Great, another tech company has filed another suit full of patent infringement claims against a competitor. Yawn. Get over it, it happens every day, move along already. Or at least direct your anger at the system that demands these legal battles, and not the businessfolk who engage in them.
The downer about Apple's suit against HTC ... and Nokia's suit against Apple that preceded this one, and NTP's patent suit against RIM that was settled back in '05, and all of the consumer tech patent suits that came before those (including TiVo vs EchoStar, remember that one, DirecTV fans?)... is that companies who have to sink resources into fighting lawsuits wind up with less time, energy, money, and people-power for innovation. And in the end consumers suffer along with their favorite gadgetmakers, since innovation drives product, and good products drive sales.
We still buy products because they're good, right? And not out of some sports team-cum-nationalistic blind allegiance for or against any particular brand name. Right? Maybe?
Likely governments shouldn't be granting patents on user interfaces and other common elements of mobile phone design. The notion that something like "Swipe to Unlock" is patentable is, well, pretty laughable. But you know what? The Patent Office granted Apple the patents, and so Apple has a right - and a duty to its shareholders - to defend them according to the rules of U.S. and International law. Just as NTP and Nokia had the right/duty to protect their patents. It's a boring, resource draining, ugly cycle - but it's how the game is played.
Yes, it's all pretty ridiculous. And, yes, it feels like schoolyard bully posturing. And, yes, it all smacks of fallout from the end of Steve and Eric's star-crossed love affair. But it's the same story that's made and broken many a business many times over.
If you want to complain about something, don't bother complaining about Apple this or Nokia that. Complain about the methods and standards used by patent offices and courtrooms to dole out patents, laws, and other rules and procedures that govern big business and "competition" in the 21st Century marketplace. NTP, Nokia and Apple are no more or less evil than any of their competitors when it comes to seeking out and defending patents. They'd be fools not to do so, unless the rules of competition are changed. Hate the Game, don't hate the player, right?
Don't for a second think that I'm happy about Apple making HTC a pawn in their growing megawar with Google. The last thing I want is anything getting in the way of HTC showing off their new handsets at CTIA later this month, Apple readying iPhone OS 4.0 for (hopefully) a June launch, or Google getting their de-fragmentation of Android underway and pushing out 2.1 upgrades to all current U.S. handsets. I want innovation, I want better products, and I want continued and growing support for the handsets and services companies have already sold us on. I don't want legal wrangling getting in the way of consumer "goods," in the most literal sense of the word.
And yet, while I'm disappointed in Apple and Google (don't give me that "Do No Evil" nonsense - Google's in it to win it, period), I also can't really blame anyone's legal department for playing the game. If a national or international patent office granted my publicly traded company rights to a piece of intellectual property, you bet I'd have my legal eagles on the constant lookout for possible infringements on our turf.
Would I rather see Apple and HTC team up on a supergadget than spending their time filing court papers? Of course. Is that gonna happen any time soon? Of course not. Do the laws governing intellectual property and tech patents need some critical revisiting and, perhaps, rewriting? Seems like maybe they do.
But it's all part of the process, and really, just another day at the office. Ten years ago everyone hated Microsoft for being an evil monopoly and rooted against them in courtroom showdowns. Today Apple's getting largely the same treatment. Likely it'll be Google's turn a few years hence. And so it goes, for better or for worse.