Patently obvious: Of Apple, injunctions and consumer responsibility
The rivalry between Apple and its competitors has been a fixture of the tech industry for decades. Particularly beginning with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, the Mac and PC “camps” have been engaged in a constant tug-of-war that shows no sign of stopping.
Now, though, we’ve seen it extend beyond computers, to mobile phones and tablets. In June, a judge granted Apple an injunction against Samsung, barring sales of the latter company’s Galaxy Nexus mobile phone in the US. That injunction has since been stayed, but at the same time, another judge issued an injunction banning the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the US, and it remains in force.
These injunctions stem from allegations by Apple that Samsung and other companies are infringing on product design and software patents. But could there be something different going on here?
Does Apple think consumers will be confused by all the competition?
Consider for a moment that Apple debuted three new commercials during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. One of the ads, titled Basically, concerns a confused computer buyer who was tricked into purchasing a Mac knock-off because it basically looked like the real thing, except it didn’t come with iPhoto, GarageBand and other requisite Mac apps.
Really, Apple? Do you really think your customers will be that confused?
While it’s clear that Apple thinks so, far from everyone agrees. Even so, in early July a British judge issued an injunction banning sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in his country. While he ruled that Samsung’s design didn’t infringe on Apple’s patents, he did say that the competition’s products “are not as cool.”
Rather than focusing on the supposed “copying” of Apple’s products by their competitors, might there be another issue in play? Might consumers need to take it upon themselves to be more informed shoppers when they buy a new piece of tech and have the option of several similar-looking devices from different companies? We already do it all the time when we purchase a new mouse, keyboard, refrigerator, television or any number of other electronic devices. We weigh the feature set of each and then make a purchasing decision. It should be up to the consumer to research what they need and why they need it, and to find out which devices satisfy those needs.
If you ask me, this whole injunction situation is just plain silly. But share your thoughts: Is Apple right in pursuing this kind of strict legal action against its competition? Will buyers get as confused as Apple seems to think they will? What responsibility does the consumer have when it comes to understanding their different purchase options?