Wednesday, May 16, 2012

!@#$ Patents and Copying

How many times are consumers hurt by copying?

There was an episode of All in the Family where Archie Bunker was gloating about his new watch.  He was going on and on about this Omega brand watch he bought for almost nothing.  Then, it's revealed "Oh, no, that's not an Omega.  It's an Onega."

Are consumers always fooled so easily?

A co-worker more than 10 years ago was shocked to learn that her new Lexus E300 was a Toyota Windom.  "Toyota?"  As though the Lexus dealer randomly appeared by the Toyota dealership out of convenience and nothing else.  Then again, people were shocked that the Cadillac Seville started as a Chevrolet Nova.  Would those driving an Escalade be driving the Chevrolet version?

I was reading that the HTC One series phones due to be sold this week are held up in U.S. customs, due to the patent issues between HTC and Apple.  While I understands Apple's frustration, the consumer is losing some great phones, especially those who have pre-paid for those phones.  HTC really haven't done anything to Apple but because they were the vanguard of Android, starting with the T-Mobile G1, they were selected, which is a horrible strategy.  They have made some admirable designs without copying Apple.

The patent war between Samsung and Apple is more realistic.  Samsung copies practically everything Apple have done in the mobile space.  Supposedly, they're planning queues/lines to make it appear their phones are more lust-worthy than they might be otherwise.  However, they made advertising about such lines, and made fun of people standing in line for products.  It looks as though Samsung is Samsung-ing itself.

I read elsewhere that the company is all but stopping production of their point-and-shoot cameras, in order to boost production of their mirror-less system cameras.  I doubt that the few thousand who buy the mirror-less models are going to suddenly want new versions, or that throwing more money at them will make them popular.

Their struggle to overtake Sony may be working but it's going to take a long time.  It's more likely that Panasonic will be there first.  It's amazing to me that Panasonic have gone from household items like rice cookers to high end televisions, phones, and computers in the last 30+ years, and that Sony have diminished.

One last thing about patents and copying: why is it that IBM's laptop computer line never had to look like anyone else's (save my sad L40SX), and they've been such a hit, even now that they're coming from Lenovo?  When most of the Ultrabooks look a lot like Apple's MacBook Air, Lenovo's products don't.  They're stylish in an industrial way and get respect from just about anyone.

Update: In the U.K., a judge has decided that Samsung didn't copy iPad to create their own tablet and has ordered Apple to tell everyone this.  When I was in primary school (as it feels this punishment resembles), the copier was punished, not the person being copied.

If I look at practically every mobile device that Samsung has done in the last 2 years, they look remarkably like Apple devices, so much that I noticed one and wondered what Apple had done to their hardware.  Add to this the rather obvious software tweaks to Android to make it look more like iOS, I can't imagine what the judge is thinking.  The only reasonable explanation I can find is that he was annoyed and decided to fix it since they were acting like school children.

Besides, if Nokia and HTC and Motorola can design devices that don't look much like Apple's, why can't Samsung?

Update 2014.01.10: Apple and Samsung have agreed to another round of arbitration, in order to agree on something, anything.  I don't really understand why the FRAND patents weren't settled already since every other FRAND patent gets very little, unlike what Samsung wants. 

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