Apple v. Samsung: Are You F-Ing Kidding Me?
Let me get this straight: The company that allowed massive copyright infringement with their no-copy protection music pod now wants to prevent a legitimate competitor from copying what…? Rounded corners and a touch screen?.
Does anyone besides me find it ironic that Apple is suing anyone for “copying” them? Isn’t Apple the very company that railed on major labels, insisting that they should remove copy protection DRM from the songs sold in iTunes so that buyers could have a “better user experience?” (Read: make copies freely.)
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was them. Thankfully, most major labels did not listen and the only one that did is regretting it– EMI.
Aside from the smack-in-the-face hypocrisy of Apple’s suit against Samsung, the legal merits have several experts shaking their heads: Apple is not taking their competitor to court for making exact copies of the design for iPads and iPhones, but rather the “look and feel” of the their innovations.
Basically, Apple is saying that rounded corners on a mobile device is their exclusive idea, oh and the idea of touching the screen with your finger to assert commands… Yeah, they got that one too.
Can you imagine the public flogging record labels would take for suing someone who created a song that “felt” like one of their recordings?
For those not familiar with patent law, “look and feel” is actually IP nomenclature, but it pretty much means what it implies: that you made something that looks a lot and behaves very much like something someone else already patented.
This argument seems a reasonable one for Apple to make. (They are leaders in just about everything they do.) Especially if you’ve seen Apple’s compelling evidence which clearly shows both phones have rounded corners and a touch screen. It all makes sense. That is, until you look at the company’s history; Apple tried this same exact lawsuit/argument once before against Microsoft. And lost.
For those under 35 here’s a quick computer history lesson: Apple was the first PC to use a mouse and pull-down menus. They did this while Microsoft and others were still using MS-DOS, which required users to type things like
…just to open a file.
Microsoft followed in 1987 with their “revolutionary” release– Windows. It looked and felt very similar to Apple Macintosh computers’ GUI (These days we shaved off the “G” and call it just a UI for, “User Interface”).
The case ended in 1993 with a humiliating defeat for Apple. The judge’s decision basically boiled down to this simplified explanation:
The concept of a pull-down menu and a device that is an extension of your finger clicking a spot on the screen was inevitable in the development of personal computer technology. Trying to squat on it would be like trying to patent the ring on a coffee cup that your finger goes through so you don’t burn your hand. This makes use of a legal concept known as the merger doctrine: ideas cannot be copyrighted, only their expression. It’s applied meaning in patent law is that you can not own exclusively something that is obvious. (You can read more gory details about the Apple/Microsoft case than you ever wanted, here.)
I have never fully agreed with the judge’s application of the merger doctrine in the 1987 Apple case against Microsoft. It seems to me that no matter how inevitable something is, it could not be that obvious if no one thought of it and then a really smart person engineered it and then a really stupid person gambled on its development.
Everything seems obvious once some genius thinks it through.
And every investor who hits the long shot is a financial wizard.
I’m reminded of that old music biz joke: how many guitar players does it take to change a light-bulb? Answer: five. One to screw it in and four others to stand off-stage and say, “I could have done that.”
But, what I believe is unimportant. The question I wish some of my smarter attorney-readers would respond to is: what makes this case against Samsung different? Why does Apple feel they have a better shot now, with a very similar argument (rounded corners and a touch screen) than they did almost thirty years ago (drop-down menus and mouse) which to me seems even less intuitive.
I’m torn on this one. I sorta want Apple to win on the grander principals, even if legally they are in a gray area, but the desire for justice in me really wants this tech company to get a taste of what it’s like to “share” some of its creative products against their will.
Up next: Apple trademarks the color white. Sues Sony for changing the Vaio’s shell.