What do patents and rectangles have in common? Well, a lot if you're Apple and Samsung. As the most important patent trial of our day begins in the heart of Silicon Valley, Samsung's Chief Product Officer, Kevin Packingham, sits down at Wired Magazine's office in San Francisco. While there, he speaks out about his frustrations on just what our judicial and patent system allows.
When asked why Samsung seems to focus on technology instead of design based patents, Mr. Packingham voices what we've all been thinking, "In terms of patents, we have a made lot of contributions in the design space as well. I would say the patents we're struggling with â€” where there's a lot of discussion and litigation right now â€” are around these very broad design patents like a rectangle. For us, it's unreasonable that we're fighting over rectangles, that that's being considered as an infringement, which is why we're defending ourselves."
Yes, this entire case for Apple boils down to a few rounded edges on rectangles. And such frivolousness sounds very familiar if you've followed these cases worldwide. Nearly a year ago, in Germany, Apple won a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 on the basis of infringement on Apple's alleged "community designs."
What's interesting about that case were the extremes Apple was willing to go to in order to win an injunction. Tampering with evidence? Yes. The world's most profitable company apparently is in the game of photoshopping images in order to win. In a key piece of evidence, Apple changed the aspect ratio of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, misled by showing the application dock instead of the typical home screen, and even removed the Samsung logo in order to "prove their point." See below.
This is a shameless (and I mean shameless) approach to stamping out the competition. When their products and patents can't win on their own right, they make stuff up. If one is worried about a few rectangle patents, then perhaps one should be more worried about perversions of law Apple will create because they're afraid of their own shadow.
Ironically, Samsung provides many of the components that make up the iPhone yet Apple still attacks them on all fronts. Packingham addresses this, "There are times when I'm absolutely appalled that we sell what I consider to be the most innovative, most secret parts of the sauce of our products to some other manufacturer â€” HTC, LG, Apple, anybody. And they [the components groups] are like, 'Look, that's none of your business. You go make your mobile phones and if you'd like to use our components, that'd be great.' But you know, we also use Qualcomm components, and we source from other component manufacturers as well."
As this is an Android site, I am sure many of you wonder, "Why just not cut off the supply chain and see what happens?" I've often wondered this. If Apple insists on biting the hand that feeds it, why not rear back and knock its teeth out? Well, the iPhone is one of the best selling phones in the world and undoubtedly brings Samsung a mint from their parts contribution. As long as that phone is successful and Apple asks for parts, Samsung will sell them.
Kevin Packingham sees this peculiar relationship as an anomaly in the tech world, "In the current environment, there's just one company that's firing the first shot consistently. Most everybody else seems to be getting along really well. There are a few areas where there has been some contention recently, but if you look at those areas of contention, they were legitimate and people were able to come to terms, business terms, that were reasonable. That's the way the system should work."
As the proceedings continue this week, we're sure to find out a lot about Samsung, Apple, and their dysfunctional relationship. Not to mention, this is a crucible for the inexperienced federal judge, Lucy Koh, who isn't in the business of making intelligent decisions (much like her German counterparts who accept faked evidence).
And seeing as Apple is already good at Photoshop and basic geometry, I'm curious to see how their legal team stacks up.