John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Competing Views of Competition in Apple-Samsung Trial

Paramount Pictures

There were many disparate arguments put forth during Tuesday’s summations in the Apple-Samsung patent struggle, but there was one in particular that was made by both sides: My rival’s behavior is anticompetitive. As Samsung attorney Charles Verhoeven told the jury, “It’s a very important decision you have to make. It could change the way competition works in this country.”

That remains to be seen. But make no mistake, the jury’s decision in this landmark case will almost certainly have some bearing on the evolving definition of anticompetitiveness in fast-changing fields like the mobile device industry.

Samsung’s view is that Apple has behaved anticompetitively by using its intellectual property to hamstring rivals. “Rather than compete in the marketplace, Apple is seeking to gain an edge in the courtroom,” Verhoeven argued. “It’s seeking to block its biggest and most serious competitor from even attending the game.” If Apple should prevail in court, he warned, the tech industry will become a collection of “giant conglomerates, armed with patent arsenals, that block competition and reduce choices for consumers.”

Given the sheer amount of litigation in the mobile device industry these days, Verhoeven’s argument does ring somewhat true. But it doesn’t really account for companies that legitimately need to protect their hard-won innovations from others that might feel entitled to borrow or emulate them.

And that was the point Apple hammered home again and again in its closing arguments: It isn’t the anticompetitive player here; Samsung is. And by allegedly copying Apple’s designs, Samsung has paved the way for others to do the same, robbing those designs of their uniqueness.

“Apple took five years to bring the iPhone revolution to us,” Apple attorney William Lee said in his closing. “Samsung took three months to copy it. … We have to protect our investment in these innovations. Because if we don’t, we won’t have people like Apple spending five years in a room coming up with a device that revolutionizes the mobile phone.”

In other words, companies should compete on the strength of their own innovations, not those of their rivals. And that argument, too, rings true. After all, where’s the incentive to innovate if you’re certain to see your innovation ingested by a competitor and used against you?

Two reasonably compelling arguments, and it’s obviously impossible to predict how they’ll play with the jury weighing the case. As Stanford law school professor Mark Lemley told AllThingsD, there’s merit in both.

“Apple presented the intellectual property view of innovation — we created it, we own it, you can’t use it,” Lemley said. “Samsung presented the competition view of innovation — everyone should make great products and let consumers choose. IP law generally sides with Apple at this broad level, though there is a pretty good argument that it is competition, not monopoly, that drives great innovation in the IT space.”

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google