In California, Steve Jobs is worshiped. At least in the region surrounding the Apple headquarters he is. It’s not like those Egyptian Pharaohs, who became gods after they died, but it is not that much different.
And so it was that court based no more than half an hour’s drive from Apple’s main offices decided Samsung was in breach of some of the US companies patents. The fine of $1.05 billion seemed pretty big, but Samsung can afford that.
But in Japan, courts ruled broadly in favour of Samsung. In South Korea, Samsung had part of the ruling go its way, another part went Apple’s way. In the UK a judge said that Samsung was not cool enough to be said to be copying Apple.
Meanwhile, in Holland, Samsung has to employ an odd line of reasoning to try and sway the judge. It’s case rested on the argument that the Samsung product was not as good as Apple’s. See Cult of Mac, Samsung Had To Claim Their MultiTouch Software Is Terrible Compared To Apple’s
But how can the final decisions be objective when they differ so wildly across the globe?
Meanwhile, in the FT James Dyson pleaded the case for tighter patents. “As patents become harder to define, afford and defend, many manufacturers think it is fair game to copy intellectual property“ said Dyson the man who invented the…err, Dyson. He added “Samsung defended its smartphone by saying it was ‘following the technology’. This is like telling the police that you were speeding to ‘follow the flow of traffic’. You are still breaking the law.”
Mr Dyson said “We cannot afford to devalue patents and technological innovation in such an offhand way. When it is easier to profit from copying than from investing in research and development, you curb invention.“
Sorry James, you are wrong. You may be good at making vacuum cleaners, but that does not make you an expert on what is in our collective interests.
Innovation occurs as ideas build on other ideas. That’s the story of innovation, from making fire to designing the latest operating software. Patents stand in the way of this progress.
There is superb talk here from Ted. See Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises He likened an idea to a candle. When it is lit, we can all make use of the light if emits. But when we then innovate ourselves, we produce another candle and the light becomes even brighter.
If it could be shown that without patents people will stop trying to invent things, then that would support Dyson’s case, but there is no evidence to support this argument.
But in a world of complexity, and today’s world is pretty complex, to compete in any kind of technological industry, you need to be both smart and knowledgeable. And you can gain that knowledge by sharing ideas with other like minded people. Such people will only give you the time of day if they respect you. The more you innovate, the more they respect you.
That’s why IBM has got behind Linux, the free operating software. It sells its expertise to corporate clients, but this is expertise it is only able to gain by sharing openly in the innovation process.
First mover advantage is incentive alone for innovation.
Some say instead of patents we have prizes for innovators. But as this article suggests, see Prizes as mechanism to fund innovation: We all lose, that just encourages secrecy and works against cooperation.
Innovation comes via cooperation. For it to occur we need effective communication between innovators. The greatest medium ever invented for facilitating this, in the internet. Current patent law is the biggest threat.
And here is a shameless plug. The Blindfolded Masochist, by yours truly makes that argument. Crowds can be barking – barking mad that is. But they provide the secret to progress, to all the great innovations.
For more, and to buy the book, go to this page.
©2012 Investment and Business News.
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© Investment & Business News 2013