Over the years we've shown many examples of times when it makes much more business sense not
to enforce your intellectual property rights, but reader Jerry Leichter sends in another example. It discusses how Apple is benefiting from not
going after those who copy its iPhone UI, suggesting that Apple's aggressiveness in such lawsuits with PCs helped Microsoft
win the personal computer war in the 80s and 90s:
The more different competitors Apple faces in smartphones, the better it fares. One major reason why Apple lost its pioneering position in graphical desktop PCs to Microsoft in the 90s was related to the company's efforts to stamp out rivals in "look and feel" lawsuits during the late 80s that shut down windowing products from HP and GEM, leaving Microsoft free rein to consolidate a competitive-free monopoly juggernaut around its own Windows product.
In this decade, Apple has conspicuously refrained from attacking rivals on copyright or patent infringement issues in both the iPod and iPhone markets, outside of defensive measures it has taken against patent challenges from Creative and more recently Nokia. Competing in the market has historically worked out much more successfully for Apple than trying to compete in court.
I think it's a good point -- and accurate that Apple is better off not enforcing its IP, and that Microsoft was helped by Apple's mistake last time around, but I doubt that's why
Apple isn't doing it this time around. My guess is that the reason it didn't bother this time was because it lost so badly when it tried to go after Microsoft for copying the "Windows" look and feel. Still, it is a good example where sometimes it really does help to have more people recognize your user interface -- even if sometimes they're using it from someone else.