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Industry differences

December 17, 2010

One of the interesting things about working in industries as varied as telecommunications infrastructure  to cellphones, to PCs is that you learn how differently these industries establish and protect their value.

In the case of Apple, they are really a type of master illusionist who can combine technologies that aren’t ground breaking into a mixture that to users is a magical experience,in holistic packaged presentation. No detail is left to chance – the packaging, the store experience (including the very hip and stylish tech savvy 20-30 somethings), the brand – everything is presented intentionally. Steve Jobs, the David Copperfield of high tech – no disrespect in the comparison.

In other parts of high tech – namely communications – the business is managed very differently. Establishing a long line of patent portfolios, and simultaneously guiding a standards body that includes your competition and often customers is the name of the game. If you can’t connect via those standards – your product is a paperweight (would you prefer iTouch, or iPhone?). Didn’t file patents and work to get them accepted in the comms standards bodies? Pay up to the patent holders…

In the case of the computing world, Apple was established largely due to the largesse of Xerox’ PARC labs – who didn’t subsequently sue Apple for applying their mouse/GUI ideas even after the Apple II took off. Lucky for Apple.

In comms, you have 5-10 major players who understand – AND USE – patent infringement suits as a basis for competitive positioning

Remember this one – starting  way before 2007?

2005: Qualcomm today accused Nokia of patent infringement …Qualcomm said its patents, in part, cover technology that is “essential for the manufacture or use of equipment that complies with the GSM, GPRS and EDGE cellular standards”. 

2007: Nokia hits back in the ongoing patent battle with QualComm. The company asks a Texas court to stop Qualcomm’s unauthorized use of Nokia’s MediaFLO and BREW patents

When the compute and comms worlds collide?

Nokia Corp. is suing Apple Inc. in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands for allegedly infringing its patents with technology used in the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch…. include patents relating to touch user interface, on-device application stores and technology in signal noise suppression …Other cases, filed at district courts in Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany, include patents over caller ID, user interface, antenna structures, chipsets and display illumination

In comms, the filings have largely resulted in settlements & patent sharing agreements, or opening up access to some part of the platform which had been completely closed prior to the lawsuit. Note, however, when in the comms industry – who comes out on top? The radio patent holder gets payment from the display/power management/SW interfaces owner….this will get really interesting over time…

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 18, 2010 10:05 pm

    …who didn’t subsequently sue Apple for applying their mouse/GUI ideas even after the Apple II took off.

    The Xerox PARC work was not applied, I thought, until the Lisa came out (and failed, to be replaced by the mini-Lisa called the Macintosh). I don’t recall the Apple II (which was popular) having any sort of GUI on the RF-to-TV interface at all. At least it was color.

    But indeed, many industries, perhaps most, operate in the patent fashion you describe. The gaming industry is notorious for this, and many companies are engaged in near-constant patent maneuvering.

    And I’m aware of a company that was founded solely to unearth obscure patents, acquire them cheap, then sue everyone who could be considered, by any stretch, to be infringing. They produce nothing, and it’s merely a team of IP lawyers that was headed by a former astronaut as a figurehead. The company name was even a Latin shorthand for patent litigation.

    I just learned that PatLex was bought in the intervening years. Here’s an article about Patlex and lasers:

    ===|==============/ Level Head

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