Trademark Infringements, Patent Rights and the Many Legal Battles of Apple Inc. – What’s Your Opinion?

It’s yet another monday and I want to welcome back from a great weekend. I do hope you’re rejuvenated and fired up for a great week ahead!

Today, I want us to discuss an issue which, though does not affect us directly, is all the same very important to us as online business persons.

If you have followed the news in the recent past few days, you’d have observed that they were filled with some melodramatic events of legal battles bordering on trademark infringements and patent right disputes, with Apple Inc. as the main character.

First, it was the $60m settlement to a Chinese company, Shenzhen Proview Technology, who had gone to court to stop Apple Inc. from using the name “iPAD” in China despite the fact that Apple claimed it had bought the global rights to the name from a Proview affiliate in Taiwan for 35,000 British pounds ($55,000) back in 2009.

Please note that Proview Shenzhen registered the iPad (Internet Personal Access Device) trademark in China in 2001, nine years before Apple launched the iPad. However, the same iPad trademark was registered in the EU and six other markets between 2000 and 2004 by Proview Electronics Co. or “Proview Taiwan,” a Proview’s Taiwanese affiliate.

Proview Electronics Co. or “Proview Taiwan” later sold the rights to Apple for £35,000 ($54,800) in 2009, a deal, Apple insisted, included China but the company challenged the claim and sought to stop Apple Inc. from selling the iPad in China.

It was in a bid to avoid potential obstacles to sales of the popular tablet computer in the key Chinese market that Apple Inc. was “forced” to pay the $60m in settlement even when they argued they had bought these rights from the Proview Taiwan in 2009!

From Trademark to Patent Rights

Barely a couple of days after the news of Apple’s settlement of $60m to Proview Technology broke out, Apple was again in the news for patent rights infringement. This time it was Apple Inc. against HTC. But then Apple again lost out when a Judge in the Uk declared that HTC phones do not infringe on four Apple patents related to touchscreen technology.

In his ruling, Judge Christopher Floyd deemed that while one of the patents asserted by Apple is valid (a photo management patent owned by Apple), the other three relating to the slide-to-unlock feature, multi-touch functionality, and changing alphabets, are invalid.

It’s rather funny that Apple Inc. is not finding it easy with its legal battles considering the fact that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, before his death, waged war on Google’s Android operating system (used by HTC, Samsung and other rivals in their phones) and was reported to have told his authorized biographer that Android was a stolen product and that he would spend every penny in the company’s coffers “to destroy Android!”

Spend every penny in the company’s coffers to destroy Android?

I found that to be really hard but it clears explains why Apple is presently fighting patent lawsuits on four continents against rivals as it pushes to dominate the $219 billion global smartphone market.

But, Sorry Apple Inc. don’t You think You’re Progressing in Error?

Apple’s fight to dominate the $219 billion global smartphone market is nothing short of a melodrama considering the times we are living in. it does appear that the California-based smartphone company is not really in tune with the times.

Right now, its actions are already pushing even hard core lovers of the popular iPad to rise against the company.  And, Google is also capitalizing on this negetive publicity. For example, the past week saw #BoycottApple as one of the longest trending topic on Google plus! And not surprisingly most of the post on the topic are iPad lovers who had one word or the other for Apple Inc.

Here are a few graphics from the #BoycottApple posts:







 Of course, these conversations speak volume of what people really think of Apple’s actions. Like an attorney at Stevens & Bolton LLP, Peter Bell (he was not in any way involved in the HTC vs Apple case) puts it, the U.K. court judgment “marks a considerable defeat for Apple in the smartphone patent wars.”

And again, it does appear that, Andrea Sommer, a spokeswoman for HTC rightly captured the mood of the people when she said,

“We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favor competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace.”

You can actually see that this is what is playing out in these #BoycottApple posts! Apple has really pitted itself against every other person out there.

Even Apple’s response, “Competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” does not in any way hold water as it actually raise some salient questions like:

1. At a time when technology is fast changing and can be accessed globally without much effort, is trying to claim a monopoly of ideas and innovation, really good for the new economy?

2. Can Apple really claim all of its patents as its original technology? (see some of the graphics below!)

3. What is really “innovation” to Apple Inc.?

Now, I’m not in any way hooting for those whom Apple is fighting patent lawsuits with, but as one who is happy with the form of freedom and opportunities we have with the internet and as one who believes trying to corner the resources of the world in whatever guise is wrong, I believe Apple should reconsider its stand and bring a more healthier competition to the market instead of trying to muscle everyone to bow to its desire.

I think it’s time someone let Apple know that we are living in the age of the information revolution and not the industrial revolution, when a few controlled the majority!

And then beyond this, something needs to be done about the patent laws. It does appear that they are not tune with the times!

So let’s have your take. What do you think Apple Inc. is really doing with all these patent lawsuits? Do you think this is healthy for the free market we enjoy today? Share your views in the comments below.

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