Generally, I like to completely ignore the fact that all of this patent nonsense is still going on. One company sues another because they feel a product infringes on a patent, or on their device's design. Said companies come to terms, settle outside of court (if at all) and the world keeps turning.
Most of the time, patent skirmishes blow over with little to no fallout. Unfortunately, things have been getting out of hand as of late. And the repercussions of the patent war has expanded its reach to the market and wanting consumers.
Back in May, the importation of 29 HTC devices was delayed due to an ITC exclusion order due to HTC software infringing on Apple patents. Many of HTC's high profile devices were held up in U.S. Customs for several weeks while the lot was tested to see if HTC had applied a workaround update to remove the code Apple found infringing. Apple was also recently granted a ban on two Samsung devices: the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab 10.1. And, luckily, their attempt to block the Galaxy S III launch here in the States was rejected by Judge Lucy Koh because it would "put too much strain on her calendar".
As the saying goes, all is fair in love and war. While Apple is playing dirty, you can't really blame them for the broken patent system. It's profiting by hurting and delaying its toughest competition ... the legal way. It isn't Apple's fault that the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted petty and vague software patents (like slide to unlock, for instance). And you can't blame Apple for exploiting faults in the patent system. If it meant big profits for me and was totally legal, I would probably be playing a similar card.
But it's getting personal now. Two out of the three most recent bans have directly affected me.
I traded the Nokia Lumia 900 for the HTC One X on launch day, May 6. After a few weeks with it and exchanging some battery and usage stats with some colleagues, I came to the conclusion that my device was defective; on most days, the One X I originally purchased struggled to last 10 hours on standby. Being the lucky individual I am, I tried to request a warranty exchange, only to find I couldn't due to there being no stock of the device from the Customs hold-up. (Thankfully, I received my replacement device last week … finally.)
This time around, my hand is all but being forced. I have made plans to switch to prepaid once my Verizon contract runs out, and I have narrowed my choice in prepaid down to one or two carriers, both of which at GSM-based and allow customers to bring their own devices. Due to its carrier compatibility, the device I have been eyeing after last week's price drop is the global Galaxy Nexus. Available from the Play Store, the Galaxy Nexus is only $349 sans contract – a steal, no doubt.
Less than a week ago, however, Apple was granted an injunction on the Nexus, claiming it infringes on four Apple patents. The ban has yet to take effect, though, and the Nexus is still available for sale until Apple posts a one of $95.6 million.
The problem, however, is that I don't personally need the Nexus for another two months; my contract with Verizon doesn't end until late September. But I'm sitting here with my pointer floating above the ADD TO CART button in the Play Store in fear that the appeal by Samsung will be shot down, similar to what we saw last night with Samsung's request for a stay on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and I won't be able to purchase one come September. The same U.S. judge is handling both cases right now, so it's entirely possible that both cases could pan out the same way.
Had this ban not come hot on the heels of the Nexus price drop, I probably never would have bothered worrying about it. But considering that the Galaxy Nexus is easily one of the best options for a prepaid phone – when considering price, carrier compatibility, specs and quality – and that this is the second ban granted to Apple to affect me directly, it's all beginning to rub me the wrong way.
I, of course, am not going to contribute to the #BoycottApple nonsense that was going around this weekend. But the call for a patent reform could use all the hands it can get. Nobody could have said it better than popular Android developer Koushik Dutta on Sunday. Dutta posted a Google+ status update that reads:
"I see a lot of misdirected anger towards Apple and their aggressive use of patents. They're playing the patent system and they're playing to win. Good on them.
Your anger should be directed to the terribly broken patent system that undermines its original purpose and actually stifles innovation and competition.
Don't hate the player, hate the game. We need patent reform."
I'm a little nervous about what might happen if I purchase the Nexus via Play Store and it doesn't ship before Apple posts its bond. I have been reading about people who ordered one late last week and how their device is on track to arrive Thursday, so everything should go over smoothly. But I plan on doing a little more research and digging before completing my order. But I'm almost positive I will be buying a Nexus again before day's end.
Tell me, readers. Have any patent disputes had a direct effect on you? Have you wanted to purchase a product that has been banned? Did your pre-order for an HTC device arrive late due to the Customs delay? Are you contemplating buying a Galaxy Nexus before the ban takes place, too? Sound off below!