By Kenny Chee
APPLE has been very busy lately. It's been suing the competition like there's no tomorrow.
And, like many consumers, I'm a little creeped out by the iPhone maker's crusade to quash its foes. More than a week ago, Apple scored a legal victory against Taiwanese phone maker HTC, in which the firm was found to be guilty of using, without permission, two data-processing patents belonging to Apple. HTC is appealing against the decision.
Problem is, many observers and netizens argue that the patents are very general.
One of the patents is about a "system and method" that "causes a computer to detect and perform actions on structures identified in computer data".
After reading both patents in detail, netizen KentState commented on technology-news site DailyTech that the patents "could apply to almost any electronic device in my house".
When the lawsuit began last year, DailyTech also questioned if "Apple's barking up the wrong tree...given how broad and vague its patents seem".
What's even more disturbing about the case is that the loss by HTC in the patent wars means that Apple might just succeed in blocking the shipments of the company's Android smartphones to the United States.
With Apple also suing other major handset makers (some apparently in self-defence, following provocation of lawsuits by Motorola and Nokia), I'm wondering if Apple would get its way and have its rivals' products blocked on the market.
Worse still, could there be a ripple effect that hits us in sunny Singapore?
While I think that's quite remote, considering Singapore's small size, it's still a chilling thought (cue Empire theme from Star Wars).
And there's also the issue of whether Apple is losing steam when it comes to being creative. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said last week that its competitors (which we know includes Apple) are responding to Android's success with lawsuits "as they cannot respond through innovations".
But don't get me wrong. I think Apple has played an important role in revolutionising the smartphone and tablet industry where so many have, well, failed.
And the Cupertino-based company has every right to protect its own intellectual properties, which are the result of years of hard research.
But to block the products of competitors from being sold in a market is just plain dirty.
Furthermore, why did Apple start suing HTC and others only in recent years? And, in the case of HTC, over patents filed so long ago, in the mid-1990s, and with seemingly broad applications?
It seems far from coincidental, especially since Android clinched the top mobile operating system globally and Apple's iOS placed a distant third, according to a May report by research firm Gartner.
But, as with many other lawsuits - Microsoft is also guilty of suing its competition and is embroiled in legal woes with some obscure firm - I fear it is ultimately the consumer who suffers in the battle for the best tech idea.
If Apple wins the case against HTC, it might signal a big blow to other Android phone makers. This means less competition for Apple and fewer choices for consumers.
But I would also add that Apple could face a backlash from its legal actions, given the current sentiments of many commentators and netizens.
At least for me, I'll remember Apple not just for being a trend- setter, but also for being really petty.
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