Many people have argued that the result of the Apple v. Samsung patent battle means less choice and benefit for consumers. I disagree. Choice based on theft is not really choice at all. It is a stall, which instead of boosting innovation actually robs from it. As Maggie Thatcher might have put it, in the long run, “The problem with copying is that you eventually run out of other people’s inventions to copy.” This cannot help society as a whole.
Innovation protected by clear property rights is generally good for society. Systems or practices that undermine it harm prosperity created through innovation.
As Vel Hogan, Jury Foreman in the Apple v. Samsung case, noted:
“In this country intellectual property deserves to be protected,” he said. “[I]f anyone, the industry at large, if any company decides to ignore the stipulations and the rules, and get too close that they infringe and do it willfully, they need to understand if they take the risk and they get caught, they should have to pay for it.”
Pay for it because consumers have already subsidized the theft at the monetary and innovation levels – i.e., paying for a knock-off; and undermining incentives to create, respectively.
How do consumers and the marketplace get a benefit back from this mess? Well, Wired had a piece that signaled not all was lost for society (even though many in the “free culture” think a crushing blow has been dealt to their cause) by disallowing Samsung’s willful poaching. In it, Wired writes:
…[I]n the fast-moving tech world, the design process has already moved on. Pick up the latest Samsung smartphone and you won’t see the hardware or software features that the jury found violated Apple’s patents. Samsung has learned its lesson, albeit in a very expensive way. Google already has a tight grip on Android, and you’re likely to see that grip tighten as it looks to avoid any of its own patent litigation woes.
The good news for consumers is that rather than waiting for jury verdicts in the future, there’s a good chance we’ll be waiting for the next crop of smartphones and tablets with forms and features that are distinct – not just a bunch of Apple copycats. (Emphasis added)
Copycatting does not equal innovation. Rather, it is its ne’er do well twin, offering saccharine instead of true sustenance. Thankfully, last week’s Samsung verdict should mean less marketplace saccharine and thus healthier IT innovation going forward – a boon for consumers as well as innovation-driven prosperity.