Seow Tein Hee's Blog

Seow Tein Hee male Former Associate Editor

Attuned to the latest mobile technology and news, Tein Hee is always on the lookout for innovation and creativity in the mobile industry.

The Patent Wars

By now, most of us would have heard about the breaking news - Apple has filed a lawsuit against HTC, makers of both Windows Mobile and Android devices. The charge? Patent infringement related to the iPhone's user interface.

While this patent war makes for a great drama in the tech scene, let us think about something else - who are the beneficiaries of such patent lawsuits?

The winners of the lawsuit? To be honest, the time and effort spent in asserting one's right to the technology does cement who has the innovative minds and came up with the ideas. But let's be practical about it. Think about the legal fees involved, the time and effort spent battling in court. Won't it be better served to divert the financial and vested interest towards research and development?

Consumers? Nay, consumers are more concerned with the end product and the usability of it. Truly, do we really care if someone infringed upon another's patent, enhanced the experience and made it even better? At the end of the day, when you have an unhappy consumer, it's related to the product's usability level. No amount of publicity of how the device is ahead of its time with its patented technology will assail the consumer's angst with a less than pleasant user experience.

As of now, Apple is still locked in legal action with Nokia. And yes, once again, it's a patent infringement lawsuit. Is it really wise to draw that much attention over these alleged patent intrusions, or better for Apple to move on and show us the goods with better, faster and more intuitive devices?

I'd prefer to read some breaking news about Apple's next big thing (no, not the iPad), than see this endless tussle between companies.

All Reponses

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The next big thing is not an easy thing to do. And as we can see in the industry full of "me too" or xerox-ed products. A true innovative, state of the art original idea is hard to come by. At average, Apple has managed a handful of those since its revival in the past decade of Steve Jobs return.

While the consumers and industry insiders are expecting Apple to continue to innovate, i truly believe that there are too many companies out there who reap the rewards of the hard work of others. Case in point, the iPhone lookalikes out there. Before the iPhone came about, most mobile phones and smartphones unlocked using a numeric code. Now, as articulated in the lawsuit against HTC, they are sending out a warning against those who copy ideas (actually not just ideas, but copyrighted ideas) of using a gesture to unlock the functions of a phone.

True, it has become a common feature for a lot of touch screen phones these days. And a lot of people will say, what's the big deal? The big deal is that Apple made it popular... and now others are flaunting this to sell their own phones for their own profit. As much as we frown on the China made copycat iPhones, some other bigger manufacturer out there is doing something similar to their phones... albeit in varying degrees of subtlety.

We can't say Apple is not doing both
1. Continuing to innovate (hopefully) the next big thing products
2. At the same time protecting its intellectual assets

these two things CAN run concurrently... and is not mutually exclusive of one or the other. If Nokia is engaged in a lawsuit, they do not stop their business just to go to court.

Apple has about US$40 billion in its cash reserve. I am sure they will let the accountants and legal dept to protect that and worry about the legal proceedings... while Jonathan Ives continues the task at hand with little interruption.

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