As a continuation to my earlier post on the battle (which, I don’t think has come to an end yet) between Apple and Samsung, in this post, I would like to share my thoughts on the influence and impact of this trial on the consumers and, on a larger scale, on the concept of innovation.
I stand by my point of view that what Samsung did in the first place is clearly wrong, from a legal and also, to a certain extent, a moral point of view. The first few warnings Apple made to Samsung should have been taken seriously, and not for some flimsy comments made by an angry competitor, which is how I think Samsung must have reacted. Words were just words. (It’s interesting to see that while on the one hand, ‘verbal contract’ has significant meaning and force in Korea even in business, on the other hand, because of the unwritten characteristic of such contract, Koreans do tend not to take ‘promises’ seriously) However, Apple did really mean those words, hence the tragedy that befell upon Samsung, teaching them a clear lesson once and for all that cheating is NOT good.
As much as I blame Samsung for trying to push ‘imitation’ instead of ‘innovation’ to its employees, I cannot help but think how this verdict will affect us as consumers and other people devoted in the IT world. With patents covering the round shaped corners of each icon on the phone, it is easy to assume that many companies will be scared to even venture in the world of smartphones. After all, what hasn’t Apple done so far? True, what Apple has to offer to us now did involve time and effort from those who worked there. I cannot even begin to imagine the concerns, worries, sleepless nights, trials and failures that the people behind the iPhone went through to come up with this magical gadget. Yet I see this imposition of limits and daunting possibilities of lawsuits on every tiny detail as a drawback on innovation, not an encouragement and protection, as Apple claims this whole affair is about. The time spent on ‘innovation’ will be allotted to finding out tweaks in the legal jargon that would protect non-Apple companies. People say that Samsung will now have the incentive to be even more innovative and creative with its smartphones, but really, if you think about it, how many ways are there to be truly innovative and unique with a phone? Unless you make it round or triangular, I don’t know…
Patents were supposed to protect the ‘small and weak’ creators and inventors before, but now, they’re just a limitless and convenient source for litigation, from which big companies can draw in even more cash. After all, true, mind-boggling and eye-widening innovations are hard to come by. That’s why they’re called innovations. Not everyone can be a genius like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. For those who have been born without the same gift, they, we, need an inspiration to come up with our own, minor, creations. Not so impressive perhaps, but useful in its own ways. Don’t they say that ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the mother of creation’? Even Jobs must have gotten his inspiration from somewhere, when he visited PARC in 1979 and saw the very fist Alto computer.
True, and I cannot emphasize enough, what Samsung did, copying so blatantly and without even trying to give opportunities of creativity, is wrong, but the impact of this verdict will hardly stop here. One has to think of its further ramifications: how other companies, like HTC and especially Google, will survive, and how, us, as consumers, will have to deal with a more limited pool of choices. After all, Apple makes a swooping gross profit margin of nearly 60% on its iPhones, which is higher than any of its competitors. And who else but us who will have to pay for them?
It is hard to know where to draw the line between protecting the fruits of one’s effort and providing space for further innovation. But that has always been the quest of the human species, has it not?