The sheer value and power of Apple, says Michael Wolff, means it is fast morphing into a nationalistic icon, benefiting unreasonably from being THE beacon of profitability in an American political economy on its uppers.
So identified as American, indeed, is the brand now, he argues, that like the country its exceptional status of primum inter pares cannot be allowed to be challenged by anyone, especially if they happen to be a foreign outfit (like Samsung). The company’s litigious self-righteousness, Wolff predicts, will in time erode the brand.
Beh?! Provocation is Wolff’s stock and trade, and as such you can respond to this challenge as your brand tribe would require, but when the discussion moves to the subjects of copyright and patent law we come to an area where greater objectivity and consensus ought to be possible.
Truth is, as Wolff argues, here there be laws that are patently in need of review … “Patents are, arguably, no longer a system of protection; they are a system of litigation,” he writes. “Great numbers of patents are now filed, in an over-burdened system, to protect not innovations but the right to litigate over innovations. Indeed, any patent of value will ultimately be litigated.”
How might the motor trade have developed, I wonder, if every innovation had been fought over with the same ferocity. Perhaps only Peugeot’s would have ashtrays and retractable roofs? Perhaps Fords would STILL come only in black? Maybe there would only be three of four brands, each producing a car with a different number of wheels …
As Wolff seems to suggest, and I certainly believe, there are common sense principles involved in design that are likely to manifest to those who are early to the problem and ought not to be made the subject of patents or the causes of litigation.
Problem with Apple is they are the kind of people which likes to pull the ladder up behind them. This kind of control-freakery may be great for share holders but in the end it does prove stifling for innovation, consumer choice and our wallets.
These are the kind of folks who would have been entirely comfortable with the notion of limiting the distribution of the patent to the steering wheel. Just as there appear to be Apple consumers out there, clearly financially untroubled, of the view that those who cannot afford to live with Apple’s Ferrari-like prices, should be content to use public transport, get a second-hand four-wheeler or, indeed, stay off <i>their </i>superhighway.