Samsung guns for Apple in new lawsuit over iPhone 5 (here we go again)

3 Oct 2012

Most buyers of the new iPhone 5 smartphone had barely unboxed their precious new device before the legal eagles at Samsung had filed a new lawsuit alleging Apple infringes eight of its patents. Predictable or what?

In a 1 October filing Samsung admitted as much, saying it began investigating the iPhone 5 as soon as it went on sale. It added the iPhone 5 to a list of devices that includes the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2 and the new iPad it claims infringes on several of its patents.

Last month Samsung warned it may sue Apple over its intended use of LTE connectivity in the new iPhone 5. To a bystander this smacks of lunacy, especially when you consider all smartphones going forward will include this kind of connectivity.

To those of us sceptical and war-weary at the buffoonish behaviour of tech companies in the war over patents, it is easy to assume that Samsung, still smarting from the US$1bn-plus judgment against it in a California court, was going to sue Apple anyway when the iPhone 5 appeared.

Is being the first to sue anyone over anything the best way to sway moral superiority in an argument? You increasingly get the sense that the endless to and fro legal battles between two technology giants is becoming less about right and wrong and more about who can shoot first.

Clearly Samsung is being emboldened by a number of things. First of all, the presiding Judge Koh lifted a temporary ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer this week.

And now Samsung is getting ready to appeal the US$1bn-plus judgment, citing irregularities in the conduct of the jury foreman, including allegations that he failed to disclose a lawsuit and his personal bankruptcy when he was chosen for the panel.

Apple for its part is seeking an additional US$7070m in damages and a perpetual ban on a considerable number of Samsung devices.

Those of us who care about the technology industry are duty-bound to keep an eye on these events and impart developments to our audiences.

Dare to dream: dare to get copied and sued

But it is hard to shake a sense of dismay at these tit for tat events and even worse, a sense of foreboding for what this could mean for innovation overall.

How can young inventors, entrepreneurs and new technology visionaries envision a future when to even dare to dream could wind you up in court at the behest of patent trolls and greedy lawyers with an eye on fees rather than fate.

It was once suggested to me that Silicon Valley was built on patents. I thought of that as a useful insight, little realising within a year or two how vast a traditional side show would become the main event. And what an ugly event.

Silly me, I hoped rather than believed it was built on ideals and making the world a better place. Now I feel like retching when I pick up a device from one tech maker that is eerily similar to that made by another.

Has the technology industry crawled far enough up its own backside yet?

Copyright image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years