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.
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.
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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/
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