When the words “technology”, “innovation”, or even the “future”, are brought up, the average person would automatically associate these words with Apple. For those of us living under a rock, Apple is a global powerhouse in the technological field, with a stronghold over music playing devices, cellular phones, and computers. According to CNN.com, as recently as last month the iPhone was the number one selling phone in the world, which in turn helped make Apple the number one corporation on Earth. However, a much less familiar, yet nonetheless extremely impressive, company in Sweden named Ericcson is currently suing Apple for using their patents but not paying royalties. According to the company, Ericcson provided the framework behind Apple’s 2G and 4G capabilities. According to ericcson.com, they find that, by not honoring the patents and therefore taking business away from their company, Apple “harms the entire market and reduces the incentive to share innovation”.
As talked about in class and in Hunter, Ericcson has a point. As stated in Hunter, the point of a patent is to shut out the public from using it for a period of time (usually 20 years) in order for the inventor (Ericcson) to receive their compensation and just-do for the time they put into developing the product. What’s more, as Ericcson is pointing out, if the patents are not honored, then the incentive to share innovation is greatly diminished, and the incentive to put forth the work for the innovative ideas are diminished accordingly.
However, there is another side to this story. The length that patents grant are normally 20 years, however, with today’s extremely quick growing technological age, 20 years is ludicrous. If a company could be granted a monopoly of wireless technology for 20 years, it would slow down innovation immensely, which is the opposite of what we want in all fields (especially technology). This is the point Apple is trying to make; Ericcson’s claim to a monopoly over this field needs to be readdressed. The whole point of patents, and intellectual property law as a whole, is to push innovation, invention, and human progress forward. What company in the technological field has done this more than Apple?
It is clear to see that both sides have a point in this argument, and, more than that, there is an issue as a whole in the intellectual property protection in the technological fields. In this case, Ericcson’s point about “incentive to invent” is valid because without patents, companies could steal ideas and nobody would spend the money to foster creation. On the other hand, as Apple represents, technology is different than inventions like swingsets and medicines. These things need patents in order to continue to foster for years, while technology is so rapid-moving that patenting areas in this regards is almost ludicrous and unfair. In my opinion, their needs to be a special clause for rapidly growing fields, such that the patents length is enough to provide incentive to produce, while short enough that other companies can enter the market and push development forward.
Ericcson Sues Apple for Patent Infringement to Defend Fair Licensing, 2/27/2015, 4/14/2015, erricson.com, Ericcson Investor Relations. http://www.ericsson.com/news/1897919
Apple’s iPhone is back to being the world’s top selling smartphone, 3/3/2015, 4/14/2015, money.cnn.com, CNN, Dave Goldman. http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/03/technology/mobile/apple-iphone-top-smartphone/
Intellectual Property, 2012, 4/14/2015, Oxford University Press, Dan Hunter