Intellectual Property On Technology

Laws regarding patents have not kept up with the context of the new technologies which emerge and as they mature, become legal hunting grounds where companies battle with lawyers and scientists who speak a cryptic form of the English language.

I for one am not sure what this specific Samsung/Apple argument means in plain English. What I do know is that (innovative technology aside) Apple is often an arrogant and assuming company that is more used to dictating to others (both consumers who purchase their products and their competition) than it is accustomed to being admonished by the same courts it uses to intimidate competitors.

So Apple finally loses a court case because this time, those murky patent laws don’t hold up for them. Although Apple’s technology is often top notch (and comparatively pricey), the one thing Apple has yet to learn is humility. Then again, remember the real history of Mr. Jobs who got ‘lucky’ decades ago when he got a preview of PARC technologies, which Xerox did not at that time fully comprehend. No, he didn’t steal technology, but he did get a peek up Xerox’s skirt and the seed of an idea followed which became the Apple most of us know today. Let’s not forget the ‘gift’ those fickle Finns gave Jobs and Apple when Nokia failed to advance the smart phone technology they developed years before Jobs and his folks figured smart phones out.

So the business world is a mixture of innovation, intelligence, determination, chutzpah, and luck. Jobs and Apple were always heavy on the ‘smart’ part of the story, but they arrogantly down play the luck part of the equation and never learned humility. This time a court spanks Apple for misbehavior and Apple doesn’t like it. Tough luck.

This case was essentially moot before it was decided. Maybe Apple needs 3 to 6 more months (until they introduce the models 2 to 3 generations ahead of the ones disputed in this case) until they stop production of the iPhone 4. I don’t think they produce any of the other models in question anymore. I think they get 60 or 90 days without an appeal; maybe they’ll appeal to create a safety cushion. But put aside that this is Apple and Samsung, or whether the idea of rounded corners on a rectangle is patent-able. Just imagine the scenario:

Company X sues Company Y for patent infringement. Company X wins the case, meaning Company Y stole their IP. But by the time the case is settled, the technology is no longer in use. So Company Y was allowed to steal Company X’s technology for nothing but the cost of IP lawyers who were good at delaying the process. If the legal system can’t keep up with technology, then it is failing miserably. And it is failing miserably, both in the timing as described, and in it’s inability to clearly define IP and patents.

About the author: Zohaib is former CEO of Nadia Textiles and currently a franchisee for Pearl Continental Catering in Lahore and investor-founder of several B-corporations, notably Uth Oye.