Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Apple's patent victory is bad news for everyone else

Apple's recent victory in their patent dispute with Samsung is bad news for the rest of us. Why? Because it will stifle innovation, as smaller businesses will be less willing to innovate in the space Apple occupies for fear of litigious bullying by the world's most highly valued company. This means less competition and therefore less choice for consumers.

Patents were originally designed to protect inventors from having their inventions copied and used by others. They were not designed to allow already massive companies to consolidate their dominant market position. Apple is not the only culprit - did you know that when you buy an Android device, a few dollars go to Microsoft in patent royalties despite the platform being built on the open source Linux operating system which Microsoft had nothing to do with, and in fact did its best to crush?

Patents, especially in the US, need urgent reform. A first step would be to limit the ability to enforce them to smaller companies. This would encourage small companies to develop new products, while forcing the behemoths to compete by just building better products. The irony of all of this is that Apple does build excellent products that have a massive fan base. They could just compete successfully on that basis, instead of trying to shut out the competition.