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BLOG: What if Steve Jobs is right?

Tony Bradley | Oct. 24, 2011
Apple has been engaged in heated legal battles around the world claiming that Android smartphones and tablets infringe on its patents. Android loyalists see the legal attacks as a desperate, oppressive move by Apple to stifle competition, but perhaps the success of Android is a function of the ways it "borrows" Apple intellectual property.

No Surrender

There is some additional evidence to support the quotes from the Steve Jobs biography. Intellectual property and patent analyst Florian Mueller recently uncovered information from legal filings in the case between Apple and Samsung in Australia that demonstrate that Apple is not interested in collecting a licensing fee. It wants the infringing products banned, and its intellectual property protected, and it has no intention of selling it to Samsung, HTC, or anyone else for a few dollars per unit.

A blog post from Mueller outlines in detail some of the passages from testimony that show Apple's commitment to defending its patents. Mueller sums up with, "Apple is prepared to give Android device makers a license to "some lower level patents" but it wants to reserve various design elements and functionalities exclusively for iOS."

What If?

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a patent attorney. I am admittedly speculating.

In general, I agree that patent litigation is getting out of hand. It has become a standard operating procedure and part of the normal business model for hardware and software makers.

I don't agree with patent trolling, or using patent litigation as a strategic weapon to stifle competition. However, I do support the defense of patents and intellectual property that are legitimately being infringed upon. What if the Android OS and the devices it runs on actually infringe on patents held by Apple?

There is no denying that Android has been a tremendous success in smartphones. It has stumbled (repeatedly) out of the starting gate in tablets, but I imagine it will eventually make up ground and one day surpass Apple's iOS in that arena as well. But, it is possible that Android owes its success to concepts and technologies it does not have a legal right to make use of.

If a company came out with a new cola beverage that tasted just like Coca Cola, and its sales surpassed those of the iconic beverage giant we might put that company on a pedestal as a shining example of American ingenuity and commitment to excellence. But, if we later found out that the new cola only exists because its founders served on the board of Coca Cola and literally stole the secret formula for Coke, our opinion of that beverage and the success of that company would change dramatically.

The fact that Android is successful should not have any weight on determining whether it achieved that success by violating Apple patents. The impact an injunction against Android devices might have on the smartphone market should not be sufficient to excuse profiting from the theft of intellectual property.


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