Viewpoint: “Siri, Sue Samsung”

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I don’t know if you heard, but Apple has exclusive rights to intuition. And rounded corners.

Or so they litigated — and amazingly, succeeded — last week. The  lawsuit, in which Apple Inc. claimed Samsung Electronics Co. had illegally incorporated a number of Apple patents into their Android smartphones and tablets, went overwhelmingly in Apple’s favor. The jury ruled Samsung had infringed six Apple patents, and awarded Apple over a billion dollars in damages.

Samsung countered in the suit, claiming Apple had infringed on some of Samsung’s patents as well. How much was Samsung awarded? Zero dollars and zero cents.

Among its beefs, Apple alleged Samsung stole some of the iPhone’s design elements: rounded corners on the casing and rounded square icons on the interface.

C’mon, Apple. Really? You own the rights to rounded corners? Is this part of your master plan to bring down all other smartphones — by relegating them to pointy corners and harsh right angles?

Think of all the children playing with their parents’ next-generation HTCs and Galaxy Ss, cutting and impaling themselves on the phones’ razor sharp corners.

Will somebody please think of the children?!?

Apple also said Samsung infringed on patent ‘915, which distinguishes between single-touch and multi-touch gestures. So, in the future, only iPhone users will be able to zoom in by pinching their fingers together on the screen. In the future, when the non-iPhone users want to zoom they’ll just have to … command their phones out loud. Or something.

“HTC: Zoom in!” — but don’t say it too loud; Siri might hear you and sue for patent infringement. (I don’t doubt she knows how).

I’m amazed Apple can have rights to this specific feature, since it is so deeply intuitive. At what point is a basic function so rooted in human intuition that a company loses its claim to it?

Take the film “Minority Report,” released in 2002 — five years before the first iPhone hit the market. Remember when Tom Cruise has those fancy gloves with glowing fingertips, and with those glowing fingertips manipulates a slew of hologram screens? You best believe there was some pinch-zooming going on. I also recall a rounded corner or two.

They stole your idea, Spielberg! Go get the money that is rightfully yours.

There’s no doubt that Apple jump-started the smartphone market. And I tip my hat to them for doing so. But this recent lawsuit highlights a growing divide between certain companies, which will probably hurt consumers in the end. Google started the Android operating system, and some of Google’s features (search tools, maps, email) are featured on Apple products like the iPhone.

iPhones don’t run Flash, because Steve Jobs had a feud with its creators. And iPhone users get a lesser product because of it. If Google retaliates to this lawsuit by making its services incompatible with Apple’s operating system, imagine how it could affect iPhones. Apple may dominate smartphones, but Google dominates the Internet. And Internet access is why people use smartphones in the first place.

Competition is healthy, but these competitors — Apple, in particular — must realize that to some degree, integration is necessary for future success. If Samsung uses some Apple-esque ideas, it doesn’t mean they’re cutting corners. It just means they’re rounding them, which the court’s should allow. If only for the children.

 

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