Its been a difficult few years for tech companies as they find themselves constantly playing catch-up to Apple’s diverse and adaptive product line. Samsung, one of Apple’s main competitors, has been hammered with lawsuits since it first released its Galaxy S smartphone, as well as its Galaxy Tab 10.1. To an impartial onlooker these two products, especially in their infancy, have an uncanny resemblance to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. As result, Apple has filed suit against Samsung claiming several patent violations. Apple seeks nearly $2.5 billion in damages as well as several injunctions on Samsung products in a case that is being heralded as one of the most monumental patent cases in recent history.
The late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, was known for his competiveness, which often blurred the line between passion and insanity. During a previous dispute with Google regarding its Android operating system, Jobs told his biographer,
“Our lawsuit is saying, ‘Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.’ Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products — Android, Google Docs — are shit.”
This is an interesting statement coming from a man that also admitted, on several occasions, that innovation is not purely spontaneous, essentially stating that in order to innovate one must first imitate. It can be argued that Jobs never created anything completely innovative; rather he took what already existed and designed a more seamless and attractive product.
In business and product development, we should be careful not to constantly point fingers and call theft on every product produced. Any industry leader is going to have to deal with considerable amounts of imitation due to the inherent nature of possessing a product that is quite undeniably superior. With that said, it is true that Apple has a responsibility to itself to challenge companies such as Samsung in order to maintain its dominance. It is nearly impossible to have black and white written laws stating what is and what is not a patent violation. Because of these enormous grey areas, it will be extremely interesting to hear the verdict that comes from the San Jose courtroom in a matter of days.
This case will be regarded as one of the most important involving tech companies, although it is unlikely that it will be the last. The real existential threat to Apple and its proprietary system and devices is Google and its operating system Android. Ironically enough, the battle between Samsung and Apple is not literally a “thermonuclear war,” as Steve Jobs had once phrased it, because Samsung and Apple are somewhat symbiotic and rely heavily on one another. Samsung is one of the main supplier of parts for the Apple iPhone, and an iPhone would quite literally not exist without Samsung. So as big of a case as this is being made out to be, it is likely that this is just the initial battle in Apple’s war against Google.
Apple, Google, and Samsung will all survive through the hundreds of lawsuits that have been and will be filed. The question is, which one of these companies will come out on top? Though there has been much talk of Apple losing a majority of its grip on the tablet and phone market it seems that this is unlikely. There will always be a group of several thousand people typing on their MacBook Air, shifting weirdly to pick up their iPhone 4S as it rings in their pocket while remembering that they never charged their iPad. This is, of course, all happening while sitting in their tent outside the Apple store three days before the iPhone 5 is released.