Has Apple bitten off more than they can chew?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 25, 2011

If you haven't read or heard about the patent trolling that has been happening as of late, you likely do not turn your computer on very often. For the past several months, Apple and a handful of Android partner manufacturers have been duking it out around the globe in a battle of who can be more trivial and who owns more vague or general patents.

To be honest, when this whole thing started, Apple had a decent case for themselves. Samsung put very little effort into trying to hide that their inspiration for the design of the international Galaxy S was the iPhone. Don't get me wrong, there are some major differences between the two, like the larger display and capacitive buttons on the Galaxy S or the home screen versus app drawer argument. But even the custom Android software, TouchWiz, that shipped on the Galaxy S looks remarkably similar to that of iOS, down to stock icons. There is no denying the uncanny similarities.

If Apple had stopped there, everything would be fine. Patent cases like this happen all the time and the two companies typically come to an agreement – a settlement outside of court or subsequent licensing. But Apple obviously didn't stop there. They have pressed on and pursued similar cases against HTC for a number of their handsets, Motorola for the XOOM and Samsung for several different devices.

Personally, I never believed it would go this far. I have never doubted Apple's capacity to use their weight for pushing around and bullying smaller companies. But they have stooped to a new low by doctoring official documents used in the suits to improve their case. They have relentlessly pursued other companies for some of the most trivial things imaginable, even after said companies have tried to settle and get back to focusing on making devices and innovating instead of pointing fingers and arguing about who did what first. And surprisingly, Apple has actually been granted an injunction on the sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany on the absurd findings that "other designs are possible."

That very injunction was the straw that broke the camel's back. The victim, Samsung, has vowed to return fire, which could easily hit Apple where it hurts. Google has stepped in to help, using Motorola's broad patent library. And now other companies are chiming in to hopefully put an end to this ridiculous, childish battle.

Injunctions and patent trolling do not only affect those directly related; they also affect third-parties like wireless providers and case manufacturers. Not only would a granted injunction directly hurt a carrier's sales, but also the expansion of their infantile networks. Coming from PC Mag, Verizon has chimed in on the issue, requesting an official amicus curiae brief from the courts:

[The injunction] would hinder Verizon Wireless in developing and deploying its next generation high-speed LTE network, the job growth dependant [sic] on that network, and will undercut key public policy goals, including expansion of American's [sic] access to broadband networks and faster communication with emergency personnel.”

Samsung is one of the few manufacturers that currently provide LTE-capable devices. Verizon believes that limiting the already short supply of LTE devices will negatively affect their ability to entice early adopters to their LTE network. With fewer early adopters, there are fewer people to convince the more "mainstream audiences" to adopt LTE devices as well. David Murphy of PC Mag equates this to "a snowball rolling down a hill" that will ultimately interfere with "Verizon's ability to develop and deploy what it's spent a lot of time and money building."

Lest we forget that Verizon is not the only wireless provider with strong ties to Android or quickly building out new networks. This also affects T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. It's only a matter of time before all of these companies set aside their differences and come together to put this patent trolling tirade to rest, once and for all – but not before Google, Motorola, Samsung, HTC and others have a chance to throw some below the belt punches back. If Apple had stopped before taking it too far, they would have nothing to worry about. But this could easily blow up in Apple's face now. They stuck their hand in the wrong cookie jar.

What say you, guys and gals? Will Apple's trolling blow up in their face? Could it possibly affect current and future carrier relations?

Image via The Telegraph