There was a pretty huge development in the patent struggle between Apple and Samsung over the weekend, as a jury in the US ordered Samsung pay Apple over one billion US dollars in damages for violating patents.
What’s most telling about this decision isn’t the money, or the verdict - it’s that the system is clearly broken and needs to be fixed.
While Tim Cook may be celebrating the fact that an American jury judged in favour of the American company over the Korean one last week, the fact remains that this particular patent lawsuit has been playing out all over the world for the past year and verdicts have varied.
In Australia, the verdict initially fell in favour of Apple with the Galaxy 10.1 tablet initially being denied an Aussie launch, although that injunction was overturned on appeal.
In the UK, Samsung won a backhanded victory over Cupertino with a British judge deciding that the patent claims were unwarranted because the Korean company’s tablets weren’t as “cool” as the iPad, and therefore nobody would confuse the two.
Even as recently as last week, a South Korean judge found that both Samsung and Apple had infringed patents, although Apple was the worse offender out of the two.
So with so many different verdicts being delivered in different countries around the world, which company is truly in the wrong here? Is Apple being overzealous with its patent applications? Or is Samsung’s approach to its Android devices flawed?
Or is it a case that maybe the patent system, which was designed to protect innovation in a time before the internet and the ubiquity of information, is fundamentally broken in today’s age? When millions upon millions of patent applications are filed for the smallest, most insignificant feature and the bodies responsible for awarding those patents aren’t able to adequately determine whether or not a patent is in fact an original, innovative idea.
Samsung’s announcement following its one billion dollar judgment last week was everything you’d expect from the losing side, but one quote did stand out:
“It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies.”
Unfortunate indeed. Clearly it’s time that the patent system was overhauled, so companies like Samsung and Apple could spend less time squabbling over who copied who and more time creating exciting, innovative products.