Friday, March 9, 2012

Smartphone Patent Wars as Wildlife Documentary

Ants are hard-working, dogs are loyal, foxes are cunning. We tend to match patterns of animal behavior with human ones and label them so - we anthropomorphize them. However, animals are neither good nor bad; they just are. Each species found ecological niche for its own survival. We also tend to anthropomorphize everything else, companies included.

So companies are greedy or inventive or "not evil" or patent trolls. In reality, they just try to survive. Main purpose of the company is to make money. People often forget that and expect companies to be noble, fair, or consistent. That's not purpose of the company; don't be disappointed if they behave differently.

My wife told me once: "I don't like wildlife documentaries. Somebody always gets eaten."
Animals use whatever tactics they have at their disposal to survive. We can hate viruses and parasites but they just want to live and reproduce. Companies are also free to do whatever they can within legal bounds. They may give money to charity to cut taxes or please customers, or merge DMCA in their business strategy to take down competition.

Four high-profile smartphone players are not any different. They are getting lots of bashing lately for their behavior: Apple is seen as patent troll that slows down advance of mobile operating systems, and Google, Motorola and Samsung are seen as unfair because they use standard-defining FRAND patents against Apple, while they should offer it on fair terms (however unclear those terms are).

Apple is using theirs patents to protect itself from competition in order to make money. Android camp is using FRAND patents to defend themselves from Apple's lawsuits in order to make money. See a pattern here? Don't forget that their approach is perfectly legal. If law doesn't define what's fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory, company can behave however it likes.

Problem is the legal framework that allows patent trolls and FRAND abuse. Start there to find real issues.

Nevertheless, Android camp's strategy worked as Apple is now trying to find way out of patent lawsuit mess - exactly what they wanted to carry out with FRAND lawsuits, but the fight is not yet over.