Mmm, autumn; the leaves turn to warmer colors, the air grows cooler, and the apples are ripe for picking - even in the tech industry, you won’t find a sour Apple around here, as it seems that the Cupertino tech giant has decided to sweeten its demeanor and end patent trolling once and for all. Allegedly, the whole “Apple vs. Google” thing won’t come down to hundreds of patent lawsuits anymore, as Apple plans to disband the patent troll group “Rockstar” (although Apple is not the only member of Rockstar, it is, in a way, the “leader” with the most shares).
You’ve probably been aware of the patent lawsuits in some way, shape, or form over the past few years. Media outlets were all over it, especially in regards to the “Apple vs. Samsung” lawsuits. The amount of "Apple vs. Somebody" lawsuit news articles in our own PhoneDog archives are plentiful to say the least. As for the lawsuits themselves, they usually boiled down to a defiant foot stomp followed by, “They copied us and that’s not fair.” In a way, it felt like anybody who started these lawsuits had a right to; after all, copying is just rude. On the other hand, this is the tech industry. Copying almost seems necessary in order to move forward. The late Steve Jobs himself once said, and I quote:
“Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
Of course, in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder was also quoted saying, “I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," in regards to an Apple lawsuit against Android handset maker HTC - but ultimately aimed at Google’s Android in general - due to the fact that Android had surpassed the iPhone’s popularity at that point. Apparently, copying and stealing are only okay if it’s Apple doing the dirty work. Or at least, it was.
It’s been pointed out that this change of heart might be largely in part because of the shift of Apple’s leadership. With Tim Cook now serving as Apple’s CEO following Jobs’ passing in late 2011, it would seem that Apple as a whole has taken to much calmer seas since the leadership change. Jobs, who was known for his hot temper and fiery ambition, was hot on the lawsuit button. Cook, on the other hand, seems much more mild-mannered and more focused on making sure that Apple doesn’t lose everything it has worked for over the past several years - which Jobs was also quoted in saying he would gladly throw away in the name of justice against Google. I’ll admit, in general it seems like Apple has become much quieter over the past couple of years (except, of course, when there’s a new product launch). It does seem to paint the company in a more humble light.
If the patent troll group Rockstar is officially disbanded, I think that it would do Apple some good overall - especially because it also means good news for consumers as well.
Even if you haven’t been paying attention to the lawsuits over the years, you’ve likely been affected. You might have pre-ordered a device that you’ve been dying to get your hands on, just to find out at the last minute that it’s actually being held hostage over some unsettled patent lawsuits. Affecting a much larger amount of people is the fact that these lawsuits, which can cost billions of dollars, inevitably ends up coming out of the pockets of consumers.
Probably most importantly, though, patent lawsuits prevented manufacturers from focusing on what’s really important in this industry: innovation. When everybody is too busy pointing fingers at one another, nobody is taking the time to actually create the next best thing. They’re all too focused on the last best thing, and who ripped off who. It was slowing progress down.
While patent lawsuits will continue to exist, the end of Rockstar hopefully means that they won’t be nearly as dramatic or unnecessary. There are certainly cases that exist where patent lawsuits are justifiable, but many of the suits that were popping up out of nowhere had very little grounds to start off with. Dropping Rockstar will (hopefully) allow all manufacturers affected by these dramatic banters focus on what’s really important in this industry: bringing back the innovation.
So, thanks Apple. Apparently, the sun can shine on Mordor.