Recently, a long-lost video surfaced of Steve Jobs from the 90’s talking about how Apple steals all of their great ideas. His comments in the video have caused an uproar in the technology world. His statement, along with recent evidence of Apple’s patent-bulling has made #BoycottApple a trending topic in the social media world.
We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
I Wish I Was an Attorney for Apple
Patent bullying and ongoing competition by litigation and intimidation are common practices by Apple. It seems like every single day, they are suing somebody else for something. Yet, they are also paying out money all of the time for ideas that they have stole, while most of that goes under the radar. In fact, Apple just wrote a $60 million check for stealing the name ‘iPad‘. $60 Million? That’s chump change for the company who has more money in their bank account than the federal government. Small price to pay for not having to come up with your own ideas.
The latest stunt came earlier this week when Apple sought to ban importation of the Samsung Galaxy S III (the request for preliminary injunction is before a judge and a ruling could come as early as next week). The phone launched in 28 countries on May 29 and goes on sale from five US carriers within the next 30 days. Many tech reviewers and pundits have called Galaxy S III an iPhone 4S killer. Apple doesn’t have a competitive product in market so instead seeks to block Samsung’s — all under the guise of protecting innovations.
Imitation – Ok for Apple, Not for Anyone Else
Apple has become quite skilled at making it seem as though other companies are imitating Apple, and that its trendy ideas must be protected. However, Apple isn’t as innovative as they want you to believe. But the company has gotten quite good at something: Unleashing a torrent of lawsuits to secure patents and to defend them. Apple has gotten quite good at gaming the patent system.
More than anything, Apple is master of imitation; they follow in the paths of many predecessors, which have existing technologies and materials to generate new technologies by recombining them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. You should get ideas from other successful companies and products. In fact, the patent system encourages that. But, Apple’s game of stealing ideas and then turning around and suing the true innovator for stealing their idea seems sleazy to me.
Everyone Imitates; What’s the Big Deal
That’s true. Look around you. There is imitation everywhere. The fast-food restaurants do it. Clothing stores do it. Look at Myspace/Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Tumblr… these new social media sites, imitating its predecessors in one way or another, are popping up all of the time. So why am I calling out Apple?
Apple has a patent for their slide-to-lock. You know – the way you slide your finger across the screen on the iPhone or iPad to unlock the phone? Apple has a patent on that. It’s theirs. They invented the idea of sliding something to lock it! Um…
Look at the picture above. Doesn’t look to me like Apple invented the slide to lock technique. So why do they get to patent it? Because they are Apple! And this is what they do. They steal ideas, improve upon it a little bit, release it, patent the idea and then sue you for stealing from them.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to Steve:
Competition by Litigation
The smartphone market is quickly consolidating around Apple and Samsung. Almost everyone you know probably has an iPhone. If they don’t, they most likely have an Android, of which Samsung is the biggest producer for those mobile devices. So that’s great – a little Apple vs. Samsung competition. That makes the companies strive to create better products and also keeps prices down (sort of) for consumers. But, for some reason, Samsung strives for better products while Apple strives to sue Samsung, intimidate them with additional frivelous lawsuits and bully the company rather than focusing on a little healthy competition.
Apple’s patent litigation seeks to limit choice in the market place, by eliminating competing products rather than meeting them head on. Apple doesn’t sue just any company. Its patent litigation focuses squarely on competitors. Sadly, the broken US patent system contributes to Apple’s competition-by-litigation success.