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River Cities' Reader - Issue 813 - September 13, 2012

River Cities' Reader - Issue 813 - September 13, 2012

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Published by: River Cities Reader on Sep 14, 2012
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol. 19 No. 813 • September 13 - 26, 2012
2
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
 
...
 
:
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol. 19 No. 813 • September 13 - 26, 2012
3
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
seemingly lock down a market to your oldproducts translates, in internal culture, intoan unwillingness to spend money and man-hours improving those products.Externally, market forces have a tendency to win out regardless of the speed bumpsthat capitalist protectionism puts in theirway. The monopolies Apple believes it hassecured will eventually be circumventedor made obsolete by young, hungry competitors who don’t yet have friends inWashington.In the meantime, here’s hoping thatApple will see the light, halt its ongoingdegeneration into a sleazy protection racket,and return to being a company that thriveson the basis of great products.(Disclaimer: I’m a longtime Applefanboy. I bought my first Macintosh in1994, and ever since then I’ve defaulted toMacs versus Windows PCs and even Linuxboxes when I’ve been able to get one. Tomy mind, Apple’s design ethos is topnotch.Their stuff is usually innovative and always,always, always – to drag out an old phrase –“user friendly.”)
Thomas L. Knapp is senior news analyst at theCenter for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org).
by Thomas L. Knapp
A
s a company over the past few years,Apple has come a long way in thewrong direction – exactly the op-posite direction from that indicated in theseminal, game-changing Macintosh “1984”commercial. As time goes on, Apple seemsto rely less and less on its ability to create agroundbreaking product, and more and moreon its ability to use the power of governmentto prevent others from doing likewise.The verdict in last month’s patent lawsuit– in which Apple managed to have Koreanelectronics firm Samsung sanctioned for,among other things, violating an Applepatent on the shape of tablet computers – is just the tip of an iceberg extending well belothe waterline of recent history.Apple once sued New York City (“the BigApple”) over an apple-shaped logo.It has sued other companies over the use of the lowercase letter “i” and the word “pod.”It sued Digital Research for copying the“look and feel” of MacOS – a “look and feel”that it had itself stolen from Xerox Alto/Star(even going so far as to raid Xerox to staff theoriginal Mac design team).It sued Psystar for manufacturinghardware that could run MacOS X.An obvious first reaction to much of this litigation isto notice how frivolous it is. Acompany claimingan exclusive rightto make cuboiddevices withrounded corners?Really? I justwalked throughmy kitchen andcounted four suchdevices, nonemanufactured by Apple. Claimingownership of thelowercase letter “i” seems ... well, a bit broad,don’t you think?It would be a mistake to focus on the
frivolity of Apple’s claims, though. As“intellectual property” critic StephanKinsella points out: “The problem isnot low-quality patents, nor patenttrolls, nor software patents, nor unclearnonobviousness standards, nor anincompetent PTO [U.S. Patent & Trademark Office], nor too-long patentterms, nor inadequate prior art databases –though these are all problems. The problem
Apple: Rotten to the Core?
 Apple has demanded that Americanconsumers buy itsdevices rather than Samsung’s. At some point, this approachwill inevitably backfire.
is good patents, high-quality patents, issuedto cover existingproducts of existingcompanies, who usethem to bash theircompetitors over thehead.”In this latestcase, Apple hasstraightforwardly demanded thatAmerican consumersbuy its devices ratherthan Samsung’s, andit has the wherewithalto enforce that demand. Not becauseApple’s devices are cheaper than Samsung’s.Not because Apple’s devices are better thanSamsung’s in this way or that. Because, andonly because, Apple’s friends in governmenthave guns and they are pointing those gunsat Samsung and telling Samsung it can’teven offer you its products.At some point, this approach willinevitably backfire on Apple.Internally, there’s no incentive – no senseof urgency – to remain innovative whenyou don’t think you have to. The ability to
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