Who Cares If Samsung Copied Apple?

There are no winners here.

This is particularly relevant in the context of the Apple/Samsung trial, because it isn't the first time Apple has been involved in a high-stakes "copying" court case. If you go back to the mid-1990s, there was their famous "look and feel" lawsuit against Microsoft. Apple's case there was eerily similar to the one they're running today: "we innovated in creating the graphical user interface; Microsoft copied us; if our competitors simply copy us, it's impossible for us to keep innovating." Apple ended up losing the case.

Given the underlying reason that Apple has been bringing these cases to court was to enable them to continue to innovate, it's hard not to ask: if copying stops innovation, why didn't Apple stop innovating last time they were copied? Being copied didn't stop or slow their ability to innovate at all.

If Apple ends up winning this case against Samsung -- and either stops Samsung from releasing their phones and tablets to the market, or charges them a hefty license fee to do so -- does anyone really believe that the market will suddenly become more innovative, or that devices will suddenly become more affordable? Similarly, if Samsung wins, do you really believe that Apple will suddenly slow its aggressive development of the iPhone and iPad? It's certainly not what happened last time they lost one of these cases.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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17 Responses:

  1. Stewart says:

    There are winners: lawyers.

    • Jon Konrath says:

      Don't forget tech sites with link-bait headlines running pay per impression ads.

    • Owen says:

      That's like saying, "There are survivors: Roaches."

    • 205guy says:

      What about Apple stock holders, don't they win if the R&D spent by Apple get a higher return? It just seems like it takes lots of directed research to create a sleek and usable UI, it doesn't just happen with a single designer on a single iteration. Wouldn't Apple stock go down if a copycat was allowed to sell a nearly-identical-appearing item? And I find the "think of the innovation" line to be disingenious. Who was innovating, Apple or Samsung? If copy-cats and ripoffs are allowed, won't people stop innovating and just copy (copy those who happened to have a decent product)?

      • jwz says:

        If copy-cats and ripoffs are allowed, won't people stop innovating

        No. It turns out.

      • nooj says:

        Copying doesn't prevent innovation; just like smoking bans don't prevent drinking or live music.

  2. Lun Esex says:

    I'm sure that author wouldn't mind if someone took his article and copied it to somewhere else with his name removed and their name in it's place. To make sure it wasn't a total copy they'd be kind enough to make sure it was posted using a different font. This would of course in no way impact on his ability to innovate in writing other articles in the future.

    • jwz says:

      Your comment is so stupid that now you owe the Internet an essay on copyrights and patents and how they are not the same thing. Go stand in the corner until it's done.

      • Leonardo Herrera says:

        You get better each day at dissing hecklers. It's like watching a highly trained athlete.

        • Sheilagh says:

          jwz may think his life is a lesson to others (what not to do) but what he's done for me is become that wicked little voice that says "are you SURE you want to post that comment? REALLY? (hammer poised, ready)"

      • zaba says:

        For extra credit, may I suggest that Lun researches GUI and what Apple "borrowed" from Xerox Parc?

        • 205guy says:

          Another failed analogy (jwz commenters are notoriously bad at analogies). Yes, Apple flat out stole GUI ideas from Xerox Parc. But were those ideas already implemented in a wildly successful product? No. One could argue that Apple took a risk in stealing unproven ideas. What risk did Samsung take?

          A better analogy would be if somebody wrote an xpwm that happened to look 99% like the Windows XP desktop. Would the redmond lawyers just sit idly by? Probably yes, because there is no chance of anyone threatening Windows (not this decade). But what if you forked android and made it look like Windows mobile? People could easily be confused (or happily buy the clone to get the nice L&F without dealing with M$). I think the Redmond lawyers would be all over you.

          Or what if techcrunch (already green and black logo) adopted jwz's blog (and DNA business) theme to get developer cred?

        • Eric Will says:

          Apple didn't steal anything from Xerox. Apple paid Xerox with pre-IPO stock in exchange for getting to use the ideas behind the GUI. It's well documented. Also, the GUI that Xerox had was very crude. Apple invented pull down menus, overlapping windows, the mouse pointer, the menubar, and lots of other stuff.

          The only reason Apple lost the "look and feel" case is because they had inadvertently granted Microsoft a perpetual license to the GUI.

          http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=On_Xerox,_Apple_and_Progress.txt

        • Eric Will says:

          Not to mention Apple had its own GUI before the PARC visit. Bill Atkinson had a windowed environment up and running on the early Lisa well before the visit to PARC. He even had scrollbars and resizable windows and popup menus before the PARC visit. The major thing the PARC visit really inspired was the mouse, not the GUI.

  3. Ben says:

    This case is not about encouraging innovation at Apple; it is about encouraging innovation at Samsung.

    • Monkey Mind says:

      This is very interesting, because I automatically assumed it was about money. Thanks for shedding light on my unrecognized preconception there.

      Cheers,
      Florian

    • Grey Hodge says:

      I assure you the last thing Apple wants is ANY competitor innovating, especially one of the largest handset makers in the world. This is an attempt to cripple a competitor, it has nothing to do with innovation.