The Hills Are Greener: Patent and Lawsuit Fatigue

The Hills Are Greener: Patent and Lawsuit Fatigue

Aug 27, 2012

I am sick and tired of the Apple and Android patent lawsuits. I am sick of reading about them. I am sick of ignorant commenters on each side of the issue spewing off about these cases that will ultimately end with no one the wiser about what is actually going on.

First off, Samsung’s billion dollar loss. A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But the value of a billion dollars is different when the scale of a business is in the multi-billions. Samsung brought in 165 trillion won last year, which in today’s exchange rate converts to over $145 billion dollars. One billion dollars is less than 1% of that total. To scale it down to numbers relevant to normal people, that’s like making $350 less if you made $50,000 initially. You’re sad to see the money go, but it’s far from the end of the world. Heck, Samsung made an operating profit of $14.3 billion last year, so a billion for damages over a 2-year period of phone releases? Unless the judge triples the damages for willful infringement, this is the equivalent of Samsung stubbing their toe, while also having created one of the biggest line of smartphones in the world. Or as one commentator described it, with Apple spending $3.8 billion on Samsung parts in 2011, it’s basically a Groupon. It’s essentially one giant farce, multi-national global conglomerates showing off like hissing cats.

The consumer impact will be minimal. Very few of the phones in the trial are either current, or the kinds of ‘hero’ devices that really drive sales for Samsung. The Galaxy S II is the big victim, and Samsung’s already made the bulk of their money off of that. This largely hurts those looking for cheap and pre-paid Android phones, but that’s about it. The Galaxy Nexus nor the S III were part of this trial at all, and there’s evidence that Samsung is already leaning away from the kinds of designs that infringed on Apple’s trade dress. And licenses from Samsung and other Android players could be easily figured out, as it may just be cheaper to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s rather than stand up and fight.

And of course, with a lengthy appeals process ahead, there’s a chance that this verdict could ultimately mean nothing and we all just wasted our time following and/or caring about it, instead of really trying to reform the messed-up software patent system. The only changes we’ll see from cases like these are subtle on our end, the consumer end. The big companies will keep on making phones – perhaps slightly different than they were before – and we’ll keep buying them, and they’ll keep making billions in profits, while we then care about who’s fighting in court about who gets to increase that number of billions by 1, and who has to decrease it. I’m throwing my hands up in the air and giving up. There’s too much else to actually care about.

The Hills Are Greener: Why #BoycottApple Isn’t The Solution to Patent Litigation

The Hills Are Greener: Why #BoycottApple Isn’t The Solution to Patent Litigation

Jul 9, 2012

So, across the Internet, but particularly on Google+, there’s a trend brewing: #boycottapple. This started after Apple had a judge put an injunction on Galaxy Nexus sales due to alleged patent violations.

The problem is that boycotting Apple for their patent litigation is not the problem. The problem is the software patent system. Google has been a part of this system too. They have sued to protect their patents. Everyone in the mobile business has, because no one’s going to just sit on their patents. Everyone is essentially compelled to play the game, and the only rational ideology, if we’re boycotting those who play the patent litigation game, is to go off the grid and live in the forest. With a huge beard.

The software patent system is set up for companies to be obfuscating and vague enough to where patent authors can be vague enough to justify covering as many applications as possible, which of course means that when anything remotely infringing comes along, legal paperwork and eventually money changes hands. Of course, there is something almost reassuring in a bizarre way about patent holders actually using their patents in real-world uses, as opposed to patent trolls who sit on their patents, never using them, then suing when they can make the biggest financial gain. At least the giants are all suing each other.

Software innovation should be protected, and while I kind of want to see the patent system done away with entirely just to stop these issues from recurring, it may just be throwing the baby out with the bath water. I like the EFF’s ideas to reform software patents. But the thing is this: software innovation happens at a more rapid pace than what the patent system is set up to protect. In a way, I would almost rather see a world where the goal is to get an idea executed first, because right now it’s not stopping anyone. Android is lifting ideas from iOS, and iOS is lifting features from Android. All the patent system is doing is clogging up courtrooms, and keeping lawyers employed. It is protecting small players in a way, but I do believe that it is still about innovation and execution. Do not forget about the latter part of that.

So, really, tweeting and Facebooking and Google Plussing #BoycottApple is avoiding the heart of the issue. Encourage politicians to work on reforming patents. Or become a lumberjack. No one’s patented the axe. Yet.

The Galaxy Nexus Goes Out of Sale on Google Play: A Patent Story With Real-World Impact?

The Galaxy Nexus Goes Out of Sale on Google Play: A Patent Story With Real-World Impact?

Jul 4, 2012

Patent issues are threatening to impact consumers again, as Google has stopped selling the Galaxy Nexus on Google Play, according to Phandroid. Android Rundown is trying not to cover the recent patent lawsuits going on between Google, Apple, and other companies, because it’s generally uninteresting, neverending, and irrelevant as many of these cases wind up being settled with money changing hands and licensing deals struck. Usually, there’s no impact to the average person. However, Apple’s recent lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that the Galaxy Nexus violates their patents, has caused for a temporary injunction to be brought against Google’s flagship phone.

As such, Google has temporarily stopped selling the unlocked HSPA+ version on Google Play. There’s no word if the versions available through Sprint and Verizon will go out of sale. After the recent customs holdup of new HTC phones, this is the second time that the US has seen a phone held back from consumers. As well, Nokia appears to be bringing up a potential wireless patent issue with Asus and Google over the Nexus 7, but licensing may be the endgame there.

It’s likely, with all the patent issues out there, that covering every single phone being pulled would be dreadful reading, and for current Android owners who want to know what they should be able to do with their current device, it’s uninteresting reading. It’s why the site tries to focus on the apps, the things that can be currently done, covering important hardware news because that is important in the world of Android. This story is important because this impacts Google’s flagship phone, the star device running Jelly Bean, and because of the implications on the future of the operating system from both a usability and business standpoint. It is big news, and any future stories on hardware, and the patent issues will try to meet a standard of being important enough to report. Not every patent trial is worth writing about for the average Android user. But as the editor of Android Rundown, I believe this is.

If there are any readers out there with feedback on the site’s coverage of any patent issues, and hardware in general, please leave a comment below.

Google Buys Motorola Mobility; What Do They Want, Though?

Google made a major splash yesterday, announcing that they bought Motorola’s mobile division for over $12.5 billion cash; the deal was announced by Larry Page on Google’s official blog. Analysts from armchairs to Wall Street have been weighing in on the deal and what it could mean for the future of Android. There seem to be three things that Google wants out of this deal.

1. Google wants patents.

Motorola has a lot of patents, being one of the first mobile phone companies. They have about 12,500 patents issued, with about 7,500 pending. There’s been plenty of legal wrangling over patents like these, now Google can safeguard Android even further by having control over these patents, and being able to license these to other Android manufacturers. Google wanting Motorola’s patents initially was one hypothesis laid down toward why Google mae this purchase, before eventually just deciding to buy the whole company.

2. Google wants to make money off of Android.

Google may be making money off of the deep Google integration in Android devices, either from licensing official Google apps and Market access, money from apps sold in the Android Market, and from mobile advertising, but the actual phones themselves are not bringing a lot in quite yet. By purchasing an actual Android phone manufacturer, and one that holds 29% of the US Android smartphone market, they can now make Android a viable financial proposition for themselves. The other handset makers may feel threatened by an official Google handset manufacturer, but Google seems open to at least leaving the option open for handset makers to continue to support Android. It would behoove Google to keep Android on as many devices as possible, as more users of the platform mean greater incentive for developers to support it.

3. Google wants to make a gPhone.

Sure, Google and Andy Rubin can deny that Motorola would be the manufacturer of the next Nexus phone, and that could possibly be true. However, thinking that Google won’t use their Motorola purchase in order to make a ‘pure’ Android experience the most popular devices out there seems foolish. The point of the Nexus devices are to be stock devices, pure Android experiences. They haven’t been the most popular of Android devices, though. Google could use Motorola’s relationship with the carriers to push their pure Android device. They could possibly pare down Motorola’s various devices to a core set of tablets and phones instead of the wide variety of random devices that currently dominate the Android market.