After a few weeks of fairly dry news coming from the patent wars, we have something a little more entertaining. This week US district court judge Robert Scola said that Apple and Motorola “have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end.” I am going to resist the urge to say something sarcastic since sarcasm doesn’t always translate well through the written word, but this just seems so obvious it is quite a challenge.
This lawsuit was initiated by Apple, along with a plethora of other patent related litigation against HTC, Samsung, Motorola and others back in 2010. Apple’s claims have ranged from the embarrassingly untrue (claiming to have invented the concept of an app store) to the nefariously untrue (attempting to patent the square). Of course these lawsuits spawned many counter-claims, especially from Motorola and Samsung. And although Apple has had the occasional small victory, they have failed to get any relevant products pulled from the market or to win a significant settlement from any of their competitors. Last summer’s decision that would have required Samsung to pay Apple $1 Billion was significantly reduced, and wouldn’t have stopped Samsung anyway.
Of course all the while Apple has continued to lose market share and customers to Samsung and Android in general. We have also seen the iPhone go from a product people thought was at least innovative to the public at large seeing the iPhone stagnate when compared to exciting new products from its competitors. Has Apple failed to innovate for the last three years because they are spending so much money on litigation against their competitors? There is no way to know that for sure, but the correlation is certainly there.
Why would a district court judge get the impression that neither side in this battle is looking to actually solve anything? Because they aren’t, of course. Do you think that Tim Cook and Larry Page are personally involved in getting this litigation over with? Of course not. The people who are in charge of handling this litigation for their respective sides are attorneys. Each side likely has hundreds of lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants working around the clock. All that time adds up to millions in billable hours and much of that money goes directly into the pockets of the very people who would be responsible for actually getting something accomplished in court.
On one side we have Apple who is determined to enforce objectively ridiculous patent claims in an attempt to keep superior products from dominating the smart phone market. On the other side we have lawyers employed by Motorola/Google who have every motivation to keep this mess going on and on. All this adds up to an unnecessary quagmire that bogs down the US legal system and makes a mockery of the patent system that has led to some of the greatest advances mankind has ever known.
It is the tale as old as time: Lawyers get rich while the rest of us lose out. Have a great weekend everyone.