Apple CEO: When Others Violate Our Patents, They're Copying Our Hard Work; When We Violate Patents, The System Is Broken
from the double-standards dept
Apple has certainly been quite the aggressor over the last few years when it comes to patents, so it’s interesting to hear that, at the latest All Things D Conference, CEO Tim Cook appears to have a bit of a double standard. You see, when others infringe upon Apple’s patents, he insists that they’re somehow copying all of Apple’s hard work, and that’s unfair. Cook uses a ridiculous plagiarism analogy:
He compared patent infringement to signing one’s name on a painting that someone else put energy into finishing. Cook stressed the importance of companies building their own stuff so that Apple would not be “the developer for the rest of the world.”
Kinda like, you know, how Apple “signed its name” to the graphical user interface developed at Xerox PARC? Or the mouse developed at SRI? Or multitouch browsing, developed by a bunch of other folks prior to the iPhone? Sure, Apple improved on all of these things, and many other things as well, but Apple is famous for taking the developments done elsewhere and merely putting a nice final consumer-friendly coat of paint on it. No doubt, this is an important step, but it’s ridiculous to pretend that Apple has come up with the various ideas it has and no one else could have possibly developed the same things. And, of course, plagiarism (claiming credit for something you didn’t do) is an entirely separate issue from infringement (using an invention/creative work without authorization). So it seems silly to even use that analogy.
Of course, then Walt Mossberg brings up the fact that Apple is, in fact, the target of many patent lawsuits as well… and suddenly Cook’s tone changes, insisting that those cases are different:
“The vast majority of those are on standards-essential patents,” he said, adding that it’s an area where today’s patent system is “broken.”
Now, to some extent he’s correct that patent battles over “standards-essential” patents are particularly nefarious, but it still seems like quite the double standard to insist that the patents that Apple has asserted against various makers of Android tablets and smartphones aren’t equally silly and destructive to basic market competition. Apple makes great products that people love. If only it would let those products compete fairly in the market, it could save money on the bruising legal fights it’s involved in around the globe. Cook admitted that patent battles are “overhead” and he wished the fights weren’t so costly. Of course, that would be a lot more convincing if the company hadn’t launched so many patent battles itself.