Mutually Assured Destruction: Google/Motorola vs. Apple

Mutually Assured Destruction: Google/Motorola vs. Apple

Summary: Welcome to the next logical step in the world of patent warfare: mutually assured destruction.

If Apple insists on playing with MAD in its patent lawsuits, you may not be able to buy any Apple gear later this year.

Apple has been asking for it, and now they're getting it.

Cupertino has been doing its best to sue Samsung's Android tablets and smartphones out of the market rather than compete with them. Now, Motorola -- under Google's control -- is returning the favor. Motorola Mobility is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the import of iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Welcome to the next logical step in the world of patent warfare: mutually assured destruction (MAD).

For those of you who didn't grow up during the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, here's how MAD worked.

In MAD-driven foreign policy, the U.S. and the Soviet Union never let things get too ugly between the superpowers because if one of them went too far, the other could bomb the other into the Stone Age and vice-versa. So, yes, there were all kinds of wars from the '50s through the '80s -- Afghanistan, Angola, Korea, and Vietnam -- but the great powers never launched nukes at each other.

MAD was a cold, hard policy; but it worked.

Apple decided to go after Android, in the form of leading Android smartphone vendor Samsung, in what Steve Jobs called "thermonuclear war." Jobs may have been a great leader and a brilliant thinker, but he was no Henry Kissinger when it came to business partnerships and lawsuits.  

Samsung promptly returned Jobs' nukes - asking for Samsung's smartphones and tablets to be banned - by throwing their own nuclear warheads back at Apple. Samsung demanded that Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPad 2 should be banned from sales for patent violations. It was then only a matter of time before Samsung's main ally, Google, would enter the fight.

As I predicted once Google was armed with the Motorola patent portfolio, it would go after Android's lawsuit happy enemies. Heck, Google chief executive Larry Page himself had said: "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies."

That day came. First, Google/Motorola hit Apple with a patent lawsuit that may yet end up banning the sale of iPhones in the US. Apple may, however, be able to dodge this bullet if the ITC rules that these patents were licensed under "fair and reasonable" (FRAND) terms.

This new lawsuit though doesn't have the FRAND fallout shelter. If Google gets its way with the ITC, there might not be any Phones, iPads, and Macs on store shelves sometime soon. Apple never should have gotten into this all-out patent war with both Google/Motorola and Samsung.

Even back in 2005, I said just how stupid it would be for companies to get involved in a patent MAD war.

Jobs insisted on making it a winner-take-all grudge match and, for some reason, Apple's current chief executive Tim Cook has stayed the course.

Sure, Apple has just become the most valuable company ever, but how long will they stay that way if Apple loses big at any of these patent lawsuits or ITC hearings? Remember, this isn't really about Apple paying megabucks to its rivals; it's about having the iPhone, iPad, and Mac being banned from sale.

How much will Apple be worth if it can't sell the iPhone 5 in the US in September? How much will Apple be worth if Apple can't sell its products in the 2012 holiday season?

If Apple wants to take a chance on going from being the biggest company of all time to being the all-time example of how a company can destroy itself with dangerous lawsuits. Cook and Samsung chief executive Kwon Oh Hyun should come to an mutually beneficial agreement as soon as possible instead of continuing to play at business thermonuclear war.

To quote from the 1983 movie, WarGames, there's only one way to "win" at thermonuclear war: "The only winning move is not to play."

Related Stories:

Topics: Apple, Legal, Mobility, Patents, Samsung, Smartphones, Tablets, Enterprise 2.0

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  • The thing....

    Yeah, but the thing about MAD was... you weren't supposed to *actually use* your nukes.
    • It dont surpize me

      Steve Jobs seems like the type of guy that you tell him "No matter what happens, never push the red button." He would push it thinking "No one tells me what buttons to push. I create buttons, so I will push buttons." lol
      • Steven Jobs,

        no surprise: no college education and too much ego. I know another such illiterate "genius" named Billy.
        • Huh!

          Nothing against college, went to engineering school myself. However, since when does having a college education reduce ego and prevent dumb mistakes?
          • I've found that it actually increases it..

            Many (too many) full time students and professors I've dealt with have actually been very difficult to deal with because of egotistical tendencies.

            When someone's invested in being "right" because the amount of time they've spent in education implies they should be, they seem to stop learning from mistakes they (in their own mind) never make.
          • You're confusing cause and effect i think.

            "egotistical tendencies" were there long before college.
          • And your point? :)

            Certainly not every college educated person is that way.

            But as I said in the rest of the message... When self worth is tied to some expected level of knowledge due to their education, they value being right over progress. It's a strong correlation, and not a cause for sure. But strong nonetheless. :)
          • A quote from Bertrand Russel

            Bertrand Russel once said "The problem with the world is that intelligent people lack confidence and the stupid people have too much". Like you say, definitely not every college graduate is that way. Education plays an important role in how things are handled. Certainly big businessmen often have too much confidence for their own good and which folly they will enter.
        • As opposed to...

          ..those who got themselves a slip of paper after kissing a dozen profs' asses for a few years, and now sit high in their ivory tower trying to cut down those that are obviously smarter than themselves..
        • College?

          What does college have to do with:

          Business acumen,

          Huh? Perhaps you should go back to college and correct your own misconceptions and deficiencies, before choosing to assail those you perceive in others. I could just as easily assert that many college students think too much of themselves, given their rather limited abilities after 4 years of 'education'. What do you think about that?
          • RE: College?

            It does have a lot to with ego - it shoes you time and time again that there are people smarter, more capable than you are. College is all about (or should be anyway) a humbling experience - being best at something among limited number of you high school classmates doesn't mean s^%$t.
          • Supposed to be and is are two different things

            I see it daily, people with either more education or the same degree but from a more prestigious school thinking they are better than others. Doesn't mean all college students are that way but far to many people base their self worth on what they did in college versus after.
        • ?

          Considering Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn't have College degrees and still succeeded only goes to show that a college education isn't always necessary. This is America and yes there is still opportunity for those that seek it.

          • If that's how you define success

            no wonder there are egomaniacs a plenty around.
            business success has very little to do with being successful person - look into personal lives of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs: would you like to trade places?
            College degree is not necessary, no - it does help a person sometimes to be more grounded if he/she has ego-maniacal tendencies.
          • Not True

            Said my peace down below on this. Just aggravating people seem to think a degree is the 'end-all-be-all' for education. Its good for a ground structure, sure, but you can also do it on your own if you have the tenacity to do it. If you can do it on your own, let the egotistical side fly! WOOHOO!!!
          • You are wrong about education though...

            Bill Gate and Steve Jobs gave up college. Most people fail to get into college in the first place. If you fail to get the grades in the first place you are definitely not the same as those two legends or even anywhere close to those that got the grades to enter.
          • College is no guarantee

            Most of the very successful people I know either have college education or just a basic business degree.
          • Not a consideration in tech fields

            From most companies I've worked at, the degree is a bonus, nothing more. It's a pretty piece of paper showing you spent a lot of money learning your field. I've seen a lot of people come into a job, without a degree, and got it over someone who did have a degree, simply because they taught themselves how to run the processes, and functions. In fact, depending on the person who self-teaches, they usually know more than someone with a degree for simple fact they don't have to waste time on menial tasks that a teacher gives them that has absolutely no practical use in the real world.

            "Successful" people is totally overused and redundant. Being a success in something is from hard work, and dedication to what you do. If you are a success at something and people think you are ego-maniacal for saying you're great at what you do, then you I guess that person deserves to bluster about it. Jobs and Gates worked their butts off to get to their levels of success so they have every right to let their ego fly a bit. Doesn't matter if you have a degree or not. I've seen a lot of people with degrees with inflated egos as well, so a degree doesn't stop those either.
        • Ha! True, but also true about Jobs

          Guess what? It's true about BOTH of them, which is why I don't like Microsoft OR Apple.
          Though I'm liking Apple less these days. I'm an Open-source-hugging Linux guy myself. I like developing for Android, where you don't have to lose sleep wondering if your app is going to be approved. And it doesn't cost anything for the development kit. And my OS and everything on it didn't cost anything either. I'll take Linux, thanks, and its mobile equivalent, Android.
        • yes but

          look at billy now and look at J.... oh wait.
          Some Internet Dude