A hash tag I have seen cropping up a lot on Google+ recently is #BoycottApple. This is a reaction to Apple’s increasingly aggressive tactic of using patents (often patents for ideas that are so obvious that they should never have been patented in the first place) to force its competitors out of the market. This final straw, and the trigger for #BoycottApple, came when Apple managed to convince a US judge to ban sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab… because it’s a rectangle.
While I agree that Apple’s behaviour is abusive, bullying and a brake on innovation, I haven’t really been able to get behind #BoycottApple because I think that the fundamental problem is with a patent system that encourages this sort of behaviour. Feeling good about not buying an overpriced Android rip-off is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t do anything to address the underlying problem, which is that the patent system is broken and in many cases works counter to its original intent. Muktware, however, makes a good point:
No doubt that our patent system is broken. But Apple went global beyond ‘our system’ and started suing Android players in every potential market around the world. [Apple lost two major design related cases in The Netherlands and UK, which is great news.]
But not everyone is abusing the loopholes in our system. When was the last time Samsung sued LG, Sony, Sharp, or Panasonic because their TVs, laptops, and BluRay players look similar? Did they claim design patent on a rectangular device which can be used to watch movies? Never! These companies believe in their products, they innovate and move on to the next product.
Apple is taking advantage of a system which is painfully open to abuse and then blames the system for allowing it, not themselves for committing it.
When we are talking about technology, gadgets, software, it is both inevitable and reasonable that any new feature will be copied, improved upon, refined and reused. Progress happens when people see a good idea and realise that they can make it better. Apple is just as keen on reusing other people’s ideas as anyone else. But when other people see a (rare) good idea coming out of Cupertino, the Foxconn rebrander immediately descends into hypocrisy.
I’ve never owned an Apple product and can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that I never will.