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Stealing Intellectual Property is Good for Consumers?

Filed in Current Affairs, General, TechnologyTags: , , , , , , ,

It is intriguing that companies who steal intellectual property frequently complain that the original inventors are hurting consumers and inhibiting innovation when they sue them for theft. Unfortunately, most of the public is naive and prefers to believe the "victim's" hype, usually because they want to buy what the thieving company is now producing, usually at a discounted price to the products produced by the original inventors; eg, Apple vs Google/Android Samsung/Galaxy.

Great ideas are very hard to conceptualise and develop, but usually cheap and quick to copy. I realised a great analogy of this recently while playing The Cave on my computer. There are approximately ten puzzles in The Cave. Without instructions, a single clue or a cheat-sheet, any of the puzzles could take me up to 10 hours to understand and solve, and one or two of the puzzles completely stumped me. BUT, once I knew the answer, those same puzzles would take less than 15 minutes to complete. The same principle applies to ideas. Before the idea exists, there are no clues and the idea can take a very long time to conceptualise, develop and perfect. But once the idea exists and is made public, anyone else can copy the idea with very little effort, time or expense.

Apple's slide-to-unlock method took many many months to conceptualise and perfect. It takes less than a day for a competitor (like Google) to copy it.

So when Apple sues Samsung (i.e., Google's Android) for using its slide-to-unlock invention, is it hurting consumers and innovation as Google and Samsung like to assert? In a short time frame, it might affect consumers because they won't be able to use this cool feature on competitors' products. In the long term however, it's a different story. If competitors are free to copy and steal ideas/inventions, they won't need to invent their own. If they don't need to invent their own, there will be no innovation and consumers will be worse off because of it. (many examples of this can be found on the 'net)

An additional argument is that if a company needs to spend a year and vast amounts of money to create a feature to distinguish their product and make life better for their consumers, a feature that their competitors can then copy at will, why then should the company create those features?

Consumers need to think. If you hear a company complaining about consumer rights/choice and innovation, ask yourself; are they really helping consumers and supporting innovation by copying someone else's ideas? The answer will almost always be "no".

Unfortunately, while the Apple/Samsung legal battle wages on for two, three or more years, Samsung profits from the ideas they (and Google) have stolen from Apple and will continue to do so until the legal battle hands down a verdict. Samsung is proving to the world that it profits to steal ideas. They are also proving that there is no profit in creating new ideas or in being truly innovative.