Time for balance
Thanks to the current inundation of innovative smart devices riding the World Wide Web and technological breakthroughs, we enjoy the social media era based on the Internet where creative and tech-savvy people can succeed overnight with their own killer gadgets or content.
But you had better understand or have lawyers to tackle intellectual property rights (IPR) to avoid situations where one sows and another reaps. Even Samsung, the most powerful company in Korea, can fall victim to this IPR minefield. And it has.
Recently, a U.S. jury “patriotically” found Samsung guilty of copying Apple’s iPhone design. But it turned out the biased jury in Apple’s backyard prejudged the evidence and jumped to a conclusion. But were they capable of making sense of all the complex technological details in the first place? Probably not.
What’s worse is that with new developments unfolding, it is becoming increasingly clear that actually Apple was the one that first copied its competitors’ designs such as those of Sony, LG, Samsung and others.
This writer personally remembers LG’s Prada phone which was really slick but had too steep a price to purchase. And it looked similar to later released iPhones. There were tons of products marketed before the “revolutionarily crafted” iPhone series among which the resemblance is just uncanny.
They are just slightly different rectangle-shaped gizmos. And the rectangle has been there all along. Take a good look around your neighborhood and pick up a brick. You get the gist, right?
Patent law is too complicated and arbitrary to give a straightforward answer to any dispute.
And the most problematic factor is that for the last few decades, the bar to obtain a patent has become so low and lax that there have been numerous new patents pouring into the marketplace on a daily basis.
This phenomenon has more to do with the ferocious and shameless lobbying forces of the pertinent industries than with a “sudden surge” of generational ingenuity.
Most patents are so trivial and meaningless that there are even companies armed with heaps of inconsequential similar patents waiting for legitimate firms to become trapped in their webs.
Once it happens, they sequester their prey in courts or get away with ridiculously lucrative licensing deals. These opportunistic and hostile people and companies are pejoratively referred to as “patent trolls.” They possess no motivation or intention to produce and market innovative goods and services based on the patents they engorged. All they want is some honest albeit gullible entrepreneurs to allegedly “infringe” on their intellectual property.
This is not just the case between unscrupulous wheeler-dealers and ill-prepared businessmen.
Now most of so-called multinational companies team up with one another to cloud their patents and technologies so as to run a viable business. They do it not because they want to but because they have to.
With this inefficient and expensive regime getting worse, the motivation for invention and innovation is dying because individuals and companies are scared of their brain child being taken away without proper reward.
This is ironic considering the IPR system’s raison d’etre is to give incentives to invent and innovate more.
In the Korean telecommunications market, the present trend is long-term evolution but Apple’s newly released iPhone 5 might be subject to Samsung vendettas.
Within this zero-sum game, there is no evident winner while customers find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, noted the greatest scientist Sir Issac Newton.
Creative ideas do not come out of thin air. They are developed in a gradual manner, heavily relying on already existing ideas. So it is absurd to assume that someone who “finished” the invention deserves all the credit and reward for two reasons.
First, they were just part of a creative process. Second. but more importantly, they didn’t “finish” it because it will evolve to the next level someday.
Patents are supposed to incentivize the creative minded with appropriate reward but are also bound to generate artificial monopolies for the holders. So without proper regulations and implementation, they are destined to subdue innovation.
Now it’s time to balance the patent system’s pros and cons so that we properly reward killer inventions without killing the mood to invent them.
The writer is a former banker and now an English teacher at a private language school. Contact him at email@example.com.