Will we ever see an end to the Patent Wars?


Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast Interview

The news that Apple and HTC have agreed to end their patent war and settle is good news for the industry (but maybe not for lawyers!). However, Samsung have said that they are not prepared to come to a similar arrangement. Now we have seen how bitter the relationship has become between Samsung and Apple in recent years and the court battles are still raging in various courts around the world. Now, to me and to many others, this all seems a great pity. Here we have two great companies known for innovation and creativity who both manage to produce some of the most desirable products known in history. However, they are spending hundreds of millions on lawyers dragging each other through the courts. That’s good money that could be better spend on research and product development.

What makes the whole thing between Apple and Samsung even more bizarre is that Samsung supplies plenty of key components in Apple’s products and presumably they must work closely on developing these products. Seems something like a crazy situation if you ask me. Why they can’t agree to cross-licence each others technologies and get on with creating something excellent and useful instead of paying lawyers is beyond me.

According to one source, the cost of these patent wars in the past two tears is $20 billion! According to the New York Times this just in the smartphone industry (mainly between Apple, Samsung and HTC). Apparently Apple and Google are now spending more on litigation over patents and in buying up companies to bolster their position in these patent wars than they are on Research & Development. Crazy!

Now I am not against patents per se but this situation can only hamper future developments and innovations. Cast your mind back to when these companies started out – if someone had slapped a huge patent infringement case on them then they may never have grown from a small start-up in a garage into great companies.  I am talking about Apple, Microsoft and HP here. All of them started off small and grew because of their founders’ innovation and creativity. All that patent wars have done is stifle innovation and creativity, make lawyers rich and one could argue that the problems the likes of  HP, IBM, Dell and Nokia have had in recent years is down to this very issue.

So what’s the solution? Maybe its time to think the unthinkable and abolish patents – yes abolish the lot of them and replace the whole caboodle with a different system. After all, if we look at open source we can see immediately that the lack of patents here has not stifled creativity and innovation, rather the very opposite. Open source produces progress much quicker and leads to greater creativity. Yes it is largely software but there is a lesson to be learned here. Think of the world wide web. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented it and gave it away, to the world and so we owe him a great debt. he could have patented it and where would be then? Not here for sure.

If you think this is a stupid idea then check out this article. It may change your mind.

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