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Is Apple Injunction Against Samsung ‘Market Bullying?’

Apple Receives Injunction against Samsung
Apple received a favorable ruling on Thursday in litigation against Samsung. The gist of the injunction in Apple’s favor is that Samsung no longer will be allowed to sell its 10.1-inch Galaxy Nexus Tab in the U.S.

Part of the ruling is based on the fact that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is uncannily similar to Apple’s iPad in form and functionality. Additionally, the beginning price-point is the same for the iPad and the Galaxy Tab, at $499. Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S III also is said to be eerily similar to the iPhone 4 S.

Can Anything be Too Similar?
Does such a ruling have merit? Can items be “too similar?” If so, shouldn’t Sony and Samsung sue each other over unusually similar flat-screen televisions? Many televisions bear striking similarities in form, function and design. So, why have these manufacturers failed to bring lawsuits based on such factors? Because such lawsuits are, by their very underpinnings, considered untenable and frivolous.

Additionally, many cars also have striking similarities. Would I, as a car manufacturer, be prevented from placing a gas tank fill opening on the rear driver’s side of my new car design, simply because my competitor already did the same? No, because that is a common-sense placement for a gas tank fill opening.

The same logic should follow when making litigation decisions regarding modern technological devices such as tablets, smart phones, computers and so forth. When you see any two laptops, do you immediately know the models? Not without taking a very close look, because most laptops are similar in size, form and function. Most laptops have an LCD or LED screen, an attached keyboard, and they fold for convenient storage and carrying.

Is This a Rehash of the IBM PC Clone Wars?
The whole Apple vs. Samsung fight is oddly reminiscent of the “PC Clone Wars,” when IBM and Microsoft first came onto the scene and IBM attempted to sue makers of oddly similar personal computers. In the long run, it was deemed that such lawsuits would damage the industry and the economy; as well as stifle productive competition. Without such competition, the industry would have taken much longer to evolve and we might not even have such a thing as an iPad or Nexus Tab at this point.

Is Apple’s Litigation Aimed at Bullying a Smaller Competitor?
According to IDG, Apple still had over 50 percent of the global tablet market as of Q4 2011 but, due to Android-based tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy and Amazon’s Kindle Fire; and with the looming threat of Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet; Apple’s market share is steadily falling. This begs the question of whether or not Apple’s litigation truly was based on patent infringement, or on slowing its declining market share with bullying tactics. Since the judgment against Samsung requires Apple to post a 2.6 million dollar bond, as insurance should the verdict ultimately be reversed, posting the bond will prove that Apple is hedging its bet.

If Samsung’s product is “too similar” to the Apple iPad, then maybe an infringement ruling is warranted but, if I were the judge, I would carefully weigh all aspects of similarity before I would issue a ruling that would, in effect, cause productive competition to cease. I would not want to go down in history as the judge who stifled the advancement of the tablet market by making a short-sighted ruling.

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