Catfight: Apple vs. Samsung

Includes: AAPL, SSNLF
by: Karl Denninger

When you lose the market share war on the merits (as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is doing in terms of Android's adoption rate vs. the iFeminineProducts) then the obvious "American" thing to do is "sue sue sue sue!"

Where have seen this before?

Apple's lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, alleges that Samsung copied the look, product design, packaging and user interface of its products, violating its patents and trademarks.

Oh, yeah, another "look and feel" lawsuit.

Best-a-luck Apple - you may have bit off a bit more than you can chew with this one. Samsung noted:

Yonhap news agency quoted Samsung officials as saying they suspect Apple had violated Samsung's wireless technology patents.

"Apple is one of our key buyers of semiconductors and display panels. However, we have no choice but respond strongly this time," an unidentified official was quoted as saying.

Apple was Samsung's second-largest client in 2010 after Japan's Sony Corp, accounting for four percent of the South Korean firm's 155 trillion won ($142 billion) annual revenues.

Samsung doesn't have to sell Apple its products, you know. One wonders if Apple has anything in their devices that are difficult (or impossible due to patents and single-source considerations) or get from anyone else. One would hope that Apple hadn't made that mistake (suing someone who makes a part you must have is a rather idiotic thing to do) but it is impossible, at this point, to know as an outsider.

Look-and-feel lawsuits are tricky things. Copyright (the premise behind them) protects only expression. You cannot protect ideas (which incidentally is the same idiotic argument that people make about the Tea Party - the idea belongs to nobody, duh) - only expressions of an idea. Further, expressions must be original and non-obvious to be protected.

In the present case I don't know what Apple claims is "original." The home screen of the various iScrew products is rather un-original, particularly compared to the very-customizable home screens found on Android devices. Further, Apple uses one button on their devices where Android devices all have multiple "soft buttons" for various functions (a distinction I find superior, incidentally.)

Intellectual-property lawsuits are very common in the technology world, so on its face this isn't a particularly stunning sort of announcement. But this much I have noted - when firms start suing instead of innovating it says something about how they calculate the return on investment for the two strategies, and is frequently a leading indicator of a big fall.

Incidentally, Apple lost on all of the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) claims they filed except two: The "Trashcan" and "file folder" icons.