You need only scroll through news of the last few weeks for evidence that Apple has turned evil. The once-doomed computer maker that cowered in Microsoft’s shadow has spent the last two years seeking to squash smaller rivals with a flurry of patent lawsuits. Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S III, HTC-One – each of these have raised the ire of Apple’s lawyers, and they have succeeded many times in preventing the sale of the device in a country. Most recently they won an injunction against Samsung to prevent sale of the Galaxy Nexus here in the US.
The calls of outrage are starting to grow – Googling ‘Apple is evil’ returns almost 19 million results. Sites like enterprise geeks, ZDNet, and the Guardian all have different reasons for why Apple is evil. From the aforementioned legal funny business to tax avoidance, conditions in it’s factories and it’s single-minded obsession with a closed ecosystem. I think all of these reasons are interesting, and worthy of discussion, but it is the abuses of the patent system I’m most concerned about. With every bad decision patent case law grows in stature against those seeking to innovate in technology. The barriers grow higher against market competition and we shuffle closer to a technological hegemony.
If you are outraged as I am, please take a moment to sign EFF’s Defend Innovation petition, which they will be taking to congress. From large companies like Apple that use patents to crush weaker opponents, to Microsoft who use patents to blackmail hardware manufacturers when they can’t compete, to patent trolls who exist solely to suck resources from successful companies – the technology industry is being assaulted by lawyers wielding nothing more than tricky arguments and wads of cash.
Some time ago I wrote about how to fix software patents - it seems like much of what I wrote then agrees with the EFF’s direction, like limiting the timeframe where patents are enforceable. Today when I signed the EFF petition, I wrote:
I’ve worked in technology for more than a decade and am outraged with how the industry is using patents like ballistic missiles to destroy their competitors. This is good for no-one. It hurts the consumer and cripples a healthy competitive marketplace.
I urge you to consider patent reform that encourages innovation – we’ll all benefit
To be in love with evil
Yet even as I deplore the business tactics that Apple has used, I love their products. My experience with every product has been magical, from the Airport Express to Apple TV to iPhone to iPad, and most recently the Macbook Retina. Apple does a simply amazing job creating products that are works of art in their own right. Which makes me question the need for all these lawsuits. Even if competitors have been copying Apple, their products are at best a pale imitation – like photocopying the Mona Lisa on an overused library Xerox machine running out of ink.
Apple, please see reason – it’s not necessary to sully your good name by unleashing an army of lawyers. Your products are a more powerful assault on competitors than your legal wrath could ever be.