Even occasional readers will be aware of the sue-fest that is characterising the great mobile Internet land-grab. Every piece of ground established now will likely pay dividends for decades to come so the stakes, and lawyers' fees, are high.
While Apple was perceived to have ‘lost' its patent battle with Nokia, on the grounds that it had to pay up, in the long term it's probably money well spent to make peace with one of the biggest mobile patent holders. And in the more important battle for smartphone market share, Apple is emphatically winning.
Apple's bigger strategic aim seems to be to prevent everyone else from doing anything that even resembles its own mobile Internet activities. This has resulted in it focusing on Samsung, for making devices that look a bit like Apple ones, and Amazon for calling its app store, Appstore.
As we recently opined, Apple's case against Samsung seems weak. There's no denying the Samsung Galaxy family of devices bear a strong similarity to some Apple devices, but that's because they're black, rectangular, touchscreen devices with rounded edges. Surely nobody can be allowed ownership of an entire colour or shape.
FOSS Patents reported that Apple registered a small victory this week when a judge ruled that Apple doesn't have to reveal as yet unreleased products to Samsung in order to assist it in its defence. The grounds were fairly obvious - that Apple had only asked to see existing products, so Samsung's request was disproportionate.
But it's not all good news for Apple from this ruling. By choosing to allege infringement of only its current products, said the judge, Apple opens itself up to a counter-argument from Samsung that it doesn't compete directly with older versions of Apple devices, and that might be a consideration. This possibility potentially puts additional time pressure on Apple and could weaken its position in trying to force a settlement.
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The crux of Apple's argument lies in the concept of ‘consumer confusion', which seems to amount to the rather implausible notion that someone might buy a Samsung device thinking it's an Apple one. The consumer confusion argument is also being used to try to prevent other people using the term ‘App Store' and variations thereof.
Bloomberg is reporting that Apple will probably lose its bid to stop Amazon using Appstore, according to a federal judge. Apparently the lack of any real evidence of actual confusion is a stumbling block for Apple, and rightly so. Apple is maintaining that such confusion could damage its own App Store brand, as Amazon pays less attention to things like security.
There may be strong legal precedent for all this customer confusion stuff, but it really does seem tenuous, bordering on disingenuous. How can Apple point to the unique, intrinsic value of its own brand, and at the same time claim that anything which remotely resembles Apple products will confuse consumers?
Apple has probably the strongest brand in the world, and one it liberally splashes all over its products. Surely its clear to everyone what's an Apple product and what isn't. Apple should focus on further investing in its own brand, rather than trying to use flimsy legal arguments to prevent competition.