The following is a guest post.
While the general public might view Apple’s patent battle with Samsung as one company protecting their patent rights, behind the scenes lays the possibility that Apple may have devalued their own brand by winning the judgment. The exclusivity that Apple markets itself under is the cornerstone of their successful product development. They have created high demand for years by suggesting the technology that power the iPhone simply cannot be found anywhere else.
This marketing strategy has served Apple well, especially when master marketer Steve Jobs was at the helm. Devoted Apple customers are quick to show off their iPhones, as if to imply membership to an exclusive club that accepts only the best of what technology has to offer. But now this widely covered patent case has exposed some truths about the iPhone. At the forefront is the fact that you don’t have to search very far to find similar functionality and features…on a less expensive phone.
Will the result of Apple vs. Samsung go on to hurt iPhone more than help it? Certainly not right away, as it will take more than opinionated scuttle to steer Apple’s biggest fans away from the brand they have so proudly defended for years now. However, some are predicting that this win will motivate Apple to sue more companies in the future. How will this be perceived by the public? Will the average person support Apple’s territorial wars, or will opinions begin to shift towards less restriction in the marketplace?
Apple argued in court that some consumers mistakenly purchased Samsung tablet computers while shopping for an iPad because the two products looked so similar. It is hard to imagine anyone missing the Apple icon commonly displayed on the back of their products, especially if these iPad shoppers had purchased Apple products in the past. Could it be these shoppers were comparing features and not brands? Perhaps they were shopping prices on carrier subscriptions and found that Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet offered the best deal. We may never know the truth, but it is safe to say there is more than one angle to closing a sale.
And while Apple packaged this lawsuit as a defense of their hard-earned patents, most people would agree that owning rights to a “rectangular-shaped device with buttons on the front” is more than a bit absurd. Patent law, particularly in the United States, has long been a source of frustration for smaller competitors. The broad interpretation of specific patents can crush competition and punish genuine ingenuity, all while protecting the elite few who can afford to their fight cases in court. It is a broken system that creates monopolies under the guise of a country that fights against them.
Could Apple vs. Samsung forever change the perception of both the iPhone and patent law? It may not appear that way on the surface since Apple won, but consumer sentiment can be a powerful force. Imagine your company stands as the leader in technological innovation, but one day your devoted customers discover that several companies are producing new products and enhancements at a much faster pace. How do you explain this to your fan base? Should they stick with you because of your history, or do they jump ship for the innovation you once promised? Only time will tell.
What do you think?