suitable for the emergence of new digital artifacts.

    Of course, for this analogy, a brilliant middle-ground idea comes along like Creative Commons. I wonder if such a thing can happen between Apple and Samsung.

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