There is a basic understanding in the legal profession, particularly when referring to copyright law and the defence of patents. Copyright goes stale very quickly. It is understood that to continue to be able to claim ownership of an idea or a product, one must continue to mark the territory, as it were, by putting in lawsuits against potential infringements of that idea or product.
There are numerous cases of the owners of famous trademarked characters filing law suits against people who may or may not have intentionally used a previously trademarked idea. If you don’t file a suit against one example, floodgates will open and there will be no copyright left to defend. It is basically the idea that you must defend your territory angrily and without mercy, if only to keep lawyers and court staff in business.
One such example was in the late nineties and early 2000’s when there was a legal battle brought against Nintendo by rival games company Sega. Sega claimed that they created the idea of the side scrolling platform game and wanted millions of dollars in compensation from Nintendo. The case was inevitably thrown out of the court.
In Germany however, a similar battle has ended rather differently.
Apple, in defence of the design of their iPhone 4s, have brought law suits against Samsung claiming that the Galaxy SII, the Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy SIII infringe on a number of patents made by Apple such as a central button that takes the user to the main screen.
Apple claims that because of this similarity in design, Apple will lose sales to Samsung, leading to loss of earnings. In Germany the suit was recently decided in Apple’s favour, meaning that Samsung’s Galaxy SIII handset is technically banned from sale in the country.
Apple has brought a number of complaints against numerous other companies in the past too, many of them simply for being similar in style, or even because they used a similar looking logo. American copyright law demands that you defend what is yours.
In countries such as China, there is no such law. This opens the floodgates for knock offs, forgeries and cheap imitations, potentially leading to people falsely believing that Apple products are all as shoddy as the fake merchandise brought in from other countries.
The suit regarding the design of the new Samsung Galaxy is still on-going in a number of different countries, and has been dropped in yet other countries. Some have found in favour of Samsung stating that it is nearly impossible to prove that the placement of a button can limit the sales of a mobile phone by a rival company.
There are still a number of suits left to decide, and as yet it is not clear who will win out, but we will no doubt see a winner before the dust settles, but who it will be is another matter. And from the looks of things there will continue to be many similar cases into the foreseeable future too.
But in the end, I feel it is us, the customers who win in the battle of Tech Companies – in this case, Apple vs Samsung! What do you think?