Over the past four weeks, two of the largest technology companies on the planet have been battling out a case in a Californian courtroom that we are told could either reaffirm the patent system of America, or destroy innovation entirely - every aspect of the case is so very clear… The companies have exchanged arguments in the presence of a jury to come to a conclusion regarding the misuse of patented software, and trade dress dilution. The case had its highs and lows and ultimately ended in a win for Apple, with them being granted damages, to be paid by Samsung, of $1,049,343,540. Yes. Over one billion dollars.
But I’m not here to talk about the case itself: I’m here to talk about myself - I know, how self-centred - and how the case has affected me as a consumer. Over the past month, I have been ‘battling’ myself; trying to understand my own feelings and opinions about the conflict in the industry.
On one side, we have a company protecting its inventions which it has spent billions to create, and lost almost as many billions due to competitors stealing its creations. The other presents the argument that it too has been stolen from, and the aforementioned inventor has done nothing new or inventive; they have only continued along the path set out by already-existing creatives.
Both arguments have their merits, and their faults, but above this, one of them was easier for me to write. I find myself swaying towards supporting Samsung’s argument (the second of the two). Why is this? Because I believe they are right, and a result in their favour would be most beneficial to the legal and patent systems as a whole. That is the blunt truth. The real question here is: why is Samsung the protagonist in this story playing out in my head?
What factors could there be in my judgement? I owe nearly everything I have achieved to this day to my interest in Android; it let me become a blogger, then writer, then designer. This is certainly a deal-breaker. I may even have a subconscious need to support Android, as if in return for what it allowed me to do.
Everyone has connections like these to brands. And that’s all they are - companies using branding to make us give our money to them. Remember, there is no real ‘good guy’, only businesses operating for profit. We all have preferences when buying technology, and these are just that — preferences.
These realisations lead me to yet another question: do I have a preference or a bias? Firstly, we should define ‘bias’: simply, it is an unjust or unfair preference. The difference between having a preference when purchasing and having a bias when making a judgement in court as a juror is that we are allowed to have preferences when buying - of course we are. But when we are considering only the facts, we mustn’t. We can’t say “I want this product to continue to exist; hence I support its creator,” to justify a decision in a legal dispute. That isn’t how the law works. This is why tech-bloggers such as myself are the least appropriate to be involved in the Apple vs. Samsung case. Let’s not kid ourselves: we love technology, we are passionate about it and we are knowledgeable about it, but we do not possess the innocent unknowingness of the layperson that allows them to make decisions based solely on facts.
For this reason, I can only conclude that I - and others who argue they should have been involved in the jury’s decision - am wrong. We know too much to provide an answer (or over seven hundred as the case required) that is unaffected by our own opinions and, yes, biases. Only an expert or ‘normal’ person can provide a decision in a case like this. Enthusiasts are too involved in the industry to have a real, reasoned response. We are biased. But biases are not bad things. Biases are nothing more than preferences taken out of context. We all just need to learn to understand our own biases, and those of others.
image source: Flickr