This legal dispute, which was brought to courts in 10 different countries and even went to the U.S. Supreme Court, is notable because it undermines the argument that major patent infringement battles harm tech consumers through added costs and blocking innovation.
One order of dismissal entered in the District of Delaware and the other order of dismissal entered in the Northern District of California, marked the official end of the patent war which played out between consumer tech giants Apple and Samsung for the better part of the past decade. This legal dispute, which was brought to courts in 10 different countries and even went to the U.S. Supreme Court, is notable because it undermines the argument that major patent infringement battles harm tech consumers through added costs and blocking innovation.
These cases involved the assertion of dozens of patents, most of which were asserted by Apple, covering technologies incorporated into some of the most commercially successful consumer tech products of all time. Apple’s patents, which covered various utility features and design elements of its iPhone products, were first asserted in Northern California in April 2011 when Apple alleged that Samsung, which had been a component supplier for Apple, infringed upon its patents through the sale of various Android smartphones and tablets, including the Galaxy S 4G and the Galaxy Tab.
“The oft-touted ‘smartphone patent wars’ were not all they were made out to be, not blocking products from the market and barely denting the companies’ bottom line,” Rutgers Law School professor and IPWatchdog contributor Michael Carrier told USA Today.
Carrier is exactly right. While both Apple and Samsung lobbed patent infringement lawsuits at the other in various countries, in a variety of different tribunals around the world, neither company showed even a hint of slowing down in terms of smartphone innovation. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the smartphone revolution is only 11 years old. It wasn’t until 2007 that Steve Jobs and Apple launched the world’s first smartphone, which was then promptly copied by Samsung. Since then smartphones have become more powerful, substantially better computing devices, substantially better phones, have incorporated substantially better cameras for both video, still and live photos, and enable never dreamed of portable assistance— even technophobes — from map apps with talking directions, to personal assistants that can look up and find information, to monitoring health data, listening to satellite radio and so much more.
What consumer technology has so transformed daily life for billions of people over such a short period of time, with the technology getting better every year?
Still, those who have an unnatural, unhealthy and irrational hatred of patents say we are supposed to somehow believe that the most high-profile patent case of the last decade is proof of the evils of a patent system run amok. The problem is that even with the thousands of legal filings in multiple jurisdictions around the world, and a case involving the potential of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of infringement damages, there was no innovation blocked. There was no research and development stopped. No products were kept away from consumers. Billions of smartphones somehow managed to find their way into the hands of consumers despite patents. An inconvenient truth for those who hate patents.
Anyone who decides to advance the idea that patent infringement suits either hurt consumer choice or are a detriment to the U.S. economy, especially in light of the results of the settlement between Apple and Samsung, is duplicitous.
While those who say patents get in the way of innovation don’t ever allow facts to get in the way of their erroneous arguments, they really do have a lot of explaining to do now that the great smartphone patent wars have ended and we can actually see what has happened.
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