As a Macbook/iPod user, I’m emotionally torn by yesterday’s news that Apple is suing HTC, one of the primary developers of Android phones, based in Taiwan (and the maker of my brand-spanking new Droid Eris). The suit seems to be squarely aimed at the Nexus One, Google’s answer to Apple’s iPhone.
Apple is claiming patent infringement on about 20 technologies that, frankly, seem to be nonsensical to any layman lacking a JD in patent law (can you really patent the ability to unlock a smartphone by swiping your finger across the screen?). Gizmodo has a great break down of each complaint.
According to a lot of IP experts, this is another example of one of the major problems with our patent law system in the United States, which was created to spur innovation. Instead, we’re potentially getting the opposite when one behemoth of a company tries to squash a smaller competitor with lawsuits and an army of patent lawyers. (Nokia is also suing Apple for patent infringement for using their wireless technology).
And according to the New York Times, HTC/Google is likely to countersue and could settle out of court with Apple, considering the sky-high costs of patent litigation. The worst outcome for Droid users, obviously, would be if Apple is successful in some of its claims, forcing HTC to dismantle some features on its phones.
The point that needs to be emphasized, IMHO, comes from Eric Von Hippel of MIT’s Sloan School of Management who told the New York Times, “The social value of patents was supposed to be to encourage innovation — that’s what society gets out of it. The net effect is that they decrease innovation, and in the end, the public loses out.”
Either way, we do know is one thing will remain true through this ordeal: Steve Jobs is acting like a dick.