You may have run across a news report this week about Apple suing Samsung for patent infringement. You won’t read about it on Brighthand, though, because it’s a non-story.
Lawsuits in the smartphone industry are a dime a dozen. As near as I can tell, Apple is suing every other major smartphone maker for patent infringement. In addition to Samsung, there’s Nokia and HTC, and probably some others I’ve forgotten about.
The reason I call this a non-story is that it’s not going to have any real effect on smartphone users. None. The truth is, Apple is a litigation-happy company and the fact that it’s suing yet another competitor is like reporting that Charlie Sheen has said something nutty.
What’s going to happen now is that Samsung is going to pull out its own patent portfolio and find things that “prove” that Apple is actually the one infringing on Samsung’s patents, and it will then file a counter-suit. They’ll both go to court to find out which company hired better lawyers.
When I was a new reporter a decade ago, I wrote about such lawsuits with breathless excitement, but then I noticed a pattern: the announcements of new lawsuits make big news, but when they’re settled a few years later, all that happens is that maybe some money changes hands, maybe not. Maybe someone’s patents get invalidated, maybe not. That’s it. No company is driven out of business, no smartphones are pulled off shelves.
Our patent system is so messed up that companies are regularly given patents for “inventions” that are much too broad. Or for “discoveries” that have been in use for years. It’s because the Patent Office is woefully underfunded. It does the best it can, and then lets companies fight it out in court.
For smartphone users, these lawsuits are meaningless, and not worth wasting time worrying about.