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Monday, September 3, 2012

Apple vs Samsung - is it a case of trying to patent a door knob?

I have been following this Apple vs Samsung patent violation case with total amazement. I am not a patent lawyer but a software developer and I own a Samsung Note as an act of defiant allowing me to flash such a device in Apple Store just to annoy them showing off the cool features not found in Apple devices.

I fully agree with this assessment that Apple should lose on appeal. To the US Apple fanbois, this may be a shock but if you step across the Pacific Ocean, such expectation is not wishful thinking but already a reality. In Japan, the court threw the case out and in Korea their court has found Samsung did not copy. In Australia Apple lost on trying to ban Galaxy Tab 10.1. S3 are selling like hot cakes.

I am a late comer to using the so called smart phone but not a stranger to this kind of mobile devices judging from the collection of PDA of different vintage in my drawers.

Recently when I was holidaying in HK, I did an unscientific survey of what kind of smart phones are used. What's better place than in the HK MTR to make my observation. To my astonishment very few brought out any iPhone! The number of non-Apple devices easily out number Apple device at least 2:1. This was before the verdict of the Apple vs Samsung case. There are so many people using Note, particularly for watching videos. iPhone's screen is a midget by comparison.

The result of this survey is not too far off the mark from market report on the smart phone market in China. The Android phones market in that part of the world is being placed as commanding 60% of the market.

From my observation Apple must be very desperate in clinging to this 'Pinch to Zoom' which is like patenting the door knob action. I wonder if anyone has patented on that.

This gesture is not so unique to Apple. The Fujitsu Windows 7 tablet I was testing has already have gesture like swipe, pinch, stylus operation, mouse and keyboard operations.

I grow up with PC from the CPM/DOS day through the day when Apple Vs Microsoft, which thankfully failed to stop the march of Windows GUI allowing the whole family of GUI operating systems to flourish. Apple has been litigious since those days. A journey through decades of evolution of GUI operating systems, from highly proprietary to open source, clearly shows Apple's claim that patents are essential artefacts to encourage development is false and just delusional.

From what this layman's eye, Apple is more interested in using litigation to stop competition and an attempt to monopolize the smart phone market and their latest antics supports such a claim. As a technical people, I have found their product only technically on par with others and in some situations worse. Perhaps Apple's Ads has some truth in it.

If anyone can't buy Samsung of the model of your choice in US, there is the Internet coming to your aid. While Apple may win the court battle but it will lose the war. Why?

Scarcity is what makes an item more valuable and desirable, not just smart phone. There is no bragging right for whipping out a common toast-thick iPhone comparing to Apple-induced-banned slick and sexy wafer-thin S3 or even my Note. US has a good history of prohibition failure.

If the market for Samsung in US is blocked by whatever means, the mobility of today's population and the Internet will provide a teaser to entice people to seek out those hard to get items to show off. I don't think Google will be too willing to block search result for 'buying Samsung S3 in US'. You can also go to Alibaba or to create business opportunity for a reverse Shipito, which has defeated those US online merchants using geo-blocking technique to protect their distribution channels.

Anyone doubting that should consider this real-life situation created entirely by Apple's marketing machine. When Apple iPhone 4s was released, Apple thought it could whipped up more hype by staging their release world wide. Hence they deliberately delayed the release in HK, a place where people love to be holding hard to get gadgets, and not even announcing the release date to create more mystery and hype.

With the advent of the Internet, people in HK jumped on the Internet and ordered iPhone 4s from Australia, a place not contaminated by artificial whipped up super-hyped marketing technique, delivered to local address and then couriered to HK. iPhone 4s was so abundant in Australia when it was released that anyone could walk in and picked them up. I personally know several people shipped iPhine 4s and the DHL was doing a roaring trade. People are now gearing up to take order for iPhone 5 should Apple uses the same marketing hype again.

The comical part was that these devices came from China and was then ship back over the border to HK, China's SAR.

Witnessing the failure of this kind of strategy, which attempted to create scarcity, Apple quickly announced the release date and the price and desirability of iPhone 4s in that place vaporised as quickly as a puff of smoke.

The reverse applied to Australia. When Apple managed to temporarily secure a ban on the sales of Samsung Tab 10.1, the interest on this device shot up and people simply went online to HK or elsewhere to import them. This only hurt those local companies selling both Samsung and Apple devices. Samsung Tab 10.1 was not renounced as the most brilliant tablet but with of the help from Apple, its desirability shot to the top of the bunch and now is so well known that is synonymous with iPad. This must have saved Samsung lots of advertising money.

The same will applies to S3 and Note and other great devices yet to come. There will be good business opportunity for shipping to US Samsung S3, Note, Tablet and others devices that Apple wanted to ban. The victory, if any, would be hollow and pure academic.

That is the reality and it is better for Apple to learn to live with others saving lots of legal expenses. In so doing will earn admiration for its prowess for marketing a device in fiercely competitive environment rather than to beating other into submission through legal muscles on something as silly as trying to patent a door knob. At the moment, it has earned the dubious title as most litigious and angry company.

Door knobs are door knobs, you can't and shouldn't be allowed to patent that. All the best to Samsung and thanks for such a great device as the Note!

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