Asian consumers worry about innovation in Apple-Samsung fallout

Asian consumers worry about innovation in Apple-Samsung fallout

Summary: Mobile users in Asia express support for the Korean electronics giant and fears its innovation for future products may be stifled following the patent verdict.

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The Apple-Samsung verdict has sparked fears among mobile consumers in Asia that it will result in lesser innovation from the South Korean company and pave the way for Cupertino to become a monopoly in consumer electronics. Industry watchers, however, say both companies' reputation as market leaders are likely to remain intact.

A California jury over the weekend ruled Samsung Electronics had infringed Apple's design and utility patents for some of its products and awarded the latter US$1.05 billion in damages.

Samsung then released a statement saying the ruling would lead to "fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices". "Consumers have the right to choices and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products," it said.

According to Andrew Milroy, vice president of Asia-Pacific ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan, the verdict could potentially lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

He noted that non-Apple handset makers would have to "manage risks" from offering products which could potentially result in similar lawsuits, he explained. This could mean such costs would be passed to consumers, Milroy remarked.

It would also discourage handset makers from improving and enhancing existing technology, he added.

Many believe Samsung had been innovating well and some of its products were better than Apple's, so the ruling could inhibit its innovation, the analyst noted.

Phil Hassey, founder of research firm CapioIT, agreed consumers will see lesser innovation in terms of "device". However, he said more innovation will be seen in terms of how the device is actually used.

This could even accelerate the move away from device-centric environments, Hassey noted.

"Samsung is a widely respected Asian brand and I'm afraid it will no longer live up to its name because of the verdict, or that it may not have enough money to innovate anymore."

-Park Soo Jeong, marketing executive

Asian consumers fear impact on innovation, choice
Consumers in Asia have expressed fear the court's ruling would stifle innovation from Samsung.

South Korea-based Park Soo Jeong said she was "indignant" about the verdict and "worried" Samsung's innovation focus now may move in a different direction away from its products.

"Samsung is a widely respected Asian brand and I'm afraid it will no longer live up to its name because of the verdict, or that it may not have enough money to innovate anymore," said Park, who is a marketing executive.

A China-based smartphone user, Fu Dan, expressed fears consumer choice will become limited because of the verdict and pave the way for Cupertino to monopolize the market.

"My main concern [is] the customer does not win in this case and Apple will [become a monopoly], putting Samsung at an even lower position," Fu said.

Adeline Lee, managing director of public relations agency SGstory, believes Samsung's reputation will not be affected by the court's verdict. The agency does not represent companies involved or that offer products directly associated with technologies mentioned in the lawsuit.

Lee said only Samsung's earlier products such as Galaxy S1 and S2 were cited in the lawsuit, noting that people were more familiar with its newer products such as Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Tablet.

The South Korean company's branding is likely to retain its high value in Asia and people often associate brands with newer products rather than their older offerings, she said.

Hassey agreed, adding that in this long-term patent lawsuit, Samsung is "fighting as the underdog" so people will understand and realize Apple is a difficult organization to fight or compete against.

South Korean Kang Hanbyuk, who uses the iPhone, told ZDNet that while he preferred Apple's user interface, the verdict would not affect his impression of the Asian electronic giant.

"[Samsung] is famous for its innovation, and a lawsuit would not make me think lesser of them," said Kang, who is based in Singapore.

Topics: Mobility, Legal, Smartphones

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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50 comments
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  • And by innovation, you mean theft?

    From Wikipedia:
    "...innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method..."
    happyharry_z
    • I agree with Happy Harry

      The Apple Samsung verdict will help innovation. Instead of copying Apple, Samsung now needs to innovate to sell it's product. But to Samsung's credit they do make many of the parts inside the iPhone and hold some patents that Apple is using in it.

      As brutal as it sounds, the smart phone industry is more collaborative than it is competitive. Every players phone is about 90% identical to the competition but most have all the same features of which some came from that brand and some from the competitors.

      An iPhone or Galaxy or DROID are basically the same phone with technology from all the players and different labels. Yeah you can be play with screen size, the color of icons, the amount of RAM, etc... but that's just tradeoffs within the same realm of technology and general design.

      The same thing happens in the auto industry. One company adds airbags for instance, patent or not, you see it in everyone else's car within a few years. But most cars are 80% identical, all have 4 wheels, rubber tires, most use the same cylinder based ICE, etc...
      ngmsmartplanet
      • I would agree with you guys....

        but from what i read elsewhere some of the patents they "infringed" were inputs like "double tap" and "pinch to zoom" Which I see as a natural evolution of using a mouse to "double click" and "drag to resize". besides, You shouldn't be allowed a patent for something so intuitive that it was used on a touchscreen photo kiosk where I worked 15 years ago....
        Michael Changes
        • If there had been "Prior Art", Samsung would have brought it to the trial.

          > besides, You shouldn't be allowed a patent for something so intuitive
          > that it was used on a touchscreen photo kiosk where I worked 15
          > years ago....

          If there had been "Prior Art", Samsung would have / should have brought it to the trial. Given that they didn't I suspect your memory is wrong or the technology you're describing was sufficiently different as to not count. Given the fact that capacitive multi-touch touchscreens haven't existed that log, I suspect the technology you're describing didn't really apply.

          The other problem of course, is that many things that seem "obvious" once you see them weren't so obvious before that. ;-)
          Atlant
          • So true...

            At one time, "sliced bread" wasn't all that obvious, hence the popular phrase. But some apparently feel the shelf life for IP rights should be about as long as it takes to ship the first product leveraging them.

            While an unpopular opinion among the Samsung supporters, I actually think this could result in greater innovation. Rather than just looking over the fence and mirroring what's working for Apple, maybe Samsung (and others) will actually invest some R&D into coming up with something new and unique.
            TroyMcClure
          • Lazy R&D..

            .. Really had nothing to do in this case.

            If anything, Samsung is guilty of somehow translating Apple's market success into how their products look rather than operate. And in the realm of common sense, that's really only a crime if it's reasonable to assume they were trying to deceive consumers into believing they were getting an iPad instead of an Android device.

            But then, most televisions tend to look the same too, and people tend to judge the credibility of the product without the manufacturer having to go to court over it to "protect the consumer" from mistaking one from the other. Of course, since this case was profitable for Apple, we may see that now.

            What will make things more innovative will be for technology patents to expire or depreciate after a reasonable amount of time to protect the idea. Similarly to how the drug industry regulates. But as it is right now, it's far too easy for someone to patent a key idea that everyone else may have assumed was prior art. I believe ideas should have some degree of protection, but in the tech industry at least, and especially in development, the idea is usually less than 1% of the hard work, and it should be treated as such when evaluating it's worth. Actual implementation is where all the R&D money is spent, and that is an independent effort whether you're the innovator, copier or "enhancer".

            If legal departments (or worse, some average Joe inventor in his garage) has to spend half of the R&D time and budget combing through patent records to see if they're mistakenly stepping on someone's toes, I am not sure how that promotes innovation.
            PolymorphicNinja
          • So...

            Just out of curiousity, what do you think the chances are that "bounce" (or any other idea) was the first AND final solution? Because if it wasn't that meant whoever implemented it first probably brainstormed and implemented numerous solutions prior to settling on that as the best one. So, whoever was first spent R&D dollars on numerous implementations. So, if you're the copier, yes, you may have some R&D implementation costs for the final solution, but not nearly as much as the innovator, since they did all the legwork to reach the conclusion that the solution was the right one.

            All in all, my feeling is that the solution lies somewhere in the middle. I don't necessarily think every single aspect of a smart phone boils down to IP, but that's the way it works right now, lawsuits seem to need to happen on a patent by patent basis. I do feel that Samsung crossed the line in aggregate, but don't necessarily feel that every other Android OEM is doing the same just because they leverage Android.
            TroyMcClure
          • Pinch zoom and touch screen

            I am amazed by the stubborn resistance that some people have when you tell them that apple didn't invent everything. Pinch and zoom are intuitive gestures and should not be patented. Jeff Han showed this before iphone. In this video he gives credit to someone else who worked in the field in the 80's. He went on to form a company making large touch screens and Microsoft just bought that company. I wonder why, for protection maybe.

            Here is the link:

            http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen.html

            Our technology is built a small piece at a time and everyone is standing on someone else's shoulders. Somethings should not be patented. I am sure a lot of these software techs remember movies like " Johnny Mnemonic 1995". Do you think that didn't influence anything and where did the director get the idea, it must have been around somewhere............calfee
            calfee20
          • Valid point...

            Sci Fi authors are only allowed to copyright their work. Not patent the ideas expressed through the art form.

            If you want to give credit where credit is due, perhaps they are the ones who should be getting rich off of these ideas.
            PolymorphicNinja
          • Yeah, my memory may not be the best..

            ..but one finger or two the actions are nearly the same. The addition of a thumb to resize something doesn't really seem all that different to me, it just changes the reference point from the point of contact to the other finger. As far as the motions being obvious, it's all just my opinion take it as you will.
            Michael Changes
          • There was a prior art...

            There was a prior art but attorney was slow enough to put them in... But those evidences barred by Judge Lucy Koh because they were late to fill them in papers...
            AmediaN
          • The judge probably saved Samsung some embarrassment

            As has since been pointed out, the "prior art" in question was created by an Apple employee after Apple read about a Sony idea that was inspired by Apple's iPod. Samsung would not have done well to introduce this bit of "evidence".

            Joe
            jfutral
          • That judge

            failed in saving the embarrassment of her own self, though
            eulampius
          • Except to prove..

            .. That believe it or not.. Apple doesn't come up with every single idea they claim to own. Everything is inspired by something else. And Apple is as guilty of that as anyone else. There are some legitimate things that Apple has created that deserve to be protected. But there are a few things in this case that they were awarded that shouldn't qualify.

            Perhaps it didn't occur to some people that winning the case puts on record the implication that Apple does indeed have ownership of what is actually and legitimately prior art. And if that sets a precedent (which it just may do), this judge's punishment of Samsung being slow to bring evidence created a technicality that can be used in the future to stifle the ideals of innovation that Apple is claiming to protect.
            PolymorphicNinja
          • umm..

            if Samsung thought that bringing that "prior art" defense would have helped don't you think it would have been introduced into evidence 6 months prior rather than wait 24 hours before hearings?
            lbogee@...
        • Explain,

          How is "pinch to zoom" intuitive? What is so intuitive about it? How is it an natural evolution? I hear Apple opponents say this all the time, but I have yet to read or hear a rational explanation of why this is so. Even something as simple "1+1=2" needs a mathematical proof (not as easy as you think) to be accepted.

          Joe
          jfutral
          • proof

            >>Even something as simple "1+1=2" needs a mathematical proof (not as easy as you think) to be accepted.
            The natural numbers are defined this way (through a linearly ordered set or induction) : 2 is when you have 1 and 1 apples, 3 is when you have one more apple and so on.... oops, infringing on the Cook's copyright already.
            BTW, you can't patent proofs and scientific ideas, this is one of the reasons why we have any technology around.
            eulampius
          • All well and good...

            but you still didn't explain how "pinch to zoom" is intuitive and some sort of natural evolution.

            Joe
            jfutral
          • It's really pretty simple

            This is the 1+1=2 of it:

            You have a capacitive touch screen.

            The screen provides the following information:
            The position of one finger
            The position of a second finger if applicable
            The absence of a finger or both

            With this, although you might be able to click many locations on the screen, but there really are not that many simple operations that can be made.

            Image you were going to use this input device in your UI:
            First you want your new users to feel comfortable so you copy the mouse implementation as much as possible:
            Screen tap = left click.
            Hold tap = right click.
            drag finger = mouse wheel

            Now with the three things the screen is capable of inputting all that remains unimplemented that I can see is double finger tap, and double finger drag. Two options come to mind, either two users simultaneously using the device (a tiny phone and a lot of work on the UI), or measuring the distance between the two fingers.

            You have the option to move two fingers closer together (Yes, we are compressing the fingers), or extend them apart (expanding the fingers) , what functionality would you implement? Not compression of expansion of the screen, surely?
            simpleobviously
          • Enough innovation

            While the capacitive screens ability to zoom with two fingers which apple implemented is just a natural progression of being able to accept more than one finger simultaneously on the screen, I respect apple for bringing it successfully to market and setting a new industry standard - apple are innovators and have raised the bar of what consumers expect from a product.

            On the other hand their monopolistic behaviour is wrong. I think it is rediculous for them to own what is clearly a natural progression. If every idea could be owned in it's entirety we wouldn't have much innovation at all because no one would be working together, and many things wouldn't be compatible with other things, if they ever managed to reach critical mass at all. Who would use text messaging if only one phone could text or every phone had a completely different implementation. What a waste of everyones time, thank god apple didn't invent that.

            If apple are the 'real' innovators behind the 'smart phone' (an obvious progression), well I hope they stop innovating so companies like google can innovate in ways that actually enhance our experience and which other people are free to build upon.

            I don't understand apples attitude at all in this respect - if I had a company I would want my products to work as well with other products and services as was possible, and for my device to be as functional as possible for the consumer.

            This is my only gripe with apple - but they have taken it to the extent where I wouldn't bother buying their products. This is simply because what I want from a smartphone is a device which I can use in whichever way I like for whatever I like (like we are used to with a PC) and after using devices with this freedom I have no interest in apples devices anymore.

            They could be great but instead they just act like opressors.
            simpleobviously