Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Design A Mobile Phone?

Plenty, if your company name is Apple. Or Samsung.  Probably also Google, judging by the current wind direction.  The list used to include HTC too, but that looks like water under the bridge for now.

There's been a lot of suing and counter-suing going on lately.  Most of it appears to be around who thought of flat, rectangular mobile phones with rounded corners first.  Gene Roddenberry, probably, but like Steve Jobs he's not with us any more so isn't in a position to counter-sue.  Steve left a legacy for that eventuality. In case you missed it, here's a potted round up.

Apple and HTC have been popping in and out of court for years, keeping the lawyers gainfully engaged in the process.  Apparently they have come to an agreement recently, although the suspicion on the street is that HTC have seen the eye watering judgement against Samsung earlier this year and decided to cooperate with Apple rather than face them down.  Apple have entered into the spirit of things and shelved their litigation for now.

Of course that Samsung case is still rolling.  A US court awarded over $1billion against Samsung for infringement of its designs.  A UK court didn't come to the same decision, but then again they didn't have a jury foreman who might have had a grudge against Samsung.  You see, the foreman in the US case had been sued by his former employer, Seagate, a company that Samsung now are a major shareholder in.  He ended up a bankrupt as a result of the litigation and Samsung are now suggesting that he may not have been unbiased in the Apple case.  Add that to the fact that Apple have chosen, under a certain amount of judicial duress, to state publicly that the Samsung design did not infringe its designs and you've got a case that will roll on for years - literally as the appeal isn't due to be heard until 2014.

But Google could be the big target of Apple's wrath.  Apple have already had a pot shot at the Android operating system, claiming that it stole a chunk of ideas from them.  Now Google own the Android system, have done for years - from before either they or Apple had launched a mobile phone operating system.  Now, of course, Google are venturing into the mobile phone market directly with the Nexus 4, the iPad mini market with the Nexus 7 and the iPad grown up market with the Nexus 10, so the dynamic is changing.

Apple have several beefs with Google, one being that for now they need the company.  Virtually every search on the web today starts with Google.  Sure there's Bing and a few others, but Google is the search engine of choice for most of the planet, which means Apple have to include it on their devices.  Which means they have to pay Google for that right.  Google maps is another predominant mapping technology and up to now Apple have had to pay Google a pretty penny for the privilege.   Apple have consequently invested vast sums of money in developing their own version, but screwed up big time by rushing it out - that's the reason for the recent iOS6 upgrade.  Unfortunately the mapping  didn't work and in fact, for the few who actually saw them in action, behaved terribly.  That's why they rushed out iOS6.01 which reverted to Google maps - most of us hadn't got around to upgrading the OS  by then hence we never saw the maps in action.  However people keep on mentioning them in their blogs, so it isn't going away.

If only those pesky bloggers would let it go.

My guess is that Apple will have fixed the problems by now, but they will have to be really certain before they re-release the mapping routine.  You can only make a first impression once and they squandered that with iOS6.  The re-launch needs to be perfect and probably will need to be wrapped around something really tasty to take everyone's eyes off the past.

All of this legal activity could have been better directed.  We all know about how Apple missed a vital detail when buying the iPad name from a failing Chinese company, not noticing that China wasn't included in the deal.  That cost them about $60M for the oversight.  Now they've paid a Swiss clock firm $21M for using their clockface in iOS 6 without permission - that could have been a lot cheaper, given a little foresight and some decent legal eye for detail.

But perhaps if they sat down with all the tech companies they are suing, with the lawyers out of the room, perhaps they could hammer out a deal that didn't involve suing everyone else stupid.  Then the lawyers could get back to what they do best - oh, I don't know.  Changing lightbulbs?


I can be followed on Twitter too - @RayASullivan
or on Facebook - use to find me

Why not take a look at my books and read up on my Biog here

Want to see what B L O'Feld is up to?  Take a look at his website here

Worried/Interested in the secretive world of DLFs?  Take a look at this website dedicated to DLFs here, if you dare!

No comments:

Post a Comment