Samsung vs. Apple: Ding, ding, ding!

27Aug12

Legal battles over patents is probably not news to anyone, but a recent battle between two giants in the electronics industry has ended in a massive patent verdict–history’s largest, in fact–of $1.05 billion (Ars Technica, August 12, 2012). According to Apple, Samsung had been copying several patented design elements of their smart-phones and tables, including pinch-to-zoom and double-tap zoom. As Madden and Bloom stated,

…free-riding in the form of imitation acts as a disincentive to innovate. A non-private cost is manifest as an ‘under-investment in innovation. This market failure is addressed by governments through patent and copyright laws… (March 14, 2001).

In other words, as long as protect innovators know their work will not be copied without due credit, they will continue to innovate. According to Forbes contributor Haydn Shaughnessy, however, was unjustified:

Design is fashion, a peculiar form of intellectual property that wavers and transforms by the season… Design is not invention. It arises from a common pool of creativity… Apple deserves no kudos for taking the trade dress fight to the courts. Maybe if they were a bunch of losers whose design advantage had been unfairly appropriated and now they had no cash for the kids’ school fees, then there would be a cause for sympathy (August 26, 2012).

This brings up several important questions. When creative work is being funded by massive companies, to what extent does imitation deter innovation? Could it actually encourage companies to make greater developments? Where is the line between the drawing from the “common pool of creativity” and unjustified marketing of another company’s work, if one exists at all?

Ars Technica article: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/08/jury-returns-verdict-in-apple-v-samsung/

Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2012/08/26/why-the-apple-vs-samsung-verdict-is-a-big-mistake/

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