Apple winning Samsung suit sets dangerous precedence

The verdict for a landmark technology case was heard Friday in the U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in San Jose, Calif. The two plaintiffs were the two smartphone giants Apple and Samsung.

For those not in the know, Apple and Samsung have been embroiled in a lawsuit for more than a year now with regards to various patent and design infringements by both parties against the other.

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Apple fired the first shot, claiming that the design of many of Samsung’s smartphones and tablets are essentially copies of the popular iPhone and iPad, while Samsung has countersued claiming that Apple’s iPhone and iPad utilize technologies developed by Samsung without paying for the right to use them.

After a very short four days, the jury returned with their verdict. Samsung is guilty of almost all the patent infringements Apple put forth, while Apple has been found guilty of literally nothing.

Personally, I find the whole thing rather absurd. Looking over the claimed patent infringements put forth by Apple, most of the patents relate to design elements that seem rather self-apparent.

For example, one patent involves “double-tapping to enlarge and center portions of an electronic document.” To me, this seems akin to filing a patent for say, doubling clicking an icon and that icon launching the program associated with it.

Or, it would be like if one car company sued another for including a pedal that could be pressed to provide gas to the car engine to increase the car’s acceleration.

Now, perhaps if Apple could prove that Samsung or Google had copied the source code required for such an action to occur, then I feel Apple would have a leg to stand on. To me though, it just looks like Apple got one-upped by a competitor and can’t stand to lose.

One can look to another tech giant for a precedent of Apples actions. The Oracle corporation, responsible for Oracle database systems and other related software, was also in another high-profile tech lawsuit recently, this time directly attacking Google for its use of Java in the Android operation system.

Looking at Oracle’s overall and technology timelines on its Wikipedia page, one can see that in the last five years Oracle has released one major technological project, but in that same time it has acquired 10 other tech companies and pursued at least two high-profile, high-stakes lawsuits.

In other words, it seems as though Oracle has decided to use its mass, wealth and political clout to buy out smaller competitors and bully larger ones. To me this looks just a little bit like the current route Apple is pursuing.

Think about it for a moment. The visionary leader Steve Jobs is dead; only a year ago Samsung was trailing Apple in terms of smartphone market share, and has now shot from second place to first with an almost 200 percent lead on Apple.

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It seems as if the driving force for innovation at Apple is gone and Jobs’ legacy isn’t enough to keep the competitors at bay. What’s a washed-up company to do but strike out in one last hurrah? In the current court case there is little downside, if Apple wins they take their market monopoly back. If they’re defeated they lose some cash, and maybe a bit of public face.

With the recent ruling the jury seems to have decided that Apple can do no wrong, and Samsung can do no right. It is amazing what good marketing can do for a brand’s image, even in court. Samsung has now had more than $1 billion in fines levied against it for the “infringements” against Apple, and will essentially have to scrap all current productions of their phones until they can remove all infringing elements.

Hopefully Samsung will appeal this until a higher court realizes the folly of this verdict because if this verdict stands it will set a precedent allowing Apple to sweep through the tech industry, and destroy almost every other smartphone and tablet competitor.

Hamilton Reed is a senior computer science major. His columns appear Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.