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Bittersweet Ending

Somewhere between the Happily Ever After and the Downer Ending, the Bittersweet Ending happens when victory came at a harsh price, when, for whatever reason, the heroes cannot fully enjoy the reward of their actions, when some irrevocable loss has happened during the course of the events, and nothing will ever be the same again.

So, Apple wins big in their patent case against Samsung, and reactions are pretty much not what you’d expect. While the Fandroids console themselves with a straw-man claim that “Apple patented rounded rectangles”, writers in iOS circles are hardly delighted. Pre-verdict, Matt Drance wrote “However the verdict falls, I feel like there are no winners here in the long term — certainly not us.” And a day after the verdict, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball hasn’t even mentioned the outcome.

Matt’s concern is giving Apple too much power to control the market, and the verdict likely does that. Following along with The Verge’s liveblog, I noticed that a few devices were found as non-infringing. That’s got to be even worse news for Samsung and Google, because the jury is effectively saying that it is possible to make smartphones without copying Apple, and Samsung largely (and willfully) chose not to. Combine this with the speed at which they reached their conclusions and it’s utterly damning.

And yet, on the other hand, what we’re discussing is patents like “slide to unlock”, which many/most of us think is unworthy of patentability in the first place. And that’s what makes this so uncomfortable: Android’s and particularly Samsung’s copying of Apple was egregious and shameless, but since that itself is not illegal (and how could you even codify that as law?), then does settling for a victory over stuff that probably shouldn’t even be patentable count as a victory at all? Making things worse, the jury had the option of invalidating patents on both sides, and declined to do so on every count.

Then again, what do I know? I thought ripping off the Java programming language and practically the entire API of Java SE was a lot worse, but the court said that was OK. So I guess stealing is bad, except when it’s not.

Yay?

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