There have been several posts made about the Apple lawsuit against HTC (see my links at the end of this post) and I wanted to post my opinion on this and other recent lawsuits for my readers. I am not a lawyer, patent law expert, or investor in any of the companies involved with these lawsuits and am just posting my thoughts here as a consumer of smartphones. Most consumers are also not lawyers and really could care less about who came up with the idea first since all they want is the best experience at the lowest price. I am sure there are thousands of people who thought about new ways to interact with their phones, yet they didn't have the resources or care to seek a patent for this idea. I do not think companies should steal specific methods of creating features, but if the methods are common and result from a natural progression of thought then I am not sure it should be patentable. I also think that patents on user interface elements should probably not be granted in the first place since user interface improvements have been thought of by most of us and are not original ideas or technologies. Do you really only want a single company being able to use multi-touch, tap to open, etc.?
Nokia and Apple
The first Nokia lawsuit seemed to be valid since Nokia actually developed wireless technologies that others have been using for some time and were gaining a benefit with while actually reimbursing Nokia for usage of these technologies. Apple apparently refused to pay while using these wireless technologies so should end up paying Nokia something in the end.
Apple then countersued Nokia stating that Nokia infringed on 13 user interface patents. Have you seen the Nokia interface? It has hardly changed since I saw my first Series 60 device back in 2001 so it seems like Apple is grasping at straws here (again, this is my view as a consumer).
Apple and Nokia both filed to have each others products blocked from each others countries and this is completely ridiculous from a consumer standpoint. Will a government organization actually block an entire companies products from being sold in their country? Doesn't seem very likely to me.
HTC and Apple
HTC was the maker of the first incredibly popular Compaq iPaq back in 2000 and this was an extremely fast color display PDA. HTC has always been a rather innovative company (think of the HTC Universal, T-Mobile MDA, and Treo 650) and recently has spent a considerable amount of time and money on improving designs. They have pushed Windows Mobile beyond what Microsoft provided with user interface improvements such as TouchFLO 3D and HTC Sense while also improving the hardware experiences (look at how they rolled out the HD2 with capacitive touchscreens before the OS was even providing this natively). If I was Apple I would take a serious look internally first before suing HTC since there are probably many elements that Apple designers and engineers saw in HTC devices before creating the iPhone.
You can check out the patents that Apple is concerned about here at Gizmodo and see why I think it is stupid of the patent office to grant patents for things people naturally do or would have thought of doing on their phones. Why in the world are there patents for such obvious things as turning off the display as you hold a touchscreen device to your head, object oriented multi-tasking system, object oriented operating system, and more? Many of these were used by HTC and others way before Apple ever patented them. Starting to seem to me that others have the ideas and then Apple has the army of patent lawyers to go get patents issued by the government. Government inefficiency at its best, huh?
The iPhone 3GS is a great device and I personally recommend it for many people who are looking for a single device that does most everything they need. However, the iPhone OS is approaching 3 years old with very little changed in the user interface. Many of us have moved onto other devices because we find Apple has some weaknesses in the interface that others have improved upon greatly. I am specifically thinking of notifications, integrated services, and customization.
Will any of these lawsuits mean anything to consumers?
I understand most of the time these types of lawsuits take years to actually be resolved and many times all that happens is a company ends up paying to settle. I highly doubt consumers will see any impact for years to come and I sure hope that the legal system gets to the point that most of these are thrown out, unless there was actual theft of proprietary (and not common) technologies.
Personally, I am a bit sick of hearing about these lawsuits and Apple suing HTC actually leaves me feeling sour about Apple. I have been debating whether or not to buy an iPad since it really would not take the place of anything I own and is more of a luxury item. This latest lawsuit pushed me closer to NOT buying one because I am getting a bit tired of Apple's arrogance, even though I do really enjoy using some of their products. Consumers may hear about this lawsuit on the news and think twice about Apple and HTC, which could hurt both of them.
Is Apple worried about HTC and Google Android impacting iPhone sales? Do you feel any differently about Apple after hearing about this lawsuit? As a consumer, do you think there is any merit in these type of patent lawsuits?