Apple v Samsung: iJury

As most of you are aware Apple crushed Samsung in it’s suit. Every patent of Apple’s was upheld and Samsung owes Apple just a touch over $1Billion. This is going to do a great deal to chill innovation. Many other people are commenting that these patents and the idea of copying isn’t new and that Apple has stolen a great deal themselves. In one discussion with an author at the Urban Times, he seemed to argue that the theft of these ideas is more honest than copying and that Apple was a better company for doing so. Well, there’s a major flaw in that idea, the theft of an idea is essentially copying the idea, the only difference is you act as if it was always yours and that you didn’t copy someone else.

One author thinks that one billion is a small price to pay to be the second largest mobile manufacturer in the world. While I understand the thinking behind this, sure they copied a great deal from Apple and it only cost them a portion of what it could have cost. However, this is a short sighted view. The manner in which Apple has attacked Samsung isn’t going to stop and will likely intensify. The ruling in San Jose wasn’t the only ruling that came in yesterday. In Korea a judge ruled that both companies were infringing each other and banned both products from being imported to the country. The judge also found that Samsung didn’t copy and in the UK a judge also said that Samsung didn’t copy and wasn’t cool enough to be confused with an i Anything – ordering them to post it on their website.

The idea that Apple’s design for the phone’s desktop being unique is a bit absurd. They simply changed the way the buttons looked, but there had been interfaces that were extremely similar for years. I had a Sony Cliq PDA in 2001 and 2002 and some of the way that product looked was similar to the iPhone. Apple repackaged things extremely well. Judge Koh did not allow Samsung to present all the information to the jury related to prior art, which certainly didn’t help Samsung’s case (Samsung released it to the public though).

The other major issue with this case is the idea that laypeople can really understand the issues with patents. They are difficult to understand, written in legalese and intended to be so broad that they can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve read through several patents and they quite frankly are confusing and in many cases don’t convey the information they are required to convey (how to manufacture or build whatever is patented).

For a patent to be valid it only has three conditions to meet: Novel, which means that nothing like it has been done before; Non-Obvious, which means that (originally) that an expert in the field wouldn’t see this as a natural extension of previous work; now it must be non-obvious to a layperson; the final one is the possibility of industrial application, this means that the technology must be useful in some way. Many of Apple’s patents do not meet the threshold for the first two, novel or non-obvious. Now of course people that disagree will argue that in hindsight these patents are obvious because Apple did such a god job at inventing them. I disagree primarily because many of the patents are reapplication of ideas from the computer to the smart phone.

I’m extremely worried about the future of innovation in light of this ruling. I think that there will be serious repercussions and whatever comes out of this will be terrible for consumers.

Finally check out this video discussing what Apple has invented:

Complexity and politics

I’ve been reading a book called “Rethinking the Fifth Discipline” which is something of a treatise on organizational theory and complexity. The Fifth Discipline, is about creating a learning organization. Where the organization has naturally built-in processes that encourage learning through challenging mental models. What’s that mean? Well, anytime we approach a problem we have our own set ideas about what’s right and wrong with the problem. This leads us to develop specific solutions based on that perspective. When working in an organization these frameworks, perspectives or mental models can lead to conflict. Developing a method of resolving differences in these mental models is paramount to allow a company to move forward.

One of the ways to resolve these differences is to expand everyone’s perspective of the problem. To allow some of the scope to expand to generate a bigger picture. In other words, allowing people to see the forest for the trees. We know that we have a dead tree in the middle of our forest, and our actions to get that tree out may have negative impact on the rest of the forest. If one of the solutions was to burn down the dead tree, there could be some serious implications to the rest of the forest if we did that without really thinking about it. Working to resolve the differences may highlight the fact that we’re in the middle of a drought right now and that burning that dead tree would likely cause the entire forest to go up. This of course would be the worst thing we could do.

This way of viewing problems has several names, including complexity theory and systemic thinking. I believe that we have a serious lack of system thinking in our government today. There are two areas that have struck me as the most obvious and these involve the courts. The first is the continued assault on women’s rights in many different states. These state governments are slowly picking at pieces of reproductive rights of women when choosing to have an abortion or not. In some cases, the ruling is extremely narrow and seems to intentionally avoid looking at the full system of problems. The one shining light example against this is the ruling that has kept open a clinic in Mississippi. The judge realized that if this law was allowed to stand it would have closed the only legal clinic for abortions.

The other area that is a cause for concern is the recent PA ruling on Voter ID requirements. While on the face it seems like it’s fairly straight forward. I mean why shouldn’t there be a law requiring you to show a proper state ID, but then why isn’t a voter registration card considered a valid ID? Couldn’t this resolve the issue? The other factor that doesn’t seem to be considered, is the systemic efforts to make it more difficult to acquire state ID throughout the country, such as Wisconsin closing DMV locations or reducing hours – by the way Wisconsin’s voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional.

Through taking a systemic view the efforts in total indicate an effort to reduce or control the ability of the electorate to vote. While the law itself may make sense on the surface, viewing the entire system displays the total efforts and would indicate that a different ruling should be considered. This is the similar type of issue that there is with the Citizen’s United ruling. With a very narrow focus and inability to look at the full system a ruling that has dramatically changed our political landscape is seen to make a great deal of sense.