E tu, Apple? Patents as nuclear weapons.

E tu, Apple?

Apple has finally decided to use patents to slow down the competition, represented by Android in the current form. The interesting spin to the news is that Apple is not suing Google, which develops Android, but is suing HTC, a handset manufacturer and one of the main adopters of Android.

Apple's idea is simple. Since Apple cannot stop the competition from developing products that can match or even surpass the IPhone in functionalities and price, and since Android is catching-up, Apple can scare handset manufacturers away from Android by suing them. The last thing you want, if you are in the hardware business, where margins are thin, is to get into a legal battle.

Apple lawsuit's real target is actually Google, but, if they had gone out directly against them, they would not have had the same deterring effect, since Google would have effectively shielded the manufacturers from the lawsuit.

Apple is following the same path as Microsoft, when about 3 years ago, they decided to go against Open Source in general, threatening to sue anyone using Open Source; of course Microsoft did not really say that, they just said that Linux was infringing hundreds of Microsoft's patents never explicitly stating which. Again the idea was to scare companies away from Linux; think twice before using Linux in your products!

Apple's patent claims are mostly software patents. I am not really sure if these patents can hold in court, but that is not the point; they achieve the objective of slowing down the competition.

Now this is another reason why the current patent legislation needs a big overhaul. Things have changed so much since patents were used to protect huge investments in capital and R&D needed to develop a product. Patents on software are actually counterproductive because they can be used, as in this case, to slow down the competition, slow down innovation and protect big companies that tend to become fat and slow (See Microsoft as an example).

In other words, innovative companies should focus on churning out a constant stream of innovation, investing money and time reinventing the future rather than looking for legal ways to keep competitors at bay through patents and the likes.