Editor's desk: Forumed, friendless, and fined

This week was a blur punctuated by something neither tragic nor triumphant. Part gut check, part gut punch. So let's spin up the FTL drives and jump right to it...

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Earlier this week we launched the iMore Forums app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Thousands of you have downloaded it already, but in case you somehow managed to miss it, it's FREE, it's fabulous, and it's available via the App Store:

(If you have any trouble logging in, just see here.)

Friendless; or: whose followers are they anyway?

While I was busy ranting about Twitter restricting third-party clients, I completely forgot to address the parallel dickosity of Twitter turning off API access to Instagram and Tumblr. Both services were using Twitter's service to help you find your friends -- they'd show you the people you follow on Twitter so you could follow those same people on Instagram or Tumblr. Now you can no longer do that. Twitter's happy with Instagram and Tumblr pumping gazillions of tweets into their service, but apparently not with Instagram or Tumblr pulling any social value back out.

To our dismay, Twitter has restricted our users’ ability to “Find Twitter Friends” on Tumblr. Given our history of embracing their platform, this is especially upsetting. Our syndication feature is responsible for hundreds of millions of tweets, and we eagerly enabled Twitter Cards across 70 million blogs and 30 billion posts as one of Twitter’s first partners. While we’re delighted by the response to our integrations with Facebook and Gmail, we are truly disappointed by Twitter’s decision.

So that demands the question: Who owns my follow list anyway? Is it the property of Twitter, the service that enables it, or my property, the user who builds it?

Obviously, Twitter thinks it's them. But the way they're going about it makes me want to strongly disagree. And throw things. Is that really the best strategy?

The verdict

I've written and said far too much already about the Apple vs. Samsung U.S. court verdict, but two things have stuck with me over the course of the weekend:

First, it was almost uncomfortable watching Apple paint the board aluminum (or whatever color represents Apple in these things). A good fight is a spectacle, but there's no spectacle to be had in a beating like that. Sadly, there was also no Big John McCarthy to pull the jury off, no one gracious enough at Apple to stop the pounding, and no one smart enough at Samsung to throw in the towel. Let's hope now that the bell has rung, this gets settled and settled well before the appeals, bans, and further infringement cases are brought. I don't know who was being more stubborn in the talks to date, Apple or Samsung, but the time for stubborn is over. There's way too much blood on the mats already.

Second, the reaction by extreme Apple and Android supporters on both sides was difficult for me to comprehend. Make no mistake, this was a loss for Samsung, but it was no cause for strutting by Apple. To argue either way is silly. These companies should be fighting over us, not us over them. If you hate a company, or worse, if you hate the people who work for or even just use the products of a company, you need to stop. Now. It's not okay. The bits of plastic in your pockets, and the bits of plastic in other people's pockets are just that -- bits of plastic.

There's much more important stuff for all of us to expend energy on.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 16 comments. Add yours.

dbeddie15 says:

That last bit about the "bits of plastic"... Very VERY well said Rene. From what I have seen, there are too many people out there who need to remember that.

Dev from tipb says:

Unfortunately, there is not much more important stuff for the principles to do; Apple does not know (or does not care) the Pandora's Box they have opened here. Now that we know at least one court will reward aggressive use of broad process patents, every player will have to race to lock up as many and as broad as they can. It would be the height of corporate irresponsibility not to.

Someday - maybe today with the Chinese robotics company claiming Siri violates their speech patents, maybe two years from now with some Android OEM having patenting "blink to page down" or some such dreck, it will bite Apple back, not because of karma, but because it is a proven rational play. It is now corporate priority 1 (or st least 1a) for *everybody* in the mobile and consumer ekectronics industrues to file for as many of these as possible. Enjoy whatever part of the up-to-3.15-billion that does not get appealed, Apple. I hope you find it worth the mutually assured paralysis a few years hence.

cardfan says:

I think the jury was sold from day one before they even sat down. Before the lawyers started, Apple had the advantage. Keep in mind the marketing Apple bombards us with. Many equate Apple with the first smartphone. If there's a reference in people's minds to draw from when we mention the word smartphone, it's a picture of the iphone.

This was always going to be easier for Apple in court. Pictures are worth a thousand words. No amount of expert testimony was going to overcome that. Plus this is home territory for Apple. Samsung was always going to be in danger in a US court.

Does this validate Apple's policy of patenting every little detail? Sure it does. But companies were already doing this. I think what it really means is that you should know Apple is not going to sit by and let you make knockoff products.

Following Apple's lead is good strategy. You can't ignore what Apple is actually achieving with their unheard of margins. Follow them, but don't be blatant about it. Did the icons really need to be similar? Did Samsung really need the iphone (touchwiz) UI? A similar charger? Even the stores Samsung is opening...http://www.androidauthority.com/samsung-opens-apple-like-store-sydney-co...

For Samsung, the victory already came. They've established themselves as the leader of android devices. Heck, they're only android maker getting any kind of Apple like profit. If the same opportunity came up 5-10 years from now, would they do the same and copy shamelessly? You bet. But you can be sure they'd cover themselves better.

Dev from tipb says:

Re: companies were already doing this: [ citation needed ]. I can find some as broad, and I can find some as aggressive, but there are very few that are as broad and as aggressive. Those that are (like NTP vs RIM) are almost universally reviled. Apple's victory is going to accelerate that trend, because the best (if not only) defense against broad patent claims will be to amass as many of your own. The next "pinch to zoom" might not be patented by Apple, and the next "pull down to refresh" might not be patented by Twitter (friendly to Apple). While patents that broad are allowed to stand, it is only a matter of time before it hits the products we do care about.

I have little problem with Samsung getting called out for imitating Apple. But when $130 million - over 10% of all damages - are levied against a phone with a different shape, different bezel, and a slide out hardware keyboard, (the Epic 4G) you cannot say with a straight face these patents are narrow or serve only to protect against knock-offs. They are broad, with little guidance as to what constitutes infringement, and, now that one court has ruled them worth a billion dollars, they will be the most sought-after assets in the industry, bogging down our already hopelessly outgunned patent office and our courts, and force companies to spend their time and resources figuring patent claims the filer now has enormous incentives to keep as vague as possible.

cardfan says:

Do you honestly think the jury understood even 10% of what went on? Like I said, it was won by Apple before it even started. Samsung only made the jury want to punish them more as it went on. Even as much as I love tech, my eyes would have glazed over after day one if I was on that jury but I would have remembered the pictures.

What you're saying isn't anything new. Companies sue each other all the time over vague patents. That this verdict was over an eyeopening billion is only because Samsung is extremely successful.

Even if Apple infringed later on another company's patent, Apple can counter easily. What this case really means? Not that Apple validated their own patents but that Samsung's patents are worthless (against Apple especially). Zero. Zilch. Samsung had nothing to counter with. Samsung is flying through space with no patent shields.

EDIT: I don't think Palm & webOS were ever options for Samsung to buy (from HP or Palm) and use as defense. Upon reading more about it, it looks like the good Palm patents are actually owned by Access (formerly PalmSource, formerly part of Palm). They use a patent holding company, Acacia, which has already licensed (or currently negotiating) with MS, Samsung, Apple, and others. Acacia has been doing well...tripling its revenues in the past two years http://beta.fool.com/saulr80683/2012/08/23/little-company-gets-paid-tens... I suppose those legendary Palm patents are being used after all.

Dev from tipb says:

I do not know what level the jury understood. If the jury understood as little as you believe, then there truly is no recourse against bad patents, because a jury would never be able to grasp the issues involved. The difference between our arguments is that I view that as a bad thing, whereas you on the other hand, seem to relish the fact that an entity you estimate as understanding < 10% of the issues at hand is the entity to determine Samsung's patents are "worthless."

And you are right that companies have sued each other over vague patents before. What makes this case "eyeopening" is not that Samsung is/was successful, but because it has shown just how cost-effective broad patents can be as a means to hobble a competitor. Your skeptical view of juries only emphasizes it; if juries cannot grasp patent concepts (or, as one juror says, glosses over them because it was "bogging them down"), then getting a broad concept by one patent examiner becomes one of the most valuable weapons a corporation can wield.

As you put it, Samsung was "flying through space with no patent shields." Agreed. That will now the first legacy of this case; every player will devote even more resources to amassing patent shields, the broader the better. I agree with you this has happened before, but after the case this trend will accelerate, dramatically, and it boggles the mind how anybody can consider that a good thing. The second, more troubling legacy will be that every player will look at these less as shields and more as weapons. This case has shown it is too rewarding not to.

As for "Apple can counter easily," no, they cannot, not once they get targeted by patents as broad as bounce or pinch to zoom. And they will. Again, see Shanghai Zhizen's current motion claiming Siri violates patents on an "instant messaging chat robot system" [ http://goo.gl/oC2Hl ]). You cannot counter patents that deal, not with an implementation, but with any/all implementations of a concept. Or rather, you can, but only by throwing boatloads of money at it. This wastes resources big companies could better spend developing products, and shuts new players out of the game completely. Neither of these are good things, but they are inevitable after last week's case.

Again, patents for actual implementations can and should be protected. Vigorously. Patents for a process, or all possible implementations of a process, are bunk, and will paralyze markets where they take hold.

Rob White says:

"Make no mistake, this was a loss for Samsung, but it was no cause for strutting by Apple. To argue either way is silly. These companies should be fighting over us, not us over them. If you hate a company, or worse, if you hate the people who work for or even just use the products of a company, you need to stop. Now. It's not okay. The bits of plastic in your pockets, and the bits of plastic in other people's pockets are just that -- bits of plastic."

Quite possibly your finest writing yet Rene & I couldn't agree more. Is it time to move on now? I sure hope so. But I'm also smart enough to know that Devs comments above are probably true. And that is unfortunate too. This verdict is just the beginning of the war between billion dollar boardrooms.

Gérémy#IM says:

Very well said Rene! I could not agree more.

FlopTech says:

No need to be ashamed by The Verdict, Rene. Otherwise, great post.

Camfella says:

Maybe you should practice what you preach! Stop being so Anti-Google (and pro- Apple)

beastcmg says:

Are you serious? Rene isn't Anti-Google he is very objective about both OS's but just in case you forgot this is a web-site about APPLE products.

Rene keep up the good work.

Daspoo says:

Don't feed the troll.

Rene, fantastic writing. My sentiments exactly.

Watcher says:

I thought imitation was the sincerest form of flattery?

Scout_313 says:

I absolutely agree with your last paragraph. The great thing about technology nowadays is that there are so many viable choices out there. Each offering has its strengths and weaknesses but they are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to what you can accomplish with them. Since we all have different needs, it's obvious that what may work for someone else does not work for me. I've owned iOS, BlackBerry, Android, and WP devices in the past and have no true loyalty to any of them. Times change, OSes change, and my needs change. I pick the best tool for the job and use it but don't feel the need to justify my decision by saying that the other options suck. Your personal computing devices don't define you, your attitude and actions do. A little civility would be nice.

G Money says:

Very well written regarding the legal matters Rene. That's a great way to put things in perspective...those companies should be fighting over US...