Last week, a Federal court found that Samsung, through its initial Galaxy line of Android phones, violated several of Apple’s iPhone patents / property rights. Accordingly, the jury awarded Apple $1 billion for the poaching, which can be tripled by the judge for Samsung’s willful infringement.
I could have told you this outcome was inevitable.
I bought a Samsung Galaxy two years ago from Verizon. The reason why I bought it was because it had the same look and feel as the iPhone it was replacing from another network. Because Verizon did not offer the iPhone at the time, this was its “iPhone” offering in my mind. It copied many of the features and functionalities that I liked on the real iPhone, enabling me to purchase an almost exact replica and substitute (though, quite frankly, had the iPhone been offered then, I would have chosen that instead).
According to one juror in the case, “It was obvious that some copying was going on.”
I’ll say – about a billion dollars (or more) worth of it.
Anyway, why do I care?
Core innovation – such as the revolutionary iPhone was / is – has to feel safe that incentives / laws which protect private property from willful theft actually work.
If those incentives / laws do not work, why take the risk to make technological innovations when they can easily be poached? Stated differently, do you think the iPhone could have come into existence in an environment that openly worked to undermine Apple’s investment by promoting the theft of Apple’s core technological innovations?
We need inventors to come to the table to create things that we want and need. Willful poaching, while seemingly inevitable, is not the incentive system that will get them there.
Theft is theft and should be punished where it occurs. The Apple v. Samsung verdict was the only verdict that could have been reached. It properly reminds the IT ecosystem that though most innovation occurs at the so-called edges, such creativity could not occur without core innovators starting the ball rolling. And to do that, core innovators demand adequate protection of their risk and investment via working patent / property rights laws.